Prof. Annemie Dillen
Dignity of children
From a Catholic perspective, the dignity of children and young people should be respected and taken as a reference point in political decisions. Catholic teaching is well known for its defense of the unborn children, but the dignity of children and young people and their relation to their parents is often neglected and ought to be a central point. In this regard Familiaris Consortio, no. 26, states that “In the family, which is a community of persons, special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights. This is true for every child, but it becomes all the more urgent the smaller the child is and the more it is in need of everything, when it is sick, suffering or handicapped.”
This means that children are not just commodities and that critical positions can be taken to evolutions where children are ‘misused’ for capitalist or commercial reasons. Moreover, respecting children’s dignity implies taking an unequivocal stance against family violence and corporal punishment of children. The current EU policy on this topic should be continued.
Special attention in Catholic teaching goes to the education of children, which is considered as a task of both women and men. Care for and education of children by their parents is a form of ‘work’ that should be taken seriously. The care can however be shared by others. From the principle of subsidiarity, governments should take measures to support families, but families should also have their own right and sufficient freedom to take decisions concerning family life. Although in most texts in catholic social teaching educational support is mainly expected from schools and advocacy concerns the parental right to choose a (catholic) school, the forms of support can be read in a broader social context. In this regard, European policy that advocates for more possibilities for childcare, also in order to enable men and women to combine work and family life, should be more elaborated.
Prof. Dr. Annemie Dillen
Associate Professor Practical Theology,
Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies,
KU Leuven, Belgium
"In the family, which is a community of persons, special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights". Pope John Paul II (Familiaris consortio, 26)
"The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed. The State and the Church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly". Pope John Paul II (Familiaris consortio, 40)