Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
June 21, 2009: FATHER'S DAY

Last summer, in the thick of his battle to be named the Democratic Party's candidate for the presidency of the United States, Senator Barack Obama issued a statement a propos of Fathers' Day that was right on the money. it was exactly what needed to be said. "We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need fathers to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to HAVE a child-it's the courage to RAISE one."

Apart from President Obama's own good example as a devoted husband and father of two beloved (and very lovely) daughters yet another iconic illustration of the joy that comes from accepting in full the responsibilities of fatherhood     is offered by that universally admired champion (and much admired with good reason) in the world of professional golf, Tiger ( Eldrick!) Woods.

Last Sunday's New York Times carried in its Sports section a charming story about Tiger as the proud and loving father of two young children: a girl (Sam Alexis) and a boy (Charlie). May I share the story with you here.

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All Eyes are on Tiger Woods, the Father
      By: Karen Crouse
          The New York Times, Sunday June 14, 2009

Fatherhood is a major enterprise....With the globe trotting, privacy-challenged lifestyle of a sports icon ... Tiger Woods ... 33 has been married to Elin Nordegren since 2003. Their daughter, Sam Alexis, turns 2 this month. Their son Charlie was bom in February.

During a teleconference with reporters this spring Woods expressed delight with the direction of his life since 2002, when he won the United States Open the first time it was held at this year's site, Bethpage State Park.... Woods said. "I couldn't be happier than where I am right now. Having the two kids is just unbelievable, how much fun we are all having, except the sleepless nights-that can be a little tough at times. But other than that it's just been incredible....

His public embrace of  fatherhood has given the 21st century male a new paradigm: the alpha athlete as ardent second-string mom.  Jack Nicklaus, whose legacy Woods has been eyeing since he was old enough to read the record books, was considered the super dad of his day. He would fly home during tournaments to attend his sons' football games, and he would never play more than two consecutive weeks if it kept him apart from his five children.

Nicklaus, who won 18 majors and 73 PGA Tour events, did bedtime stories but not diapers. Leave it to Woods to keep raising the bar.

On the golf course Woods's intensity calls to mind an animal in the wild stalking his next meal. He has 67 tour victories, including 14 majors. While parenthood has not dulled Wood's competitive edge, it has brought into sharp relief his alter ego.

 That would be Eldrick [a.k.a.Tigerl, the diaper-changing, peekaboo-playing homebody who occasionally hijacks Tiger's pre-tournament and post-round news conferences to reveal, with a smile that starts in his eyes, the human side of golf's armored tank.

He talks about cutting short his practices to be with Charlie when he wakes up from a nap. He speaks of missing his children terribly when he is on the road, the joy of teaching them things when he is home and the hilarity of seeing his stubbornness duplicated in his daughter.

"She doesn't like for me to help her hold a golf club," he said. "She'll figure it out herself."

When Woods was 2 years old, he shared the stage with Bob Hope on 'The Mike Douglas Show. " With his miniature golf bag slung over his left shoulder, Woods walked purposefully to a plastic mat, plucked out his driver and hit a golf ball with a swing as rhythmic as a child's cradle swing.

Woods was asked if it was wild to think that he was roughly the same age then as his daughter is now. "Yeah," he said, "It 's hard to believe I was swinging a club at that age."

His precocity was a benefaction from his father, Earl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who stood behind him on the Los Angeles soundstage that day, as he would, ftguratively, for the next two decades until his death from cancer in 2006....

If Woods grew up knowing nothing else, it was that his father and his mother, Kultida, were wholly committed to him.

"I got a chance to see my dad quite a bit," Woods said. "I was very lucky that way. But our life-style's different."

Raising Woods was Earl's full-timejob. He was retired from the Army by then. And therein lies the rub. Tiger Woods has a job that requires him to leave home on a regular basis. Can he nurture his children in the same way his father did him?....

"They'll come out during the summer, come out to the tournaments maybe on the weekends or something like that," Woods said. "It's going to be a lot more difficult, there's no doubt."

