…. …. London. SW1V 2ND Telephone: 0171-821 0537/8 Fax: 0171-23? 6925
AL3 4JR llth March 1997
Thank you very much for your letter and for "The Hook and Sting"
which I enjoyed. I don't share your views on an effective conspiracy of radical feminists! I think you will find in the first chapter of my book, the reasons why I believe men have so recently been so vilified. The radical feminists are just the icing on the cake. Thank you for your comments in the letter. l don't really think I am a scholar. It really is polemic I have written, and I think most academics, (like the rest of us} write polemic one way or the other.
I really wish you and Eugen well in your campaigning, and value a continued
dialogue with you. However I cannot be any part of eny campaigning myself. This
is partly because I think the campaigning has to come from men, and partly because
I have a living to earn and do not get involved in campaigns. I have not written
on behalf of fathers in particular, but only reported the situation as I saw
I am really sorry that you had the worst divorce this century and Hope that writing the "Hook and Sting" went somewhere to exorcising it.
It is really interesting that you and Eugen hold back from recommendations for the future - but I don't think I need to get to the bottom of that. Surely that is your problem?! Maybe it is because being in 'opposition’ is always easier than being in 'government'. However able people like yourselves should surely be able to tackle it.
Very beat wishes.
Adrienne's letter which caused me to write "Deconstruction", below.
17 June 1998
Thanks for enclosures and continuing dialogue.
In my view it is quite right that in a society sometimes adults can rule over and above the wishes of the child, by what is deemed in that society to be "in the child's best interests". Of course the area is fraught with paradoxes and inconsistencies, with which the children's rights people are constantly struggling, but it is perfectly plain that in some issues at different stages of life children are not equipped to make fully cognisent (sic) decisions about what is in their best interests. For example, they may consent to sexual relations with adults, and may even be quite willing in this regard, at ages such as 7 or 8 or 14 or 15, or even 5 or 6 (friends of mine adopted a sexually abused child aged three, who constantly made sexual overtures to the father in the family), yet these are ages which we adults deem it is not fitting for them to engage in such relations, and I think we are quite right.
Ah, you will say, but parent/child contact is so holy it overrules anything. It can NEVER be in the best interests of the child not to have contact with a parent.
I disagree. I think you do need to have a "best interests of the child" clause for parental contact, although I would be interested in hearing your arguments for omitting such a clause, because there has to be cover for extreme cases such as;
* a parent who is causing the child great distress because they (the parent) are insane. e.g. the mother who used to terrify her child when it came to stay by trying to pull the chimney down to "let Jesus in" (my goddaughter)
* a parent who is involving the child in criminal activities
* a parent who is involving the child in pornographic activities (also
criminal, of course)
* a parent who is physically abusing a child to an extent that it may be killed (note that when social workers come to remove a child from a mother who has broken its bones and burned it with cigarettes, the child will often cling to the mother and scream "mummy I love you" and resist being taken away by the social workers)
* a parent who is using serious emotional blackmail or scapegoating or distressing the child profoundly in other ways (although the child may not even realise what is being done to him or her).
Take the child of a rape: some rapists really do believe the mother wanted sex, simply because she was standing at the busstop that evening. I think a child should know who that parent is (even the very worst kind of rape) because it is a child's right to know its biological origins.
But I think perhaps in such circumstances the information should be withheld till the child becomes an adult and is sufficiently able to cope with the information. I think it could be ghastly for a child regularly to see a twisted soul, and have him try to "justify" his behaviour to a young child (which he almost certainly would). Why put the child through such a thing, just because of a biological connection? Yes I would think that without a "best interests" clause, such ongoing contacts could be insisted on. No?
Yes these are extreme examples, but LAWS HAVE TO COVER MAINSTREAM EVENTS AND EXTREME ONES, AND ALL TOO OFTEN THE ONE SHADES INTO THE OTHER. If you don't have a best interests clause then a parent (or someone else) could insist that the child's right to see that parent overrode anything to do with what was good for the child, and could enlist the child in that wish, or the child could want contact itself, although clearly it was being damaged in the process.
