Family (Social) Participation

Children often complain and criticize parents and their rules, especially when they don’t get to do what they want. Citizens often do the same with governmental leaders and laws. Yet our responsibility goes beyond obeying legitimate authorities and laws.

As children grow they are called to take on more responsibility for the well-being of the home, including doing chores, caring for younger siblings and/or for elderly grandparents, and eventually contributing to the financial needs… until God calls them to form their own family. Similarly, God calls all adult citizens to contribute to the well-being of our common family in society: meeting some social need in a non-profit organization or activity, getting involved in politics (perhaps as a candidate or in a political campaign, in a political action or a special interest group, such as pro-life). This doesn’t mean we have to get into polemics to win debates, but we do need to be informed voters who study the candidates and issues so as to seek the common good. As Pope Francis reminds us:

We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern (Pope Francis, September 16, 2013).

So, united with others, we are called to seek the common good, the common material and social conditions that allows each person and family to fulfill their God-given vocation and mission in life. For example, families and individuals cannot fulfill their vocation and mission if they don’t have needed resources to eat and live in a dignified shelter. Social responsibility means helping all our brothers and sisters have the food needed to thrive and a decent room to sleep in—one can’t force any sibling to sleep in the cold by locking him out of the house.

But being good parents means more than providing adequate food and safe shelter. Parents are called to educate their children in knowledge and virtue, first by their good example, then with discipline (including limits on media and electronics), and finally by schooling. Society ought to do the same for our common family, with governmental heads leading the way with their own example. Older siblings and citizens aid the parents and leaders in this duty.

So, we must vote for people whose character, beliefs, and programs truly benefit everyone and vote against all self-serving enemies of religion or society since, by voting for a corrupt person one voluntarily participates in the evil he does if elected.

Thus we seek to fulfill the nature of a family and society:

In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties. (CCC 2203)

A society is a group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them… By means of society, each man is established as an “heir” and receives certain “talents” that enrich his identity and whose fruits he must develop. He rightly owes loyalty to the communities of which he is part and respect to those in authority who have charge of the common good… but “the human person… is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions” (CCC 1880-1).

Yes, we can share our criticism, when needed: “… to voice just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community” (CCC 2238). We must not just complain and criticize, but promote harmony in family and social life, supporting one another in charity, humility, and meekness (see Galatians 6:2; CCC 2219). Electing leaders and promoting laws that promote the common good foster the social conditions we all need to pursue God and happiness. As Abraham Lincoln said, “He who has the right to criticize has the heart to help.”

Catholic Order of Foresters Pro Life Insurance
Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.