The Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 21st Century
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131. The responsibility of family authority

To restore the family structure is not sufficient  ; families must also be endowed with means that enable them to exercise their ecologic function. The economic and social liberties, both material and spiritual, of families will be recognised to the extent of their stability. Heads of families will have wide scope to make decisions of their own choosing and to exert their will according to their capacity, free from all state control or collective pressure. This right must be a fundamental norm of the new order. Freedom and responsibility will govern childbearing, education and instruction, career guidance, health, leisure, culture, housing, savings and investments, retirement, and the rules of inheritance, all contained within the bounds of law and custom.

All these faculties will no longer be simply claims lodged with a welfare state, but will be real rights, and they will manifestly be counter-balanced by fidelity, subjection and responsibility. The disengagement of the State will thus be happily compensated for by the enhanced responsibility of family authority, the natural prudence of which can never be over-estimated. For every family has a store of wisdom and energy for seeking and safeguarding its own “ human capital ”, which is composed of spiritual values even more than of material goods and advantages.

The disengagement of public authorities, however, cannot be total. In certain cases, their interventions or their financial aid are indispensable, especially on matters of health. Whether this engagement comes within the framework of local or of national policies, they will always aim – directly or indirectly – at helping families, and their modes will have to respect family authority, except in obvious cases where the public interest is at stake.

In the event of shortcomings in family authority, guardianship procedures will be provided for and may be ordered by the legal authorities. Rather than relying on State organisms, guardianship could be exercised “ as a good father would do ” in the framework of the extended family or of local charitable institutions, under the control of responsible local authorities. This will enable the guardianship to be exercised in very flexible conditions.

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