Responding to the Crisis of FatherhoodToday, Catholic Americans mark two celebrations: Holy Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day. The feast of the Holy Trinity is an occasion on which not only Catholics seek to deepen their appreciation of the mystery, and enter into the reality, of the communion of persons who is our Triune God. In particular, it’s a day on which normally special attention is given to God the Father, since on Pentecost we focus specifically on the Holy Spirit and throughout the year we normally concentrate on the life, words and works of Jesus. The Gospel reading the Church gives us this Sunday facilitates this focus on God the Father, because it shows how God the Father “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).
This attention to the fatherhood of the first Person of the Blessed Trinity — especially on Father’s Day — is particularly timely and important. The future Pope Benedict, not one ordinarily prone to hyperbole, once said that this failure to see, appreciate and grasp the link between human paternity and the fatherhood of God is one of the greatest threats to the modern world.
“The crisis of fatherhood we are living today is an element, perhaps the most important, threatening man in his humanity,” Cardinal Ratzinger said in a remarkable March 15, 2000 speech at the Cathedral of Palermo, Sicily. The crisis of fatherhood facing modern society — a true “dissolution of fatherhood” — comes, he continued, from reducing paternity to a merely biological phenomenon, as an act of generation, sometimes even carried out in a laboratory, without its human and spiritual dimensions. That reduction not only leads to the “dissolution of what it means to be a son or a daughter,” but, on a spiritual plane, impedes our relationship to relate to God as he is and revealed himself. God, Cardinal Ratzinger stressed, “willed to manifest and describe himself as Father.” Human fatherhood provides us an analogy to understand the fatherhood of God, but “when human fatherhood has dissolved, all statements about God the Father are empty.” The crisis of fatherhood, therefore, leaves the human person confused about God and himself. That’s why, he argued, the crisis of paternity is perhaps the most important element threatening the human person and society.
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