Large families are genuine testimonies of “optimism” and must be supported with appropriate social and legislative measures, says Benedict XVI. The Pope expressed this conviction at the end of the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, November 2, 2005, when greeting representatives of the Italian Association of Large Families.
“ Your presence gives me the opportunity to recall the central character of the family, the fundamental cell of society and primary place of acceptance and service to life,” the Holy Father told the parents, many of whom were accompanied by their children.
“In the present social context, families with many children are a testimony of faith, courage and optimism, as without children there is no future ! ” he exclaimed, prompting applause and smiles from those present.
“I hope that more social and legislative measures will be promoted in defense and support of the largest families, which constitute a richness and hope for the whole country,” Benedict XVI concluded.
The Italian Association said that Italy in 1960 had 3.5 million families with at least four children; in 2003 that number dropped to 300,000 such families.
A good way for governments to help families would be to give money directly to parents, instead of giving it to day-care centres. (The new Canadian Conservative Government has modestly begun to recognize this, by promising all families “a new $1,200 per year Choice in Child Care Allowance for each child under six.”) Children are best raised by their own parents, not by strangers. There would be less crimes and suicides among young people.
A salary to housewives
As a matter of fact, in its social doctrine, the Church also stresses the importance of recognizing the work of the mothers in the home, by giving them an income. One way to accomplish this would be to give a yearly $12,000 allowance to every stay-at-home mother. Or even better, to apply the Social Credit principles and give a monthly dividend to every member of the family; thus the family income would automatically increase with the arrival of a newborn. Here is what the Church says on this issue: “It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father ’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children.” (Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, n. 71.)
“Experience confirms that there must be a social re-evaluation of the mother ’s role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons. It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother — without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women — to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age. Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens, n. 19.)
In his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio on the role of the Christian family in the modern world, dated November 22, 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote (n. 23):
“The true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions... This will come about more easily if a renewed «theology of work» can determine the original and irreplaceable meaning of work in the home and in rearing children. Therefore the Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value.
“While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family. Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home.”
And finally, in October, 1983, the Holy See issued the “Charter of the Rights of the Family”, in which it called for “the remuneration of the work in the home of one of the parents; it should be such that mothers will not be obliged to work outside the home to the detriment of family life and especially of the education of the children. The work of the mother in the home must be recognized and respected because of its value for the family and for society.” (Article 10.)