Amoris Laetitia Reflection

By Joe Twiner

Pope Francis’s newest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, speaks of the joy of love of the family. It covers a variety of issues ranging from theological understanding of the family and its mission to pastoral issues about divorce and remarriage. One such issue which Pope Francis touches on is education in the family and the Church. In #84-85 Pope Francis says:

84. The Synod Fathers also wished to emphasize that “one of the fundamental challenges facing families today is undoubtedly that of raising children, made all the more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality and the powerful influence of the media”. “The Church assumes a valuable role in supporting families, starting with Christian initiation, through welcoming communities”. At the same time I feel it important to reiterate that the overall education of children is a “most serious duty” and at the same time a “primary right” of parents. This is not just a task or a burden, but an essential and inalienable right that parents are called to defend and of which no one may claim to deprive them. The State offers educational programs in a subsidiary way, supporting the parents in their indeclinable role; parents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind of education – accessible and of good quality – which they wish to give their children in accordance with their convictions. Schools do not replace parents, but complement them. This is a basic principle: “all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization”. Still, “a rift has opened up between the family and society, between family and the school; the educational pact today has been broken and thus the educational alliance between society and the family is in crisis”.

85. The Church is called to cooperate with parents through suitable pastoral initiatives, assisting them in the fulfilment of their educational mission. She must always do this by helping them to appreciate their proper role and to realize that by their reception of the sacrament of marriage they become ministers of their children’s education. In educating them, they build up the Church, and in so doing, they accept a Godgiven vocation.

Pope Francis points to the fact that education is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents. This responsibility is also a right; parents have a right to choose the education of their children, including whether they want to send their children to public or private schools. Schools are not to serve as replacements for the parents, but rather, they are to work in cooperation with parents. This is a call to both schools and parents. Schools should not try to work around parents. Parents are not to rely wholly on schools for their children’s education, but take responsibility that their students are receiving education. Catholic schools serve as Pope Francis says to “build up the Church” particularly when they work in coordination with families.