|Peace and justice come
to life in the family, the first champion of human rights
On Friday, 16 January , Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.,
Secretary of State, spoke at the Theological-Pastoral Congress of the
Sixth World Meeting of Families in Mexico City, Mexico. Representing the
Pope as his Legate, the Cardinal's discourse expounded on the meeting's
theme, "The family, teacher of human and Christian values". The
following is a translation of his discourse, which was given in Spanish.
Dear Brothers in the
Esteemed Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
I am glad to be able to conclude this
Theological-Pastoral Congress in the context of the Sixth World
Meeting of Families, whose theme proposed by Pope Benedict XVI, "The
family, teacher of human and Christian values", has been analyzed.
I greet Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the
Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera,
Archbishop of Mexico City, and also the Cardinals, Bishops, priests,
religious and families who have come from various parts of the world.
As Papal Legate, I wish to be the spokesman who
delivers the message that the family is the hope and good news for
society and for the Church. Human history and the history of humanity's
salvation flow through the family.
Among the many paths the Church takes to save and
serve man, "the family is the first and the most important"1. The family
is not only the axis of man's personal life but also the most important
environment and appropriate context in which to live.
The purpose of my discourse is to draw attention to
the fact that the family is the most appropriate institution for the
transmission of these two values, justice and peace. They are special
because in them converge both the individual and social dimensions of
the human person that have been thoroughly examined in the past few
I shall proceed in this way: after a brief analysis
of the current situation, I shall endeavour to show how and why the
family is the principle realization of a person's sociability. Secondly,
I will analyze the reciprocal relations between society and the family,
demonstrating how it is only in this appropriate context that the
dynamism of the value of justice and authentic peace are possible. I
shall conclude by affirming that only a family founded on a monogamous
and indissoluble marriage can faithfully transmit these values.
Present historical context
Does the family have anything to offer at the
beginning of the third millennium? Could one dispense with the family or
is it a permanent reality with an innate value?
History shows that the family's contribution to
society and to the Church is both considerable and good. It makes
possible the very life of society, as well as the incarnation of the
Body of Christ throughout the centuries.
Historically speaking, when the person, marriage or family is damaged,
the whole of created reality is affected. The specificity of the present
situation stems from the globalization of problems that in one way or
another concern all the continents.
We are witnessing numerous
conflicts that are threatening to destabilize entire regions. In
addition the recent and profound economic crisis is having a strong
impact throughout the world.
If what I have just said is worrying, the
individualistic and nihilistic diagnosis which is expressed in an
exacerbated anthropological pessimism is even more serious. All this is
perceptible in vast areas of our planet where widespread malaise and
lack of confidence are being felt by society and shown by statistics.
It is impossible to overlook the great demographic
winter that is gravely threatening entire societies, the lack of meaning
in the lives of so many young victims of alcohol and drugs and the
extreme violence and exploitation to which we see women and children
subjected today, the trafficking of organs and sex that destroys the
human person and the neglect of so many sick and elderly people who are
deprived of any assistance with which to face the last years of their
The crisis of the educational system in many nations
that are incapable of transmitting integral knowledge and the political
and economic instability that burdens many of the developing countries
also deserve mention.
In the whole of this description there is a common
denominator: injustice, the lack or absence of rights. Human rights,
which derive from the personal nature of being, in both the individual
and social aspects of the person, have been trampled upon, diminished or
even eliminated. Exasperated individualism creates a replica of the
selfishness which, as in the story of Vulcan, is capable of devouring
its own children.
Hence relativism, hedonism and utilitarianism, with
their various expressions and combinations, have generated among other
things a commercialization of the whole of Creation and of the human person, its centre and its summit (cf.
Gaudium et spes, n.
12). Against this backdrop there are
two alternatives: either the deterioration of the situation throughout
the planet, reaching limits as yet unknown, or its resolution by
applying an appropriate remedy. The latter must be prepared with a
healthy anthropology, one that appropriately revives the relations that
have deteriorated in every sphere. Only justice imbued with love will be
capable of restoring dignity to the person and to the whole of Creation.
