The conception of the family as a subject

This idea that human rights are for individuals rather than for groups is relevant to the Vatican’s reflection on the Rights of the Family in the context of the Universal Declaration, too. (Do you see a pattern here? There is one. Religions, especially coercive, totalizing, domineering religions such as Catholicism and Islam and Protestant fundamentalism, are suspicious of human rights and would like to elbow them aside in favour of group rights, especially [of course] religious-group rights. We need to watch that, so that we can fight back.)

This bit of the Pontifical Council’s ‘reflection’ is the giveaway:

One aspect of fundamental importance for the promotion of human rights is recognition of the “rights of the family”. This implies the protection of marriage in the framework of “human rights” and of family life as an objective of every juridical system. The Charter of the Rights of the Family, presented by the Holy See, implies the conception of the family as a subject that includes all its members. The family is thus a whole which should not be divided up when it is being dealt with by isolating its members—not even for reasons of social substitution which, although necessary in many cases, should never put the family as a subject in a marginal position.

What’s that saying? That the family should be treated as a person, indivisible and with rights, and that in aid of that the members of the family should not be treated as indivisible persons with rights, they should be treated as parts of an indivisible whole. The family is a subject, with all that that implies, and the people who make up the family are merely parts of that subject.

That’s a really terrible idea. It’s also nonsensical. Families aren’t persons; no matter how united and loyal and loving they are, they still are never persons, they are groups of people, and a group of people is never the same thing as one person. You don’t add a person and a person and a person and get one big person, you get three people; three different, separate people, each with her own wants and needs and plans. They may all cohere and cooperate and agree, fine, but that still doesn’t make them all one person. No group has a mind; no group is aware; no group has consciousness or sensations or feelings or experience. All those belong to single individuals, one at a time. They may want to make sacrifices for the good of their family or religious group or political party, but that is still not the same thing as the notion that any of those groups has its own rights. Beware of anyone who tries to persuade you otherwise.

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