RCIA CLASS 21
– THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT, THE FAMILY, AND SOCIETY
I. The family is both the primordial society for all people and, for the Catholic Church, the domestic church.
A. God created three
institutions Himself, the nation of Israel, the Catholic Church (the
new Israel), and the family. See Gen. 2:18-25, 12:2-3; Matt. 16:17-20.
B. Man and woman reflect God's love and creative goodness in complementary ways. "The respective perfections of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfections of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband." Catechism of the Catholic Church 370. "God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female, He created them." Genesis 1:27.
are many images of this complementarity. For example, in most
languages, as in St. Francis' Canticle of the Creatures, there
is a reference to such things as the sun, the sky, and fire as masculine,
and such things as the moon, the earth and water as feminine.
In music, harmony and melody enrich each other, as do primary and pastel
colors in painting. In the Old Testament, there is the thundering
masculine voice of prophesy, and the kind, maternal voice of Wisdom,
who is portrayed as a maiden or a mother.
should be raised in the context of that complementary love, showing
God's goodness in different and mutually perfecting manners.
- The family thus stands
before society, and should be respected and supported by it. For
there cannot be a strong society or a virtuous people for long without
C. This natural complementarity is brought to a higher level in Scripture, as marriage becomes the image of the love between Christ and His Church.
1. Marriage is
often presented in Scripture as an image of God's relationship with
His people. "For the Lord delights in you and makes your land
His spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall
marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in His bride, so shall your
God rejoice in you." Isaiah 62:4-5
2. A Christian
marriage in particular is a deep image of Christ's relationship with
His Church. "In virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, by which
they signify and share in the mystery of the unity and fruitful love
between Christ and the Church, Christian married couples help one another
to attain holiness in their married lives and in accepting and educating
their children." Vatican II Council, Lumen Gentium 11.
"Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the Church and handed
himself over for her." Eph. 5:25.
3. The words
of Saint Paul about husbands and wives can be seen as addressed to both
of them, calling for mutual service and love, sometimes with one emphasis,
and sometimes with another. See 1 Cor. 11:2-16; Eph. 5:21-33;
Col. 2:18-19; Titus 2:4-6. St. Peter's admonition to serve one's
husband can be seen in the light of attempts to convert a non-believer;
he later affirms that men and women are co-heirs of Christ. See
1 Pet. 3:1-7.
D. This structure of marriage is also the basis for the duties and rights between children and their parents.
1. Parents have the right and responsibility to care for and bring up their children in all respects, physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually. Parents are the primary educators of their children. See Catechism 2221-2223. They may use schools, as a builder may hire others to help him, but theirs is the final responsibility, especially because education is not merely a matter of learning things, but above all else a matter of becoming a wise and virtuous person.
- Central to this
right and duty is the responsibility for handing on the faith and morals
to one's children. There is a solemn duty of parents to bring
children up in the practice of the faith and in educating them in the
faith until the children are emancipated. It will not do to wait
for them to be adults to decide on what faith they will have, any more
that one would wait until they are adults to decide whether to be educated,
well-mannered, honest, etc.
- A father and
mother should be to the children and image of God the Father and Holy
2. Children have the obligation to respect and obey their parents as those given by God first of all to show them His goodness.
- As with all authority,
this obedience is under the law of God and must be referred back to
it. Thus, children should uphold moral law before any other allegiance.
- However, as long
as the parents are trying and at all able to raise the children, they
deserve respect despite what are no doubt going to be many failures.
- In addition,
after emancipation, children still have the duty to love and care for
parents, especially when they are in advanced age. As St. Paul
wrote to St. Timothy, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives,
and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith, and is
worse than an unbeliever." 1 Tim. 5:8.
the extended family should care for each other, as the Blessed Virgin
Mary went to help her cousin Elizabeth. This mutual assistance
is the first extension of society built upon the family.
4. There is also an obligation to care for and reverence the dead. We pray for the deceased and give them honor, reflecting our gratitude to them.
II. All other authorities are an extension of the family and have rights and responsibilities within their rightful sphere.
A. Each person and
each family is naturally a part of a society, and both upholds the society
and benefits from it. The Catechism speaks of contributing to
"the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and
freedom." Catechism 2239. At Pentecost, each person heard the
Gospel in the language of his own nation. And Scripture seems
to indicate that not only individuals, but even nations will come before
the throne of God. See, e.g. Ps. 87; Is. 60:3, Rev. 21:24.
B. Especially since Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical letter Rerum Novarum (On the Conditions of Workers), the Church has increasingly described a vision of the just society.
1. Subsequent to that encyclical letter, there have been several other major statements including:
- Pope Pius XI's 1931 encyclical Quaragesimo Anno (On the Fortieth Year of Rerum Novarum)
- Blessed Pope John XIII's 1961 encyclical Mater et Magister (Mother and Teacher) and 1962 encyclical Pacem In Terris (Peace on Earth)
- The 1965 Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World)
- Pope Paul VI's 1969 encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Progress of Peoples)
- Pope John Paul II's encyclicals Laborem Exercens (On the Dignity of Human Labor), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Church's Concern for Social Affairs), and Centissimus Annus (On the Hundreth Year of Rerum Novarum.)
- Pope Benedict
XVI's 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth)
2. Rerum Novarum was written in the context of the Industrial Revolution and tried to focus people's attentions back to the centrality of developing human nature and away from the impersonalization that was increasing at the time. He spoke both against laise faire capitalism and socialism because they both had the same fundamental flaws. In particular, they both considered progress to consist primarily of material gain, and both would subordinate the person, as well as faith and the family to something else, the government in the case of socialism and economic forces in the case of excessive competition.
- He argued
that the state and economic institutions should both support smaller
groups and especially the family and the Church that each person may
grow to be the son or daughter of God that he is called to be.
3. Centissimus Annus was published in the context of the fall of communism and the Soviet Empire and the rise of many new independent countries.
- He emphasized
that in the new situations that were arising, the emphasis must continue
to be on the perfection of each person and on a society that pursues
virtue and holiness above all else. He wrote, "The main thread
and, in a certain sense, the guiding principle, of Pope Leo's Encyclical
and of all of the Church's social doctrine, is a correct view of the
human person and of his unique value, inasmuch as man is the only creature
on earth which God willed for himself. . . . It is by responding to
the call of God that man becomes aware of his transcendent duty.
Every individual must give this response, which constitutes the apex
of his humanity, and no social mechanism can substitute for it."
Centissimus Annus 11, 13.
- While no one
can make this decision for a person, "man's social nature is realized
in the context of the numerous social groups beginning with the family
and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which
stem from human nature itself." Centissumus Annus 13.
- The Pope promoted
a model of society, in which the government and the economic structure
would support a culture and families, who in turn support each person's
ability to seek the true, the good, the beautiful, the holy, and above
all God, who is the source of each of these things. The Church
is a part of this culture and should be a part of each family, but also
is in the society of heaven, joining the two realms.
- He rejected several popular alternative models, including: (1) socialism, which would subordinate individual, the family and culture to the state for a merely economic end and treat people primarily as material beings; (2) excessive competition, which would subordinate the person, family and culture to the economy or to the powerful for the sake of gain; (3) moral relativism, which values the individual and his freedom above all else, but fails to answer the question of what freedom is for; (4) a consumerist capitalism that balances competition and regulation, but is focused merely on gaining more things or pleasures for people and fails to recognize the deeper call of mankind, which are brought out in a devout culture, families, and God's call to each person; and (5) religious totalitarianism, which would like socialism subordinate the individual, the family, and culture to the state for what may be a good intention, but one that negates the free choice to love and believe that God wanted.