Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Family

The following is taken and essay by Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P. published in "Flee to the Fields: the Founding Papers of the Catholic Land Movement" in 1934. This section was reprinted in the "From the Mail" column in the 19 February 2004 number of The Wanderer.

No human law can abolish the original and natural right of marriage; nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God's authority from the beginning: "increase and multiply".

Hence, we have the Family: -- the Society of man's home; a Society limited indeed in numbers but no less a true society -- anterior to every kind of State or Nation -- invested with rights of its own, totally independent of the civil community. . . .

The Family, like the Church, is a divine institution. These two institutions agree in being divine; and differ in that the Family is a natural institution, and the Church is supernatural.

Since the coming of Jesus Christ the Family might almost be said to be not only a divine but a supernatural institution. As if in gratitude to the Family for having given Him a welcome He raised to the dignity of the supernatural, the plighted love that unites husband and wife -- father and mother.

To value the dignity of this divine character of the Society which we call the Family, we must contrast it with that other great natural Society called, according to its various forms, by various names: Kingdom, Democracy, State, Nation, Commonwealth, etc.

As the Family and the Church have a certain agreement (divine institution), so , too, the Society called the Family has certain agreements with, and certain differences from the State. . . .

But the form of the family is not settled by the will of any member of the family -- nor by the father, or mother, or child. It is by the will and institution of God that the family is organized first in its physical side and secondly in its social and moral side. It needs no saying that it is by the ordination of God that woman is the child-bearer and child-rearer. It is by the institution of God that the father who has the physical possibility of these necessary acts has the moral necessity of being the breadwinner and the defender and therefore the leader or visible head of the family -- not of course in everything; but only -- in its family life.

What then is to be expected of a social policy that either explicitly or implicitly denies, but very effectively destroys this divine institution? The chaos or desert may be long a-coming but nothing can stay its coming.

As the reprinting columnist noted, remarkably prescient for 1934.