On the 20th
anniversary of the year of the family
one has to ask some searching questions. We live in an era when the rights and
even the desires of the individual are championed at the expense of the family.
It is essential that the United Nations system together with regional
institutions such as the European Union are challenged to review policies which
have been detrimental to the family.
In the intervening 20 years since the year of the family for
example, what if anything has been done to help or assist the family as a unit?
What specific policies have been put in place to support the
The answer is of course is that not only has precious
little, if anything, been done to support the family, policies which have been
adopted are distinctly anti-family, in both the economic and social spheres
Pope John Paul ii in 1983 in his Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris Consortio set out the basis for a charter of family rights which
were subsequently published as follows
A. The rights of the person, even though they are expressed
as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an
innate and vital expression in the family;
B. the 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;
C. marriage is the natural institution to which the mission
of transmitting life is exclusively entrusted;
D. the family, a natural society, exists prior to the State
or any other community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable;
E. the family constitutes, much more than a mere juridical,
social and economic unit, 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
F. the family is the place where different generations come
together and help one another to grow in human wisdom and to harmonize the
rights of individuals with other demands of social life;
G. the family and society, which are mutually linked by
vital and organic bonds, have a complementary function in the defense and
advancement of the good of every person and of humanity;
H. the experience of different cultures throughout history
has shown the need for society to recognize and defend the institution of the
I. society, and in a particular manner the State and
International Organizations, 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
J. the rights, the fundamental needs, the well-being and the
values of the family, even though they are progressively safeguarded in some
cases, are often ignored and not rarely undermined by laws, institutions and
K. many families are forced to live in situations of poverty
which prevent them from carrying out their role with dignity;
L. the Catholic Church, aware that the good of the person,
of society and of the Church herself passes by way of the family, has always
held it part of her mission to proclaim to all the plan of God instilled in
human nature concerning marriage and the family, to promote these two
institutions and to defend them against all those who attack them;
M. the Synod of Bishops celebrated in 1980 explicitly
recommended that a Charter of the Rights of the Family be drawn up and
circulated to all concerned;
the Holy See, having consulted the Bishops' Conferences, now
presents this "Charter of the Rights of the Family" and urges all
States, International Organizations, and all interested Institutions and
persons to promote respect for these rights, and to secure their effective
recognition and observance.
All persons have the right to the free choice of their state
of life and thus to marry and establish a family or to remain single.
a) Every man and every woman, having reached marriageable
age and having the necessary capacity, has the right to marry and establish a
family without any discrimination whatsoever; legal restrictions to the
exercise of this right, whether they be of a permanent or temporary nature, can
be introduced only when they are required by grave and objective demands of the
institution of marriage itself and its social and public significance; they
must respect in all cases the dignity and the fundamental rights of the person.
b) Those who wish to marry and establish a family have the
right to expect from society the moral, educational, social and economic
conditions which will enable them to exercise their right to marry in all
maturity and responsibility.
c) The institutional value of marriage should be upheld by
the public authorities; the situation of non-married couples must not be placed
on the same level as marriage duly contracted. Article
Marriage cannot be contracted except by free and full
consent duly expressed by the spouses.
a) With due respect for the traditional role of the families
in certain cultures in guiding the decision of their children, all pressure
which would impede the choice of a specific person as spouse is to be avoided.
b) The future spouses have the right to their religious
liberty. Therefore to impose as a prior condition for marriage a denial of
faith or a profession of faith which is contrary to conscience, constitutes a
violation of this right.
c) The spouses, in the natural complementarity which exists
between man and woman, enjoy the same dignity and equal rights regarding the
The spouses have the inalienable right to found a family and
to decide on the spacing of births and the number of children to be born,
taking into full consideration their duties towards themselves, their children
already born, the family and society, in a just hierarchy of values and in
accordance with the objective moral order which excludes recourse to
contraception, sterilization and abortion.
a) The activities of public authorities and private
organizations which attempt in any way to limit the freedom of couples in
deciding about their children constitute a grave offense against human dignity
b) In international relations, economic aid for the
advancement of peoples must not be conditioned on acceptance of programs of
contraception, sterilization or abortion.
c) The family has a right to assistance by society in the
bearing and rearing of children. Those married couples who have a large family
have a right to adequate aid and should not be subjected to discrimination.
