Faithful Citizenship 2006
Promoting family life - our most basic social unit - helps to build society
Third in a Series
By Wisconsin Catholic Conference
"The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from
childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society." --Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2207, 1994
Catholic social teaching holds that the human person is not only sacred, but also social. That is, human beings are not mere individuals, but are intrinsically related to one another. Moreover, because the most basic social unit is the family, the church teaches that the needs and concerns of marriage and the family must be made a priority.
The institution of marriage should be protected by society because it "plays an essential role in the continuation of the human race, the full and proper development of each person and the establishment of a society rooted in personal dignity, social stability and mutual respect." (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003)
While family life is an initiation into life in society, how we organize our society - politically, economically, socially - directly affects not only human dignity and the capacity for human fulfillment, but marriages and families as well.
The Catholic tradition also teaches that human dignity can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right both to life and to those things required for human decency: the right to productive work and decent and fair wages, to decent housing and adequate health care.
God is Love (Deus Caritas Est), Pope Benedict XIV, 2005
Charter of the Rights of the Family, The Holy See, 1983
On the Family (Familiaris consortio), Pope John Paul II, 1981
Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, USCCB, 2005
Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions, USCCB, 2003
Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, USCCB, 2002
When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women, USCCB, 2002
Renewing the Mind of the Media, USCCB, 1998
Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers, USCCB Committee on Marriage and Family, 1997
Follow the Way of Love: A Pastoral Message of the U.S. Catholic Bishops to Families, USCCB, 1993
A Letter to Catholics in Wisconsin on Defining Marriage in Our State Constitution, WCC, 2006
Reforming Welfare by Valuing Families, WCC, 1995
Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities - to one another, to our families and to the larger society. In election years, for example, citizens have a moral and social responsibility to vote.
Parents, as the first and most important teachers of their children, have a special responsibility to instill moral and spiritual values in their children, but our schools, whether public, religious, or independent, also have a fundamental role in educating children to lead productive lives and to become responsible citizens.
Since no one model or means of education meets the needs of every student, all parents should have the opportunity to exercise their right to choose the education best suited to the needs of their children, including religious and independent schools. Social justice demands that poor families should be supported in their efforts to send their children to the school of their choice.
Support for "family values" must also extend to fostering a family-friendly culture outside the home that is free of both physical dangers and other corrosive influences such as pornography and other media that promote violence, pre-marital sex, drugs and other destructive behaviors.
In particular, public policies must promote the safety and well-being of our children, protecting them from all forms of abuse. As Catholics, we affirm our commitment to the protection of children in all settings, as reflected within our Church in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Because stable families are so critical to the general welfare of our nation, we urge policymakers to:
Protect marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. This is an issue of unique concern this election season because Wisconsin will vote on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. (See "One Man, One Woman, One Union," #6 in this WCC series)
Support policies to increase the minimum wage to a living wage (i.e.
sufficient to meet the basic needs of a worker and his/her dependents), because financial solvency has been shown to be critical to the well-being and stability of families.
Provide affordable and accessible health care to everyone, but most especially to children, elders and persons with disabilities.
Respect parental responsibility by strengthening laws regarding parental consent for abortion and by limiting programs that facilitate youth access to contraceptive services, such as the Family Planning Waiver Program, without parental knowledge or consent.
Support increases in the state tax credit for adoption expenses.
Support adequate funding for education, especially for economically or socially disadvantaged children.
Support school choice for all, but especially for low-income families, so that children can attend the religious or independent school that is most suitable for them.
Allow religious and independent schools to participate equitably in all government
efforts to improve education, especially those directed toward children with special needs.
Support resident tuition at UW for the children of undocumented residents,
because all children-regardless of their parents' actions-should be given the opportunity to continue their education.
Enforce existing obscenity and child pornography laws and support technology that assists parents, schools and libraries in blocking out unwanted materials on the Internet.
Support humane immigration laws.
(The Wisconsin Catholic Conference is the civil arm of the state's five diocesan bishops.)