6.1.1 How has ‘family’ come up in previous units?

Unit 6 Contents

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Unit 6 will build on what we have looked at so far by focusing on two new topics – although, given your own experience as well as what you have studied for the module already, neither of them will be entirely new, indeed far from it.

As you know, each of units 3 to 7 focuses on one main principle or concept in CST and also on one area of practice.  Here are those we have looked at so far:

Concept/principle                               Area of practice

U3  Humans as ‘in the image of God’       Ecological responsibility

U4  The priority of labour over capital      Working life

U5  The universal destination of goods    Business and economics

The main concept to which this unit will give attention is ‘natural law’.  We shall also look at the principle of subsidiarity, although this can be studied more fully in Module B.

The main area of practice we shall look at in this unit is family life.

These focuses are reflected in the learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes for Unit 6

By the end of this unit, you will be able

  • to articulate how your own experience of positives and negatives in family life sets a context for your study of CST on this topic
  • to explain fundamental points in CST’s vision of human wellbeing and what it means by ‘natural law’
  • to name and discuss critically the main elements in CST on family life in society, especially as presented in Familiaris Consortio
  • to give examples of ways in which ordinary practices of family life can be consistent (or inconsistent) with CST.

What CST means by ‘natural law’ is certainly related to topics covered in earlier units (as a reading you will do from McCarthy’s book will show).  But we are looking at this topic here because of how Catholic teaching has traditionally understood marriage and family life.

Basically the Church has seen marriage and family as forming part of how God made things to be for humanity in creation – and ‘natural law’ refers to ways of doing things, ways in which we ought to live, that fit with how we have been created to be.

Of course Christian teaching has never been that everyone should marry and have a family – not least because Jesus himself did not. The point is, rather, that the Church has interpreted marriage and family as gifts of God in creation which, for most people, should be significant in enabling them to live in a way that enables fulfilment of their human nature.

The topic of family has in fact come up several times in previous units.  You are asked to begin this unit by spending a few minutes thinking over what you have studied so far in order to try to bring to mind what these points are.

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EXERCISE

Make a list of the ways in which you can remember points about family life coming up in Units 1 to 5.

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE: Click here

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To supplement that response, here is a short reading which sums up how what CST says about the topics of units 4 and 5, work and economics, is inherently connected with the life of families.

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Reading (2pp)

Compendium, ##248-251 (Chap 5, part IV b)

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As you would expect (in light of Unit 4), this reading makes the points that work enables family life and that wage levels must be high enough to ensure it really does that.  It also refers to the desirability – or at least the aspiration – that work looking after a home, which in most cultures is mainly done by women, should be paid.  If only!  In fact this point is made in a number of papal documents – you might recall it from your reading of Laborem Exercens.  In Unit 8 we shall give attention specifically to what CST says about issues of justice for women.  There I shall recommend as optional reading an excellent article which discusses this somewhat controversial issue of payment for housework (see 8.3.4, reading by Hinze).

The main teaching document from which readings for this unit are taken is Familiaris Consortio of 1981.  This was Pope John Paul II’s response to a global Synod of Bishops which had addressed family life one year earlier.

As it happens, the first such Synod since that time to focus on family life is due to take place in October 2014, and it is very likely that in 2015 the pope will issue a document similar to that.  Of course, it will not say exactly the same – and, in reviewing your study at the end of this unit, you can address the question of what it should say.

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End of 6.1.1

Go to 6.1.2 Family life: experience

 

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