In this way the
civilization of love that was the great passion of the Servant of God
Pope Paul VI may become reality. Moreover the family alone, a community
of life and love, is in a condition to regenerate society through justice
and peace because in the family love presides over all things. In love,
the family finds its origins and its purpose. And this family love is
what can best teach values.
Love by its very nature
propagates itself. Therefore the family is like a nursery garden in
which seeds of justice and peace are cultivated which will transform,
perhaps with difficulty, the mass of all Creation.
It is consequently clear
that the best investment for governments will be to help, protect and
support the family, since it is the institution without which society
cannot survive. That so many families can be seen to carry out
faithfully the task entrusted to them despite the existing adversities
is also a cause of hope.
Ever more services are
being established in favour of the family. It should be
remembered above all that fidelity to its mission has a multiplying
effect; the truth about the family, proclaimed and lived, has a constant
resonance in the human heart. For this reason let us once again say to
families, to very family: "Family, become what you 'are'".2
Family and Society
The family as the context
and fullest expression of the person is not the product of one epoch but
rather a patrimony of all ages and civilizations. The family is far more
than a legal, social or financial unity, because to speak of the family
is to speak of life
— of the transmission
of values, of education, of solidarity, of stability, of the future and
ultimately, of love.3 The family is a wise institution of the Creator in
which the original vocation of the person to interpersonal communion is
realized through the sincere gift of self.
The family is the first
and original cell of society. In it both the man and the woman live with
full meaning their differentiation and complementarity from which the
first interpersonal relationship is born. In this sense marriage is the
foundation of natural society. This society is called to fulfil itself
by generating children: the spousal communion is at the origin of the
The family is the
original cell of society because in it the person is affirmed for the
first time as a person, for himself and freely. He is called to play a
role in society similar to that of the cell in the organism.
The ethical quality of
society is linked to the family. It develops ethically to the extent
that it lets itself be modelled by all that constitutes the good of the
Not all forms of
coexistence serve and contribute to achieving authentic sociability.
Necessarily the family must be a family; it is worth noting that its
history should develop as a community of life and love in which each of
its members is appreciated in his uniqueness: as husband or wife, father
or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister.
In this way personal
dignity will be fully respected, given that interpersonal relations are
lived freely, that is, out of love. This is not achieved merely by
living together. The family must be a home in which there is "heartfelt
acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous
service and deep solidarity".4
Thus the family becomes
the context in which the true sense of freedom, justice and love can be
formed. This must take place: in freedom since only on the basis of
freedom is it possible to form responsible people; on the basis of
justice, since only in this way is the dignity of others respected; and
on the basis of love, since respect for others is ultimately perfected
when each one is loved for him or herself.
The family therefore has
a specific social function outside the family environment that consists
in acting and participating in social life, as a family and because it
is a family. However, to contribute to the good of the person
— and to society's good it is necessary for the family to
respect the overall scale of values that make it a community of life and
In turn, society must
always include among its fundamental tasks the achievement of the common
good, which could be described thus: "The common good does not consist
in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social
entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains
common, because it is
indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it,
increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the
For its part, the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, proposing anew the definition of
Gaudium et spes (n. 26), summarizes the common good in three
purposes or properties as follows:
"First, the common good
presupposes respect for the person as such... the fundamental and
inalienable rights of the human person...", and "the conditions for the
exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of
the human vocation.
"Second, the common good
requires the social well-being and development of the group itself.
Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the
proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common
good, between various particular interests; but it should make
accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food,
clothing, health, work, education and culture....
"Finally, the common
good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just
order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable
means the security of society and its members".6
Dynamism of justice
We said earlier that
justice and peace are fundamental elements of the common good that
society must promote and that the family can provide or establish, since
it is in the family that the gifts of justice and peace are offered
which at the same time constitute the family's proper task. Let us pause
for a moment to further consider both values and their relationship to
Peace is one of the
values transmitted in both Testaments. It is far more than the absence
of war. Peace represents the fullness of life (cf. Mal 2:5). It is an
effect of God's Blessing upon his people (cf. Nm 6:26); it produces
fruitfulness and well-being (cf. Is 48:18-19) and deep happiness (cf.
