1 Corinthians 12:22-26
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. …. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
When I was a sophomore at The Catholic University of America, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of my peers about the Church’s constant focus on the family.
It went something like, “We get it, babies are good and contraception is bad, it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. I wish the Church would move on to talk about something a little more important.”
I’ve kept his sentiment in the back of my mind during my theological studies and pastoral work, wondering whether or not his claim had merit. I’d wonder, are we Catholics so caught up in family and sexuality (evidence of a psychological suppression or societal oppression) that we’re ignoring bigger issues? Should we focus that pastoral and theological energy somewhere else?
From my few years of experience, I have to say that defense of the family is some of the most important social work that the Church can do. It is some of the most pro-life work that the Church can do.
When we defend family life, we stand up for love, responsibility, commitment, and endurance. When we defend family life, we acknowledge that it is better to go outside of oneself to provide for another than it is to remain insulated and self-interested. When we defend family life, we actually stand up for society, since society depends on the family (a mini-society) to grow. St. Pope John Paul II called the family “the cell of society”—the smallest building block of a larger being. And, therefore, society has a responsibility to the family. He says,
“Since the Creator of all things has established (marriage) as the beginning and basis of human society, the family is the first and vital cell of society. The family and society have complementary functions in defending and fostering the good of each and every human being. But society--more specifically the State--must recognize that the family is a society in its own original right and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity.” (FYI - The principle of subsidiarity is a guideline in Catholic thought that says politics and individuals ought to operate at the least centralized point. It was developed in the late 1800s to be a “middle way” between laissez-faire capitalism and various forms of communism.)
Society should be pro-family because the family is a society and builds up a society.
If we can agree that it’s in society’s best interest to preserve and encourage healthy family life, then I think the current family separation issue at our Southern Border should disturb our Catholic, pro-life, pro-family consciences. These are people crossing the border, by the way, whether we call them immigrants or refugees. And we are part of the same Body.
I am not articulate when it comes to all the political nuance of immigration law, but I would consider myself articulate when it comes to the Catholic Church’s pro-life defense of the family. Party politics aside, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families in the last two months. That’s a fact no one is disputing. I understand certain laws exist, but Augustine would say “An unjust law is no law at all.” If the current laws make it unjustly difficult for someone to change their life, we need to re-examine our laws.
The Chair of the United States Catholic Bishops, along with Austin’s own Bishop Joe Vazquez, has spoken out against the current border policy:
I [Cardinal DiNardo] join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration's zero-tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.
We’ve got to figure out a way to become a sovereign nation that also has the family’s best interest in mind. From abortion to contraception coverage on your insurance, from adoption law to separating families at the border, the Church will continue to stand up for the family in every circumstance. You and I must find ways to stand up for the weaker, more defenseless parts of the Body and honor the Spirit of God that dwells in each and every person. It’s some of the Church’s most important social work.