A Primer on Parental Rights

10-30-2022Weekly Reflection

Without a doubt parental rights in the rearing and education of their children have become a political issue in the country and in the upcoming election. They are under attack. Laws are being proposed in various jurisdictions to usurp parental rights, in schools especially, to promote gender ideology and puberty blockers in service of this agenda. Along with this is the attempt to sexualize children at a young age in favor of this same ideology in schools and libraries with so called “drag-queen reading sessions” and other perversities. It’s important to deal with a sometime objection from people that they don’t come to church to hear politics. They want to forget about politics.

The mere fact that some issue has entered the political sphere doesn’t mean the Church has nothing to say about this especially about the moral issues involved. The classic case is the right to life of the unborn child which is a big political issue. The Church points out that Catholics have a duty to promote the right to life of the unborn child and reject politicians and politics which attack this right as a fundamental moral issue and obligation. The same is true about gender ideology, the promotion of homosexuality, and the like in terms of the rights of parents, children and the common good, not to mention the fentanyl pouring into our country at the border; the cartels and human trafficking; and the harm to the common good from an open border.

Dr. James Merrick of Franciscan University points out the following:

There are several reasons why the Church needs to address social issues. To start, it’s a delusion to think we can so neatly separate our religious and secular lives. God did not just create the Church, but the whole universe. There is literally nothing that is not related to God.

When he (Jesus) says “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” he is saying “give to Caesar what has Caesar’s image on it—the coin—but give to God what has God’s image on it— humanity.” Scripture does not support the notion that so-called political or secular topics are off limits for the Church. Furthermore, society arranges our relationship to the goods of creation, and this can rival the providence of God. The Church desires that we accept divine providence. It does not want us to impatiently reject it through the creation of our own Towers of Babel.

The Catechism (of the Catholic Church) defines the common good as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (CCC 1906). This is a complicated notion. However, it has in view the way society configures access to the goods necessary for human flourishing. We are not merely talking about material goods like food, clothing, or employment. Here we are also concerned about spiritual goods like charity, peace, and religion. The Church clearly teaches that the common good is every person’s responsibility. Each person and instrument of society—including the government—must ensure through their actions that society promotes the flourishing of each person as a human being, both physically and spiritually.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has the following:

238. In the work of education, the family forms man in the fullness of his personal dignity according to all his dimensions, including the social dimension. The family, in fact, constitutes “a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society.” By exercising its mission to educate, the family contributes to the common good and constitutes the first school of social virtue, which all societies need. In the family, persons are helped to grow in freedom and responsibility, indispensable prerequisites for any function in society. With education, certain fundamental values are communicated and assimilated.541

239. The family has a completely original and irreplaceable role in raising children. The parents’ love, placing itself at the service of children to draw forth from them (“e-ducere”) the best that is in them, finds its fullest expression precisely in the task of educating. “As well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love.” The right and duty of parents to educate their children is “essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.” Parents have the duty and right to impart a religious education and moral formation to their children, a right the State cannot annul but which it must respect and promote. This is a primary right that the family may not neglect or delegate.

240. Parents are the first educators, not the only educators, of their children. It belongs to them, therefore, to exercise with responsibility their educational activity in close and vigilant cooperation with civil and ecclesial agencies. “Man’s community aspect itself — both civil and ecclesial — demands and leads to a broader and more articulated activity resulting from well-ordered collaboration between the various agents of education. All these agents are necessary, even though each can and should play its part in accordance with the special competence and contribution proper to itself.”Parents have the right to choose the formative tools that respond to their convictions and to seek those means that will help them best to fulfill their duty as educators, in the spiritual and religious sphere also. Public authorities have the duty to guarantee this right and to ensure the concrete conditions necessary for it to be exercised. In this context, cooperation between the family and scholastic institutions takes on primary importance.

241. Parents have the right to found and support educational institutions. Public authorities must see to it that “public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom.”The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice. “Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice... The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance.”

242. The family has the responsibility to provide an integral education. Indeed, all true education “is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his final end and the good of that society to which he belongs and in the duties of which he will, as an adult, have a share.” This integrality is ensured when children — with the witness of life and in words — are educated in dialogue, encounter, sociality, legality, solidarity and peace, through the cultivation of the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. In the education of children, the role of the father and that of the mother are equally necessary. The parents must therefore work together. They must exercise authority with respect and gentleness but also, when necessary, with firmness and vigor: it must be credible, consistent, and wise and always exercised with a view to children’s integral good.

243. Parents have, then, a particular responsibility in the area of sexual education. It is of fundamental importance for the balanced growth of children that they are taught in an orderly and progressive manner the meaning of sexuality and that they learn to appreciate the human and moral values connected with it. “In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality.”Parents have the obligation to inquire about the methods used for sexual education in educational institutions in order to verify that such an important and delicate topic is dealt with properly. In his classic work based on the natural law called Social Ethics, Johannes Messner points out:

…(T)he state can have no primary right in the sphere of the fundamental education of children, and its activity can be nothing more than helping the family. Furthermore, state and local authority in all activities affecting educational ends, therefore not only in schools but also in children’s homes, act merely in the name of the parents. Lastly the state, even when acting in its own right in imposing obligatory standards of instruction still remain bound by the primary educational rights of the parents.

Liberalism as well as socialism claims a direct right of the state in the education of children, prior to the right of the parents as well as that of the Church. The liberalist state, where it had the power, aimed at an exclusively controlled and compulsory education of a secularized kind (state school monopoly and state compulsory schools) Marxian socialism advocated secularization of education in state schools with the principle: “The care and education of the children becomes a public affair.” Messner’s remarks are in accord with Catholic teaching.

Parental rights are part of the natural order created by God. The natural law or order, present in the heart of each person and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties. Catechism of the Catholic Church #1956 Totalitarian regimes in order to consolidate their power always attack parental rights and the Church and seek to indoctrinate the children against their parents and in opposition to the Church or any rival institutions to the absolute power of the State. This is going on right now in communist China. This has to be resisted and defeated in our country and wherever this power-grab exists. Moreover it has to be illegal, given our form of government to use tax dollars to enforce political agendas like LGBTQ and the like, in opposition to tax-payers. This agenda has assumed the form of a pseudo or secular religion.