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from
the moment of conception.
a) Abortion is a direct violation of the fundamental right
to life of the human being.
b) Respect of the dignity of the human being excludes all
experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.
c) All interventions on the genetic heritage of the human
person that are not aimed at correcting anomalies constitute a violation of the
right to bodily integrity and contradict the good of the family.
d) Children, both before and after birth, have the right to
special protection and assistance, as do their mothers during pregnancy and for
a reasonable period of time after childbirth.
e) All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, enjoy
the same right to social protection, with a view to their integral personal
f) Orphans or children who are deprived of the assistance of
their parents or guardians must receive particular protection on the part of
society. The State, with regard to foster-care or adoption, must provide
legislation which assists suitable families to welcome into their homes
children who are in need of permanent or temporary care. This legislation must,
at the same time, respect the natural rights of the parents.
g) Children who are handicapped have the right to find in
the home and the school an environment suitable to their human development.
Since they have conferred life on their children, parents
have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them; hence they
must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.
a) Parents have the right to educate their children in
conformity with their moral and religious convictions, taking into account the
cultural traditions of the family which favor the good and the dignity of the
child; they should also receive from society the necessary aid and assistance
to perform their educational role properly.
b) Parents have the right to freely choose schools or other
means necessary to educate their children in keeping with their convictions.
Public authorities must ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that
parents are truly free to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens.
Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which
would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom.
c) Parents have the right to ensure that their children are
not compelled to attend classes which are not in agreement with their own moral
and religious convictions. In particular, sex education is a basic right of the
parents and must always be carried out under their close supervision, whether
at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.
d) The rights of parents are violated when a compulsory
system of education is imposed by the State from which all religious formation
e) The primary right of parents to educate their children
must be upheld in all forms of collaboration between parents, teachers and
school authorities, and particularly in forms of participation designed to give
citizens a voice in the functioning of schools and in the formulation and
implementation of educational policies.
f) The family has the right to expect that the means of
social communication will be positive instruments for the building up of
society, and will reinforce the fundamental values of the family. At the same
time the family has the right to be adequately protected, especially with
regard to its youngest members, from the negative effects and misuse of the
The family has the right to exist and to progress as a
a) Public authorities must respect and foster the dignity,
lawful independence, privacy, integrity and stability of every family.
b) Divorce attacks the very institution of marriage and of
c) The extended family system, where it exists, should be
held in esteem and helped to carry out better its traditional role of
solidarity and mutual assistance, while at the same time respecting the rights
of the nuclear family and the personal dignity of each member.
Every family has the right to live freely its own domestic
religious life under the guidance of the parents, as well as the right to
profess publicly and to propagate the faith, to take part in public worship and
in freely chosen programs of religious instruction, without suffering
The family has the right to exercise its social and
political function in the construction of society.
a) Families have the right to form associations with other
families and institutions, in order to fulfill the family's role suitably and
effectively, as well as to protect the rights, foster the good and represent
the interests of the family.
b) On the economic, social, juridical and cultural levels,
the rightful role of families and family associations must be recognized in the
planning and development of programs which touch on family life.
Families have the right to be able to rely on an adequate
family policy on the part of public authorities in the juridical, economic,
social and fiscal domains, without any discrimination whatsoever.
a) Families have the right to economic conditions which
assure them a standard of living appropriate to their dignity and full
development. They should not be impeded from acquiring and maintaining private possessions
which would favor stable family life; the laws concerning inheritance or
transmission of property must respect the needs and rights of family members.
b) Families have the right to measures in the social domain
which take into account their needs, especially in the event of the premature
death of one or both parents, of the abandonment of one of the spouses, of
accident, or sickness or invalidity, in the case of unemployment, or whenever
the family has to bear extra burdens on behalf of its members for reasons of
old age, physical or mental handicaps or the education of children.
c) The elderly have the right to find within their own
family or, when this is not possible, in suitable institutions, an environment
which will enable them to live their later years of life in serenity while
pursuing those activities which are compatible with their age and which enable
them to participate in social life.
d) The rights and necessities of the family, and especially
the value of family unity, must be taken into consideration in penal
legislation and policy, in such a way that a detainee remains in contact with
his or her family and that the family is adequately sustained during the period
Families have a right to a social and economic order in
which the organization of work permits the members to live together, and does
not hinder the unity, well-being, health and the stability of the family, while
offering also the possibility of wholesome recreation.
a) Remuneration for work must be sufficient for establishing
and maintaining a family with dignity, either through a suitable salary, called
a "family wage," or through other social measures such as family
allowances or the remuneration of the work in the home of one of the parents;
it should be such that mothers will not be obliged to work outside the home to
the detriment of family life and especially of the education of the children.
b) The work of the mother in the home must be recognized and
respected because of its value for the family and for society.
The family has the right to decent housing, fitting for
family life and commensurate to the number of the members, in a physical
environment that provides the basic services for the life of the family and the
The families of migrants have the right to the same
protection as that accorded other families.
a) The families of immigrants have the right to respect for
their own culture and to receive support and assistance towards their
integration into the community to which they contribute.
b) Emigrant workers have the right to see their family
united as soon as possible.
c) Refugees have the right to the assistance of public
authorities and International Organizations in facilitating the reunion of
Sources and References
A. "Rerum novarum", no. 9; "Gaudium et
spes", no. 24.
