New Types of Families: A Threat to Society?
“[T]he family…is the foundation of society.” (Gaudium et Spes, 52)
The Family Crisis
The Synod on Family, called by Pope Francis, reported the “the family, the basic human community, is painfully being weakened“. (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 10)
A source of this crisis is “doubt or error in the field of marriage or the family” which “involves obscuring to a serious extent the integral truth about the human person”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 31)
What is Family?
The family is the image of God.
“Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)
However, in recent decades the traditional family has been replaced by new “types” of families. The culture, and by extension politics, affirm and even celebrate these different types, many of which do not uphold the traditional family as the ideal.
This is a source of today’s crisis of the family. [See: What is Family?]
New Family “Types”
Several of these “new types” of families can be singled out:
Despite overwhelming evidence of their negative effect on children, single parent families (whether because of divorce, separation, or pre-marital sexual relationships) are presented as quite acceptable. Certainly nothing to criticize or ameliorate.
Similarly, couples who chose to remain childless (via contraception or the tragedy of abortion) in order to maximize/prioritize careers are normalized, if not idealized.
Finally, same sex “families” are now seen as normal. This, more than any other type of “family”, rejects God’s plan.
“[A]s for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family’.” (Pope Francis, 251)
From Bad to Worse
This situation is now becoming completely “topsy-turvy”. In early 2023 the Catholic couple, Michael and Catherine Burke were found unfit by Massachusetts to be trusted with a child and rejected as adoptive parents. Why? Because, supporting the Church’s position they “would not be affirming to a child who identified as LGBTQIA”.
No Families…No Future
The assault on the family is not only cultural, but political and economic.
Rather than redefine or neglect the family, “States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 44)
“[P]ublic authorities must do everything possible to ensure that families have all those aids – economic, social, educational, political and cultural assistance-that they need in order to face all their responsibilities in a human way.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)
“The family [is] older than the state…No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply’.” (Pope Leo XIII, 12)
The Family is Irreplaceable
“Whoever wants to build the civic and social edifice on strong and stable foundations must base it on a conception of marriage and the family”. (Pope Pius XII)
“[T]he role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 92)
“It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as sacred – ‘the heart of the culture of life’”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)