Friday, June 4, 2010

The Institution Of Fatherhood And RHIP

In Cardinal Sodano's case, not only does 'Father Sodano' have privileges, he's so far up the ranks he has no accountability.

Bill Lyndsey wrote a fascinating piece yesterday which left me pondering the question he attributes to Walt Whitman. At the time of this quote, Whitman was functioning as a nurse/aide in military hospitals during the Civil War.

Whitman told O’Connor that many of the young men to whom he was ministering—some as young as 17—had run away from home and joined the army to escape the severity of their fathers. On the basis of what he was hearing from these soldiers, he told O’Connor that he was inclined to think that, while mothers often succeed in being loving and sympathetic, “the institution of the father [is] a failure” (as cited, p. 130).

"The institution of the father is a failure." What I found thought provoking is Whitman's calling fatherhood a failed institution, as in a failed cultural concept. Whatever cultural goal the institution of 'fatherhood' was supposed to accomplish, in Whitman's mind it failed. On the surface, one would think that any institution which drives it's own flesh and blood into the bloody jaws of a gruesome war is a failure---unless, when it comes to sons, that's one of the unexamined unstated goals of the institution of fatherhood.

That would mean a successful father is expected to pass on a masculine definition based in a hierarchical martial mentality, even if doing that means driving your sons from your home. If that's the goal, then institutional fatherhood was pretty successful during the Civil war, and a whole lot of other wars. It's been pretty successful in assuring the hierarchical martial structure has been adopted in virtually every male dominated enterprise. Very often ruthlessly adopted.

When I worked in the mining industry it took about a nano second to determine that one's corporate status could be seen in the type of company vehicle one had. Mid level guys had generic pickups in standard colors, but as one went up the corporate ladder, one got to pick different colors, and when one hit the equivalent of command rank, one got a custom SUV.

At one point I was ordered to buy a used truck for our exploration team and I decided to play with the system. I bought a used Dodge Power Wagon that had all the bells and whistles and a custom paint job. It was powder blue. I knew the color alone would cause angst in any male who might be tempted to grab the truck, and so by my devious design, it became mine by default. It was however, a Power Wagon, and it put the Ford's to shame. It went places no Ford truck dared to go. My possession of it caused great jealousy. Eventually word came down that it was to be retired and put up for auction. It didn't fit the fleet, not being a Ford. Ahem...... Oh well, point made. RHIP and I didn't have enough R and certainly no P.

I've always been somewhat befuddled by this whole rank and privilege thing in male thinking. On the ranch my father and brothers would get into huge battles over who drove what piece of equipment or what truck. Combines and swathers were the pinnacle, plows the dregs. Guess what I got to do? I really never understood why what piece of equipment one drove in endless circles at three miles an hour was such a big deal. To me it was all boring, but to them it was really really important.

It seemed none of this hierarchical stuff was ever really goal oriented as far as the actual mission. If anything, the mission came after everyone's rank and status had been fully established. It was based on this pecking order that assignments were given. Competence didn't seem to have much to do with it. All it accomplished was to reinforce the importance of ego over mission.

Give this guy a shiny new pickup and he'll do anything he's told in order to keep it, because that's exactly how he's been raised. That's what real men do who want to advance and keep their assigned toys. Even if it kills them or they kill others.

Whitman's observation about the failed institution of fatherhood is correct, especially in a twenty first century milieu. We can no longer afford to base our institutions on enculturated martial notions of RHIP which do not address reality. I guarantee this played out in the BP disaster. Rank and file on site guys who knew BP was taking way too many risks, caved into the driver of the shiney SUV whose understanding of the situation was colored by keeping his place in the pecking order. We are all paying the price for that. Eleven employees paid with their lives.

And then there is Catholicism, where this whole notion of fatherhood and RHIP is taken to infallible divine levels. It's amazing to think that even though Jesus turned RHIP on it's head, RHIP is still the foundation of His church. Whitman then is ultimately wrong. Institutional fatherhood with it's martial notions of RHIP has been so successful even Jesus couldn't over turn it.


  1. Fascinating reflection, Coleen.
    The picture is of Card. Bertone though, not Sodano.

  2. Thank you. That was surely a blue hair moment since I googled Bertone for the picture.

  3. Perhaps it indeed the work of Divine Providence that you 'accidentally' used the picture of Bertone here... it shows him for what he is. 'Ecce homo'....LOOK at the man!
    Do you see anything of Our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ in this man?


    We see a man very comfortable "living in delicacies', as Revelations describes the Vatican Administrators. A man very full of himself, and pleased to be 'Tarcisio Bertone'.

    To follow Christ means to deny self, to empty out self, that Christ may fill us. Out with the ego; in with the Holy Spirit?

    One does not perceive the 'dove'; one does perceive what you often find on your car, when parked under a tree....on two legs, wearing the robes of a monarch.

