“The future of humanity passes by way of the family.
Pope St. John Paul II, 86

Marriage is Threatened

The Family is Indispensable

Marriage is Indispensable

The Family Must Come First

The Family is in Crisis

The Family is Under Attack

The starting point, “the first and fundamental structure for human ecology that we must concern ourselves with”
Pope St. John Paul II, 39

is the Family!

It is “the fundamental cell of society”.
Pope Francis, 66
The key to fixing the “serious destruction” of our environment is the family.
Pope St. John Paul II, 38

What is the “Family”?

“[A] communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2205

What is “Marriage”?

An “intimate partnership of…life and love…established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent.
Gaudium et Spes, 48

The “Family”

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, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)

“The family…is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life.” (CCC, 2207)

The “family is based upon a marriage which is one and indissoluble and, with respect to Christians, raised to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Pope St. John XXIII, 193)

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[T]he family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman which is constituted in the freely contracted and publicly expressed indissoluble bond of matrimony and is open to the transmission of life”. (Preamble, B., Charter of the Rights of the Family)

“Marriage”

“Marriage…transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple…it is not born ‘of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life’. (Pope Francis, 66)

Marriage “confers greater splendor and depth on the conjugal bond and more powerfully binds the spouses who…promise each other faithfulness until death in love that is open to life.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

“[T]he unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of wife and husband, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love.” (Gaudium et Spes, 49)

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[T]he State must acknowledge, respect and support this venerable institution as the stable union between a man and a woman who willingly embrace a life-long commitment of love and fidelity”. (Pope Benedict XVI)

A Beautiful Gift of God

“The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity.”
(Gaudium et Spes, 52)

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“[M]arriage and the family are rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

“We remain firmly convinced that the family is a gift of God, the place where he reveals the power of his saving grace.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 5)

Family “is the place in which life — the gift of God — can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 39)

An Unconditional Gift of Self

“[H]uman society at large springs from marriage“.
(Pope Leo XIII, 17)

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“Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 11)

“The reception and transmission of divine love are realized in the mutual commitment of the spouses”. (Pope Benedict XVI)

“The communion of life and love which is marriage thus emerges as an authentic good for society.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

“[M]arriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values”.
Pope St. John Paul II, 1

The Family’s Purpose

“[T]he fundamental task of the family is to serve life“. (Pope St. John Paul II, 28) ​

The family is “where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another”. (Pope Francis, 66)

“[T]he family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 17)

“As Pope Francis forcefully reminds us, the mission of the family always extends outside itself in service to our brothers and sisters.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 56)

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“[T]he family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 2)

“The family constitutes…a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society.” (Preamble, E., Charter of the Rights of the Family)

An Image of the Trinity’s Love

“[T]he essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 17, quoting Pope St. Paul VI)

The family is the image of God who “in his deepest mystery is not all by himself, but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love”(Pope St. John Paul II)

“[T]he Family begins with the creation of humanity in the image of God who is love and calls man and woman to love according to his likeness”. (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 35)

“Just like the Church, [the family] is called to welcome, radiate and show the world the love and presence of Christ.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

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“According to Rerum novarum and the whole social doctrine of the Church, the social nature of man…is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 13)

WARNING: The Family is threatened!

“The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis”.
Pope Francis, 66

A Profound Crisis

[T]he situation experienced by many families in various countries is highly problematical, if not entirely negative”.
Pope St. John Paul II, 46

“In today’s socio-cultural crisis, the family, the basic human community, is painfully being weakened and is exhibiting signs of its fragile nature.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 10)

[I]ndividualism…favors a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds.” (Pope Francis, 67)

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Of the many subjects arousing universal concern today, it may be helpful to concentrate on these: marriage and the family”. (Gaudium et Spes, 46)

The family in the modern world, as much as and perhaps more than any other institution, has been beset by…many profound and rapid changes(Pope St. John Paul II, 1)

Pope Francis views the family as so crucial that in his first year as Pope he initiated a global survey on the family and called for a Synod on the Pastoral Care of the Family, whose report is referenced here.

