There is no simple manual for fatherhood. Our physical and our spiritual children are different one from the other, and so on a day to day basis, fatherhood is one sense adaptive.
But, fatherhood has a number of principles that are important to remember. In our sad society that is so out of touch with reality, fatherhood often refers to the contribution of sperm to fertilize an egg, and ends there. but, it is so much more than that. In a nuclear family, the father has the responsibility to love and encourage his bride above all, and then to provide love and guidance to his children along the paths of their formative years. He is the shepherd of his flock.
In the Catholic Church, we call our priests Father, as a sign of respect and also as described from this short treatise on the subject here:
The spiritual fatherhood of the priest is intended to be a sign of the depth of intimacy and relationship which those in the life of the Church have with their leaders, a relationship based on the priest's role in our second birth, our birth in the Gospel - our baptism. Just as our biological father has an important role in our birth and continuing nurture, so the priest - as the one who baptizes us - has an important role in our second birth, our birth "from above…of water and the Spirit" (John 3:3-5).But, they too are shepherds of their flock. When a child goes astray, as children often do, it is the father's responsibility to go out as a shepherd and try to bring the child back to the fold. When others criticise their child, it is the father's responsibility to stick up for his child, as is appropriate in the circumstances. Above all, the father, in imitation of our Heavenly Father is to love his child, no matter how far his child strays from the flock.
Recently, I have written about two fathers who themselves are children, and are in need of their spiritual fathers, and their brothers and sisters in the faith to draw alongside them and to show them love.
In the Catholic Church, we are all too familiar with the "sex abuse scandal." It has garnered a lot of press, and the sex abuse of minors is disgusting. The Catholic Church has been the epicenter of a scandal that has far more to do with a society gone wrong than the Catholic Church. The statistics do not support the rampage against the Church. Nor do they warrant some of the response from the Church to this situation.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid out to families of victims (and alleged victims) by dioceses around North America; many times with little to prove the efficacy of the charges presented against priests and religious. The Catholic Church has turned turtle in North America.
The USCCB issued the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People", which can be found here on their site. Whereas the Church pretended for the longest time that there was no scandalous behaviour going on anywhere, by hiding it, now priests are guilty until, or even if proven innocent, and while children's rights are protected as they should have always been, the rights of priests have gone by the boards, and a difficult vocation is made even more so, by the very people who are their own spiritual fathers.
Father Gordon MacRae, who I wrote about here, the priest behind the "These Stone Walls" blog, who by the way has never seen his own blog, and at this point does not seem likely to, is a resident of the state prison in New Hampshire, because of a terrible miscarriage of justice perpetrated on him over 16 years ago.
Meanwhile, over in Latrobe PA, Father Mark Gruber, who I wrote about the other day, is a prisoner essentially in the Archabbey of St.Vincent, for a crime that was not committed by anyone. He has been forbidden to have contact with the students that he taught for so many years, and to exercise his faculties as a priest and member of his religious community.
I get that a father needs to send his kids to their rooms, or another room for timeout purposes, so they can collect their thoughts and come back to the community/family. What I do not understand is the father, who ostracises his child, and essentially abuses his beloved child by turning his back on him, refusing to listen to his side of whatever the story might be, and who then does not try to heal the wounds of the child, and guide the child to heal whatever wounds, if any, the child might have caused to others along the way.
I have no idea what could possess a bishop, or an abbot, to turn their back on their own children, but I am a father, and I know that that is not right, on any level.
Sexual abuse is one significant form of abuse, but emotional abuse is very hard to overcome for those abused. Father's MacRae and Gruber are being abused by their spiritual fathers, who have cast them aside as unworthy children.
What is surprising is that their brothers and sisters are not creating such a hue and cry that these two brothers of ours are not surrounded with love, and compassion.
Many of the young of St.Vincent College have spoken up for Father Gruber, to little avail so far, but there is only a small coterie standing up for Father MacRae.
"I was in prison and you visited me." Mt 25:36b.
These two men are not the only ones who have been wrongly accused, and abandoned by those who would claim to be filled with the love of Jesus Christ.
Who among us will stand up for them?