Layered Societies

Societies are made up of individuals, families, groups in society and the nation.

While our social teachings state that the family remains the fundamental unit that has priority over society and over the State, each of these layers are important and each has a role to play (a duty) in the contribution of building a compassionate and just society.

Looking around us

From time to time, examples of individuals who worked tirelessly to contribute to the betterment of society and the needy inspire us to action. Also we hear in the news and in various articles the state of the family, the contributions of civil societies and the government.

How are all these coming together to build a better society for all? How are issues, such as homelessness, discrimination, addiction etc, being handled by the various layers of society? How is the dignity of the human person being upheld by all? How is the common good addressed?

Let us reflect

From Scripture…

  • Proverbs 4:1-5 It is in the family that children learn the first and most important lessons of practical wisdom, to which the virtues are connected
  • Romans 13:1-4 Obedience to authority and the duty of civil authority

From our social teachings… (CSDC)

212. The family has central importance in reference to the person. It is in this cradle of life and love that people are born and grow; when a child is conceived, society receives the gift of a new person who is called “from the innermost depths of self to communion with others and to the giving of self to others”[465]. It is in the family, therefore, that the mutual giving of self on the part of man and woman united in marriage creates an environment of life in which children “develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny”[466].

213. A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the centre of attention as an end and never as a means. It is patently clear that the good of persons and the proper functioning of society are closely connected “with the healthy state of conjugal and family life”[469]. Without families that are strong in their communion and stable in their commitment peoples grow weak. In the family, moral values are taught starting from the very first years of life, the spiritual heritage of the religious community and the cultural legacy of the nation are transmitted. In the family one learns social responsibility and solidarity[470].

246. The social subjectivity of the family, both as a single unit and associated in a group, is expressed as well in the demonstrations of solidarity and sharing not only among families themselves but also in the various forms of participation in social and political life. This is what happens when the reality of the family is founded on love: being born in love and growing in love, solidarity belongs to the family as a constitutive and structural element.
This is a solidarity that can take on the features of service and attention to those who live in poverty and need, to orphans, the handicapped, the sick, the elderly, to those who are in mourning, to those with doubts, to those who live in loneliness or who have been abandoned. It is a solidarity that opens itself to acceptance, to guardianship, to adoption; it is able to bring every situation of distress to the attention of institutions so that, according to their specific competence, they can intervene.

247. Far from being only objects of political action, families can and must become active subjects, working “to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family. Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being ‘protagonists’ of what is known as ‘family politics’ and assume responsibility for transforming society”[559]. To this end, family associations must be promoted and strengthened. “Families have the right to form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfil the family’s role suitably and effectively, as well as to protect the rights, foster the good and represent the interests of the family. 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 programmes which touch on family life”[560].

Let us take some time to reflect on what our faith is saying in relation to the above-mentioned issue.

Suggestions for action:
How can we understand and apply the above teaching of our faith in our lives – in building up a strong family unit that actively contributes to the society?

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