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Hmm, now where was I? Oh yes, at the end of this post, when I got tired and stopped.
So, as I was saying, I have been digging into the Catechism, into Gaudium et Spes, and into Familiaris Consortio to find answers to these questions:
- What is the nature of the vocation that education must prepare us for?
- What is the necessary content of education?
- What are the responsibilities of parents toward their offspring?
- What are the responsibilities of offspring toward their parents?
- How do things change when children are emancipated?
I got through questions 1 and 2, and then I needed to go to bed. So now I'm continuing.
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3. What are the responsibilities of parents toward their offspring?
The responsibilities of parents toward their children are implicit in the Fourth Commandment: Although "the fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother..., it includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons" [CCC2199]. Parental authority is "unrenounceable" and should be "exercise[d]... as a ministry..., a service aimed at helping [children] acquire a truly responsible freedom" [FC21]. The primary way that parents express respect and affection for their children is in the care and attention devoted to their upbringing and in providing for physical and spiritual needs; later, in educating them in the right use of reason and the right use of freedom [CCC2228].
"Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons" [CCC2222]. "A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea which an alleged 'right to a child' would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right 'to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,' and 'the right to be respected as a person from the moment of conception'" [CCC2378]. Parents have a responsibility to "maintain a living awareness of the gift they continually receive from their children" [FC21].
The good of the children imposes total fidelity and an unbreakable oneness on the spouses [GS48]. Parents owe their children the duty to make decisions together, "by common counsel and effort" [GS50]. "The active presence of the father is highly beneficial to [children's] formation" [GS52]. "The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home" [GS52].
"Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children" [CCC2223]. Parents have the duty of putting into practice in the home "the demands of a love which forgives and redeems" [FC13]. They should cultivate "a simple and austere lifestyle" to promote the correct attitude towards material goods [FC37]. Parents should create a home "where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule" [CCC2223]. It is their duty "to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children" [FC36]. Parents must make decisions carefully and wisely for the good of the family: they must "reckon with both the material and spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life," and they must "consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church," in order to "thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those the future may bring" [GS50] Parents should practice the means of sexual self-control in order to have a deeper and more efficacious influence on their children [FC33].
Fathers have a special responsibility to give good example, I suppose because of their status as head of household. In fatherhood, "a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family... by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother; by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife; by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability; and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church" [FC25].
Parents owe their children discipline [CCC2223]. The catechism implies strongly that parents should not require obedience except for the good of the child or the good of the family, and that instructions to the child should be reasonable [CCC2217.] Parents must not provoke their children to anger [CCC2223]. Parents should know how to acknowledge their own failings to their children so as to better guide and correct them [CCC2223]. Parents must not force a person "to act contrary to his conscience" or "prevent him from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters" [CCC1782].
Parents must inculturate their children into the Church and to a life of prayer. "Parents...receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children... They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church" [CCC2225]. They should belong to a parish [CCC2226]. Parents have a responsibility to bring to family prayer, offered in common, the concerns of family life itself: "joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, births and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries of the parents, departures, separations, and homecomings, important and far-reaching decisions, the death of those who are dear, etc.... [family prayer times] should be seen as suitable moments for thanksgiving, for petition, for trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of their common Father in heaven" [FC59]. Fathers are exhorted to pray with their children [FC60]. Mothers are exhorted to teach children the Christian prayers, to prepare them for sacraments, to encourage them when they are sick to think of Christ suffering, to invoke the aid of the Virgin and of the saints, and to say the family rosary together [FC60].
Parents must educate children or delegate that education responsibly. Married couples fulfill the duty to educate children as they do the duty to procreate them, "with a sense of human and Christian responsibility," and are cooperators with and "interpreters" of "the love of God the Creator" [CCC2367]. "As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators" and that correspond "to their own convictions" [CCC2229]. "Parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities." If "ideologies opposed to the Christian faith are taught in the schools," parents ought to "join with other families and ... help the young not to depart from the faith" [FC40]. But some education cannot be delegated: The parents must exert attentive guidance in the child's sex education, under the law of subsidiarity [FC37]. They have the duty "to present to their children all the topics that are necessary for the gradual maturing of their personality from a Christian and ecclesial point of view... taking care to show... the depths of significance to which the faith and love of Christ can lead" [FC39].
Parents should actively ensure the moderate, critical, watchful, and prudent use of the media [FC76]. They have "the duty to protect the young from the forms of aggression they are subject to by the mass media." They must not "evade the duty of education by keeping children occupied with television and certain publications." Instead they must "seek for their children other forms of entertainment that are more wholesome, useful, and physically, morally, and spiritually formative." To the extent that they can influence the selection and preparation of the programs that are made available, they should [FC76].
Parents have duties even when their children rebel or reject the faith. Parents must "face with courage and great interior serenity the difficulties that their ministry of evangelization sometimes encounters" "when the children... challenge or even reject the Christian faith received in earlier years" [FC53]. They have the responsibility to seek help from pastors and from the Church during difficult times, such as "disturbed, rebellious, or stormy adolescence" and also at faith-trying times such as when there is lack of understanding or love on the part of those held dear, or abandonment, or death of a family member, even the children's marriage which takes them away from the family [FC77]. In any case, parents must not force a person "to act contrary to his conscience" or "prevent him from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters" [CCC1782].
Parents must allow their children freedom to choose their vocation, profession, and spouse, but they have a role as advisors. "Parents should respect" the "unique vocation which comes from God" and that "asserts itself more clearly and forcefully" "as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy" [CCC2232]. "Parents should be careful not to exert pressure on their children either in the choice of a profession or in that of a spouse" or in the choice of a state of life [CCC2230 and GS52]. But they still ought to give "judicious advice, particularly when [the children] are planning to start a family." The Church documents especially caution parents not to try to steer their children away from a vocation to celibacy: Parents "must be convinced that the first vocation of the children is to follow Jesus: 'He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me'" [CCC2232]. "Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord's call to one of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in consecrated life or priestly ministry" [CCC2232]. They should remember that some children can "contribute greatly to the good of the human family" by "forgo[ing] marriage in order to care for their parents or brothers and sisters, to give themselves more completely to a profession, or to serve other honorable ends" [CCC2231].
The Church documents specifically spell out responsibilities that parents have toward daughters. It is implied that parents must not constrain a young woman from the right to choose a husband freely, the right to embrace a state of life according to her vocation, or the right to an education equal to that available to young men [GS29]. The legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on the account of safely preserving women's domestic role [GS52]. Young women are fully justified in access to public functions [FC23]. "Clear recognition [must] be given to the value of [young women's] maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions" and to the principle that "these roles and professions should be harmoniously combined" [FC23],
Parents have specific responsibilities towards sons too. It is their job to restore the conviction that the place and task of fathers in families are uniquely and irreplaceably important, and to remove the "wrong superiority of male prerogatives" [FC25] -- basically, to cure their sons of both extremes of chauvinism or of the demeaning belief that men are unnecessary.
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I have to go to bed again. I will continue this next time with what children owe their parents...