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11 - The family, liberalism, and Catholic social teaching

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 February 2010

R. Bruce Douglass
Affiliation:
Georgetown University, Washington DC
David Hollenbach
Affiliation:
Boston College, Massachusetts
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Summary

Few issues, few institutions, have the capacity to rouse such contradictory images, emotions, and passions as does “the family.” On the most personal level, family is the source of one's identity. Family is the basis for stability; for some, however, it is a lived experience of oppression, even abuse. The family is “a meeting place for different generations,” but that meeting can be an occasion for the transmission of values and wisdom, or a battleground upon which the generations meet in an atmosphere of rejection, intolerance, violence, and pain.

On the level of politics and policy, electoral campaigns of the last decade have demonstrated the efficacy of “family” as a slogan. Equally evident is the fact that the word stands as a symbol for a host of differing values and assumptions. Those differences can be seen most sharply at the point where discussions of family touch on the question of women's rights, roles, and responsibilities. Two decades after the rebirth of feminism and the women's movement, the family is a critical arena, perhaps the arena, where the tensions and contradictions surrounding women's roles in contemporary society are played out.

It is clear that the family in America is in a state of transition, in both the public as well as the private realm. In the area of public policy, courts, legislatures, school boards and human service agencies wrestle with issues such as parental consent for abortion or for issuing contraceptives to minors, parental choice in schooling and the public funding concerns that accompany it, welfare policies that seemingly discourage the presence of the male parent in the family.

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Catholicism and Liberalism
Contributions to American Public Policy
, pp. 269 - 295
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1994

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