Woods said that a few months ago, when he was still rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee, he sat down with a friend, the golfer Mark O'Meara, a 52-year-old father of two. "We had a long talk," Woods said, "and that was one of the points we talked about, is that his kids got an education that very few kids do, traveling around the world."

He added: "I think my kids will certainly experience something that I didn't experience, even in my generation, with accessibility to these places. And I think it's going to be very fun for them and educational for both of them."

Woods returned to competitive golf after his nine-month, injury-induced hiatus with a deeper appreciation of fatherhood. He has described the time away from the sport as an unexpected blessing, affording him the opportunity to bond with his daughter.

"The best thing in the world was actually to watch her grow and, you know, each and every day have fun with that and teach her different things," Woods said, "I really enjoy that type of life."

He added: "I love to teach, and to be able to teach Sam, and as soon as I can, start teaching Charlie a few things, that's fun. I live to be able to do that."

In 2001 Woods held all four major titles concurrently, completing what is called the Tiger Slam. Between August 1996, when he turned pro, and June 2007, when Sam was born, he won 57 titles, including 12 majors. In 1996 and in 2000 he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

"But life is so much BETTER now," Woods said, the conviction in his voice leaving the clear impression that it is not even close. [Emphasis added].

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Would that such dedication to watching over one's children in a life-long, loving commitment, helping them slowly to advance towards maturity, supporting them, encouraging them, teaching them, and whenever it is needed gently but firmly correcting them, and always cherishing them-would that this were the norm for all of America's children today.   Instead we have to face the alarming fact that across the board some forty percent of the babies born in the United States last year were born OUT OF WEDLOCK. This means that the great majority of those children will spend the years of their dependency without a father figure to support and to inspire them and, especially for the boys, without a role model to show them what it means to be a responsible adult. Many of those children will grow up inadequately supported, without discipline, without that vitally important encouragement early on in life to discover and to develop their talents, and without the love and guidance that can show them convincingly that life is not an enterprise in which they are doomed right from the start to lose but a wonderful adventure worth living, an adventure in which love of God and service to neighbor will make them winners when the final score is announced.

Sadly the absence of the father in America today is most visible (and demonstrably the most damaging) in the African-American community, where in 2007 the percentage of babies born to single mothers was 71.6 percent. Here is the real reason why, despite all efforts to the contrary, inequality between blacks and non-Hispanic whites in educational performance and in subsequent economic success is growing year by year. And here is the reason for the shockingly disproportionate numbers of blacks held in America's prisons. Children who grow up without a father are much more likely to get into trouble, often into serious trouble, and to fail to avail themselves of existing educational opportunities that could make all the difference in their later lives.

May I share with you a report that appeared in the June 8th issue of The National Review.

The report was written by Duncan Currie.

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The Parent Problem
   By Duncan Currie From:
   National Review June 8, 2009

In late March the Urban League issued its 2009 "State of Black America" report, which declared that "African Americans remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty, and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated." A week earlier, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released figures showing that in 2007, 71.6 percent of black births were to unmarried women, compared with 27.8 percent of non-Hispanic white births. The NCHS numbers came out shortly after the Census Bureau published data from its Current Population Survey (CPS). Among other things, the CPS found that in 2008, only 38 percent of black children lived with two parents, compared with 78 percent of non- Hispanic whtle children.

These statistics are inextricably connected. Just ask Barack Obama. "More than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled-doubled-since we were children," Obama told a predominantly black congregation at Chicago's Apostolic Church of God on Father's Day 2008. "Children  who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and to commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison."

Indeed, while family breakdown is hardly the only cause of persistent racial gaps in areas such as income and education, it poses a major obstacle to reducing those gaps. More broadly, disparities in family environments are closely related to overall U.S. economic inequality, which has increased during the past few decades.

In their book The Race Between Education and Technology, Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz argue that since the early 1980s, the combination of "skill-based technological change" (the computer revolution) and "a sharp decrease in the growth rate of the relative supply of educated workers" has greatly boosted returns to education and sent the college wage premium soaring. According to Goldin and Katz, "the wage premium for college graduates relative to high school workers" spiked from 36.7 percent to 86.6 percent between 1950 and 2005, with "most of the increase" taking place after 1980.