Pry 12:2o). At the same time, peace is the goal of social coexistence as
appears in an extraordinary way in the messianic vision of peace
described in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (cf. 2:2-5).
In the New Testament,
Jesus says explicitly: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). He not
only rejects violence (cf. Mt 26:52; Lk 9:54-55), but goes further,
saying: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those
who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Lk 6:27-28).
Together with the light
that comes from Scripture, the history of thought shows us that the
culture of peace presupposes order. The definition of St Augustine and
Boethius, taken up by St Thomas Aquinas, defines peace as tranquillity
that is born from order.8
In turn, order
presupposes impartiality. St Thomas defines order as the arrangement of
things in conformity with a reference point. Therefore the "reference
point" of the order from which peace stems is justice.
Justice, the condition
Justice is a fundamental
value of human life. In addition it is an indispensable reality of human
coexistence. Justice must be bound to the structure of each person
independently of his time, his age or culture. Together with good and
truth, justice constitutes the trilogy of the great values and human
On the contrary,
injustice is related to evil and falsehood. Therefore, the fullness of
the human being and the improvement of society are in relation to good,
truth and justice. Social coexistence thus loses its meaning if evil,
error and injustice prevail.
Justice refers us
directly to ius (right), and in fact one can speak of justice
only if rights exist. For this reason, justice consists in giving to
each one his right, what he is due.
The triple distinction
between commutative, legal and distributive justice covers all aspects
of the person, because it includes his rights as well as his duties as
an individual, and at the same time demands and safeguards the rights
and duties that derive from his radical sociability, an essential
constitutive element of the person. In this regard, justice has been the
aspiration and duty of every epoch.
Plato wrote: "And is not
the creation of justice the institution of a natural order and
government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and the creation
of injustice the production of a state of things at variance with the
For its part, Christian
tradition supports the undeniable religious dimension of the concepts of
justice and just with regard to the human being's conduct
before God, and points out the relationship of justice with the social
In this context, we can
ask ourselves: is there a biblical doctrine that postulates the value of
justice in society? The answer is yes. A wealth of testimonies in both
the Old and New Testaments ingrain the precept of fulfilling the duties
of justice in social coexistence.
contemplates various aspects of the proper coexistence among people,
especially in the Synoptics. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith said in one of its documents, "In the Old Testament, the
prophets... keep affirming with particular vigor the requirements of
justice and solidarity and the need to pronounce a very severe
judgement on the rich who oppress the poor.... Faithfulness to the
Covenant cannot be conceived of without the practice of justice. Justice
as regards God and justice as regards mankind are inseparable.... These
requirements are found once again the New Testament. They are even more
radicalized as can be shown in the discourse on the Beatitudes"10.
In our day, the word
"justice" is one of the most frequently used terms in social and
political life. In many cases it is the "key" or "joker" of political,
economic and social declarations in numerous national and international
forums. The continuous use and abuse of it by certain ideologies has
endowed it with various meanings.
Despite the clarity of
the definition of justice, "its own proper" meaning must be correctly
interpreted and defended in each case as a primary subject. If this does
not happen, justice will be subjected to the arbitration of the powerful
of the moment. Indeed it could happen that justice, which should pave
the way to peace, might lose its true meaning and actually provoke
Injustice always spawns
violence. At the present time social, economic and political injustice
is giving rise to many wars, tensions and conflicts. In the face of war,
peace, the fruit of justice and solidarity, should be presented.
"Surmounting every type
of imperialism and determination to preserve their own hegemony, the
stronger and richer nations must have a sense of moral responsibility
for the other nations, so that a real international system may be
established which will rest on the foundation of the equality of all
peoples and on the necessary respect for their legitimate differences.
