Subsidiarity in the Family

“Jesus…the son of Joseph,…the son of David,…the son of Abraham,…the son of Adam, the son of God.” (Cf. Lk 3:23-38)


Who-we-are is very much bound up with where-we-come-from and this provenance is not so much what national boundaries we were born within, but more precisely that long lineage of values, cultures, and genetics of the people to whom we were born. We are irrevocably linked to our families and in spite of post-modern individualistic tendencies toward complete autonomy, our identities cannot be understood without looking at our parents, siblings, and all those relatives whose company is formative in our lives and whose blood runs through our veins. The fullest flourishing of each of us comes from a childhood nourished by a father and a mother who loved us, cared for us, protected us, and sacrificed for us.  So integral is this experience to the development of the human person that Jesus condescended to become part of the Holy Family and in so doing, demonstrated a fundamental axiom of human social life.


“The family is the original cell of social life…. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom.”1 The value of this relationship between oneself and one’s family transcends race, creed, color, and most especially national citizenship. We unravel the fabric of human society thread by thread if we do not foster the conditions which guard the sanctity of the family.

“The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures…. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life.”2 It should come as no surprise then what stance the Church has taken with regard to immigration law in our country.  The Bishops’ Conference has rallied a unanimous cry against policies which break up families leaving children with only one parent to care for them or no parents at all. Many children of immigrants are born in the United States and are therefore by law U.S. citizens.  Others arrive as infants and are no less vulnerable to the dangers of being orphaned or neglected when one parent or another is deported in spite of contributing to society and the economy through steady work, paying taxes, and participating in social organizations. Regrettably, the last three years alone have seen the largest number of deportations in U.S. history.  Hope lingers in the hearts of the faithful however.  A fine example of the right turning of the tide can be seen in Mower County, MN.  Patricia Sanchez was granted immunity after being the victim of domestic abuse.  The county has worked to help establish a positive relationship with undocumented immigrants by granting immunity to those who assist police in capturing violent criminals and other serious offenders or who are themselves victims of violent crime.3 “Building a world of respect for human life and dignity, where justice and peace prevail, requires more than just political commitment…. Participation in political life in light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty for every Catholic and all people of good will.”4 St. Joseph, patron of families, pray for us!


1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2207.

2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2209.

3. See .

4. USCCB, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States” (September, 2011), n. 57.