Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
2 Sep 2011

Fathers need to be around for many reasons –
Chris Meney and family

As Australia prepares to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, 4 September, Chris Meney, Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney‘s Life, Marriage and Family Centre reflects on the role of fathers.

Father of nine children – four boys and five girls – who range in age from 6 to 26, Chris has been married 27 years and describes his years as a father as “filled with great joy and the wonderful opportunity to be involved in a huge variety of human experiences and the widely different interests that children have and their passion for different enterprises.”

In today’s society where debates about the legalisation of same sex ‘marriage’ garner headlines and where an Australian court recently ruled the name of the biological father be replaced on the child’s birth certificate by the female ex-partner of the child’s lesbian mother, it can seem that fathers are no longer considered important when it comes to raising children.

But fathers do matter in many important ways, says Chris Meney and on the eve of Father’s Day he pays tribute to dads everywhere.

Fathers’ Day never quite seems to attract the same level of enthusiastic acknowledgement that we readily muster for Mothers’ Day. Perhaps this is grounded in our sense that dads should just do their duty in a quiet and unobtrusive way and should not expect much recognition,” he says.

“Certainly this was true of the men of my father’s time. They saw themselves as providers and protectors and eventually as guides in the ways of the world as their children grew older. Three of my uncles raised their children on their own after their wives died prematurely. Such men held to an unspoken truth that a good man gave God his due, did his best for his family, refused to steal or prey on others and was always willing to assist those less fortunate. A life lived for the benefit of family and community was regarded as a good and decent thing.

“Today we neglect the importance of this witness at our peril. Fathers remain vital for the development of sound values, particularly in young men. The situation which gave rise to the recent riots in England cannot be properly understood without an analysis of the effect of fatherlessness. Much of recent social policy has been founded in the desire to avoid any judgement about family forms. To suggest that father involvement is critical is to invoke the ire of the chattering classes. These people have staked much on the claims that children are an entitlement for any individual or two people who want a child, insisting that the proliferation of households without fathers has no significance for the upbringing of children.

“But family structure and functioning do matter and when families break down, children generally reside in a fatherless home. But when dads are not involved and no longer part of the family unit, studies have found not only that daughters are more likely to become sexually active at an earlier age but that sons are more prone to falling to the temptations of uncontrolled aggression and predatory behaviour.

“Fathers need to be around for many reasons. These include being role models especially to their own sons whom they can show what being a man and a father is all about. In difficult times men need to be able to put the interests of others before their own.

“Through their fathers, young men learn that their capacity to discern what is right, to choose it and having done so, to stay the course, is contingent on how they deal with tough decisions as they mature.

“Growth occurs when young men avoid flinching in the face of difficult choices and fathers are very influential in this development. Only by becoming a master of himself, can a man truly become a servant for the good of others.

“Children are a constant reminder to Dads of their own shortfalls and as a father of nine, I am very well aware of my significant limitations as a Dad. But I often recall the witness of those men of faith of my father’s time. I remember how, when  a wife and children saw their loving husband and father show forbearance, courage and self-sacrifice when confronted by the worrying storms of life, they drew a sense of assurance from this and knew against whatever the odds, that somehow all would be well.

“This is something for which so many of us should thank our fathers this Fathers’ Day. I know I will.”