The economically weaker countries, or those still at subsistence level,
must be enabled, with the assistance of other peoples and of the
international community, to make a contribution of their own to the
common good with their treasures of humanity and culture, which
otherwise would be lost for ever".11
However, peace is also
achieved on the basis of the small things in ordinary life and in each
person's own environment. We Christians must travel all of the earth's
paths, scattering peace and joy with our words and actions.
No other reality than
the family is capable of perseveringly building day after day the peace
that results from the manifestation of the inner order of families and
also of peoples.
Family: a paradigmatic
justice and charity
The family is not an
accessory and extrinsic structure to the human person. On the contrary,
it is the privileged context for the development and growth of the
person's personality, in conformity with the needs of the person's
constitutive social dimension. "The family, founded on love and
enlivened by it, is the place where every person is called to
experience, appropriate and participate in that love without which man
could not live, and his whole life would be deprived of meaning".12
Hence the value of love,
together with that of freedom and justice, has a central place in the
family's role in society. In the Christian proposal, charity holds
supremacy. Charity includes and incarnates all the virtues since it
consists in participation in the life of Christ, the perfect man.
Although it is certain
that some differences exist with regard to their specific aim, charity
and justice can and must be integrated. To reach this end, and if it is
hoped that both virtues complement each other for the resolution of
social problems, they must correspond with the following theses:
a) There is no love without justice:
charity has the character of an "end", whereas justice functions as
the "means". Therefore, since it is impossible to reach an end
without the use of means, likewise charity will be lacking in social
coexistence if justice (the means) is absent in social life. In
observing so many forms of social injustice, we can only conclude
that we are still very far from achieving charity.
b) There is no justice if love is
lacking: the very doctrine of relations between means and end
confirm this thesis, since there is no sense in striving to adopt
means (justice) that have no end (charity) in view.
c) The practice of justice
is an ongoing condition for charity: a state of justice facilitates
permanent charitable relations between individual persons and, on
the contrary, injustice is a constant source of conflict.
It is therefore
particularly appropriate to combine the practice of justice and charity,
which are as it were "the sublime laws of the social order". In this
regard, John Paul II writes: "Justice alone is not enough....
Historical experience... has led to the formulation of the saying:
summum ius, summa iniuria.14
Family: school of
justice, love, peace
statistics show that the family
addition to being the most appreciated institution (84-97%)15
and a reference point for people — makes a vital
contribution to social cohesion. In fact, relations established within
families (paternal-filial, fraternal, intergenerational)16 foster the social responsibility of the family
How does the family
achieve social cohesion? Various sociological indicators17 show that the
family obtains social cohesion by means of its fertility that assures
the continuation of the generations, and that in it one's identity is
grasped (I am a child because I have a father, I am a father because I
have a child) which consolidates the "rooting of identity" as an element
that shapes the personality.
On the other hand, due
to the free giving that dominates its nature and dynamism, the family
can pass on moral values and offer integral assistance because it is a
spiritual womb. In these conditions, the family is enabled to
carry out its proper role (the principle of subsidiarity) which consists
in being the educator of the new generations.
Other entities must not
arrogate to themselves the roles of others. The family, on the other
hand, due to its vocation of permanence in time, is the context in which
the essential values of the person
— which are not only technical but
also and fundamentally spiritual
— are developed, moulded and
In fact, the
complementarity of parents and the stable commitment of spouses make
possible the task of integral education that demands constancy,
generosity and lasting dedication. This educational process is never
completed, which is why the family reference is indispensable for
forging a mature personality that contributes to society the values
passed on to it in the family.
As Marguerite Dubois has
said so beautifully, "children do not grow under their parents but
beside them. Not in their shadow but in their light".
The family is the school
of justice and peace because it educates in and for the truth18, in and
for freedom, in and for social life. The genuinely educative action of
the family consists in "fitting the roots of truth to the wings of
It is in this circle
among truth and freedom that the values of dialogue, the sequela,
responsibility, exigency, discipline, respect, sacrifice and balance can
be transmitted. Is society convinced that these and other values for
building a just and peaceful society are lacking?
