Famed ex-con artist behind ‘Catch Me if You Can’ has a powerful message about fatherhood and fidelity

Aug 23, 2015 by

Frank Abegnale with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who played him in the film based upon his life, “Catch Me if You Can”.

‘A real man loves his wife, a real man is faithful to his wife, and next to God and his country, he puts his wife and children first of all.’

As director Steven Spielberg tells the story in the 2002 film Catch Me if You Can, master con artist and imposter Frank Abagnale lived a dreamlike, if amoral, life of glamour and larceny. But according to Abagnale himself, until the police finally caught him, he lived a life of despair, loneliness and longing.

Now 71 years old, and with 39 years under his belt in law-abiding service to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), he is extolling the values of fidelity, marriage and fatherhood and laments his early life of crime, which began when he learned of his parent’s divorce when he was just 16.

Recounting his story to an audience of security experts in 2013 which was captured on Fed Talks, Abagnale describes how his infamous crime spree began the very moment when he learned of his parents’ divorce from the judge who granted it, and then demanded that he choose which parent he wanted to live with.

“It was no choice, so I ran,” he says.

He ran right out of the courtroom and kept running for seven years, successfully posing as a pilot, a doctor and even an attorney in order to amass wealth by cashing phony checks and to fly at Pan Am Airline’s expense and stay in hotels all over the world. But it was not a charmed life, as portrayed by director Steven Speilberg and matinee idol Leonardo di Caprio. “How could I tell you my life was glamourous?” he asked his 2013 audience, “when I cried myself to sleep every night of my life till I was 19 years old.”

As for staying in top hotels in 26 countries masquerading as a Pan Am pilot, the reality was bleak. “I spent every Christmas, every birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day in a hotel room somewhere in the world.”

He loved both his parents but, as he tells it, he had the best “daddy” in the world, a man who lived for his children and whispered in their ears each night without fail, “I love you, I’ll always love you.”

“There are very few men worthy of being called ‘Daddy,’” Abagnale told his audience. “I had a daddy who loved his children more than he loved life.” Yet after he fled the family courtroom to New York City, he never saw his father again.

When Frank Abagnale Sr. died from a fall in the Manhattan subway, his son was lying naked in “pitch dark cell” in a French prison, thinking about “how much I wanted to see him, hold him, kiss him, tell him I was sorry.”

Though Hollywood portrays Abagnale as a nerveless, brilliant sociopath, Abagnale downplays his achievements. If he were truly brilliant, he said in 2013, he would have found another way to support himself than stealing.

His witty retelling of how he finessed first a uniform, and then an ID card out of Pan Am, and turned them into free rides and rooms around the world reveals Abagnale to be a consummate game player motivated by excitement and the thrill of victory. But on the video he speaks with a  voice that breaks with emotion over his own parenting, his love for his country, his wife Kelly, and his three sons.

After five years in jail in the 1970s, Abagnale was released in return for providing free advice to the FBI. Working undercover for the bureau he met his wife-to-be, immediately confessing his criminal past. After failing in several legitimate but low-paying jobs, he made a career as a security consultant to the large corporations he once bilked, while continuing his free service to the FBI.

“I was offered full pardons by three presidents,” he said, “but I refused them. A piece of paper won’t excuse my acts. In the end only my actions will.”

As the end of Abagnale’s talk draws near, he grows serious about how he turned his life around. “God gave me my wife and three beautiful children. God gave me a family. And she changed my life, she alone. Everything I have ever achieved I owe to that woman.”

In return, Abagnale has tried to be a man. “To be a man,” he told his audience, “has nothing to do with money, nothing to do with skills, accomplishments , degrees or possessions. A real man loves his wife, a real man is faithful to his wife, and next to God and his country, he puts his wife and children first of all as the most important things in his life.”

As for divorce, it follows that Abagnale has only harsh words for it, delivered earlier in the talk: “Though it is not a popular thing to say so, divorce is a very devastating thing [for children] to deal with and then have to deal with every day of their natural life.”

Source: Famed ex-con artist behind ‘Catch Me if You Can’ has a powerful message about fatherhood and fidelity | News | LifeSite

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