The primary importance of Family and State



There are particular societies that correspond more directly to the nature of man principally the family and the state. Both these principal societies are essential to man’s well-being.

The promotion of voluntary associations and institutions are to be encouraged in order encourage the maximum amount of participation by all people. These can be on a national or international scale. The associations are instrumental in developing the qualities of the person, not least initiative, responsibility and the guarantee of rights.

However there are also dangers. Excessive interference and intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. So the Church teaches the principle of subsidiarity:

…a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.  CA 48.4

Leaders of societies: the way God acts in governing the world should be the principle by which all governing by human authorities should be based: God does not reserve to Himself the exercise of all power. God entrusts to every creature its own powers that are proper to it. And so it is that human authorities should delegate power to those competent and gifted to exercise it. Thus human authorities and leaders should be ministers of divine providence.


This principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. There are to be limits to state intervention. It should aim at harmony between individuals and societies, and tend toward order and peace.

Fr Ian

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