The Church has an important role in challenging current structures, which effectively place a disproportionate responsibility on women with respect to the maintenance and development of familial relationships. In a Lenten Pastoral Letter, the Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Connell, in 1994 stated: “Mothers, on whose shoulders much of the responsibility of home-making has unfairly fallen, are frequently exploited by their husbands and by their children. How many men, how many teenage children, can honestly say that they carry their fair share of responsibility for the ordinary running of the home and of family life? At a time when many mothers are also bread-winners, the imposition of family and household tasks on them alone is doubly unjust.” We could say the same today for our society, in urban and rural India.
The Church could espouse more actively the co-responsibility of males for the nurturing of children and for family planning. It could encourage fathers to spend more time with their children. It could urge the state to take action against fathers who are separated from the family home and fail to pay maintenance. It could highlight the way in which women’s consciences are often overridden by what are perceived as men’s legitimate sexual needs.
Men cannot take greater responsibility in family life unless women allow them to do so. Both sexes are still too dominated by traditional stereotypes of gender roles. For example, in middle-class families it is often considered appropriate for men to have jobs that take them away from their families. In what way are we being dominated by inappropriate attitude to wealth, achievement and status? What role has the Church played in nurturing these attitudes?