Fatherhood

David Lindsay on the need for society to re-emphasize the importance of paternal authority

Even if for the wrong reasons, Frank Field is right. The General Synod does not have the final say on women bishops in the Church of England. Parliament does. No one who does not accept in full the claims of Rome can submit to Her; no one who does can fail to do so. In its own terms, if a new network of Conservative Evangelical congregations would better serve the proclamation of the Gospel, then it must be created anyway. In neither case does any other consideration arise. Certainly, the prospect of either need not concern Parliament as a body. Classical Christianity is the basis of this state and the foundation of all three of its political traditions.

But independent research has found very large proportions of the women among the Church of England’s clergy to be doubters of or disbelievers in key points of doctrine. Two-thirds deny ‘that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin’. One quarter denies the existence ‘of God the Father Who created the world’. Assuming a woman on the episcopal ‘team’ in each diocese, of those with privileged access to the media and other organs of national life as the voice of the Christianity professed by seventy-two per cent of Britons, at least one-eighth would be agnostics or atheists.

A positive decision to retain declared ‘Fathers in God’ within our parliamentary system and wider national life would emphasize the importance of fatherhood. That would set the tone for the introduction of a legal presumption of equal parenting. For the restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit was being paid to mothers. For the restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father. For repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child’s parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed. And for paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school.

That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment.

All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole. And it includes foreign policy.

Paternal authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars. You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle. You cannot do both.

Which is the conservative position? Which makes present in the world the Fatherhood of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ, the fundamental point of reference for all three of our political traditions?

To argue for this by word and by sheer presence is a role for living icons of God the Father, addressed as ‘Fathers in God’. Parliament must do its duty and reassert the importance of fatherhood by rejecting any proposal for women bishops. No matter what. ND

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