Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Holy Father

Pope Benedict XVI said the Bible can help clarify the true meaning of being a father during his general audience today.  "Despite the crisis of fatherhood in many societies, the Scriptures show us clearly what it means to call God 'Father,'" he said Jan. 30 at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. "For those who have had the experience of an overly authoritarian and inflexible father, or an indifferent, uncaring, or even absent one, it is not easy to calmly think of God as a father or to confidently surrender themselves to him," he told the crowd.

Pope Benedict pointed out that "it isn't always easy today to speak about fatherhood and, not having adequate role models, it even becomes problematic to imagine God as a father. But a Biblical revelation helps us to overcome these difficulties by telling us about a God who shows us what it truly means to be a father," the pontiff said. According to the Pope, "it is the Gospel above all that reveals to us this face of God as a father who loves us even to the point of giving us the gift of His Son for the salvation of humanity." "Jesus reveals God as a merciful father who never abandons his children and whose loving concern for us embraces even the cross," he said.

The Pope's reflections were part of a weekly series on faith, which he will continue during the Year of Faith. Today's teachings were drawn from the Creed's description of God as "the Father Almighty." "In Christ, God has made us his adopted sons and daughters and the cross shows us also how God our Father is almighty," he stated. The pontiff noted that "God is infinitely generous, faithful and forgiving and that he so loves the world that he has given us his only Son for our salvation."

He explained that God's omnipotence transcends the limited human concepts of power. "His might is that of a patient love expressed in the ultimate victory of goodness over evil, life over death, and freedom over the bondage of sin," he said. God's omnipotence, the Pope noted, is not expressed in violence or destruction, but through love, mercy and forgiveness. It is expressed through his tireless call to a change of heart, through an attitude that is only weak in appearance, and which is made of patience, clemency and love.

"God, to whom all things belong because he made them all, reveals His strength by loving everything and everyone, patiently awaiting our conversion because he wants us as his children," Pope Benedict reflected. "As we contemplate the cross of Christ," he concluded, "let us turn to God the almighty father and implore the grace to abandon ourselves with confidence and trust to his merciful love and his saving power."
The full text of the Pope's General Audience address can be found here.

Very well worth keeping in mind as we read the words of Tony Perry:

The abortion debate continues apace with the 40th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision this year. Advocates for abortion rights celebrate a woman’s right to choose, while pro-life supporters emphasise not only the loss of an unborn baby but also the regrets that haunt many women after having an abortion. Unfortunately, both sides miss an important–and unheard–voice in this debate: The voice of fathers who lose their children to abortion.

Men bear equal responsibility as women for creating life but have no say in whether or not their unborn child will see the light of day. In the name of gender equality, that choice is placed on the shoulders of women alone. This harks back to the days when women who fell pregnant, like my great grandmother, were taken away from home to bear their child in shame whilst fathers-to-be went about their lives with impunity. Over time, the view that pregnancy was a woman’s fault has simply morphed into being a woman’s lifestyle choice.

Those arguing that abortion rights are about reproductive rights also miss a fundamental point. If women alone can choose to end their pregnancy, they also make the choice to continue it. Extending the logic further implies that women alone therefore bear the moral and financial responsibility for raising a child, since it was their choice alone to have that child. However, we as a society reject that position; both parents are responsible for their children’s well-being.

If parenthood is a joint responsibility, then men should have a seat at the table about their child’s fate. Abortion is not just a women’s issue, or just an issue of unborn children–it is a family issue. Losing 55 million lives since the Roe v Wade decision has not impacted 110 million lives, but 165 million lives including the baby, mother and father.

In the least, the voices of fathers deserve to be heard except in cases of rape or incest. I for one can attest to the deep scars that abortion can leave behind. Not a day passes when the chilling loss of my unborn child 8 years ago doesn’t come to mind. Words cannot describe the pain of powerlessly watching someone extinguish the life of a child you just recently learned you would have. The law enshrined her right, just as freely as it does for those crossing an empty street. My story is not unique; I am not alone.

Fathers have to face up to their responsibilities, with every assistance, including censure where necessary, from the wider society, including when it acts politically as the State. So, a legal presumption of equal parenting. Restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers. Restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father. 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. Paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school.

That last, in particular, would reassert paternal authority, and thus require paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. 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.

But no more fathers’ wars, not least since those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm. Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children. 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.

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