Meanwhile, says University of Chicago economist Derek Neal, the black-white skill gap stopped narrowing around 1990, at a time when the skill premium was sky-rocketing. "There's a pattern of consistent PROGRESS all through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties", he says. But there was NO discernible progress in closing the gap between 1990 and 2000; if anything, Neal indicates, the gap may have actually widened over that period.

What explains this? Neal, director of  The Chicago Workshop on Black-White Inequality, says there is no clear answer. But he has written that "beginning around 1980, many factors worked together to diminish the resources available to black children. Two-parent families became even more rare in the black community, and for the first time, never-married motherhood became quite common. Further, real wages for less skilled workers fell, and the real value of transfers offered by various welfare programs declined." Neal contends that "the magnitude of the overall relative decline in black family income since 1980 is related to CH4NGES IN BLACK FAMILY STRUCTURE and the weak growth of household income among black SINGLE parents....

Neal has written that the early appearance of a black-white test-score gap "is consistent with the idea that the black-white skill gap among young adults can be traced, in large measure, to black-white differences in the types of investments made in children at EARLY ages." And "at the dawn of the 21st century, black-white differences in FAMILY environments are by far the most important source of black-white differences in levels of resources devoted to children."

Economist James Heckman, Neal's University of Chicago colleague, has conducted related research on the development of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. He believes that there is a divide emerging between the children born into disadvantaged family environments and those born into better family environments. "The proper measure of disadvantage is not necessarily family poverty or parental education," Heckman explains. "The available evidence sggests that the QUALITY OF PARENTING is the important scarce resource."

This has implications for anti-inequality measures. "In designing policies to combat inequality," Heckman writes, "it is important to recgnize that about 50 percent of the variance in equality in life-time earnings is determined by age 18. The family plays a powerful role in shaping adult outcomes that is not fully appreciated by current American policies."

The more we appreciate the linkage between family environments and inequality, the more we appreciate the significance of out-of-wedlock birthrates. "All measues of childbearing by unmarried women rose to historic levels in 2007," the NCIIS reports. The overall out-of-wedlock birthrate in 2007 stood at nearly 40 pecent, while the rate among Hispanics passed 50 percent.

In his controversial 1965 Labor Department report calling for "a national efforf" to stabilize African-American families, Daniel Patrick Moynihm noted that the black out of-wedlock bithrate had jumped from 16.8 percent in 1940 to 23.6 percent in 1963 (over that same period, the rate among whites had increased from 2 percent to just over 3 percent). At the time [1965], 23.6 percent seemed startlingly high-but compared with 71.6 percent (the black rate in 2007), it seems relatively low. The rate aong non- Hispanic whites in 2007 is higher than the rate among blacks in 1963.

What if black family composition had NOT changed between 1960 and 1988? Under those conditions, according to sociologists David Eggebeen of Pnn State and Daniel Lichter of Comell, the black child POVERTY rate in 1988 WOULD have been 17.2 percentage points LOWER. Eggebeen and Lichter detailed their findings in a 1991 American Sociological Review article. They wrote that "the changing family structure among black and white children has clearly exacerbated long-standing racial differences in child poverty. Indeed, in the absence of widening racial differences in family structure, the 1960-1988 period would have brought substantial convergence in racial differences....

Among others, Urban Institute economist Robert Lerman has done valuable work on the economic benefits of marriage. "The apparent gains from marriage are particularly high among black households," he wrote in a 2002 paper. In a separate report coauthored with Israeli economist Avner Ahituv, Lerman demonstrated that, on balance, married black men earn higher wages and work longer hours than never-married black men. In a more recent study of middle-class households, Lerrman estimated that between 1989 and 2004, the net worth of "middle-income MARRIED parents" INCREASED by 52 percent while that of "middle-income UNMARRIED parents" actually DECREASED by 15 percent.

President Obama is now in a unique position to shape black attitudes toward marriage and fatherhood, His 2008 Fathers' Day message was clear. "We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child-it's the courage to raise one." That is a message well worth repeating. [Emphasis added].