In today’s world, it is not unusual to hear of fathers who are so busy with their work that they hardly, if ever, have time to spend with their children. In a recent address to his general audience, Pope Francis warned that such a lifestyle creates “orphans at home.”
He explained that many problems children encounter can be traced to these “absentee fathers”- fathers who when physically at home, don’t take time to actually be with their kids.
The absence of the paternal figure in the life of little ones and young people produces gaps and wounds which can also be very grave. And, in fact, the deviances of children and of adolescents can in good part be traced to this absence, to the lack of examples and of authoritative guides in their daily life – to the lack of closeness, to the lack of love on the part of fathers. The sense of orphan-hood that so many young people live is deeper than we think.
They are orphans, but within the family, because the fathers are often absent, also physically, from home but above all because, when they are home, they do not behave as fathers, they do not have a dialogue with their children. They do not fulfill their educational task; they do not give to their children – with their example accompanied by words --, those principles, those values, those rules of life that they need.
Compared to his recent remarks praising mothers, Francis’s words for fathers seem harsh. However, the Bishop of Rome is not looking to praise only one parent or disparage the other, but rather highlight the importance of children being raised by both their mother and their father.
Francis stated that “a society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength.” In the same way, a society without fathers is “lost”. Children look to their fathers as leaders of the family, as the one who will defend them and their mothers from the world, and quite simply, children need fathers for paternal guidance.
Francis himself acknowledged that his words were tough, but promised that next week he would speak about “the beauty of fatherhood.”
To state it simply, children need both a mother and a father. To deprive a child of one or the other is akin to orphaning them. Every child deserves a mother and father to foster, teach, and love them. No child deserves to be orphaned.