This then is the
oxygenated lifeblood that the family can bring to society. The social
capital that the family contributes is of indisputable value, since it
enables a full use of the individual and social dimensions that every
human being possesses. Hence common sense and logic are every day
increasingly committed to strengthening the family as the true source of
justice and peace.
The family is called to
be a protagonist of peace, over and above the threats and problems to
coexistence and interpersonal and international relations that are
surfacing today in so many forms. The family is the context in which
every person is helped to attain the full maturity that will enable him
to build a society of harmony, solidarity and peace19.
In fact, in healthy family
life certain essential elements are experienced: justice and love
between brothers and sisters, the parent's role of authority,
affectionate service to the weakest, to the elder and to the sick,
mutual help in life's necessities, the willingness to welcome others and
if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason the family is "the
first and indispensable teacher of peace"20.
Experience shows adequately
that the values nurtured in the family are a very significant element
in the moral development of the social relations of which the fabric of
society is woven. The stability of peoples depends on the unity,
fidelity and fertility of the family as the foundation of society.
Members of a family must
be conscientious of their central role in the cause of peace through
education in human values within the family, and through each of its
member's participation in the life of society outside the family.
Moreover recognizing the
right of families to be supported in this role, the State must see that
laws are oriented to promoting them, helping them to carry out their
"In the face of
increasing pressure nowadays to consider as legally equivalent to the
union of spouses forms of union which, by their very nature or their
intentional lack of permanence are in no way capable of expressing the
meaning and ensuring the good of the family, it is the duty of the State
to encourage and protect the authentic institution of the family,
respecting its natural structure and its innate and inalienable rights.
"Among these, the
fundamental one is the right of parents to decide, freely and
responsibly, on the basis of their moral and religious convictions and
with a properly formed conscience, when to have a child, and then
to educate that child in accordance with those convictions"21.
Supporting families in
the various contexts in which their life develops makes an objective
contribution to building peace. And "whoever, even unknowingly,
circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire
community, national and international, since he weakens what is in
effect the primary agency of peace22.
disintegration of the family is a threat to peace and a sign of
society's moral and economic underdevelopment, its health instead is
largely measured by the importance given to conditions that foster the
identity and mission of families. It is impossible to ignore the fact
that aid to the family contributes to the harmony of society and the
nation and also encourages peace among people and in the world.
To protect and defend
the rights of families as a treasure is the task of all, and in the
first place of families, as the protagonists of their own mission.
However, it is also the duty of other institutions and, in particular,
of the Church and the State. The future of society, the future of humanity
passes through the family.
We can now summarize the
answer to the question: "What does the family contribute to society?" as
1. The family is a
guarantee of society's future. In it the fundamental good of human
life is transmitted and suitable conditions for the integral education
of children are found. The family offers the treasure of procreation and
makes a crucial contribution to ensuring that children become good
2. The family transmits
the cultural heritage. It is in the bosom of the family that culture
is passed on "as a specific way of man's 'existing' and 'being'"23.
The integration of each individual in his national community
language, customs, traditions — is begun in the family, assuring the
subsistence of the peo0ple to which each one belongs. In the family
history, through dialogue with the parents and grandparents, an
especially important dialogue between
generations is recognized; it produces a living memory that forges
The family contributes far more to
society than the sum of each one of its members would
because the common good is fostered in
it. Therefore, in its absence, society would not receive this
"extra" proper to the family. As we have pointed out, the common
familial good does not consist only in what is good for each one of
its members but in what is good for the whole, thereby nourishing
development and social cohesion.
4. The family, in addition to
guaranteeing stability, is advantageous for administration.
In fact, as well as providing
people for economic production, it is a factor of social cohesion
that often acts as a "supportive base" in the face of various
The family in our
time has become the nucleus of stability for its members with
problems of unemployment, illness, dependence or marginalization,
alleviating the tragic effects these problems cause. The family
today is the primary nucleus of solidarity in society, which can
accomplish what it is difficult for the public administration to do.
