Pillar iV: Embrace Charitable Authority
The Problem with Male Authority
Over the last several FOSJ sessions we’ve been outlining the spirituality of the human father and its four pillars: 1) embrace silence, 2) embrace woman 3) embrace the child, and today will be discussing the fourth pillar—embracing charitable authority. Of the four pillars, this may very well be the most important as well as the most misunderstood and contended teaching of the spirituality of fatherhood. This pillar of charitable authority is most important because in all actuality, the other pillars—to some degree—depend upon the human father assuming this position of leadership. This pillar is often misunderstood because authority itself, is defined in the modern age, and misunderstood by modernists, as the power to control; and frankly, what human being desires to be controlled by another; particularly what wife or child desires to be controlled, ruled over and overpowered by the “man of the house.” As John Paul II stated: “the human being is not the type of creature that admits of being used.” Over the course of history, fatherly authority was, at times, misused and characterized by male tyranny, domination and control. Because of this disordered male tendency, arose the radical feminist revolt, which took aim at robbing not only men, but fathers of not only their disordered authority, but also the authority which God Himself had given them. Because of this, men of our age, have fallen prey to being ashamed of their masculinity, and more precisely, their divinely ordained call to lead. Consider that approximately 85% of lay leaders in the Church are women, that the liturgies over the last five decades have softened their masculine tone, homilies are often directed to gender neutral audiences, or worse to primarily females and children. It is little wonder why men are ashamed of their divinely given power, their masculinity, and their innate desire to lead. Indeed, more and more prominent men from across the U.S. are confessing that, at some level, men have intuited that the leaders in the Church are ashamed of masculinity, and male headship and have abandoned them. Consider what Msgr. Charles Pope of the Washington Diocese wrote recently in the Washington Diocesan blog:
“It has often been observed that men are rather disengaged from the practice of the faith and attendance at the Sacred Liturgy. Frankly, there is a reason—not a politically correct one, but a reason nonetheless. Most of the men I talk to find the Church rather feminized. There is much talk in the Church about forgiveness and love, about receptivity and about being “nicer.” These are fine virtues, all of them necessary. But men also want to be engaged, to be sent into battle, to go forth and make a difference.”
And again Msgr Pope states:
“Though many in past decades have sought to describe the Church as “male-dominated,” nothing could be further from the truth. Most parish leadership structures are dominated by women. And women do fine work. But the Church has done a very poor job of engaging men as men and equipping them to be strong husbands, fathers, and priests. Virtues related to bold leadership and the effective use of authority are in short supply whereas other virtues such as collaboration, listening, empathy, and understanding are overemphasized. This lack of balance, wherein traditionally manly virtues are downplayed—even shamed—has led many men to become disengaged from the Church.”
Today, however, many bishops and priests are answering the call to reach out to men, catechize them and uphold their masculine identity—and it is these dioceses and parishes that our experiencing renewal. The problem is that there are millions of people who hate male authority for what they think it is rather than what it actually is.
The true meaning of Authority
What then is authority? What is charitable authority? Webster’s dictionary defines the word authority as having control or the power to control, yet that is not the original meaning of the word. The word authority originated in the 12th century and is derived from the Latin word “Auctoritas,” which actually is derived from the word “auctor” or author, which means to originate, create, write, to invent, influence and command. The word charity is derived from the Latin word Caritas, and can be interpreted as “to value,” esteem, to love—agape. In other words charitable authority is the human father’s divinely ordained role to write, to create, to influence the story of salvation written in his family’s life. It is our responsibility to write the story of love and salvation in our wive’s and children’s lives. Modernism believes that their was and is no story and if a “story” exists, it must be destroyed. In a sense, modernism sought to destroy patriarchal authority. Moral theologian Janet Smith stated that “when fatherhood is absent from society you are left with chaos.”
Be not Ashamed
If we fathers do not lead, we are not loving. We love by leading and lead by loving. Fatherhood is the distinct divinely ordained role to lead. This role does not deny the equal dignity between spouses, but rather testifies to that equal dignity. In other words, male headship upholds female queenship. Consider that the heavenly Father is a greater father than the Son, and that the Son is a greater son that the Father. Yet, the Trinity is equal in dignity—”unity in distinction.” The human father has the distinct role to lead, regardless of whether he is least qualified,; and regardless of what the fallen world tells him. Consider that Joseph was the “least perfect” member of the Holy family, and yet he is hailed as “Head of the Holy Family. God does not call the qualified, but rather qualifies the called. We men, in our essence, have nothing of which to be ashamed. To be ashamed of our God-given authority is to be ashamed of the God Who imparted us with this authority.
The author who writes the Story of life
We are called to lead, to write the story of salvation in our families lives, but in order to accomplish this, we must understand clearly what we are leading our family from, and to Whom we are leading them. What is it that we desire the most for our children, our wives? That they have lots of money, a really nice car and a big house? Most fathers desire that their children and wives have happiness, joy, love and peace. The world proposes all types of methods which appear to afford happiness—it is from these false forms of happiness and love that we must lead our family. God offers a way to obtain true happiness, true love, and it is our duty to lead our family along that path. Recall that our identity leads to our destiny. What is the family? The human family was created by God to be a created version of the uncreated Family of the Trinity. The family’s identity should direct the world to the Trinity. It is God’s will that our families enter into the eternal exchange of Persons of the Trinity—even now on earth—and experience the joy, bliss and rapture that is beyond any human means of self-gratification. So how does the human father lead his family to experience this joy, love and peace? The human father assumes his charitable authority by protecting, feeding and teaching his family. By protecting, feeding and teaching, the human father chooses to love. If he chooses not to protect, feed and teach his family, he is actually choosing not to love—not to lead, his family to true love, joy and happiness.
The summons to Manhood
Let’s close this session with a couple of quotes from Msgr. Pope:
“I want to issue a special summons to men, especially fathers, husbands, and priests. The summons is simple: be a man. We need men in these dark days, men who will heroically speak and act, men who will announce the truth and insist upon it wherever they have authority, men who will stop being passive fathers and husbands, priests who will stop “playing it safe” by remaining silent in the moral storm. Yes, be a man.”
“The disengagement of men from the Church has come to mean that many Christian men are passive fathers and husbands. They have not matured in their faith but remain in a kind of spiritual childhood. They are not the spiritual leaders in their homes that Scripture summons them to be (cf. Eph 5). If they go to Church at all, their wives have to drag them there. They do not teach their children to pray, insist that they practice the faith, or read Scripture to them. Too often, they leave this for their wives to do.
Thankfully, many men do take up their proper role. They have reached spiritual manhood and understand their responsibilities in the Lord. They live courageously and are leaders. They are the ones first up on Sunday morning leading their families to Church and insisting on religious practice in the home. They initiate prayer and Scripture reading and are vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their families, parishes, and communities. They are willing to battle for the truth and to speak up for what is right.
You see, the Lord is looking for a few good men. Are you a Christian man? Have you reached spiritual manhood? This is not the kind of manhood that comes merely with age. It comes when we pray, hear, and heed Scripture and the teachings of the Church. It comes when we live the faith courageously and summon others to follow Jesus without compromise. It comes when we speak the truth in love and live out the truth. It comes when we fear God and thus fear no man, for when we are able to kneel before God we can stand before any human threat.”