CHARTER OF THE RIGHTS OF THE FAMILY
Presented by the Holy See to all
persons, institutions and authorities concerned with the mission of the family
in today's world October 22, 1983
The rights of the person, even though they are expressed as rights of the
individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital
expression in the family;
B. the family is based on
marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a
woman which is constituted in the freely contracted and publicly expressed
indissoluble bond of matrimony and is open to the transmission of life;
C. marriage is the natural
institution to which the mission of transmitting life is exclusively entrusted;
D. the family, a natural society,
exists prior to the State or any other community, and possesses inherent rights
which are inalienable;
E. the family constitutes, much
more than a mere juridical, social and economic unit, a community of love and
solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical,
social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and
well-being of its own members and of society.
F. the family is the place where
different generations come together and help one another to grow in human wisdom
and to harmonize the rights of individuals with other demands of social life;
G. the family and society, which
are mutually linked by vital and organic bonds, have a complementary function in
the defense and advancement of the good of every person and of humanity;
H. the experience of different
cultures throughout history has shown the need for society to recognize and
defend the institution of the family;
I. society, and in a particular
manner the State and International Organizations, must protect the family
through measures of a political, economic, social and juridical character, which
aim at consolidating the unity and stability of the family so that it can
exercise its specific function;
J. the rights, the fundamental
needs, the well-being and the values of the family, even though they are
progressively safeguarded in some cases, are often ignored and not rarely
undermined by laws, institutions and socio-economic programs;
K. many families are forced to
live in situations of poverty which prevent them from carrying out their role
L. the Catholic Church, aware
that the good of the person, of society and of the Church herself passes by way
of the family, has always held it part of her mission to proclaim to all the
plan of God instilled in human nature concerning marriage and the family, to
promote these two institutions and to defend them against all those who attack
M. the Synod of Bishops
celebrated in 1980 explicitly recommended that a Charter of the Rights of the
Family be drawn up and circulated to all concerned;
the Holy See, having consulted
the Bishops' Conferences, now presents this "Charter of the Rights of the
Family" and urges all States, International Organizations, and all
interested Institutions and persons to promote respect for these rights, and to
secure their effective recognition and observance.
All persons have the right to the
free choice of their state of life and thus to marry and establish a family or
to remain single.
a) Every man and every woman,
having reached marriageable age and having the necessary capacity, has the right
to marry and establish a family without any discrimination whatsoever; legal
restrictions to the exercise of this right, whether they be of a permanent or
temporary nature, can be introduced only when they are required by grave and
objective demands of the institution of marriage itself and its social and
public significance; they must respect in all cases the dignity and the
fundamental rights of the person.
b) Those who wish to marry and
establish a family have the right to expect from society the moral, educational,
social and economic conditions which will enable them to exercise their right to
marry in all maturity and responsibility.
c) The institutional value of
marriage should be upheld by the public authorities; the situation of
non-married couples must not be placed on the same level as marriage duly
2 Marriage cannot be contracted
except by free and full consent duly expressed by the spouses.
a) With due respect for the
traditional role of the families in certain cultures in guiding the decision of
their children, all pressure which would impede the choice of a specific person
as spouse is to be avoided.
b) The future spouses have the
right to their religious liberty. Therefore to impose as a prior condition for
marriage a denial of faith or a profession of faith which is contrary to
conscience, constitutes a violation of this right.
c) The spouses, in the natural
complementarity which exists between man and woman, enjoy the same dignity and
equal rights regarding the marriage.
The spouses have the inalienable
right to found a family and to decide on the spacing of births and the number of
children to be born, taking into full consideration their duties towards
themselves, their children already born, the family and society, in a just
hierarchy of values and in accordance with the objective moral order which
excludes recourse to contraception, sterilization and abortion.
a) The activities of public
authorities and private organizations which attempt in any way to limit the
freedom of couples in deciding about their children constitute a grave offense
against human dignity and justice.
b) In international relations,
economic aid for the advancement of peoples must not be conditioned on
acceptance of programs of contraception, sterilization or abortion.
c) The family has a right to
assistance by society in the bearing and rearing of children. Those married
couples who have a large family have a right to adequate aid and should not be
subjected to discrimination.