5. The family is the first champion of
human rights, since both
these and the family's mission are directed towards the person.
6. The family and society are
interdependent with regard
to what affects society24. Thus we can say:
The family personalizes society.
In the family people are
valued for their own dignity, emotional ties' are established and
the development and personal maturation of children is encouraged
by the presence and influence of different and complementary models
of the father and mother.
b) The family socializes the person.
In it the criteria, values
and rules for social coexistence are learned which are essential
for the development and wellbeing of its members and
for building society: freedom, respect, sacrifice, generosity and
In the past few days we
have contemplated the Holy Family in Bethlehem and in Nazareth. The Holy
Family is called to be a memorial and a prophecy for all the families in
the world. The Word of God lived in the Holy Family and through the
family has passed on to us a large part of his life, which is a light
for every person to know the immensity of what he is called to do: to
build already on this earth "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of
holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace"25.
From the heart of
Mexico, this is the gift and task entrusted to all the world's families.
May the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe help us in this.
1 John Paul II, Letter to Families
Gratissimam sane, 2 February 1994, n. 2.
2 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris consortio, n. 17.
3 "In that it is, and ought always to become,
a communion and community of persons, the family fins in love the source
and the constant impetus for welcoming, respecting and promoting each
one of its members in his or her lofty dignity as a person, that is, as
a living image of God" (ibid., n. 22).
4 Ibid., n. 43.
5 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 164.
6 Catechism of the Catholic Church,
cf. nn. 1907-1909.
7 cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of
the Church, nn. 489-493.
Summa Theologiae, q. 29, a. I.
9 Republic, bk. IV.
10 Instruction on certain
aspects of the "Theology of Liberation", 6 August 1984, IV, 6-7.
11 John Paul II,
Encyclical Letter Solicitudo rei socialis, n. 39.
12 John Paul II,
Address to the Pastoral Theological Congress of the Second World Meeting
of Families, Rio de Janeiro, 3 October 1997, n. 3 in
L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 October 1997, p. 4; cf.
John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, n. 18.
XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra, n. 39. Cf. St Thomas
Aquinas, Contra gentiles, 3, 130; Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo anno,
n. 137; John Paul II Encyclical Letter Dives in
misericordia, n. 12.
14 "By itself
justice is not enough. Indeed, it can even betray itself, unless it is
open to that deeper power which is love", John Paul II, Message
for the World Day of Peace 2004, n. 10.
15 Cf. P.P. Donati (edited
by), Riconoscere la Famiglia: quale valore aggiunto per la persona e
la società?, Edizioni S. Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo 2007, pp. 63-173.
16 Cf. Pontifical Council
for the Family, XVIII Plenary Assembly:
nonni: la loro testimonianza e presenza
nella famiglia". Familia et Vita,
Year XIV, n. 4/2008.
17 Cf. E. Herltfelter, I
Congreso de Education Católica para el siglo XXI, ed' Instituto de
Politica Familiar, Valencia 2008.
18 "Wherever and whenever
men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally
set out on the path of peace", Benedict XVI, Message far the World
Day of Peace 2006, n.3.
19 "Respect for the
person promotes peace and... in building peace, the foundations are laid
for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is
prepared for coming generations: Benedict XVI, Message for the World
Day of Peace, 2007, n. 1.
20 Cf. Benedict
XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace, 2008, n. 3.
21 John Paul II,
Message for the World Peace Day 2004, n. 5.
22 Benedict XVI,
Message for the World Peace Day 2008, n. 5.
23 Cf. John Paul II,
Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, n. 6.
24 "What is the state of
public morality which will ensure the family, and above all the parents,
the moral authority necessary for this purpose? What type of
instruction? What forms of legislation sustain this authority or, on the
contrary, weaken it or destroy it? The causes of success and failure in
the formation of man by his family always lie both within the
fundamental creative environment of culture which the family is, and
also at a higher level, that of the competence of the State and the
organs, on which these causes depend": ibid.,n: 12.
25 Roman Missal,
Preface for the Mass of Christ the King.