Clearly, the state will have different standards when it is considering removing a child from its parents and putting it in care, than when it is removing the child from the sphere of influence of one parent, and leaving it with the other. That is because the consequences of putting a child in care are very different from the consequences of having it live solely with one parent. Children in care usually do appallingly badly. Children living with just one parent, without any contact with the other, often do well. Also remember that when contact between a parent and a child is severed, it is quite often because the child is refusing to go. [as the Serb soldier in Kosovo said to the woman from the Red Cross]. I know of one such case here the children would hide out upstairs and you would have had to physically drag them out, when there was no good reason as far as any of the social workers could see, that they should not want contact with their father.
How does a child's right of contact work, under such a circumstance? It can be difficult giving children direct choices over many things, among them over whether to see a parent, because they can be brainwashed into not wanting to see the parent (parental alienation), or conversely feel duty bound to go on seeing that parent, when actually they are very distressed by the ongoing contact and would be better off without it, or can simply be destroyed emotionally by having to make the choice. The burden of choice can be a terrible thing for a child. And yet if we don't hear their wishes and act upon them, we also do them wrong. Have you any simple answers for this?
If you think the "best interests of the child clause" should be removed in this area, then how do you allow for other cultures' wishes (e.g. Saudi Arabia?) [first cited by me - IC] Should the UN Convention override the mores of the country concerned, as far as parental contact goes? And if so, should this be backed up by military force? There is no doubt that just as in Saudi Arabia children can be denied contact with their mothers, so in our culture there would have been a time not so long ago when the courts ruled that it was not in the best interests of children to have contact with a parent who had had an extramarital affair (often a mother), or who was homosexual. Such mores, though they seem absurd to us now, are nevertheless the mores of the society in which those children are living, and both children and adults are part of that society. Trying to balance human rights with cultural customs is not easy, let alone enforce them!
And how can you remove a "best interests" clause in respect of parental contact, and still have it in other areas? Or should children always be allowed to make their own decisions on everything? Or should there be age limits for certain things? Can parent-child contact be justified as a special case area where there should be no "best interests" clause? If so, why? Or should the "best interest" clause with regard to parental contact just be for children under 12? Or under 8?
I think it is the same with information. Should a child be given information that it is, for example, the child of a violent rape, or of an incest between its mother and her father (its grandfather)? I think that in the long run people need such information, but I don't think they necessarily need it when they are still children. I think that the adoption rule of 18 as being the age when information must be given should apply in all cases where information about a child (including in special cases its parentage) is being withheld "in the child's best interests". Such information should not be forced on the person, but it should be there for the taking, if they want it. This is relevant to the parent-contact argument, because withholding information about the true identity (or whereabouts) of a parent can be part of blocking contact.
Note, as I said in A COMPLETE PARENT that a Scottish child now has a right enshrined through THE CHILDREN (Scotland) ACT to sue a once- married parent to maintain regular contact with it (though of course "in the best interests of the child" must also hold here). The Scottish Law Commission wanted this to be for all children, not just those whose parents were once married, but the politicians watered it down. I am pretty sure it will one day come into English law too, and for all children, and it is as a direct result of the UN Convention - the wording is even the same. But I still cannot see how a "best interests" clause should not be a part of this.
It seems to me (though not to you) that this whole area is complex. You seem to see it as so simple, and I marvel at that, and I wonder if I have missed something? If you have arguments as to why "in the best interests right (sic) of the child" should NOT be included in parental contact clauses, then it would be good to hear them. In my view, the inclusion of that clause can quite easily be justified. Can its exclusion be justified, that is the nub of it?
By the way, why are you citing 25% of UK children as "having lost all contact with their parent"? Where are you getting that figure from? The figure, as I understand it, is 3% (Office of National Statistics, 1997). 74% see their nonresident father on at least a monthly basis (50% weekly), and another 23% see their father less frequently, but usually have telephone/post/e-mail contact at other times (and often lots oft his). Contact levels with non resident mothers are higher.
Gradually those figures are becoming widely known, and I feel you need to get up to date here. If you go on pushing the wrong figures, you will not be taken with any seriousness. [As the pot said to the kettle. Since she is now in bed with the Home Office, perhaps we can get her to read the Home Office figures, for instance in their mid-1998 Green Paper. Will she tell them to quote her low low figure, in order to be taken seriously?]
As for adults, only 10% do not see their father ever (Families and Kinship, FPSC 1998). This of course is v. high compared with mothers (1-2%), but is still considerably less than the 25% you are citing for kids who have lost all contact with a parent (by which you presumably mean father. Why not say father when you mean father? I think this gender-blind use of the word parent helps no-one.) [Compare this with the last paragraph in the newspaper article, below.]
I understand it is very hard to argue discrimination against fathers when almost all are in some contact with their children, but that is the way it is. That is what the figures tell us. What they do not tell us is the quality of the relationship between father and child, even when there is weekly contact, or even when fathers live in. But that is a different matter.
Anyway, do let me know why you think "best interests of the child" clause should not be included in rules about parent-child contact.
Ivor Catt. 121 Westfields, St. Albans AL3 4JR, England. email;
I have eight years of experience, mostly representing myself, in litigation in English courts at all levels. I was much in the secret family courts. I sued my employers twice, once in the Queens Bench of the High Court. I myself was sued in Chancery in the High Court for 100,000, a further £50,000, etc. etc., where I represented myself.
Although I won cases, I concluded that the English courts today are hopelessly warped at all levels. A litigant needs to advance through them as quickly as possible. Only when he has exhausted the English 'system' is he allowed to proceed to Europe, where I assumed things would be better. Certainly, they could not be worse.
Recently, I read John Campion in the U.K. Men's Movement website. According to him, the European courts are as politically correct, and show the same contempt for the law, as do our English judges in our secret family courts. If he is right, then it follows that today, all litigation is a waste of time for an Englishman, and should be shunned.
All of the above means that some of the most fundamental human rights have been abrogated in England today for some classes of people, even more so, and more routinely, than in Hitler's or in Stalin's empires. A key to the abrogation is the increasing secrecy of the English courts. Edmund Heward, Chief Master of the Supreme Court (Chancery Division), on page 117 of his book "Lord Denning", pub. Weidenfield & Nicholson 1991, says that they act in secret in ninety per cent of high court work, something Denning opposed.
In spite of the above, I plead strongly for continuing study, and understanding, of the national and international legal 'system', even though today, English judges have a contempt for it, or at least for the small part of it that they know and understand.
Some years ago, I discovered that nowhere, in English or in International Law, is a child's right of access to its parent enshrined. It is often estimated that one quarter of children in England have lost all contact with their parent. This estimate separates us from the tyranny of Stalin or Hitler, which was selective. (Even though English judges would ignore such a principle, were it stated anywhere, it remains important that it should be stated.) [dec98. Article 26 of the 10dec48 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, clause (3), says; "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." After the depredations on our most fundamental concepts about social order by radical feminists, we need such a "default" statement by the U.N. that "A child has a right of access to its parent" before we can begin to retrieve society from its present acceleration towards catastrophe. Although our courts will show contempt for such a U.N. Declaration, at least we will then clearly know who is breaking the law - our judges. "The best interests of the child" argument for defying this U.N. statement must then be argued before a jury, in open court. That is the road back from ruin.]
The most likely place outside England, for me to find an assertion of a child's right of access to its parent was in the 1989 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Lo and behold, it is not there, which astounded me. (Adrienne Burgess was misled by a text book summary of the Declaration. The original Article 9 has to be read, not second hand summaries, to see the point clearly.)
Lynette Burrows, in her 1998 book The Fight for the Family, discusses radical feminists from England who were very influential in the drafting of the 1989 United Nations Declaration. These neo-Marxist, destructive women replaced Capitalism by Patriarchy in Marxist dogma. According to Burrows, and according to Erin Pizzey, they want the state, not the parent, to own a child. Burrows goes further to say that the Children's Rights campaign is actually a campaign to wrest children from their parents and put them under the control of the state, as did some totalitarian regimes. However, she hopes to discredit the small but politically effective Children's Rights movement in the following way. Following a strongly hostile public attitude to paedophiles, paedophiles have been subsumed into the Children's Rights movement. They then influence it to weaken parental control by such reforms as anti-smacking and reducing the Age of Consent in its various forms, thus easing access to children for paedophiles and homosexuals. (She says that whereas only 2% of the population are homosexual, 35% of child molesters are homosexual.)
Why is a child's right of access to its parent not enshrined in various documents including the 1989 UN. Declaration? I feel that Burrows' idea of a conspiracy by radical feminists, egged on by paedophiles, in its drafting, so as to make the state replace the parent, is unnecessary. In any case, radical feminists reject the traditional concept of parent, seeing the greatest threat to a child as its own father. That is, they have come to believe their own fraudulent statistics - that most sexual molestation and battery of a child is by its own father. Pizzey insists that most child molesters are women, and was correctly angry when I incorrectly countered by saying that women have more access to children. As she insisted, "A child molester is a child molester."
Millions of pounds of government and Foundation money goes to groups who generate false statistics for political reasons - for instance Joanna Foster of the BT Forum, but there is no money for objective scholars and researchers to establish the truth, and if they do, they cannot publish. Our media are under the control of bitter, sexual dysfunctional, power-hungry radical feminists, intent on falsifying the picture. Erin Pizzey said that all statistics in this field since the 1970's have been falsified.
Let us analyse why the 1989 UN. Declaration only asserts a child's right to "family life" [preamble], but omits its basic right, of access to its parent. Coming in the wake of decades of incessant father- and husband- bashing in all the media, it makes good sense. If the greatest threat to a child is its own father, then it follows that the UN. Declaration should guarantee to the child only the "good" part of its family; that is, that part of its "family life" which will remain after the father has been excluded, as he now is in 50% of families in England.
Two points arise from this. The first is the critical importance of statistics over outcome. In spite of censorship, the horrendous statistics on outcome for a child cut off from its father are at last leaking out.
The second point is much more fundamental. Radical feminists have secured all the funding, and all the media. They have then used their position to promote numerous inversions, including the inversion of the incest taboo. They have "established" that, far from being a child's chief protector and support, its father becomes the chief threat to a child's safety. The New Witch, a chapter in my 1996 book "The Hook and the Sting" (on my website), discusses the full scale demonization of the father. This false inversion of reality is so fundamental that it over-stresses the conceptual framework of civil rights, which has never before been challenged at so basic a level. We will now have to structure the philosophy of civil rights more carefully than we did before society was attacked in such a fundamental way by these revolutionary feminists.
After the radical feminists, three layers of civil rights have to be defined for the first time. The highest level, unstated in law or in international declarations, would include the right to become the director of a company, the right to sell ice cream on the beach, and the right to put up a tent in a national park. These are superficial, questionable rights.
The middle layer of civil rights is enshrined in case law, statute law, European Conventions and UN Declarations, for instance on the Rights of the Child or the Rights of Women.
The lowest, most fundamental layer of civil rights was so obvious that they remained unstated. These include the right to an adequate flow of air to breathe; the right of access to drinking water; the right of access to a parent.
The upsets being promoted by radical feminism are so very basic that our law and our conventions provide no defence for society.
Radical feminism, although very destructive, is so inchoate that the very idea of a hierarchy of rights, described above, is beyond them. Although to some degree she is now a lapsed radical feminist, Adrienne Burgess's July 1998 letter to me demonstrates an inability to distinguish between the rights at different levels.
To illustrate. A child has a right to access to education. It also has a right to access to drinking water. In the desert, with a child in your care and education and drinking water at the same distance, we all know that you take the child to the drinking water.
When obfuscating after her error in interpreting the 1989 UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, Adrienne Burgess demonstrated an inability to distinguish between higher and lower levels in the hierarchy of rights. She suggested that a child should not have access to its father in case the father sexually molested it. She failed to comprehend the concept of a default position, that a child has a fundamental right of access to its parent - something not even discussible thirty years ago, before fatherhood was demonised, when our society had not yet begun to disintegrate - intellectually and morally as well as socially, as Adrienne Burgess's letter demonstrates that it has today. She gave the keynote speech at the AGM or the IPPR, the think tank closest to Tony Blair, which published his books. (June99. She now fronts a Home Office initiative to access fathers! See article below.) It is highly significant that she is confused at such a fundamental level. She shows how far we have lost "the tacit dimension", a phrase in Michael Polanyi's book, and the title of a series of lectures he gave, later published as a book.
The conjunction of the issue of a child's right of access to its parent with the question of whether its parent is a good parent, illustrates the parlous state our intellectual elite has reached. We would rightly be appalled if Hitler or Stalin confiscated all children, only to be returned when each parent severally demonstrated his quality as a parent to a tribunal. Adrienne's muddle is so profound that it is difficult to analyse. Further, her muddle is society's muddle. The confusion she demonstrated is pandemic. For instance, with no proven charges against me, when I had sued for divorce and gained it, a judge asked me if I was willing to meet with my younger daughter under supervision. I refused, because to agree would have meant that I supported a re-definition oft he nature of parenthood and the nature of the state, such re-definition obviously bound to lead to general catastrophe. It is elsewhere described as the state replacing the father as parent. Patricia Morgan says that where such experiments have been undertaken, as in Israel and Russia, they have been abandoned.
The reason why the state is not able, except in extremis, to come between child and parent is so basic as to be difficult to analyse and discuss. This does not exclude the state's ability, even its duty, to isolate or punish a small minority of parents who are delinquent, or a small minority of citizens who are members of criminal gangs. It is when, as in England today, the state undertakes to adjudicate in general over who may or may not carry out their duties as parent, that society collapses. This is because a state is the highest expression of loyalty and support. The loyalty bonds start, at their lowest level, between husband and wife, then between parent and child, rising through local community and local loyalty. The state is an amalgam of nuclear families amalgamated into extended families amalgamated into local and then into larger communities. By definition, if the state claims general power to disqualify more than a tiny minority of parents, let alone one quarter of fathers as it does today in England, then the state is not a state, but rather the tool of a destructive vested minority which is using the state to destroy the state.
Polanyi writes, "We know more than we can tell." Another subculture speaks of "From the known to the unknown." It is the lack of any known; their lack of any clear contact with civilization as it has gradually developed, that puts radical feminists beyond the pale.
Let us illustrate the way in which radical feminism is outside our culture. Let us suppose that, using any criterion of success in later life - wealth, Nobel prizes, OBE's, etc., it was found that if a child had its middle finger surgically removed, his life outcome was significantly improved, statistically. We would not surgically remove fingers. Without any discussion, we all know that unnecessary surgery on our children is a dead option. This is the kind of way in which radical feminists, using falsified statistics, destroy the conceptual framework on which society is based. The fraudulent statistic, that homosexuals are less of a threat to children than their own fathers, touted by radical feminists, goes to the very core of all our concepts. Thinking that these assertions are merely useful political makeweights, radical feminists know not what they do. They do not know that an array of accepted assumptions has grown up over the centuries. Their disagreement with one or more assumptions - for instance that a child is the responsibility of its parents - should have been overtly stated and then defended. What happened was just polemic and the tossing around of false statistics. It is the philosophical incompetence of radical feminism which makes it so destructive. Having no properly organized philosophical base, it will only be a short term aberration. But it will cause massive damage to two generations during its brief, discordant reign.
I will now attempt a further journey into the tacit dimension. When in charge of a child in the desert, with education and drinking water at equal distance in opposite directions, we all know that one takes the child to the drinking water. This does not negate the principle of the child's having two fundamental rights - to education, and to drinking water. We all know that there exists a hierarchy of rights, and before radical feminism, these were all tacitly agreed.
The fatal flaw, which will finally destroy radical feminism, is their failure to provide any role for young men in their new Society. This will split feminists down the middle. The new 100 women Labour M.P.s will split into two groups - those who have sons, and those who do not. The arrant absurdity of the sex war promoted by radical feminists is that many women have sons. How can one fight a war while at the same time giving birth to one's enemy? Although the broad rump of women remain indifferent to the escalating crisis, no amount of media manipulation will convince women that, reversing the ancient tragedy in China, they should only have daughters, and that they should abort their sons. So the days of radical feminism are numbered. The sooner we regain control of at least part of our highly feminised media, the less will be the damage done to our youth. However, I fear that two generations, not merely one, will be seriously damaged.
The Lords and Commons Committee on the Family, chaired by Lord Ashbourne, published an excellent report, Family Matters, on 23july98. On its publication, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, attended the Committee to comment on the report and also to make a major announcement. Before his visit, I pressed my friend Robert Whiston, who is a member of the committee, to try to get the Home Secretary to define the term "parent". Robert countered by saying that firstly, they would try to get Jack Straw to give his definition of the term "family". In the event, Straw did neither. However, the fact that even to define terms, as we now know, is Politically Incorrect, shows how rapidly, and how far, we have sunk into a morass of destructive confusion.
The correct way to handle a social or political issue is as follows. First, all parties debate and agree on the meaning of their primary terms. Then, objective research is undertaken, leading to statistical results to be agreed by all parties. Thirdly, policy alternatives are debated on the basis of the now agreed facts, described by the agreed terms.
In our present problem, the collapse of the family, this procedure is not followed. The party who is to be demonised and excluded, the father/husband, is subjected to a barrage of damaging polemic 24 hours a day in all the media. Polemic is easier if terms are not agreed and research statistics are unknown or falsified.
Ivor Catt 121 Westfields, St. Albans AL3 4JR, England e-mail;
firstname.lastname@example.org . 17sep98
Fathers must be more than 'walking wallets'
Home Office helpline aims to foster a nation of 'actively involved' dads
By Richard Thomas, Society Editor - The Observer, London, 25apr99, p5
Expectant dads will be given a free guide to successful fatherhood in a Government-backed bid to persuade men to take a more active parental role.
Labour [this must mean "Government"] is set to launch a programme called 'Fathers Direct' designed to tackle negative stereotypes of fathers as abusive or uninterested in their children. The scheme is the first nationwide service offering information, advice and support for British fathers.
Adrienne Burgess, who will head the Home Office-funded scheme, said: 'We are setting out to change the whole culture which surrounds fathers, which undervalues the real passion that many have for their children. Fathers Direct will tackle the invisibility of all the good fathering which goes on.'
Ministers are worried that poor images of fatherhood and the army of 'absent dads' are having a damaging impact on children, especially boys. They are concerned that welfare and health service too often ignore the male parent.
'There is a wide acceptance now that fathers count, and that they need special support and help,' said one Government source. 'The idea that this competes with support for mothers is ridiculous - the truth is that helping fathers is good for mothers too.'
Home Office Minister Paul Boateng has been struck by the research showing that the partners of those fathers-to-be who are involved in family life get better professional care. Other data shows that children with actively involved fathers perform better at school and are less likely to be in trouble with the police.
Burgess said the programme, which will run initially until the next election, will develop the guide for new dads, establish a telephone helpline, issue guidance to employers on how to help working fathers and set up a 'one-stop shop' for information on the internet.
The announcement follows a high-profile conference last week at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which brought together experts on fatherhood from the US, Europe and Australia.
James Levine, an adviser to US Vice-President Al Gore, said that one of the biggest challenges was to tackle the narrow view of fathers as financial providers only.
'In the US, the big challenge is to get people, not least fathers themselves, to see dads as more than just walking wallets.'
The Government is putting the finishing touches to its own review of child support, to be published in a fortnight. It is likely to increase the amount substantially which fathers separated from their families will be expected to pay. The unveiling of Fathers Direct will be seen as an attempt to provide some balance to the new child support calculations, which are certain to anger some fathers.
One of the most difficult issues for campaigners for greater support for fathers, said Levine, was the frequent backlash from women's groups, who argued that money spent on fathers should be devoted to helping women because they undertook the bulk of childcare. A bill to grant one billion dollars to services for fathers will reach the US Congress in the next few months, and is likely to win bi-partisan backing.
'One lesson the UK can learn from the US is that attempts to help fathers are doomed unless you can get the support and collaboration of women.' Said Burgess. She said one of the priorities for Fathers Direct would be to educate the providers of health, education and social services to involve male parents. 'When professionals say parent, they mean mothers,' she said. 'Family services means services for mums. That's the perception we have to change.'
Graeme Russell, professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the IRRP conference that the unrelenting negativity of the media's portrayal of fathers was undermining their confidence. 'We surveyed fathers across the country as part of a "Fatherhood Audit", and one of the most striking findings was that while the fathers had a fairly low opinion of their role as dads, their partners rated them pretty highly,' he said. 'They are doing better than they think.'
But Russell said fathers everywhere feel trapped between growing pressures in the workplace and higher expectations of their role in the home. 'The bar has been seriously lifted for men,' he said. 'They want to manage it, but often feel unsupported.'
Burgess said: 'In the long run, I hope we won't need tailored support for fathers - parents will be what counts. But for now, in the current climate, they need all the help they can get.'