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Family-Support Guidelines

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1. The Present Situation

(1)                    The present times are characterized by dramatic changes and upheavals in all areas of life in the state, society, economics, politics, technology, and religion. Hand in hand with these changes goes the disintegration of traditional value systems and the pluralization of norms and standards. These processes and their consequences affect all institutions and every way and facet of living, especially the concept of marriage and family. Today, the concept of family covers everything from the traditional concept of the union of two individuals of the opposite sex forming the nucleus of all human society, all the way to the concept of "family" as a group of people living together.

(2)                    The changes in the concept of "family" are often forced upon the family from the outside. In a way, outsiders suggest to the family an "alternate" concept. As a rule, these interpretations of "family" reject the inherent understanding of the family as the original unit, and interpret  "family"  as an arbitrary assortment of people. These concepts - forced upon the family from the outside - are gaining momentum, especially in the industrialized nations.

(3)                    The changes and shifts in the concept of "family" are increasingly becoming the focus of discussion. In some countries, a partial departure from the position which affirms the significance of the family for society, and conversely, of society for the family, has already taken place. Contrary to the concept of the family as the natural nucleus of society, the notion of a society which assumes all-encompassing responsibilities is being propagated; such a society assigns specific functions and tasks to the family. This virtual reversal of the natural relationship between family and society has the consequence of reducing the significance of the family for society. Thus, the family becomes an arbitrary instrument of society.

(4)                    Developments and changes in the concept of how the family identifies itself are often presented as being based on facts or on theoretical insights. However, these changes often have their foundation in the ideological orientation of their proponents. It has become evident that this theoretical and practical polarization of the concept of "family" is detrimental to the family.

 2. The Self-Image, Significance, and Tasks of the  Family as
Contained in the Basic Principles of the Kolping Society

(5)              The Kolping Society's Concept of "Family"

The Kolping Society sees the family as the original and universal community, which develops as a voluntary residential, economic, sexual unit, based on the life-long union between husband and wife in marriage, with their own children or adopted ones (nuclear family). The extended family is a community that goes beyond the nuclear family. One parent living with children is considered to be a partial family.

(6)              Program of the International Kolping Society (1982)

"The Kolping Society regards marriage and family as the most important prerequisites for the personal development of the individual and thus also for the evolution of a moral society. The Kolping Society advocates due recognition and preservation of marriage and family in society and in the political arena. It wants to stimulate and enable its members to be witnesses of the values of marriage and family and, at the same time, to become aware of the tasks and opportunities of the family in the service of society."

(7)              Socio-Political Guidelines of the International Kolping Society (1992)

"The family, as primary unit of every human community, is to be maintained and strengthened through appropriate assistance by the legislators. For the reduction of countless traditional social ills and human distress, the family is irreplaceable as the natural community;  the legislators must therefore protect this community. Legislators have to guanrantee specific rights to this primary unit of society. The charter of family rights 'FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO' is one such example.”

(8)              The Family as the "Home Church"

In its function as the natural community, the family is the first place to encounter and practice religion, among other things, especially for the young people. The parents and other grown-up family members demonstrate to the young people the value and significance of religion by their devout mutual sharing and caring; they live as Christians and impart religious values, thereby influencing the behaviour of children. It is in families in which hope and fear, sorrow and joy are experienced and celebrated in a spirit of faith, that a relevant and vibrant Church will come alive. The family as a "home church" is an indispensable basis and security for the World Church.

(9)              The Family - Natural Community for Conveying Values.

The family - nuclear, extended, or partial - is the natural community for conveying the necessary personal, social, and cultural values. Therefore, the family is the nucleus and of all-embracing significance for any human society. Humane living conditions are not possible in any society without a minimum of social responsibility. As the original community for conveying and practicing values, the family guarantees the survival and development of a society.

3. Key Elements, Guidelines and Implementation Directives of the International Kolping Society Concerning Initiatives for the Family

For the International Kolping Society, the present situation with regards to the family gives rise to the following standards and guidelines:

(10)                        Specific Information Regarding Marriage as the Foundation
                               for Family Life

Marriage is the institutionalized form of equality of husband and wife. This can be substantiated on psychological, social, as well as economic and other grounds. Christianity accepted this rationale and strengthened marriage by recognizing it as a Sacrament.

