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- 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?
Don't think I didn't notice that nobody commented on these posts in which I laboriously list church teachings. And at the same time, I got oodles of comments on several other posts (thank you), so I know you are all out there, just hoping I will get to the point.
The point is out there, but I can't see it yet. I have to finish this bit first so I can see the big picture. I'm really sorry it's taking me so long. Hang in there.
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Moving on, what remains are these questions:
3. What are the responsibilities of offspring toward their parents?
4. How do things change when children are emancipated?
These are much shorter lists of answers. Here we go.
What are the responsibilities of children toward their parents?
Children must honor and respect their parents out of gratitude for the gift of life and knowledge. "The fourth commandment...shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority" [CCC2197]. "Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace" [CCC2215] "'With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?'" [CCC2215]
A certain honor and respect, then, is owed parents unconditionally in recognition of the gift of life.
This is going to be a hard teaching for some whose mother or father has also caused them a great deal of hurt, but it is undeniable that the Catechism, as well as the Fourth Commandment, directs children to honor and respect parents in some degree regardless of the parents' failings.
I am reminded of our duty to be grateful to God for the gift of life even when the life we have is full of great sufferings. Existence, even in fear and pain, is to be preferred over nonexistence, and preferred with gratitude, accepted as a gift. This can also be hard, but I don't think we can get away with it.
But even though a certain honor and respect seems to be owed unconditionally, other degrees of honor are owed in response to the goodness of the parents. Children "respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, love, and trust" [GS 48]. The parents' kindness, then, is to be reciprocated by gratefulness, by love, and by trust. Unkindness, maybe, doesn't reasonably earn this extra trust and love.
"As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or for the good of the family" [CCC2217]. Notice that this obedience is broad [in all that they ask] but not unqualified [when it is for his good or for the good of the family]. "Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted him. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so."
"Obedience towards parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them." "Children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life" [CCC2230]. "As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. They should assume their new responsibilities within a trusting relationship with their parents, willingly seeking their advice and counsel" [CCC2217]. Lot to chew on there -- it looks like the children have a positive obligation to ask parents for their opinions and suggestions about the children's choices.
Finally, children owe their parents material and social support: "Children should stand by [their parents]... when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness." They should esteem "widowhood, accepted bravely as a continuation of the marriage vocation" [GS 48].
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Besides the things parents owe to children, and the things children owe to parents, it is also worthwhile to mention certain things which parents and children owe mutually to each other. Oh, also siblings owe these to siblings. Pay attention: these are especially important when friction of one kind or another arises:
-- All members of the family should "assist one another" "in a loving way" [GS48].
-- All members of the family should maintain "a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation" [FC21].
-- "Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political, and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them" [GS28]
-- Finally, with respect to parents considering their daughters' vocation and with respect to sons and daughters appreciating the gifts of their mother: "The work of women in the home should be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value" [FC23]. (I don't think this is meant to exclude the work of men from recognition, it's just a reminder because women's work in the home has been and continues to be historically undervalued.)
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What about emancipation?
Some of what's written above deals with the change when children are emancipated -- for instance, when children no longer live at home and they are emancipated, they no longer owe obedience to their parents -- but they do owe them respect, honor, the courtesy of asking their advice and opinions, and the courtesy of accepting their just admonitions. Basically, they owe it to their parents to accept that their lives continue to be the parents' business, even if they don't any longer have to do what they say. And they also owe their parents material support in hard times and social support in lonely times.
Regardless, it's clear that a major change in relationship occurs when the child is no longer at home and is "emancipated." It isn't too hard to determine whether a child is living at home or not. A harder question is: When is the child "emancipated?" How do we know he is ready to be "launched?"
I will start considering that question in another post. For now chew on this:
Man achieves dignity, which "demands he act according to a knowing and free choice...from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure...when, emancipating himself from all captivity to passion, he pursues his goal in a spontaneous choice of what is good, and procures for himself through effective and skillful action, apt helps to that end" [GS15].
This and a small number of the other passages quoted in this three-part post will be a jumping-off point to consider the event of "emancipation." Stay tuned.