Taking care of family is taking care of man and society

Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri

Dean of the Pontifical Theological Institute John Paul II for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family

Family, in its original constitution as an affective, generative and parental community of man and women, institutes the social womb of the order of the affections. The dynamics that give rise to the individual singularity, to social reciprocity, to community cooperation, are learnt and further elaborated starting from the personal-relational set of rules that is inherent to the familiar constitution.

The human being learns, in the coexistence and in the network of family bonds, the fundamental aspects of the human bond, which is irremediably personal and community-based, in which he is generated and to which he is destined. The imagination of the human quality of affections – of their dignity and their truth, of their deepness and of their justice – belongs to the familiar experience which connects the “making be” with the “loving”. In the familiar experience, the intrinsic unity of the biological dimension of the human bond and of the spiritual dimension of personal life, gives shape to the creation of the body together with the empathy towards others’ inner reality. The familiar dimension, therefore, appears as the original womb of the co-affective dimension in which the human being is expected to experiment the justification of his own being in the world and the justice of his own participation in its becoming. The familiar order creates inside itself also the right division of eros and philia, thus providing the education of the right differentiation of the sexual intimacy and of the parental reciprocity (paternal and maternal, filial and fraternal). In this way, it teaches them to harmonise together with their different perfection. The metabolism of this fundamental set of rules is the root of the analogies and of the extra-familiar transformations of the order of affections, in the various forms of the personal and social bond. In the same way, thanks to its original generative authority and to the affective competence in which it is rooted, and to whose responsibility it delivers itself personally and permanently, the familiar system presents for the first time the ethical-emotional reasons – not despotic, not arbitrary, not opportunistic – of the respect of law (nomos) and of the sharing of desire (koinonia).

The special familiar condition in this initiation, which uses the archetype of the strong bond between love and generation that institutes life and its meaning (the Christian creed is based on the recognition of the generation as the source of love, in God himself) cannot be deduced by any other relationship. We can – and we must – balance out the multiple vulnerabilities and heal the wounds, also the serious ones. We should not substitute it.

Again, our best chances to heal, in the dramatic juncture of its passing through the shadows, always derive from the social and community disposition of the family system itself, when it makes available for the community the richness of its original ethical-emotional resources. This disposition, as we can see, is simply the expression – the most beautiful and most exiting one, maybe – of the original human and community vocation of the family system itself. Of course, it would be a contradiction – and therefore it would be counter-productive – to think of a function of proximity-subsidiarity of the familiar order that is forced to carry out its humanising and socialising task in exchange for the justice of the affections from which it obtains its legitimation and strength.

The “anthropological” and “political” vocation of the familiar system, therefore, belongs to its original historical constitution. This type of reflection imposes, therefore, a double and symmetrical topic of observation and reflection. On the one hand, it’s about understanding how, today, the awareness of this destination and of the humanistic and community centrality belongs to a widespread awareness: of the familiar culture, of the educative processes, of the institutional policies. On the other hand, it is also necessary to evaluate the modalities in which the civil (and also religious) community offers, as a response to this humanistic and community vocation of the family, culture and resources which are adequate to express the substantial appreciation and the specific support of the community. In the field of this process of mutual recognition and responsible restitution, what is the current situation of politics, economy, citizenship’s governance and culture of subsidiarity?