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Author Topic: "How the Church Betrayed Fatherhood"  (Read 1501 times)


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"How the Church Betrayed Fatherhood"
« on: Jun 15, 2004, 09:58:39 AM »
From: Matthew O'Connor (Founder F4J)
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004 22:35:51 +0100

"How the Church Betrayed Fatherhood"

Recently The Archbishop of Canterbury lent words of support to the tradition of civil disobedience although whether he had in mind purple, self raising flour filled condom throwing at our Prime Minister is another question altogether. This protest, known fondly now by members of the civil rights group Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) as the 'funpowder plot', was the latest in a campaign which has been carefully mapped out over three years.

Ironically the protest provoked outrage from indignant MP's, many from the Labour benches who seem to have forgotten the fact that this government was forged in the fires of civil disobedience. The Tolpuddle Martyr's and the Trade Union Movement to name but two. Lord Hoffman even recently said that we had a long and honourable tradition of law breaking in this country. That is after all how our democracy was formed.

Fathers Day this year is a pivotal moment for F4J and half way mark in a campaign that is now embracing many mothers and grandparents separated from their children and grandchildren. By the time you read this, one grandfather, a retired lecturer from Bristol will have been on hunger strike for nearly two weeks. We know little about this Siberia of the broken, the outcasts of a generation of children separated from their parents in Kafkaesque courts who operate under an omnipresent cloak of secrecy. In the family courts, no one can hear you scream.

Yet why are fathers and many grandparents driven to such acts of desperation? We seem as a society to care little. Our government and our democracy have discarded these broken lives with total disregard for either the consequence to the individual, or the long term consequences to society as a whole.

There is of course one stunningly simple answer. There is a scared bond between parent and child, between flesh and blood. One embodied in over 6,000 years of the family and woven into the very social fabric of our society. What would you do if I came along in the street and took your children from you? You would fight me. You would do everything physically in your power to defend your children. You would probably injure me and maybe even kill me to protect your own flesh and blood.

And yet fathers are somehow supposed to walk away. Disposable, dispensable, disregarded. Yet we send those very same fathers off to a foreign land to fight a phoney war on behalf of a country that doesn't even afford them the most basic of human rights - the right to be a father. In the UK you have no automatic legal right to see your children, only a right to apply to a court to see your children, should you have the misfortune to end up in an acrimonious separation.

So fathers like me have turned on our politicians. They are morally culpable. They have known for years what was happening yet did nothing. 'It is a very complex matter dear boy' said a Tory grandee to me once. Complicated? 6,000 years of the family, complicated?

So where do desperate dads turn to when democracy has failed them? Many turn to the church. In most cases not only does the experience leave dads embittered, it leaves them with a complete loss of faith in the sanctuary that was once the church. What help did the Vicar who christened my children give me when I had problems seeing my children? None. He was about as much good as a poke in the eye with a sharp crucifix.

The unpalatable truth is that the church has betrayed fatherhood. Don't believe me? Take a look at many christenings. Where is dad? In many instances I know of, vicars have not even asked where or who the father was. Who cares where he is? Who cares who he is? And when mum doesn't want dad there, your friendly neighbourhood vicar will happily oblige. So there, at the font, is the answer. The Church of England is as morally culpable for staying silent on this matter as our elected representatives are.

Now think the unimaginable. How long before fathers turn on the core faith of this country for failing them and their kids and aim their ire against religion? How long before we see protesting fathers hanging off the top of St Paul's?

Shocked and outraged? You should be. What does the Church of England stand for if it can't even defend it's very core, it's heart and soul - the family? It stands for a redundant, anachronism with little direction or grounding in contemporary society. Why? Because it can't even deliver the first line of the Holy Trinity. Even the words you say when you make the sign of the cross are empty and meaningless. 'In the name of the father.'  And in the name of the father 100 children lose contact with their dads every day in this country in the family Courts.

The responsibility lies with our democracy and the deafening silence from the pulpit. Enough. No more. The Church of England must find the faith to raise it's voice and act now with the utmost urgency for the sake of all our children, and start acting like a church that will defend the sacred bond between parent and child.

It should start this Fathers Day.

Matt O'Connor
Founder, Fathers 4 Justice


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