Comparatively few parents thoroughly appreciate the full extent of their responsibility. Were young men and young women, before marriage, fully to realize the extent of the obligations incumbent on parents, many would shrink from entering a state so encumbered with duties and cross. In the bringing up of children both the father and mother should act in concert. If you neglect your parental duties in whole or in part, or if in their discharge you act separately from, or in opposition to each other, the tree of your marriage will produce only thorns and thistles, and your children will be neither good Christians nor useful citizens, and, far from becoming the prop and consolation of your old age, they will bring down your gray hair with sorrow to the tomb.
You ought to be firmly persuaded of the great truth, that your children belong, in the first place, not to yourselves, but to God. It is He who gives them to you and takes them back when He pleases. God only lends your children to you: He entrusts them to you as so many precious talents, for which you are strictly accountable to His infinite justice. In Europe especially, (in this country as well) infidels and Freemasons, maliciously subverting the order of nature established by the Creator, seek to concentrate all rights and powers in what they are pleased to call " the state." They most erroneously assert that the child belongs, not to his parents, but to the state; and, out of hatred of the Christian religion, they dare to claim for the state the exclusive right of educating the children in state or public schools. If, as they say, the child belongs to the state, the child's parents being themselves the children of their own parents, must likewise be the property of the state; and therefore we no longer have any freemen, but all men are the chattels or the slaves of the state! And as in some countries the masons and infidels claim to be the state, it would seem that they modestly (?) claim to own and dispose of their fellowmen just as they please. If, according to the masonic doctrine, both the child and his parents belong to the state, the state is obliged, not merely to educate the children, but also to feed, clothe, lodge, and provide with the comforts of life both the children and their parents—just as the state is now doing in its institutions for paupers and criminals! Such a doctrine, however, is evidently false and absurd, and utterly subversive of the order of nature.
Let us never lose sight of the grand fact that the state is composed, not of single individuals, but of' families. Without families, that is, with individuals only, the state could not be perpetuated, but would soon become extinct. To endure, the state must be composed of families i.e., of the parents and their children. Hence the unit of society or the state is the family, and not the isolated individual, just as the individual is the unit of the family. From this it follows that the family as an institution antedates the state, for, as everybody knows, every compound is posterior to its components. This being the case, the natural and logical conclusion is that the family has natural and essential rights which the state is bound to respect and even to protect; for these rights are inalienable, and independent of the state, because they are, as we have seen, prior to the state. Among these natural and essential rights of the family are the indissoluble union of husband and wife in matrimony, and the parental rights over the children.
The parental rights are derived from God Himself, the Author of nature and the Institutor of matrimony and the family. These rights, being only delegated by Him to the parents, are not unlimited and arbitrary; but they are defined, and accompanied by certain indispensable obligations. When the parents utterly neglect these sacred obligations, or are incompetent, or physically unable to discharge them properly, the state and other lawful authorities may, each within its own respective sphere, step in to assume control of the children. The state may enact just and equitable laws concerning marriage and education, but only in so far as these entail civil rights or effects; but said laws must in no wise usurp or antagonize the natural rights of the family or of the parents. The laws which in any way encroach on these essential and rights are unlawful, unjust, tyrannical, and not at all binding; and no one can, without gross and unpardonable injustice, be compelled to observe them or to submit to them.
Source: Popular Instructions on the Bringing Up of Children, Imprimatur 1897
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