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  • A web of despair for fathers
  • By Peter Rhodes
  • Midlands Life
  • 14/10/2005 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 47 articles in 2005 )
Ray Barry is a former trainee priest and lifelong churchgoer. But he's far better known as Spiderman.

As one of 12 regional co-ordinators with Fathers4Justice, he dressed as the superhero and climbed St Peter's Church, Wolverhampton, during the civic service in June.

Ray Barry in his Spiderman outfit It was part of the F4J campaign for fathers to have access to their children after divorce. He was later acquitted of causing alarm, distress or harassment at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court.

Although he clearly enjoyed the notoriety, Ray Barry, of Castlecroft, Wolverhampton, says a demonstration at York Minster last year affected him more profoundly.

"We surrounded the pulpit and linked arms," he recalls. "And it suddenly struck me that if Jesus had been in that church at that time, he would not have been one of the congregation looking at us. He would have been up there, linking arms with us. Jesus always took the side of the underdog."

He is dismayed at how little support the campaign against "fatherlessness" has seen from the Church.

He blames the gradual feminisation of every institution, from the courts, to schools, to the BBC and the Church. The unspoken assumption today, he says, is that women are good and men are bad.

Even where there is clear injustice, says Ray Barry, people tend to look the other way. He has not seen two of his children for years after a bitter divorce.

"Losing my children has harmed me, in terms of personality and emotionally, beyond repair. I no longer feel capable of showing love."

Some fathers simply give up the fight for access. Steve Bull told the Express &Star how he ended his court action to spare his sons, both at school, any further distress in the wake of the break-down of his second marriage.

"It killed me to walk away from them," he said. "But it was doing more harm than good to them. And I know this; the kids will always be there and they will find me."

Ray Barry, married for 13 years with three school-age children, has no hope of such a reunion.

"Despite the passing of time, I do not feel any less commitment to, or responsibility for, my children," he says. "I cannot begin to describe the heartbreak.

"At first I could not believe it was happening to me. I would wake up some mornings thinking, oh that was a horrible dream, and then realise it was the reality. I very much doubt whether I will ever see my two older children again."

Fathers4Justice claims 12,000 members, of whom more than one-third are women, usually the new partners of men who have been denied contact with their children. A fair proportion are grandparents, the blameless victims of divorce who often lose contact with much-loved grandchildren.

"I have seen men in tears, distraught, beside themselves," says Ray Barry. "And yet we do not see the men who suffer the most. Many men just crawl away and vanish from society and are never seen again. They end up in bed-sits. They no longer socialise. They become invisible."

Mr Barry, a retired civil servant, once worked in JobCentres. He says he regularly encountered long-term unemployed men, many of whom had been wrecked by broken relationships.

Fathers4Justice accepts that no country in the world has found the ideal solution for children after divorce. Mothers want to move on, often into new relationships. Children may genuinely be frightened of their absent father.

"All we are asking for," says Mr Barry, "is the presumption of shared parenting."

When he was 20 he spent a year in a Catholic seminary before deciding the priesthood was not for him. But his faith endures and he believes he knows whose side Christ would be on.

"If Jesus were around today he would make a beeline for Fathers4Justice."

Are you an aggrieved father? Or would you tell another side of the story? We'd like to hear from you. Call us on 01902 319410 or email us at newsdesk@expressandstar.co.uk

If in Australia visit: https://www.f4joz.com


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