Discovering the Fatherhood of God in a Gender-Neutral Society | Mary Anastasia
In a popular movie of several years ago, a cherubic six-year-old girl blithely explains her family drawing to her dumb struck kindergarten companions: "This is Mark, he's my daytime Daddy; this is Peter, he's my main Daddy; this is Jack, he's my biological Daddy; this is my Mommy, and this is me." This situation, while admittedly contrived for the sake of the comedic story line, still points up a "wrinkle" in modern thinking which sometimes poses problems for the catechesis of children and adolescents. This "wrinkle," or, more properly, this deviation, is the clouding of the concept of fatherhood. This lack of a human "reference point" can make it very difficult to teach young people about the loving Fatherhood of God. This paper will explore the background of the problem, and then look to the Church's teaching for the response of Faith.
The first point to be examined in this review of the problem is one which impacts all the other points. This is the assault on "manliness" in our society today. A very wise man once said, "There is no one so narrow as an open-minded liberal." This statement is illustrated by the rabid way in which the "doctrine" known as "political correctness" is wielded by that small but violently vocal segment of society, the radical feminists. While claiming to champion "equality" between males and females, they have really brought about the emasculation of language and induced a "hunted quarry syndrome" among men today. Those qualities of maleness which once defined the role of the man in the fabric of society have been vilified into grounds for prosecution: the strength which makes him the protector suddenly becomes "animalistic aggression"; the logic and lucidity which give him the ability to provide for his family suddenly become "paternalistic oppression"; the love which moves him to desire children is criticized as "patriarchal enslavement." A generation of men has learned to suppress its instinctive chivalry for fear of fiery retribution. Masculine forms of language have become the dirtiest of swear words and masculinity in men (but not in women) a punishable offense. In short, the essential dignity of being created "male" through the deliberate act of the Creator has been shredded at the altar of misguided "equality."
This emasculated mind-set leads to tangible situations in which the concept of fatherhood is darkened beyond recognition. Webster defines "father" as both a noun and as a verb. As a noun, "father" is listed as "a male parent," while in its verb form it means "to act or serve as a father." In today's society, we very often see the noun function without the verb function: biological fathering is not followed by the continuing presence and nurturing of the male parent. The root of this phenomenon lies in a defective understanding of sexuality, aptly described by Pope John Paul II in his document, The Gospel of Life:
A second reason which makes the concept of a loving "God the Father" difficult for young people to accept is the plague of domestic abuse in families today. Whether this takes the form of physical violence or mental torture, abuse is a daily event in the lives of increasing numbers of children. Catechists today, attempting to find human analogies for the superhuman love of the heavenly Father, are often faced with stony silence in response. The "terrible secret" behind the blackened eyes and tormented souls quenches any desire for a "Father" in heaven. The Church acknowledges this when she seeks language in which to describe the transcendent love of God:
A fist constantly raised in anger or a constant "acid
rain" of sarcasm can, indeed, "disfigure" the face of fatherhood
to the point that the battered child runs from, rather than to,
a "Father" in heaven.
It wasn't until two months later that the Stuarts
noticed that while one boy was as blond as his parents, the other's skin
was darkening and his brown hair was fuzzy. DNA tests confirmed that Wilma
had carried another man's baby-probably because a technician reused a
pipette that still contained some sperm from a previous insemination.
Finally, a growing trend in today's society obscures even further the picture of human fatherhood. This trend is the legalization in many states of "alternative lifestyles." "Single-sex couples" are being granted many rights and privileges once reserved for what are now labeled "traditional family units." In vitro techniques for conceiving children as well as adoptive placement of children in homosexual households of both genders threatens the integrity of the moral as well as the human development of those children. The push to designate these alternative "units" as "families" completely defies the teaching of Christ, acknowledged in the natural law and codified in the teaching of the Church:
Thus, the "politically correct" environment and these four infections which flow from it-absent fathers, abusive fathers, "artificial" fathers, and "alternative" fathers-are poisoning the vision of our young people today, making it difficult for them to comprehend the transcendent fatherhood of God. As a beam of intense light can burn out a bodily infection and begin the process of healing, so can the strong rays of Faith's light cleanse these infections of the spirit, revealing to this confused generation of children the face of God the Father. We must turn to Holy Mother Church, as the custodian of the Faith, for this shining antidote.
Since the environment in which our students are immersed very often precludes reference to human fathers as dim examples of the Fatherhood of God, we must bring them to this knowledge by other means. One such method is human reason enlightened by Faith. Focused through the twin lenses of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, a steady stream of revelation assists natural reason in coming to an understanding of God's Fatherhood. Students today are very literal-minded. They are able to follow the mechanics of reason and to assent to a conclusion reached by that process: the existence of a Creator. After settling side issues, such as, "Where do the Aliens fit into the Creation story?", they are open to continuing the search for the personal identity and the attributes of this Creator. Guided by Faith, this search will collide head-on with the infections contaminating today's perception of manliness.
Shifting from what God shows about himself in his Creation, the search turns to what he tells about himself through his revelation. In answer to the prevailing scorn directed at masculinity, the Church points to her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, clearly documented in Christian and non-Christian sources as "a man among men." This constant teaching of the Fathers is reaffirmed by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, Haurietis Aquas:
This man Jesus, the Son of God, is also the most authoritative source for describing God as Father: "Because he 'has seen the Father,' Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him."  In the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus repeatedly refers to the "Father who sent me," giving clues in numerous passages as to what this "Father" is like and implying that these qualities of fatherhood are also exercised toward men as adopted sons:
[This article originally appeared in the June 1996 issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review.]
 Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, number 23 (St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, 1995), p. 43.
 Numbers 371-372, Catechism of the Catholic Church, English Translation, (St. Paul Books and Media, 1994), pp. 94-95.
 Ibid., number 239, p. 63.
 Elliott, Dorinda and Endt, Frisa, "Twins-With Two Fathers," Newsweek, vol. 126, number 1, July 3, 1995, p. 38.
 Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, number 14, (St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, 1995), p. 29.
 Number 2202, Catechism of the Catholic Church, English Translation, (St. Paul Books and Media, 1994), p. 532.
 Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, number 40, (Sacred Heart Publication Center, Orlando, 1974), p. 20.
 Catholic Biblical Association of America, The New American Bible, (Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1970).
 Number 151, Catechism of the Catholic Church, English Translation, (St. Paul Books and Media, 1994), p. 41.
 Catholic Biblical Association of America, The New American Bible, (Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York).
 Number 239, Catechism of the Catholic Church, English Translation, (St. Paul Books and Media, 1994), p. 63.
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