B. "Pacem in terris", Part 1; "Gaudium et
spes", nos. 48 and 50;
"Familiaris consortio", no. 19; "Codex Iuris
Canonici", no. 1056.
C. "Gaudium et spes", no. 50; "Humanae
vitae", no. 12; "Familiaris consortio", no. 28.
D. "Rerum novarum", nos. 9 and 10;
"Familiaris consortio", no. 45.
E. "Familiaris consortio", no. 43.
F. "Gaudium et spes", no. 52; "Familiaris
consortio", no. 21.
G. "Gaudium et spes", no. 52; "Familiaris
consortio", nos. 42 and 45.
I. "Familiaris consortio", no. 45.
J. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 46.
K. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 6 and 77.
L. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 3 and 46.
M. "Familiaris consortio", no. 46.
"Rerum novarum", no. 9; "Pacem in
terris", Part 1; "Gaudium et spes", no. 26; "Universal
Declaration of Human Rights", no. 16, 1.
a) "Codes Iuris Canonici", nos. 1058 and 1077;
"Universal Declaration", no. 16, 1.
b) "Gaudium et spes", no. 52, "Familiaris
consortio", no. 81.
c) "Gaudium et spes", no. 52; "Familiaris
consortio", nos. 81 and 82.
"Gaudium et spes", no. 52; "Codex Iuris
Canonici", no. 1057; "Universal Declaration", nos. 16, 2.
a) "Gaudium et spes", no. 52.
b) "Dignitatis humanae", no. 6.
c) "Gaudium et spes", no. 49; "Familiaris
consortio", nos. 19 and 22; "Codex Iuris Canonici", no. 1135;
"Universal Declaration", no. 16, 1.
"Populorum progressio", no. 37; Gaudium et spes,
nos. 50 and 87; Humanae vitae, no. 10; Familiaris consortio, nos. 30 and 46.
a) Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
b) Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
c) Gaudium et spes, no. 50.
Gaudium et spes, no. 51; Familiaris consortio, no. 26.
a) Humanae vitae, no. 14; Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, November 18, 1974;
Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
b) Pope John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, October 23, 1982.
d) Universal Declaration, no. 25, 2; Convention on the
Rights of the Child, Preamble and no. 4.
e) Universal Declaration, no. 25, 2.
f) Familiaris consortio, no. 41.
g) Familiaris consortio, no. 77.
Divini Illius Magistri, nos. 27-34; Gravissimum educationis,
no. 3; Familiaris consortio, no. 36; Codex Iuris Canonici, nos. 793 and 1136.
a) Familiaris consortio, no. 46.
b) Gravissimum educationis, no. 7; Dignitatis humanae, no.
5; Pope John Paul II, Religious Freedom and the Helsinki Final Act
(Letter to the Heads of State of the nations which signed
the Helsinki Final Act), 4b; Familiaris consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris
Canonici, no. 797.
c) Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Familiaris consortio, nos. 37
d) Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Familiaris consortio, no. 40.
e) Familiaris consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris Canonici, no.
f) Pope Paul VI, Message for the Third World Communications
Day, 1969; Familiaris consortio, no. 76.
Familiaris consortio, no. 46.
a) Rerum novarum, no. 10; Familiaris consortio, no. 46;
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no. 17.
b) Gaudium et spes, nos. 48 and 50.
Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Religious Freedom and the
Helsinki Final Act, 4b; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Familiaris consortio, nos. 44 and 48.
a) Apostolicam actuositatem, no. 11; Familiaris consortio,
nos. 46 and 72.
b) Familiaris consortio, nos. 44 and 45.
Laborem exercens, nos. 10 and 19; Familiaris consortio, no.
45; Universal Declaration, nos. 16, 3 and 22; International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos. 10, 1.
a) Mater et magistra, Part II; Laborem exercens, no. 10;
Familiaris consortio, no. 45; Universal Declaration, nos. 22 and 25;
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 7, a, ii.
b) Familiaris consortio, nos. 45 and 46; Universal
Declaration, no. 25, 1; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, nos. 9, 10, 1 and 10, 2.
c) Gaudium et spes, no. 52; Familiaris consortio, no. 27.
Laborem exercens, no. 19; Familiaris consortio, no. 77;
Universal Declaration, no. 23, 3.
a) Laborem exercens, no. 19; Familiaris consortio, nos. 23
b) Familiaris consortio, no. 23.
Apostolicam actuositatem, no. 8; Familiaris consortio, no.
81; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos. 11, 1.