By means of educational initiatives, the Kolping Society should convey these and other historic-cultural approaches, rationale and inter-connections - as well as the concept of marriage as the sign of the convenant between God and the individual.

The more specific information about marriage as the foundation of the family is assimilated, the more assurance there is for equality between husband and wife within society and for the concept of marriage as the stable foundation of the family.

(11)                        Factual Information Regarding the Natural Concept of Family

The current concept of "family" (mother & father with their own and/or adopted children, single-parent families, nuclear or extended families, three-generation families etc.) must be analyzed, reviewed and reappraised on the basis of a comprehensive and economically secure concept of human dignity. Independent of individualized historical or current prototypes, the family must be presented as the "primary" community of husband and wife with children, the community which is the founding element of all civilizations, and which outlives them all. Parental rights and responsibilities and their significance for the development of children and adolescents must be especially emphasized with reference to their expression, substantiation, and consequences.

The Kolping family and its higher organizational boards must constantly and aggressively introduce educational initiatives offering specific and factual information about the family to Kolping members and the communities they live in.

The more that factual and specific information about the family as the natural life-long community of husband and wife with their children is passed on, the more secure the family will be as the original community, and the more comprehensive a development potential it will offer to the individual and to humanity.

(12)                        Marriage Preparation and Continuous Education for Marriage
                              and Family

Partnership in marriage and family is a continuous learning process for all family members. The necessary updating in mutual recognition, community concepts and relationships must be promoted by information and discussion, and strengthened by appropriate practical initiatives, such as leisure activities and celebrations shared with other families.

In the framework of the Kolping Society's educational initiatives, particular emphasis must be given to the significance of the Sacrament of Marriage as the foundation of a life-long union. Specific programs need to be developed in order to prepare people, especially young people, for the Sacrament of Marriage.

The more that marriage preparation and marriage- and family-oriented programs become effective, the sooner cooperative behaviour is understood and practiced, the family union strengthened, and social commitment for society established.

(13)                        The Family, the Original Educational, Residential,
                              and Economic Community - with Rights of Its Own

The natural family unit has basic rights and responsibilities concerning the education and development of its children. The tasks connected with these rights and duties, with the procuring, securing and arranging of living quarters, as well as the proper economic prerequisites, must become part of a charter of basic rights of and for the family. Article 46 of FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO can and should be seen as the starting point and guideline for such a charter. In a subsidiary way, the political process must support and guarantee such efforts.

The more that protection is given to basic family rights, the more respective living conditions will be permeated by human dignity.

(14)                        Educational Programs for Parents with Special Needs

Today, the family is characterized by a wide spectrum of circumstances. Consider, for example, single-parent families, divorced and remarried parents with children, three-generation families, families with small children where both parents work full-time outside the home, families where one parent's job necessitates long-term separation, or families who find themselves marginalized by society for a variety of reasons. Such varying circumstances demand special attention, help and support. Special programs, such as neighbourhood support teams, discussion groups, practical educational help, education programs targeted for families living in special circumstances, etc., must be developed for such families and its members.

The more that families with special needs can be integrated into society by means of educational and practical support, the more potential for equal opportunity and human dignity there is in a society.

(15)                        The Unborn Child Deserves Special Protection

Today, the right to life is acknowledged as an undeniable human right. The rights of the child are emphasized and listed internationally (UN Charter of Rights for Children, EC Charter of Children's Rights, The Holy See's Charter of Family Rights). Despite all this, several national judicial systems nevertheless expose the life of the unborn to the mercy of the mother, on the basis of particularly liberalistic pretenses.

These and similar issues must be discussed - with expert input - in local Kolping Families and their executive boards, and the membership must be motivated to protect all life, especially the unprotected, defenseless, speechless, and innocent life of the unborn child. It must be specifically emphasized to the legislators that these rights need special protection.

The more that human life is recognized as an inviolable basic right, the more protection will be given to its priority in legislation.

(16)                        The Family - A Combination of Work and Daily Living

Even today, in various societies the family combines the areas of work and daily living. There - in agricultural areas, as well as in home-based production - culture and traditions determine the distribution of functions, and family members take on tasks in their daily living arrangements and in the work necessary for providing for the family.

In such living arrangements, the family members experience directly and constantly their common origin and their inter-dependency. The feeling of mutual belonging and the experience of family as a place where joint efforts secure their basic needs will continuously strengthen the family and their togetherness.

The more that the family is organized by all family members, combining living and working conditions, the more all family members experience the family as a unit, and its unity will be strengthened.

(17)                        Compatibility Between Family Life and Occupation

Both parents are responsible for procuring and maintaining the family's livelihood. In all modern industrialized societies, both parents to some degree depend on the income from employment, and to some degree they want to work outside the home. Work to be done inside and outside the home will be done cooperatively by members of the family. Educational programs of the local Kolping Families, or the Kolping Society as a whole, must make information available concerning the various options of combining family and work. These programs and discussions must aim to achieve the optimal compatibility between family life and work for families and all their members. In this process it is necessary to think about new ways of organizing work, and corresponding suggestions must be emphatically introduced into the socio-political debate.

The more compatibility can be achieved between family life and work, the safer families will remain even with increasing numbers of families where both parents are working.

(18)                        Renewal and Development of the Kolping Family as a
                               Family-like Community

From its beginning, the Kolping Society has been characterized by its family-likeness. A special closeness exists among its members, which - as in a real family - comes from complete mutual acceptance, and can extend to men and women of different ages and social standing.

Where the Kolping Family is experienced as such a family-like community, cooperative behaviour can be practiced in preparation for marriage and family. The Kolping Family, as a family-like community, can accomplish tasks that were done by extended families in traditional societies. As a community of solidarity, the Kolping Family can provide support in circumstances where individual families can no longer cope. Particularly where partial families are concerned, the Kolping Family can provide experiences that children in those families would otherwise miss.

The more family-like experiences the Kolping Family provides for its members, the more their families will benefit.

(19)                        The Family as the Theme of Programs and Activities
                              of Local Kolping Families and the Kolping Society as a Whole

According to its program, the Kolping Society sees itself as: "...founded and structured by Father Adolph Kolping as a Catholic, education and action-oriented Organization."  The socio-political guidelines of the International Kolping Society clarify these statements of the program.

According to this concept, all topics concerning marriage and family must be incorporated into the educational programs and activities of the local Kolping Families and their various subgroups - and they must be put into practice. Information, discussions and reflections concerning marriage and family - and corresponding activities - must be key elements as well as guidelines for the work of every Kolping Family, every Diocesan and every National Kolping Society.

The more that marriage and family become the topic of programs and activities of the Kolping Society, the better will be the chances that marriage and family can be realistically experienced in Kolping Families.

(20)                        Initiating Family Support Programs for Special Target Groups

Single parents, parents with minimal income, or socially disadvantaged parents depend on paid employment to provide their families with the necessities of life. For such families in particular, the Kolping Families - or groups of them - should promote the development of a family support program, such as kindergartens or daycare centres. Wherever possible, members of Kolping Families volunteer to work in these programs for disadvantaged families.

For families whose work or housing circumstances cause particular hardships in the areas of communication and common activities, the Kolping Family will initiate neighbourhood support programs or networks among families, or between families and singles.

The more that family support programs are offered to disadvantaged families, the more creditable the Kolping Society will be as a family-friendly organization.

(21)                        Installation of Voluntary Kolping Services in the Field of
                              Family Counselling

Social, economic, as well as socio-political conditions and regulations bring about various opportunities, rights, and responsibilities for marriage and family. Lack of information regarding such regulations often lead to material as well as non-material emergencies for marriages and families. Many Kolping Families have members who are experts in various fields and can provide successful counselling for legal, economic, medical, educational, and psychological problems.

Because of their physical and emotional closeness, Kolping Families are able to give important  information and advice concerning marriage and family. It is strongly recommended that voluntary counselling services be established in the Kolping Families, where trustworthy and committed people, who are well qualified  and informed, offer their services on a voluntary basis to local members and also to non-members.

