Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pius XI on Marital Chastity and Public Aid

Thursday Thoughts, brought to you by Pregnancy Insomnia. Obviously, these are not random thoughts, but propelled by many disturbing things I've read recently in internet comboxes. I assure you, however, that they are directed at no one person in particular.

If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labor; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labors of childbirth is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God's commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.

Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.

Casti Connubii, 120-121

From this it is clear that when social structures and economic conditions are such that they cause excessive strain on the family, it is not the duty of married persons to deprive themselves of the natural goods of married life in order to accommodate the State, but the duty of the State to make provision for and accommodate marriage and the whole structure of family life that results from it.

That is not to say that a married couple under duress may not mutually agree to heroically observe some form of "virtuous continence" in order to curb the harmful effects of grinding poverty upon themselves and their offspring, but to remember that it is wrong to require it of them.

Lastly, married couples who find themselves in such straightened circumstances should not be shamed for taking aid from a State that has not otherwise adopted appropriate social or economic methods that would have prevented their need from arising in the first place.