The bond between father and son is the basis of a stable society. This was the thesis expounded by Dr. Patrick Fagan, an international expert on marriage and family, in an address given on May 4th to a diverse audience at the London conference of Family Life International UK.
Dr. Fagan, who directs the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at the Catholic University of America, began his lecture by describing how the early Church had brought about a radical transformation of society through its teachings on marriage and sexuality. Christian men, unlike many ancient pagans, refused to share their wives with others. The Christian attitude to the sexual was what distinguished them from their pagan neighbors. The spread of Christianity led to the establishment of intact, monogamous marriage as the central norm for Western society.
The assault on marriage and fatherhood
Fagan chronicled the progress of the radical attack on the Western sexual norm, beginning in the French Revolution. Later, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels sought the destruction of religion and the family, viewing them as the two greatest obstacles to their socialist society. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lenin tried to put their teachings into practice, effectively eliminating marriage, but this led to such chaos that the Soviets were ultimately forced to return to a more traditional society. The German disciples of Marx, known as the Frankfurt School after fleeing from Germany to America in the 1930s, established themselves in American universities, where they sought to undermine Western society from within by attacking its sexual ethic.
The crucial moment, said Fagan, was the rise of radical feminism in the late 1960s. Fagan described the founding of the National Organization for Women (NOW). All its founders, said Fagan, were women who had bad relationships with their fathers. A key figure was Kate Millett at whose feminist gatherings would begin with the chanting of the following formula:
Why are we hear today? To make revolution. What kind of revolution? The cultural revolution. How do we make cultural revolution? By destroying the American family. How do we destroy the family? By destroying the American patriarch. How do we destroy the American patriarch? By taking away his power. How do we destroy his power? By destroying monogamy. How do we destroy monogamy? By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality.
A number of these women were academics and were subsequently responsible for the establishment of Departments of ‘Women’s Studies’ at major American universities, aiming at the denigration of manhood and fatherhood. These have now spread to most universities throughout the West.
The sexual liberation promoted by the feminists, argued Fagan, had as its specific goal the undermining of the male. However, it has been devastating not only for men but also for women, children, and marriages. Fagan highlighted the results of the US government’s National Survey of Family Growth, which broke down the divorce rate over five years, controlling for the numbers of sexual partners that spouses had prior to getting married. Of those who had not had sex prior to marriage, 95% were still married five years later. However, this fell to 62% for those who had had one sexual partner prior to marriage and to only 50% for those who had two partners.
“The biggest role that culture has is the shaping of the sexual,” said Dr. Fagan. Radical feminists understand this—and so must we if we are to reverse the damage done by the sexual revolution.
Nurturing the father-son bond
Fagan contends that since the key target of the sexual revolution was manhood, the way to overcome the effects of that revolution is to create and nurture a culture that forms strong men. The key way of doing this is to nurture the bond between father and son. Strong fathers make strong sons.
While a son has a natural biological bond with his mother having spent nine months in her womb, developing the father-son bond can be more of a challenge. But fathers need to accept the challenge and take charge of their sons’ formation. This is vitally important in all sexual matters. Fagan was robust in stating that sex education does not belong in the school but must take place within the family. Fathers must take charge of their sons’ sexual education, while mothers fulfill the same role for girls. This education needs to take place before the son can be exposed to pornography. Fathers need to be clear about what constitutes unacceptable behavior. A father can share with his son his own youthful struggles for purity. And a father must teach his son that marriage is a gift as his principal duty is to mold his son into a strong husband and father. ‘Without the father taking this initiative,” says Fagan, “the world is lost.”
The father is the keystone to the three great societies: the Church, the family, and the nation. “Remove that keystone,” Fagan stated, “and the arch will fall.” A good father will train his son to become a virtuous, productive member of all three societies. Placing a particular emphasis on the importance of the intact family that worships weekly, Fagan marshaled an impressive array of statistics showing that “more worship, more marriage and more children” are the “simple formula for a thriving nation and economy.” US government data measuring family types against 153 outcomes including income, education, mental health, crime, addictions, and poverty found that on every single outcome the intact married family that worships weekly comes out on top, while the broken family that never worships God produces the least desirable outcomes.
Key to re-evangelising the culture
Dr. Fagan ended his address by outlining a simple three-step plan for re-evangelizing the culture through family life. The first step is simply to have a good marriage. The second to raise your children well. As the third step, Dr. Fagan recommended holding a party for your neighbors once a year. They will witness the thriving of your family life and wonder what your secret is. This is a great opportunity for sharing the Faith. People will begin to notice, said Fagan, as they did of the early Church: “These Christians, see how they love one another.” It is by such small steps that we strengthen the Church, the family, and the nation.
A first step to achieving these desirable goals is to foster the father-son bond as the “civilizational keystone”. Fathers must now play the central role in formation that was once aided by a healthier moral culture. If the right formation is given to boys there will be no shortage of good husbands and good priests, says Fagan. “The time is right, and the need is enormous.”
• Related: “The Radical Assault on Marriage and Family, from Karl Marx to Justice Kennedy”: A May 5, 2018 CWR interview with Dr. Paul Kengor about his book Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!