Families are Weak

Risking… “the future of society as a whole”.
Pope St. John Paul II, 6

“[T]he prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established…the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens.” (Pope Pius XI, 123)

Man is not really himself, however, except within the framework of society and there the family plays the basic and most important role.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 36)

“[D]oubt or error in the field of marriage or the family involves obscuring to a serious extent the integral truth about the human person, in a cultural situation that is already so often confused and contradictory”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 31) ​

Connected to Ecology

Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.”
Pope Francis, 160

“[T]he relationship between human life and the moral law…is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment.” (Pope Francis, 155)

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)

Through our family, we belong to the whole of creation; we contribute in a specific manner to promoting ecology“. (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 16)

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Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person“. (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)

A Rebellion Against Family & Nature

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  • [M]an sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 37)
  • “The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations”.  (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
  • “The neglect of creation and social injustices influence each other“. (Pope Francis)
  • “Taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment.” (Pope Francis, 162)

How Much Does the Family Matter to Society?

“[T]he familyis the foundation of society.”
Gaudium et Spes, 52

It is Foundational

“The family is the original cell of social life”.
CCC, 2207

“The family…is the ‘patrimony of humanity’…it is the vital cell and pillar of society.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

“The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family.” (Pope Francis, 46)

“The family is the first and fundamental school of social living”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 37)

It is Irreplaceable

“[T]he family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society.”
CCC, 2207

“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)

“The well-being of the individual person and…society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family.” (Gaudium et Spes, 47)

“[T]he role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 92)

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“The family is…the place of origin and the most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 43)

It is Indispensable

Family relations contribute decisively to the sound building of human society”.
Synod Report to Pope Francis, 50

“[T]he good of the person, of society and of the Church herself passes by way of the family“. (Preamble, L., Charter of the Rights of the Family)

“The family provides the opportunity for personal fulfillment and contributes to the growth of other persons in society-at-large.” (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 7)

“The communion of life and love which is marriage…emerges as an authentic good for society.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

Is the Crisis Insurmountable?

No! The Church calls for the development of…

“a new ecological culture…

exploring aspects of an ‘integral ecology‘ must include not only the environment, but also human, social and economic conditions”. (Synod Report to Pope Francis, 16)

“It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves”(Pope Benedict XVI, 51)

“It is only the rock of total, irrevocable love between a man and a woman that can serve as the foundation on which to build a society that will become a home for all mankind.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

We must end the corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 6)

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“Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation…into an arena of competition and conflict.” (Pope Francis)

It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.”
Pope Benedict XVI, 51

What About the State? Does it Take a Village?

“The experience of different cultures 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)

Limited Intervention

“[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 family exists prior to the State or any other community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable. (Preamble, D., Charter Of The Rights Of The Family)

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)

[T]he State must not absorb the individual or the family; both should be allowed free and untrammeled action so far as is consistent with the common good”. (Pope Leo XIII, 35)

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“The family [is] older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.” (Pope Leo XIII, 12)

Presently

“[I]nstitutions and laws unjustly ignore the inviolable rights of the family”.
Pope St. John Paul II, 46

[S]ociety, far from putting itself at the service of the family, attacks it violently in its values and fundamental requirements. Thus the family, which in God’s plan is the basic cell of society and a subject of rights and duties before the State or any other community, finds itself the victim of society”(Pope St. John Paul II, 46)

Clear Responsibilities

“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)

“Public authorities must respect and foster the dignity, lawful independence, privacy, integrity and stability of every family.” (Article 6, a, Charter of the Rights of the Family)

“[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)

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“[S]ociety – more specifically the State – must recognize that ‘the family is a society in its own original right’ (Dignitatis Humanae, 5) and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)

The Stateshould never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family”.
Pope St. John Paul II, 45

The State Must Act Specifically…

“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)

“The institutional value of marriage should be upheld by the public authorities”. (Article 1, c, Charter of the Rights of the Family)

Every state has the obligation to defend “the right to form a family…established in marriage between a man and a woman…and, which must be given protection and assistance if it is to fulfil its incomparable task…as the basic cell of all society.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

And Proactively! 

“All those…who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family.” (Gaudium et Spes, 52)

“[T]he family urgently needs to be helped and supported. Communities and States must guarantee all the support, including economic support, which families need”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 94)

“[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)

“[T]he State…must protect the family through measures of a political, economic, social and juridical character, which aim at consolidating the unity and stability of the family so that it can exercise its specific function”. (Preamble, I., Charter of the Rights of the Family)

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The family has a right to assistance by society in the bearing and rearing of children.” (Article 3, c, Charter of the Rights of the Family)

The family and society have complementary functions in defending and fostering the good of each and every human being.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 45)

[T]he Church openly and strongly defends the rights of the family against the intolerable usurpations of society and the State.
Pope St. John Paul II, 46

What Can I Do?

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)

By Our Example

It is “a social and even economic necessity…to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 44)

“It is urgent therefore to promote not only family policies, but also those social policies which have the family as their principle object”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 49)

“Christians…should actively promote the values of marriage and the family, both by the examples of their own lives and by cooperation with other men of good will.” (Gaudium et Spes, 52)

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[O]ne often has to swim against the tide of the prevalent culture, and this demands patience, effort, sacrifice and the ceaseless quest for mutual understanding.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In order to overcome today’s widespread individualistic mentality, what is required is a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 49)

What if We Fail?

The stakes could not be higher!

  • When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 3)
  • The family is “increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for…the future of society as a whole.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 6)
  • “If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)
It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”
Pope St. John Paul II, 86

FAQs

Q: What rights do families have?

A: Pope St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 46

  • the right to exist and progress as a family, that is to say, the right of every human being, even if he or she is poor, to found a family and to have adequate means to support it;
  • the right to exercise its responsibility regarding the transmission of life and to educate children; family life;
  • the right to the intimacy of conjugal and family life;
  • the right to the stability of the bond and of the institution of marriage;
  • the right to believe in and profess one’s faith and to propagate it;
  • the right to bring up children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious and cultural values, with the necessary instruments, means and institutions;
  • the right, especially of the poor and the sick, to obtain physical, social, political and economic security;
  • the right to housing suitable for living family life in a proper way;
  • the right to expression and to representation, either directly or through associations, before the economic, social and cultural public authorities and lower authorities;
  • the right to form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfill the family’s role suitably and expeditiously;
  • the right to protect minors by adequate institutions and legislation from harmful drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
  • the right to wholesome recreation of a kind that also fosters family values;
  • the right of the elderly to a worthy life and a worthy death;
  • the right to emigrate as a family in search of a better life.

Q: What else must the state do in support of the family?

A: The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:

  • the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions;
  • the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;
  • the freedom to profess one’s faith, to hand it on, and raise one’s children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;
  • the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;
  • in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;
  • the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
  • the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2211)

The Four Pathologies

The Church identifies four dangers or major ‘risks and problems’ eating away at the cultural, economic, and political systems and begins to identify how to cure them.

Consumerism

“The exclusive pursuit of material possessions prevents man's growth as a human being and stands in opposition to his true grandeur.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 19) A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying – who can no longer subordinate his instincts - cannot be free.

Environmental Degradation

Both our physical and human environment are at risk and the Church insists we ignore neither! “It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development." (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)

Alienation

We are losing the “authentic meaning of life”! When we refuse to transcend ourselves “and to live the experience of self-giving". (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)  when society “is marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ that makes us…closed in on ourselves.” (Pope Francis, 1)  both the individual and society are alienated.

Radical Secularism

“The greatest challenge of our time is secularization” (Pope Benedict XVI, 3) Why? Radical secularism holds that there is no such thing as an objective truth. But, “Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 5)

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