Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Family and Civil Society

From The Josias:
The primary end of the family is the education of the child to the maturity of manhood. This is an inalienable right of the family, since, as St. Thomas says: “the child is something of the parent.” (IIa IIae q. 10, a. 12)  
These words of the Angelic Doctor are quoted by Pius XI in the above-mentioned Encyclical. Yet, even here, “the family is not a perfect society which embraces all that is required for its own perfection.” As Pius XI expressly points out: “the common good demands that the State promote the education and learning of youth in various ways,” which must, of course, be performed with due respect for, and in conformity with, the innate rights of the family. The question is: how can the common good demand that civil society should share in promoting the good that is proper to the family? Must this be interpreted to mean that the common good of political society is subordinate to the good of the family? That the perfect society is subservient to the imperfect one? By no means; the contradiction is all too obvious. What, then, is the answer?  
You may have noticed that in a passage already quoted from the Encyclical, the common good of civil society refers to the families and to the individual citizens: "familiae singulique cives". The same distinction is applied in the sentence which immediately follows: “The function of the authority which resides in the State is twofold: to protect and to further the family and the individual citizen, but not in the least by absorbing or replacing them.” Family and individual citizen are not the same. Man is not born a citizen, the child is not as yet causa sui: in fact, the end of the family is to lead the child toward the status of causa sui. But until he has reached this status he belongs to the parent. “Prior to becoming a citizen, man must live, and this life he does not receive from the State, but from his parents. As Leo XIII declared: ‘The children are something of the father; an extension, as it were, of the father’s person; to be exact, they enter into and participate in civil society, not immediately by themselves, but through the domestic community in which they are born… The authority of the father is such that it can neither he suppressed nor absorbed by the State’…” Hence, in this respect, the parent qua parent as well as the child are, normally, beyond the reach of the State. It is the parent as citizen who immediately, and by himself, enters into civil society. How, then, can the family concern the State? How can the common good demand that the State further the proper good of the family?  
We have just pointed out that the good which the family pursues for the child is the status of causa sui, of being a free man: but this is precisely the primary condition of citizenship. The term of education is at the same time the very principle of civil society, which is an association of free men who seek their greatest good qua men in the common weal. It is therefore in the interest of civil society that its members be free men in the strict sense of the word: that they possess the education and learning essential to citizenship. That is why the common good of civil society must extend to the cradle of citizenship.  
Obviously, the common good of civil society and the authority which resides in the government do not extend in the same manner to the family and to the individual citizen. Nevertheless, the end is the same in both instances. The end proper to political society is the common good of the citizen as such — of the freeman — “who can participate in deliberative or judicial office” (Aristotle, Politics III, c. 1), whether directly or indirectly. However, even in helping the family to achieve its own good — the perfection of the offspring — the State pursues this good only in virtue of, and for the sake of, the perfect human good which is proper to civil society. (Read more.)

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