Families at the heart of our reflection and action

María Lía Zervino, World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations

“Some people are born into economically stable families, receive a fine education, grow up well nourished, or naturally possess great talent. They will certainly not need a proactive state; they need only claim their freedom. Yet the same rule clearly does not apply to a disabled person, to someone born in dire poverty, to those lacking a good education and with little access to adequate health care” (Fratelli tutti, 109).

People like us, who work together with families from different areas of the world, are aware of the disparity of the problems that families face today, depending -among other variables- on the country, the socio-economic situation, the religion and the culture of origin. This diversity becomes evident in the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO). In 2018, during its General Assembly in Dakar, it established as one of its main action lines the care for family in difficult situations, especially for its most vulnerable members.

This option was chosen by the delegates of the almost 100 member organisations that, in turn, include around 8 million women from all continents. The WUCWO, in fact, presents itself as an existential monitor of nowadays society; it could constitute a unit of exceptional analysis for an integral and multidimensional study, or maybe for a research, dissemination and extension programme that would allow to describe, evaluate and testify, scientifically, the situations and the existential relations of women and of their families in different cultural contexts of life.

The empirical substrate of the good practices of its organisations at a basic level allows the WUCWO to promote family as the fundamental unit of society in which each member, especially if he/she lacks something or is discriminated, can receive the love and assistance that are required to obtain a flourishing life, from his/her conception until his/her natural death. Supported by such experiences, it works in a network with other NGOs in the international agencies in which it has a status in order to contribute, to some extent, to promoting adequate public policies and to uniting strategies facing the violations of family rights.

The nations tend to overlook the fundamental role of family in society and its contribution to the national common good, as well as its role as protagonist in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, since the economic, social and quality of life conditions are now worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it becomes urgent to protect the families by defining and implementing family-sensitive policies in the field of work, health, education, housing and social security. These interventions will also mitigate the forced migrations and family disintegration.

The current global crisis has highlighted the absolute priority of family bonds and, at the same time, the risks that women and minors face in families affected by domestic violence and abuse. It is urgent to systematise the data of the intrafamiliar relations during the emergency in order to adopt public and private measures to prevent, to identify such crimes early, to assist the families involved and to favour specialised centres who deal with intrafamiliar violence and promote inclusive houses for their components.

The families at the heart of our reflection and action require to understand the systems in which they are immersed. Some regions of the planet maintain extremist domination policies with patriarchal family models, typical of fundamentalist cultures; on the other hand, the majority of western countries is characterised by hedonistic and consumeristic models, which are typical of an individualistic culture. Both paradigms plot against the family. It is necessary a humanism such as the one proposed by Fratelli tutti, to keep alive the critical sense facing these tendencies and to carry out transformations.

Families are “called to a primary and vital mission of education. Families are the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on” (Fratelli tutti, 114). In fact, families are the grounds of social friendship because of the relational goods they are capable of producing, such as dialogue, trust, fidelity, co-responsibility and cooperation. Relational goods that, as such, replicate, are full of ethicality and entail a significant communional component.

We can still hope in a specific contribution of social sciences able to identify the incidence of families at a local level as generators of relational goods that, due to their replicability, ethicality and communional nature, make social friendship more dynamic. “everything is connected” (Laudato si’, 117). Families and the human family cannot be separated, as well as social friendship and universal fraternity are both essential for the new face of humanity, if we want to give a response to the cry of the poorest, in unison with the cry of nature.