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Parenting And The Principle Of Subsidiarity

March 3, 2019 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

Pope Pius XI formulated the “principle of subsidiarity” in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931). This principle means that the state or lesser, intermediate organizations should never intervene to do for a lower group — including the family or even the individual — what that lower group can do for itself. Thus, subsidiarity means that the smallest level of communality should be employed to achieve its end while the state should be regarded as the last resort. The state may help the family, but should not hinder it.
Society is built from the ground up. This explains why the family is the basic unit of society. Pius XI recognized this and honored it with his famous and widely applied principle. In a topsy-turvy world, however, the attempt is made to turn the pyramid on its head. An example of this is excessive interference by the government in affairs that are best handled by parents.
Canada’s liberal government has introduced Bill S-206 which poses a serious threat to the autonomy of the family. What we mean here by autonomy, however, is not complete independence from the government but a certain freedom for parents to raise their children in a reasonable way and in accordance with their own prudential judgments. The government should not take away from parents reasonable choices they make in particular instances that are part of responsible child-raising. Parents are responsible for normal disciplining of their children. Without discipline, the child will not be prepared to take his place on the larger stage of life.
According to Real Women of Canada (www.realwomenofcanada.ca), the bill would criminalize the following actions as assault: 1) picking up and moving your child to another room; 2) removing toys or objects from your child’s grasp; 3) stopping your child from leaving his room or leaving his house; restraining your child against his will.
This is, it should be obvious, a far-reaching notion of child abuse. Moreover, if a doctor, teacher, friend, or family member observes any violations of Bill S-206, they assume a “duty to report.” A parent may be charged by the police and children may be removed from the home by social services.
One hopes that this bill will not be passed and if passed, will not be enforced. Dr. Benjamin Spock introduced the Permissive Age for childrearing several decades ago, although much of his advice has been discredited. He did not envision the kind of permissiveness that is laid out by Bill S-206. Nor would he have thought that stopping a child from leaving the house could be regarded as a criminal act.
The system of child-raising proposed by Canada’s liberal party is not only absurd, but unworkable. If a parent loses custody of a child because mom or dad violated one of the guidelines, what punishment lies in store for the bureaucrat who commits similar misdemeanors? And what about the child? Does any little boy or girl want to be wrested from his parents’ home and sent to some kind of institution where he will be tended to by strangers? If this anti-parent bill is passed, will parents be fearful of imposing any kind of reasonable discipline on their children? The bill does not mention remedies for the trauma it may cause for children who are not aligned with the new ideology.
It is one thing to prevent child abuse. But it is quite another to prevent child abuse in a way that prevents normal child-raising. Parents may need assistance from time to time, but, in general, the parents themselves, and not the government, are in the best position to raise children without abusing them. Bill S-206 means that the government will not be as permissive toward parents as it demands that parents be permissive toward their own children. If S-206 is passed, its potential for abuse is alarming.
When one thinks of abortion and how, in the most brutal manner, especially with regard to late-term abortion when the child can feel pain, a child is put to death, it seems odd that a government would be so ultra-considerate of children who are born that they would fear those parents who did not abort their children. Abortion is merely a “woman’s right,” but the government must watch parents like a hawk lest they take a child to another room.
If this contradiction makes any sense it may be that the liberal party, so callous when it comes to the child in the womb, experiences a deep guilt that is suppressed. Not able to face its own complicity in horror, it tries to create the appearance that it is human and caring by being excessively solicitous to children who are born. Psychologists refer to this technique as compensation.
Being extremely concerned in one area about people is supposed to make up for being sorely negligent in another. Compensation is a defense mechanism in which people overachieve in one area to make up for failure in another.
The distinguished psychologist Alfred Adler introduced the term “overcompensation” indicating an attempt to make up for an inadequacy in one field by driving to excel in another, but often in a way that is detrimental to the person. If the government gets it wrong on abortion, it will surely get it wrong on child-raising.
Abortion itself is a violation of the principle of subsidiarity. Abortion, as a matter of fact, is a major step in turning the moral universe upside down. In abortion, the mother interferes with the life of the child. It follows that the government will interfere with the life of parents. The government, which consists of paid bureaucrats who have no biochemical bond with the children they monitor, then presumes to be the basis of society. But a society that is upside down cannot flourish.
(Dr. DeMarco is a professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the St. Austin Review. His latest books, How To Navigate through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life, are available at amazon.com.)

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