The Government’s Responsibility For a “Culture of Family”
The Family is Vulnerable
A culture centered on family is under threat. Even the definition of family has been corrupted.
Yet “experience…throughout history has shown the need for society to recognize and defend the institution of the family“. (Preamble, H., Charter Of The Rights Of The Family)
Governments seem to have forgotten that the family “exists prior to the State or any other community”. They fail to grasp that the family “possesses inherent rights which are inalienable“. (Preamble, D., Charter Of The Rights Of The Family)
The State “should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)
“[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 State Must Defend Family Culture
As “the fundamental cell of society” (Pope Francis, 66) government’s “job” is to protect the family.
“Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote it [the family]…and to favor the prosperity of home life.” (Gaudium et Spes, 52)
“The authorities responsible for the common good must be seriously committed to the primary good of society, namely, the family.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 12)
Should Governments Regulate Families?
“[T]hat the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.” (Pope Leo XIII, 14)
The practice of governments regulating family size and/or infringing on parental rights is abundant today. But the Church is very clear on the State’s limits.
Every state has the obligation to defend “the right to form a family…established in marriage between a man and a woman”. (Pope Benedict XVI)
Why? “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)
There are “necessary limits to the State’s intervention…inasmuch as the State exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 11)
Government Must Recognize Its Proper Function
“[T]he State… is under grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)
“[T]he State cannot and must not take away from families the functions that they can just as well perform on their own or in free associations”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)
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)