The Vatican seems to have a strange lack of acquaintance with reality – at least its Council for the Family does. It has a statement on the family and human rights which floats weirdly free of the difficulties that humans tend to encounter.

The father and the mother, as a couple, with the characteristics proper to them, procreate and raise the child. The child thus has the right to be welcomed, loved and recognized in a family.

That’s a pretty idea, but the trouble is, it’s the Vatican itself that does more than any other human institution to make that right impossible to implement. It’s the Vatican that forbids birth control, thus removing (in intention at least, which is what’s relevant) people’s ability to avoid having children who are not wanted and thus at risk of not being welcomed. The same applies to abortion. The child may have a right to be welcomed and loved, but what of it? who is going to force the parents to welcome and love the child if they don’t in fact want it or (in the event) love it? The Vatican? How?

As the first natural community, the family is the exemplary place for solidarity. In the family human beings gradually become aware of their dignity, acquire a sense of responsibility, and learn to give attention to others. In the family, solidarity develops beyond the spouses’ love relation and extends to the relations between parents and children, siblings, and inter-generational relations.

Need for reality check again. ‘In the family, solidarity develops’ when it does, but when it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Has no one at the Pontifical Council for the Family ever encountered an unhappy (a ‘dysfunctional’) family? Has it never encountered a family that is more indifferent than anything else? Or one that is downright hostile, or one that is bullying and demanding and controlling? One that is shot through with tensions and jealousies and resentments? One that is estranged? Does the Pontifical Council for the Family really seriously think that all families are of their nature and essence loving and loyal and generous? Some are, certainly, but all of them? No. Yet the Pontifical Council prattles away as if it had never even read any Jane Austen, or any newspapers.

Family values people are like that, I suppose – they’re so keen to stamp out all the freedoms and choices and eccentricities and ways of living that thrive outside the familiar ones that they’re forced to pretend there is no flourishing outside The Family and no misery inside it. But then do they convince anyone?

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