    One does not see the love of God in this man; nor the poverty of spirit required to be of Christ.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  4. Mouse, I fixed the photo, but your observations are still pertinent.

    Using Bertone's photo may have been providence, except in all honesty it was a 'failure to verify'. I actually did google Sodano, but didn't verify the photo I used was Sodano. Maybe they just all look alike to me. :)

  5. LOL

    Sodano is more of the typically plump 'padre omnipotente' Italian types.

    He has not missed many meals.

    At some point one wonders about such men. As Christ taught in the parable of Lazarus & the Rich Man:

    "...they have Moses & the prophets. If they will not listen to them, they will not listen even if one should rise from the dead.." this dead soul ignores the Scriptures he reads daily in Mass.

    ...but surely he has seen a film version of Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol"!

    ...what a ponderous chain he has forged in life....

    Anon Y. Mouse

  6. "...many of the young men ...had run away from home and joined the army to escape the severity of their fathers"

    Unlike some of my other comments here I've really stopped to think about this one. That's a rather "Old Testament" view of fatherhood.

    My Dad was, and is, a fabulous father. He's 82 this year. Not once did he refer to any of his five children as a "kid", nor did he ever, as far as I know refer to his students that way. We were always "young person" or "young persons". It wasn't an affectation. He was a teacher of the English language and literature. He was just as respectful of women and people of other races and religions.

    In some respects he was a 1950's father, as portrayed in "Leave it to Beaver" or "Father knows Best". He wasn't Willy Loman. His rank had a few privileges, for example he always sat in the easy chair he had inherited from his own father. My Dad doesn't cook and for years there was a cartoon on my parents' fridge in which Herman says "After 30 years of marriage I'm going to make my own coffee... where do you get the water?" So he and my Mom have a certain kind of generational co-dependency. Of course Mom didn't have to deal with certain household chores that were in my father's domain, working to support the family, cutting grass, meting out discipline to the children, etc. It has worked for them for more than 56 years of marriage. For most of their child rearing years mom was a stay at home mother. Who am I to judge them by more modern standards?

    Both my parents were in the military, both university graduates. They had their own lives before they got married and they didn't get married until they were almost 30. Perhaps they weren't the ordinary parents of the day.

    So when I read this piece on the failure of the institution of fatherhood I was puzzled. It isn't part of my experience but I know some who had bad fathers, absent fathers, and abusive fathers. I support organizations that promote better fatherhood. Some of my friends, who don't have good fathers, or lost their fathers earlier in life look up to my father like their own.

    My father, and his father according to family tradition, were anti-clerical, although they had good friends who were among the clergy. About 10 years ago I attended an alumni event at St. Mike's College in Toronto. My father had been a student there, as had been my grandfather. I was talking to an old priest who was close to 100 years old. I knew the man had taught my father. He started the conversation "I remember when your grandfather... " I corrected him "You mean my father..." "No, your grandfather class of '22. !!!"

    My thoughts are about the Good Shepherd, that his characteristics are those of good fathers and good priests. I have been very privileged to have known some of each. How very fortunate I have been to have been raised by such a good man. My father is a man of integrity whose respect for others, especially his wife and children is a great example
    of fatherhood.

    I'm sorry others haven't been as fortunate.


  7. p2p your father sounds wonderful. Actually mine was too except for some utterly glaring blind spots. He used to love watching Archie Bunker and then gloat how lucky we were he wasn't like Archie. My mother and all five children would just roll our eyes.

    I can remember the episode when Sammy Davis Jr kissed Archie and my dad about lost it. So did the rest of the family watching dad. I think that was the day he really started to look at his racism. From then on he made it a point to let us know Sammy was OK almost as good as Joe Louis---an observation that would send the rest of us into gales of laughter. That was one thing I really loved about my dad is he didn't mind being the brunt of family humor and could give as good as he got.

    I realised reading your post I have never thought of Jesus as a father. I've always thought of Jesus as a brother. Which is interesting given I have never mixed my brothers up with Jesus.

  8. I stumbled onto your blog and thought you might be interested in checking out our pamphlet on fatherhood. You can read more about it at

    If you have any interest in writing a review for our pamphlet on fatherhood, I'd be happy to send you a free copy if you agree to read it and write a 200+ word review, and post it. If you agree to the terms below, please copy and paste the terms, along with your contact information, and send in an email to We’ll send you a free PDF copy of this pamphlet. Send us the link to where your review is posted and we will supply you with future new product releases for blog posts and reviews.

    TERMS: Read the pamphlet and write a 200+ word review. The review can be positive or negative, it just needs to be based on the entire product. Post your review on your blog and any consumer retail website (such as,,,,,,, or All have a section on each book’s product page dedicated to customer reviews. To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, please mention as part of every Web or retail site review that Rose Publishing has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy.