Pope Francis: the Vocation of Families is to Educate Children

At today’s Wednesday General audience, the Holy Father spoke about the importance of families and their primary responsibility in educating children:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis on the family, today we consider the vocation of families to educate their children, to raise them in the profound human values which are the backbone of a healthy society.  This educational mission, essential as it is, nowadays encounters a variety of difficulties.  Parents spend less time with their children and schools are often more influential than families in shaping the thinking and values of the young.  Yet the relationship between family and school ought to be harmonious.  Our children need sure guidance in the process of growing in responsibility for themselves and others.  Christian communities are called to support the educational mission of families.  They do this above all by living in fidelity to God’s world, cultivating faith, love and patience.  Jesus himself was raised in a family; when he tells us that all who hear the word of God and obey are his brothers and sisters, he reminds us that for all their failings, our families can count on his inspiration and grace in the difficult but rewarding vocation of educating their children.

In the “Declaration on Christian Education” Gravissimum Educationis 
(1965), the Church sets forth the following concepts:

First, Parents “must be recognized as the primary and principal educators” of their children. Their rights include: the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children and true liberty in their choice of schools.

Second, the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.

Third, since the family often needs help to carry out their primary duty, certain rights and duties belong to civil society, whose role is to direct what is required for the common temporal good, and functions:

a. to protect the duties and rights of parents and others who share in education and to give them aid;

b. according to the principle of subsidiarity, when the endeavors of parents and other societies are lacking, to carry out the work of education in accordance with the wishes of the parents; and, moreover, as the common good demands, to build schools and institutions. (See also, CCC 2229).

c. to carry out the obligation that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.

d. to see to it that all citizens are able to come to a suitable share in culture and are properly prepared to exercise their civic duties and rights.

e. to protect the right of children to an adequate school education, check on the ability of teachers and the excellence of their training, look after the health of the pupils and in general, promote the whole school project. But it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person, to the development and spread of culture, to the peaceful association of citizens and to the pluralism that exists today in ever so many societies.

The Church clearly teaches that while the state has a legitimate interest in promoting the common temporal good, there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person… I am happy that Pope Francis uses positively the opportunity to reflect upon the family and its vital role in the education of children.

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