Written by Christopher Manion
"The Holy Father lives in Rome. Why won't Daddy live at home?" --Welfare Lullaby
FRONT ROYAL, VA -- It's been a great year for the Holy Father. But a lot of fathers haven't been so lucky.
Or so holy.
"In 1960, fewer than one in 10 children lived in a single-parent home," writes Dr. Patrick Fagan, one of America's foremost researchers on family issues.
Those days are over. Today, intact families are a minority.
And, urban legends aside, fatherless homes are a much more dependable indicator of the likelihood of a life of failure, poverty, and crime than either race or economic status.
In fact, Dr. Fagan's in-depth studies reveal that, "when family intactness, other demographic controls, and education controls are tested side-by-side with race and ethnicity, race and ethnicity have a marginal adverse influence."
Indeed, fatherlessness is so ubiquitous today that it is largely unnoticed.
Nonetheless, its impact is felt, from the inner-city to tony suburbia.
After the Sandy Hook shootings, the media conveniently ignored the fact that Peter Lanza, the wealthy GE Capital executive, had abandoned his wife and children years ago - when his son Adam was only nine.
Yes, the gun controllers won't admit it, but the Sandy Hook killer was a classic product of a fatherless home.
Fatherlessness has a powerful impact on economic status as well - especially over the course of several generations.
A remarkably candid social scientist, Fagan freely acknowledges "the damage caused by the Great Society's good intentions."
However, that view is heresy among "Social Justice" types, whose good intentions alone prove their superiority.
For them, the welfare state programs are the goal, whatever havoc they spawn.
Their rhetoric is their reality.
The sad fact persists: as is typical of government programs, the welfare state has hurt most those it was supposed to help - especially blacks.
As economist Walter Williams observes, "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do - and that is to destroy the black family."
Militant feminism has also done its part to encourage the absentee father. Instead of liberating women, feminism liberated men from the father's innate sense of responsibility and mired them in a state of permanent adolescence, in which they celebrated the new promiscuity that had arisen among what they had once admired as the fairer sex.
Moreover, militant feminists urged wives to "escape" the oppressive institution of marriage and to be sexually liberated - from children as well as husbands.
By1975, country star Loretta Lynn could brag, "I`m tearing down your brooder house `cause now I`ve got the pill."
Well, Loretta never got round to recording the flip side: liberated from husbands and fathers, divorced and unwed mothers and their children quickly became one of the most impoverished groups in America.
And don't think the kids don't notice. Fagan describes the damage wrought by fatherlessness on children:
"Life without a father also is a good way to miss out on the American Dream. The poverty rate for all children in married-couple families is roughly 7 percent, NIH data show. By contrast, the poverty rate for all children in single-parent families is 51 percent.
He follows up with some astounding findings:
"Marriage is also the safest place for women and children. Justice Department figures show that mothers who never marry are abused at three times the rate of married, separated and divorced couples combined. Children are six times more likely to be abused in a step-family, 13 times more likely in a family with a single mother living alone, 20 times more likely in a cohabiting natural family, and 33 times more likely if they live with their natural mother and a boyfriend who isn't their father."
Fatherlessness has wrought havoc on the economy as well. The impact of divorce on the family is bad enough - creating two new households, both vastly poorer than the former family home.
The taxpayer pays the price too.
Dr. Ben Scafidi has found that "even a small improvement in the health of marriage in America would result in enormous savings to taxpayers.For example, a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion."
"These costs are due to increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty, criminal justice and education programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals whose adult productivity has been negatively affected by increased childhood poverty caused by family fragmentation," he said.
Amidst the darkness of the sexual revolution, Fagan finds a bright side of traditional marriage for men, similar to marriage's benefits for women and children: "Study after study shows that married men earn more money, live longer and are healthier than their bachelor friends. They are less likely to become alcoholics, criminals or drug addicts."
Even though Catholics benefit from the sacramental graces of Matrimony, many nonetheless suffer marriage breakdown like other Americans.
Pastors report a steep decline in the number of church marriages, while cohabitation rates have risen sharply.
In the meantime, defenders of Catholic marriage complain that annulments are often both harmful and too easy to obtain.
Bai MacFarlane, director of Mary's Advocates, charges that Church annulment policies often encourage husbands to abandon their wives when the Church ought to be defending the marriage bond.
"With the onslaught of no-fault divorce in the United States, no decent spouse can stop a marital abandoner from obtaining a civil divorce," MacFarlane writes. "Most divorces are sought when there is no morally legitimate reason for separation."
Yet, she continues, instead of telling spouses who initiate divorce to consider their abiding moral obligations, the Church tells them not to worry: "Being civilly divorced has absolutely no bearing on your standing in the Church and you are free to receive Holy Communion," says one Catholic authority.
MacFarlane's efforts also shed an unhappy light on the Church's support of welfare state programs. Research by Fagan, Williams, and a host of others indicate that these programs don't improve welfare, but they do destroy families.
Meanwhile, our bishops spend precious little time examining whether the programs they support actually work. And they tend to ignore altogether the damage done to the family by the welfare state.
This summer, Bishops from around the world will meet in Rome for a worldwide Synod on the Family.
Leading American bishops admit that they have had "laryngitis" on the Church's teaching on the family for half a century.
Will that change?
To face honestly the problems confronting the family in America, our bishops will have to undergo a wrenching revision of their priorities.
The first order of business is to abandon the Church's century-long support of the welfare state. It has failed the family.
Next, they must revive and preach the Church's teaching on marriage and the family that they have ignored for so long.
Most importantly, this requires the resurrection of Humanae Vitae, the prophetic encyclical which Pope Paul VI gave to the world in 1968.
It was unpopular with many priests and bishops then - and, unfortunately, it still is.
Yet, it was prophetic. Pope Paul predicted that contraception would grievously harm the woman, and "reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of [the man's] own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."
Moreover, Pope Paul warned us that politicians would abuse the issue as well:
Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power [regarding contraception] passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral laws.
Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone." [Humanae Vitae, No. 17]
God bless Pope Paul. He saw this train wreck coming.
Pray for our bishops. Ask them to preach Humanae Vitae - and thank them when they do.