The more that counselling support can be offered to families in need, the more creditable will be the position of the Kolping Society regarding the high priority that the family must have in society.

(22)                        Providing Opportunities for Family Recreation

Even though the degree might vary depending on national differences, compared to couples and singles, families are financially disadvantaged with respect to recreation and participation in educational and cultural programs. In order to reduce such and similar social and political deficits, national Kolping Societies offer special recreational opportunities.

Support for the establishment of such recreational opportunities for families must not only be sought, but even demanded, from legislators, because of the significance of the family for society. The national Kolping Societies should be the pilot carriers of such family recreation institutions.

The more that opportunities can be offered in the area of qualified family recreation, the more concretely the Kolping Society can be seen as a family-friendly organization.

(23)                        The Problems Concerning Marriage and Family in Business
                               and Industry

Business and industry supply the  goods and services necessary to satisfy the needs of society,  and as such of the family as well. The work force required for the production of goods, or the provision of services, comes exclusively from the family, either directly or indirectly. In addition to supplying goods and services, business and industry provide couples and families with the necessary income security as a reward for services rendered.

Again and again, those responsible for business and industry must be made aware of this obviously close inter-relationship between marriage and family and the economy. This close connection is also the reason that material and non-material support, over and above subsistence levels, must be demanded from business and industry, because, in the last analysis, business and industry also benefit from the services rendered by the families.

The more that it is possible to demonstrate the mutual inter-dependency between marriage and family and the economy, the greater the chances for mutual understanding.

(24)            The Status of Marriage and Family Enhanced by the Mass Media

In many societies, the influence and power of the mass media are on the increase. The mass media not only influences daily family life and the behaviour of individual family members, but the image of marriage and family in society, state and Church as portrayed by the media also affects the self-image of families.

The potential of the mass media must not be seen only as a threat, but must also be recognized as an opportunity. On its different levels, the Kolping Society endeavours to make use of the mass media to contribute to a positive portrayal of the indispensable significance of the family as the nucleus of society.

The concept of marriage and family is based on Scripture, on the various documents of the Church, of Vatican II, and on the social encyclicals of the popes - FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO (1982) in particular - and this concept has been the source of initiatives and guidelines for programs concerning marriage and family as well as family policies. It is necessary to use sermons, liturgy, and pastoral encounters to bring this concept of marriage and family into focus, to clarify it and to bring it to life in ways with which those who are involved can identify. This includes specific expansion of distinctive family pastoral programs, regular liturgical celebrations for families, theological information, specific programs for members of inter-denominational families, and the substantiation of the natural foundation for the sacramental concept of marriage, etc.

The clearer the Church deals with the areas of marriage and family in her theological programs and services, the closer the local Church comes to the faithful.

(26)                        Legal Guarantees To Safeguard The Dignity Of Marriage and
                              Family

The primary institutions of marriage and family must be guaranteed by national legislators, and their functions and responsibilities must be supported. As the fundamental and primary unit of society, Marriage and Family must also be entrenched in international charters.

Kolping members, National Kolping Societies, and the International Kolping Society will continue to emphatically introduce such demands, directly or indirectly, to the relevant political boards. Particularly in times of new developments on technological, social, economic, religious, and political levels, it is most important that the specifics of marriage and family be guaranteed and given protection by legislation.

The more that safeguards and guarantees are given to marriage and family by means of national legislation and international charters, the more secure society and civilization will be, and the more living conditions will be a reflection of human dignity.

4. Conclusion and Call for Action

The Kolping Society, in all its various groupings - and on all levels - will stand up for the value and significance of marriage and family for society, the state, and the Church. The Kolping Society will work especially towards establishing, maintaining and developing more humane living conditions for families, and guarantying and safeguarding such living conditions through specific rights for the family.

All Kolping members and other people who want to support these guidelines are asked to whole-heartedly support these objectives on behalf of the family, not only in words but also in deeds.

Resolution of the International Board of Directors of March 15, 1994