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Vatican prelate emphasizes importance of family stability, criticizes welfare state

Catholic World News - February 19, 2013

Speaking at an event organized by the Holy See’s mission at the United Nations, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family emphasized the importance of the intact family for the good of children and society.

“Children who live with their own biological parents enjoy better physical and psychological health, and experience more trust and hope in life, in comparison with those who live in other contexts,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said in his February 15 address. “For example, adolescent children of married couples are at less risk of developing deviant behaviors (including abuse of alcohol and drugs) than those living with single parents, unmarried couples, or separated couples.”

Archbishop Paglia added:

Particularly during times of high unemployment, the actions of government as they affect families must be examined carefully. The welfare state is characterized by family assistance programs principally intended to address situations where the family is broken, unstable or lacking in internal resources. In these cases the state attempts in effect to be a substitute for the family, or at least for some missing element of the family.

But by substituting itself for the family, the welfare state produces a kind of vicious circle where instead of strengthening family relationships, it weakens them even further, and thus creates increased need for government assistance. Increased need leads to crisis, however, because it gives rise to expectations that the government cannot hope to meet, firstly because financial resources are never unlimited, but more importantly because government cannot itself function as a family, only as an agency. It thus becomes clear how important it is for government programs not only to promote family “mainstreaming” but more importantly for the government to have a correct understanding of the family when formulating public policy and to respect subsidiarity, which should be a guiding principle in any governmental action.

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  • Posted by: joancollins507161 - Feb. 19, 2013 5:04 PM ET USA

    Archbishop Paglia sounds like a very well informed person. He is so right about the welfare state. It stifles individual growth and promotes dependency. I wish the USCCB would have that attitude.

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