Should We Celebrate Father’s Day?

June 17, 2018. Why are we celebrating “Father’s Day?”

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the presence of fathers in intact families pays incalculable social dividends in terms of future generations and the communities in which they live, fatherhood as such is increasingly marginalized by culture-makers.

Case-in-point: I spent time the last two weekends watching the remake of Lost in Space. The original sci-fi series ran during my childhood, from 1965-68. Dr. John Robinson was the leader of his family as it journeyed out into space. Major Don West was a loyal and self-sacrificing family friend.

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

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Fast-forward to 2018. 50 years later, in conformity with current canons of political correctness, Dr. Maureen Robinson does everything, from calculate planetary orbits to discipline her military husband to respond quickly enough to G-forces. Robinson himself basically spends most of the program divided between lamenting his absence from his family on self-chosen military enlistments and struggling to “get in touch with his feelings.” Don West has demoted from military pilot to mechanic. Debbie, Penny Robinson’s monkey-like pet in the original series, is now a chicken hauled around by West. A pet monkey for a teenager is cute; a pet chicken for a grown man is, well, strange.

I mention this not because I want to attach too much significance to a Netflix reboot, but because I think it is symptomatic of the contemporary confusion that reigns about what being a man today means.

But, in the end, I wonder whether we should even worry about it.

I am a bit surprised we are still celebrating Father’s Day. Except, perhaps, in some real out-of-the-way places, I have not heard much this year about the downside of honoring “Patriarchy-Privilege-Reinforcing” Day on the third Sunday of June. But what I am seeing is even more worrisome. What I am seeing is the androgynization of “parenthood.” Why are we even celebrating “Father’s Day” or “Mother’s Day?”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked that question 44 years ago. The “moderate rock star notorious RBG” suggested just that in a 1974 report she co-authored while back at Columbia University Law School: “Replacing ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Father’s Day’ with a ‘Parent’s Day’ should be considered, as an observance more consistent with a policy of minimizing traditional sex-based differences in parental roles.”

What seemed laughable in 1974 is now increasingly becoming mainstream medical ethics.

Consider a 2017 article from the avant-garde British Journal of Medical Ethics, a “leading international journal that reflects the whole field of medical ethics.” (This is the same journal that treated us to the 2012 Giubilini-Minerva article, “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” advocating post-birth murder.) “The Value of Being Biologically Related to One’s Family,” by Dr. Rebecca Roache, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Royal Holloway University of London, claims that there really is no value to a parent having a biological relationship to his child apart, perhaps, from an “ambiguous” satisfaction of a wish.

Let me add an immediate caution. Notice the focus of the title: Roache impeaches being “biologically” related to a child, not “genetically” related. There are two separate, albeit interrelated things going on here.

The first is undermining the scientific character of human life. Ever since Roe, there has been a relentless push to undermine any connection between genetic reality and human life. To allow genetic facts to speak for themselves would expose the whole lie of feigned agnosticism about not knowing “when human life begins.” The unique genetic identity of the unborn child vis-à-vis the child’s parents would bring that rickety scaffolding tumbling down. To make doubly sure that no scientific basis for the distinctiveness of the child’s human life vis-à-vis its parents stands out, there is the further dualistic (ultimately, Gnostic) effort to separate “human life” from “personhood,” so that even if one admits “human life” is present, it does not acquire the “morally compelling value” of respect.

Those two movements go together, however. By shifting from genetic individuation to biological relatedness, advocates of a redefined humanity try to reach a modus vivendi with those wings of the feminist movement that (rightly) denounce surrogacy as trafficking in women’s bodies and demand its prohibition rather than just its regulation (a growing phenomenon in many states, most recently New Jersey under its new Governor, Phil Murphy, and threatening in New York). “Biological” relatedness placates those feminists by treating the gestational role of surrogates carrying a child to whom they are genetically unrelated as of the same value as being genetically the genuine mother of that child. Renate Klein, in her book Surrogacy: A Human Rights Violation (large parts of which I agree with) holds that position.

Now, I do not want to deprecate the role of carrying a child or that function’s importance to the continued survival of the child, but that role in itself does not create the life of that child. Equating gestation with the creation of life, however, also perversely reinforces the arguments of pro-abortionists by insisting that because the child’s continued survival depends on its gestation, abortion is always a “woman’s choice” to do “what she wants with her body.”

But the issue at stake is not just about abortion. The androgynization of parenthood is an essential building block for the post-Obergefell brave new world of “marriage” untethered to sexual difference.

Part of the intellectual dishonesty of Obergefell is its contention that marriage and parenthood have no intrinsic relationship. Parenthood had to be separated from marriage for Obergefell to succeed: if parenthood had some relevance to marriage, the notion of sexual differentiation would be reinforced as a constitutive element of marriage and not just some “discriminatory” artifact of which the states cannot take countenance. The majority in Obergefell insisted that marriage was completely separate from parenthood: the legal bond was sundered.

But, like with Humanae Vitae, separating the procreative and unitive meanings of the conjugal act do not mean they go away. It just means that they can be spliced together any which way one wants. And now that Obergefell has legally obliterated any relationship between marriage and parenthood, the two are getting re-spliced not from the perspective of parenthood (and, thus, the interests of the defenseless child) but from the perspective of nouveau “marriage,” where the sterility of same-sex “partners” is not a biological fact but a “discriminatory barrier” that needs to be overcome.

Consider the growing redefinition in many states—cattle-prodded by judges when legislators do not react quickly enough—to replace “father” and “mother” on birth certificates with “parent 1” and “parent 2.” Consider the growing cultural effort to reject “discriminatory” terms like “mommy” and “daddy.” Consider the outcry that followed legislation adopted by Oklahoma and Kansas guaranteeing at least some adoption agencies the right to ensure children receive a father and a mother, as well as the attempts to marginalize both jurisdictions for doing that. Consider the demand that health plans and medical insurance cover artificial reproductive technologies to enable the victors of “marital equality” to overcome Mother Nature’s “demeaning” their chromosomal homogeneity, and how many “progressive” companies are already doing it. How long will it be before Anthony Kennedy’s jurisprudence of “stigma” discovers a Constitutional duty for the state to overcome the “inequality” biology has created? And just how much money is in it for what Jennifer Lahl rightly calls “Big Fertility?”

The great paradox is that the “progressives” giving us androgynous “parenthood” are leading us right back to the Patria potestas of ancient Rome, where no child had a status until, presented to his father, he got a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” for incorporation in the “family.” Like today, no crude biology made one a sire of the Roman “parent.” There is a powerful movement afoot to return us to the practice of ancient Rome where, in fact, every child was de facto “adopted” into the “family” because family inclusion was a matter of will, not biological relationship.

So, please celebrate “Father’s Day.” We don’t know how many more of them may still remain before it becomes a relic we once clung to, like guns and religion, by the baskets of deplorables.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “In His Spirit” painted by Norman Rockwell in 1961.


  • John M. Grondelski

    John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) is a former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are his own.

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