Since its inception four years ago, the annual Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Men’s Conference has become even more important. This year’s conference is coming up on March 21.
Almost every day since the calendar turned to 2015 we’ve seen examples of what happens to young men — to boys — when their lives lack any kind of positive example from a male — whether he be a father, a friend, or some avuncular figure who shows the young man affection and guidance.
Already this year in Louisville, there have been — at the time this editorial was written — about 20 murders. According to information available from local media sources, in at least a dozen of these murders, either the victims or the people who killed them came from families that lacked a male role model. We appear to be living in a society in which a large majority of people — mostly male — refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, men who father children out of wedlock appear to be abandoning any responsibility for them in record numbers.
In times past, the majority of single-parent families were created by the death of a parent. No more.
These days those families are as common as credit card debt. The census bureau says that from 1980 to 2008, the percentage of single-parent households increased from 19.5 percent to 30 percent. And 80 percent of those single-parent households are headed by mothers and grandmothers.
Another statistic is equally disturbing: Those households being led by mothers and grandmothers, some working two or three jobs and often responsible for more than one child, are frequently living below the poverty level. The exact number in 2010, the latest figures available, said that 30 percent of those families live in chronic poverty, below the federally-designated poverty line.
In the past 10 years there has also been an increase in the number of single fathers — a number that has risen by 60 percent. So at least some men are being responsible for the children they bring into the world, lest we paint an entire gender with a broader-than-necessary brush.
Nevertheless, the need to impress personal responsibility on men who are fathering children is at a critical point.
That’s why the men’s conference continues to grow in importance.
The men who attend the annual event — this year’s attendance goal is 1,000 — obviously aren’t the problem. But even as they gather to “Become the Light,” the theme of this year’s conference, they need to be reminded that by doing so, they might impress upon the men of their parish, their community, the need for personal responsibility.
These men are already examples of people involved in their parishes; people who accept leadership responsibilities. They are men who are willing to answer God’s call and work with their wives to provide morally responsible examples for their children.
Now they need to realize that their “light” can help change a community — a world, really — that is in desperate need of change.
They need to show the men who refuse to be responsible the error of their ways.
They need, by their examples, to provide direction to other males who may not be as responsible, who may not realize the impact they will have — one way or the other — upon the children for whom they should be responsible.
Children, Pope Francis has said, “are a blessing, not a burden, and are the sign of the confident hope of a couple and of society.”
“If a family that has been generous in having children is looked upon as a burden, something is wrong,” the pope added. “Children are a gift.”
Far too often these days, those gifts from God become neglected, underfed and under-loved members of society. A society to whom they are often invisible, even to their own fathers.
That’s why the men’s conference is so important. These men are people trying to change things, one parish, one person at a time. We should all help them as much as we can.
Record Editor Emeritus