Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

The Mystery of Masculinity and Fatherhood

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 22, 2024

Men and masculinity are as mysterious as women and femininity. God created men and women in complementary unity (cf. Genesis). Men need women, and women need men. A man is not a woman. And a woman is not a man. Masculine and feminine traits are distinctly human. Masculinity, like femininity, is indispensable to human happiness.

These realities are as self-evident as gravity. Most of us cannot explain the scientific reasons for gravity, but we dare not deny the law. We may not know why we need men and women to form families, but honest and sane people deal with reality, keep their feet on the ground, and understand worldly practicalities.

Those who promote the secular idealistic dogmas of diversity, equity, and inclusion despise the realities expressed in traditional marriages and children. Economic utility and power, not family happiness, dictate their purposes. Since the early days of radical feminism, women have been encouraged to renounce traditional family morality to avoid scorn. Follow the money. Planned Parenthood uses women as breeders to fund the abortion industry and uses “women’s rights” as an advertising gimmick. Men have become, at best, optional extras.

We rarely hear anyone praise fathers for their exalted status. Popular culture dismisses fathers as irrelevant buffoons and harmful. Contemporary hatred of fathers is also as self-evident as gravity. The phrase “toxic masculinity” encapsulates the attitude. But the rejection of masculinity rejects Jesus and His Father.

We cannot do without fathers. Every human being born into the world has a father. Fathers are mathematically as common as mothers. We don’t need perfect fathers, although virtuous fathers help. We need fathers who are faithful and present to their children. The absence of masculinity in a family has undeniable harmful consequences. Among the grave sins of a father is his refusal to be present in his family.

We can trace many—maybe most—broken families to rejected, abusive, unfaithful, and absentee fathers. The absence and dereliction of fathers is the key to understanding widespread violence and disregard for life and property. Gangs, not fathers, validate the masculinity of young men in our inner cities. Children need God’s grace and compensatory remedies to overcome the harmful effects of an absent father.

Our families need masculinity for family happiness. After failure, we can hope to recover without Dad’s presence. But we must not make the exception the rule. Good and faithful fathers glorify their wives as mothers of their children. Sons and daughters flourish as they experience the mysterious contrast and complementarity of the masculine and feminine. Good fathers provide for their families. Fathers are family leaders and, to a large extent, determine the health of a family and a nation.

We all know fathers fall short. They bicker with their wives, sometimes in front of their children. If they’re wise, they acknowledge their weaknesses. Even a father’s failure is instructive to his kids. When they fail, the children learn about sin and repentance. Good Catholic fathers know the difference between right and wrong and teach their children by example.

We like to think there are substitutes for fathers. We know mothers who run large families and rival the executive expertise of Fortune 100 CEOs. Yet mothers by themselves cannot replace the presence of a father or the intriguing effects of masculinity.

A father in his masculinity mysteriously reveals the Heavenly Father to his family—his wife and children. We may find the reality difficult to grasp, but follow the facts. Experience suggests that fathers who do not participate in family religious life usually guarantee that their children abandon the Catholic faith as adults, even if they have devout mothers.

The mystery of masculinity also applies to priests, our spiritual fathers. Undoubtedly, some women could be better preachers. Women would certainly pay closer attention to liturgical details. There are, of course, many fine women theologians. Yet, only men are ordained priests because only men can be fathers.

Jesus sends forth men—and men alone—as his first apostles and priests. Let’s guess that the number of virtuous women in the Gospels outnumber righteous men. Nevertheless, the male priesthood, rooted in Tradition and authentic Church teaching, is a mysterious reality. Priests are fathers. All the loose talk about ordaining women for purposes of “equity” is about as plausible as a woman becoming a man.

Every priest traces his priesthood through his ordaining bishop, the popes, and back through history to the twelve apostles. A priest’s hands are a rare commodity. Consecrated during ordination, the ordaining hands of the bishop also extend—by ordination—back to the apostles. Those touched with the sacramental gestures of a priest (accompanied by consecrated oils and prayers) receive, by extension, the touch of the apostles—and Jesus Himself. We need the masculinity of spiritual fatherhood for the same reason we need our fathers: to help us understand God’s ever-present, loving, and creative Fatherhood.

Jesus teaches, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Mt. 23:9) A man has no right to fatherhood unless he participates in the Fatherhood of God as God intends. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” He adds, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” (Jn. 14:6-7) We know the Father through Jesus and His masculinity. We know the Father through the masculinity of fathers—including priests, our spiritual fathers—faithful to Jesus.

Our heavenly Father establishes the mysterious—and sometimes elusive—parameters of human masculinity and fatherhood. We relinquish the right to be called father by violating God’s Commandments. But when we disparage good fathers with slurs of “toxic masculinity” and “misogyny,” we assault God’s Fatherhood.

Our encounter with the Father Who loves us—through fathers who love us—is essential to our happiness, now and for eternity.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: winnie - Jan. 29, 2024 2:23 PM ET USA

    Instructive & true! Thanks, Fr. Jerry