For Fathers

Let’s hear it for fathers. But hurry, because fairly soon it might be politically incorrect, and then perhaps illegal to speak out and cheer for them, as it will be deemed insulting to those who have made children deliberately fatherless.

Our government here in Britain has just passed legislation affirming the rights of lesbians to become pregnant through artificial insemination without any need for the child to know any father-figure or father-substitute at all.
The idea, you see, is that the rights of a person wanting the child override any other rights that might exist in this scenario, including the rights of the child himself.
The child, I need hardly say, doesn’t even have the right to be born, since the promoters of this loathsome law are also unanimous in their support for Britain’s savage abortion law, which permits abortion virtually on demand and ensures that it is funded by the public, under slogans about “a woman’s right to choose.”
All this at a time when the problems of the fatherless — some 50 percent of all children born in Britain this year will be born out of wedlock, and most of those will lose all contact with their fathers before their childhood years are spent — have never been greater or more obvious. It’s become almost a cliché for commentators to note the need for boys to have some sort of role model (male teachers or youth leaders or similar), in order to give them confidence and aspirations.
It’s widely recognized that being a single mother is astonishingly difficult, even though any and every official comment on the subject has to be accompanied by the routine words that “most of them do a wonderful job.” It’s known that our current divorce laws cruelly deprive fathers of their rights — often forcing children to live with the mother even when they have expressed a desire not to do so, and when they dislike and even fear her new boyfriend and want to remain close to their own father.
What is happening in Britain is unjust and is leading to terrible consequences. The sullen gangs of young people loitering around our shopping centers on Saturday nights, the fights that break out — 15 fatal stabbings in London alone so far this year, and we haven’t reached the peak summer season yet — and the thefts and muggings, assaults on the elderly and frail, verbal abuse to passers-by, vandalism and graffiti, are all evidence of a broken society. The vast majority of young people convicted of violent crime come from what are coyly referred to as “dysfunctional” homes. They are the dispossessed — unsure, often enough, even of their own surname. They desperately need what every previous generation regarded as the norm: a mum and dad, united for life, in a family team.
But even to talk about fathers and the crucial necessity of encouraging stable family life based on marriage is to court savage criticism in any public debate. Socially, too, it’s becoming unacceptable to talk about gratitude to your father. Images of fathers in advertisements are rarely positive — often they are portrayed as fools or dupes. It’s considered normal to suggest that many, perhaps most, fathers in previous generations were unjust disciplinarians, cruel, twisted, lacking in affection, unemotional, failing to bond with their offspring.
Well, my father wasn’t like that. He belonged to a generation that simply looked and sounded different from most people around in Britain today — he had a moustache and a war record, was sincerely patriotic, had a terrific sense of humor, believed in God, tried to be decent to everyone, and loved his family dearly.
He was huge fun — my mother still smiles at the recollection of the way he could make the whole family laugh together, and we still swap memories of his jokes and stories. He was someone on whom you could rely: dependable, reassuring. He was capable: He made and mended things, organized family trips to the seaside, coped with crises. He was hugely affectionate; when we were small he would swoop us up in the air and down again (known in the family as doing a “whoop”), and all our lives there were plenty of hugs.
He was of the generation that returned from war and wanted nothing more than to settle and raise a happy family, who in turn would do large and useful things and have lots of glad adventures. Of course, that meant plenty of tensions once we reached the teenage years — his generation simply wasn’t prepared for the era of pop, pot, and the pill. But the affection never wavered, and his own values and sense of right and wrong were communicated to us in such a way that, when growing up, I had a strong sense of not wanting to let him down — not a bad restraint on teenage behavior.
Good fatherhood is passed on down the generations. My brother, himself a father and father-in-law, is also now a grandfather. Dependability, sacrifice for a family’s needs, affection, and the communication of the joys of life aren’t impossible to teach and share. Millions have done it. Why aren’t we allowed to celebrate that?
The Members of Parliament who voted so enthusiastically for homsexuals’ rights to override those of children were apparently quite happy to destroy this sort of heritage. And yet they themselves have benefited from it: They all grew up in a Britain formally structured on male/female marriage and the traditional family unit. They aren’t volunteering themselves — or their own children — for a massive social experiment. Just other children, in a future for which they won’t be responsible.
Who will pick up the broken pieces of a wretched and miserable society? The Church, we hope, will be there to cope. Bruised and battered by internal conflicts, denigrated by the mass media, smaller in numbers than we would wish, but still there — the Catholic Church with an apostolic faith passed on down the generations.
It’s notable that, in an age where fatherhood has been denigrated and when so many young people have been left bereft, the image of the pope as a father has been notable and popular. There were all sorts of reasons for those vast cheering crowds that greeted Pope John Paul II, and now stand cheering “Benedetto,” but assuredly a part of the whole thing is the reassurance of that kindly, capable, authority-but-with-a- warm-smile figure that Peter’s successor conveys. True fatherhood has a gentleness about it, a sense of passed-on wisdom, a sense of sacrifice. It’s not sentimental. It carries real responsibilities. It involves a very subtle sense of distance, which makes it different from motherhood. It carries messages about courage and hope and aspiration.
One of the last people to speak publicly about the role of a father in a very personal sense was Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was unashamedly grateful to her father — a grocer who rose to become an alderman and in due course mayor of Grantham, a leading figure in the local Methodist church, and a father who took great care to ensure that his daughters received a good education and the best possible start in life. Standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street, she was asked about any childhood memories or special thoughts at this historic moment, and she spoke of her father with warm affection and gratitude.
Alderman and Mrs. Roberts did an excellent job in raising their children, and Britain benefited. Most of us also look back with grateful affection to our parents. On my wedding day, as I walked into the church on my father’s arm, I stopped to give him a hug and thank him for the lovely home and childhood he’d given me, all the things he’d done for me. Then I wished I hadn’t, because of course it meant that both of us entered the church gulping back emotional tears. I hummed to him the opening bars of his regimental march, while everyone else was singing “Praise, my soul, the king of Heaven.” I needn’t have worried. His arm, as always, was firm to grip and his step unwavering and reassuring.
Embarking on the great adventures of life, the best gift you can have is good parents.

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Joanna Bogle is a writer, biographer, and historian. She relishes the new translation of the Mass, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, her own excellent local Catholic parish, traditional hymns (especially, perhaps, Anglican ones) rain, good literature, sleep, the English coast, Autumn, buttered toast, and a number of other things too precious and important to list here. Visit her blog.

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