Human life must be respected and
protected absolutely from the moment of conception.
a) Abortion is a direct violation
of the fundamental right to life of the human being.
b) Respect of the dignity of the
human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human
c) All interventions on the
genetic heritage of the human person that are not aimed at correcting anomalies
constitute a violation of the right to bodily integrity and contradict the good
of the family.
d) Children, both before and
after birth, have the right to special protection and assistance, as do their
mothers during pregnancy and for a reasonable period of time after childbirth.
e) All children, whether born in
or out of wedlock, enjoy the same right to social protection, with a view to
their integral personal development.
f) Orphans or children who are
deprived of the assistance of their parents or guardians must receive particular
protection on the part of society. The State, with regard to foster-care or
adoption, must provide legislation which assists suitable families to welcome
into their homes children who are in need of permanent or temporary care. This
legislation must, at the same time, respect the natural rights of the parents.
g) Children who are handicapped
have the right to find in the home and the school an environment suitable to
their human development.
Since they have conferred life on
their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to
educate them; hence they must be acknowledged as the first and foremost
educators of their children.
a) Parents have the right to
educate their children in conformity with their moral and religious convictions,
taking into account the cultural traditions of the family which favor the good
and the dignity of the child; they should also receive from society the
necessary aid and assistance to perform their educational role properly.
b) Parents have the right to
freely choose schools or other means necessary to educate their children in
keeping with their convictions. Public authorities must ensure that public
subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right
without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly
or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of
c) Parents have the right to
ensure that their children are not compelled to attend classes which are not in
agreement with their own moral and religious convictions. In particular, sex
education is a basic right of the parents and must always be carried out under
their close supervision, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and
controlled by them.
d) The rights of parents are
violated when a compulsory system of education is imposed by the State from
which all religious formation is excluded.
e) The primary right of parents
to educate their children must be upheld in all forms of collaboration between
parents, teachers and school authorities, and particularly in forms of
participation designed to give citizens a voice in the functioning of schools
and in the formulation and implementation of educational policies.
f) The family has the right to
expect that the means of social communication will be positive instruments for
the building up of society, and will reinforce the fundamental values of the
family. At the same time the family has the right to be adequately protected,
especially with regard to its youngest members, from the negative effects and
misuse of the mass media.
The family has the right to exist
and to progress as a family.
a) Public authorities must
respect and foster the dignity, lawful independence, privacy, integrity and
stability of every family.
b) Divorce attacks the very
institution of marriage and of the family.
c) The extended family system,
where it exists, should be held in esteem and helped to carry out better its
traditional role of solidarity and mutual assistance, while at the same time
respecting the rights of the nuclear family and the personal dignity of each
Every family has the right to
live freely its own domestic religious life under the guidance of the parents,
as well as the right to profess publicly and to propagate the faith, to take
part in public worship and in freely chosen programs of religious instruction,
without suffering discrimination.
The family has the right to
exercise its social and political function in the construction of society.
a) Families have the right to
form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfill the
family's role suitably and effectively, as well as to protect the rights, foster
the good and represent the interests of the family.
b) On the economic, social,
juridical and cultural levels, the rightful role of families and family
associations must be recognized in the planning and development of programs
which touch on family life.
Families have the right to be
able to rely on an adequate family policy on the part of public authorities in
the juridical, economic, social and fiscal domains, without any discrimination
a) Families have the right to
economic conditions which assure them a standard of living appropriate to their
dignity and full development. They should not be impeded from acquiring and
maintaining private possessions which would favor stable family life; the laws
concerning inheritance or transmission of property must respect the needs and
rights of family members.
b) Families have the right to
measures in the social domain which take into account their needs, especially in
the event of the premature death of one or both parents, of the abandonment of
one of the spouses, of accident, or sickness or invalidity, in the case of
unemployment, or whenever the family has to bear extra burdens on behalf of its
members for reasons of old age, physical or mental handicaps or the education of
c) The elderly have the right to
find within their own family or, when this is not possible, in suitable
institutions, an environment which will enable them to live their later years of
life in serenity while pursuing those activities which are compatible with their
age and which enable them to participate in social life.
d) The rights and necessities of
the family, and especially the value of family unity, must be taken into
consideration in penal legislation and policy, in such a way that a detainee
remains in contact with his or her family and that the family is adequately
sustained during the period of detention.
Families have a right to a social
and economic order in which the organization of work permits the members to live
together, and does not hinder the unity, well-being, health and the stability of
the family, while offering also the possibility of wholesome recreation.
a) Remuneration for work must be
sufficient for establishing and maintaining a family with dignity, either
through a suitable salary, called a "family wage," or through other
social measures such as family allowances or the remuneration of the work in the
home of one of the parents; it should be such that mothers will not be obliged
to work outside the home to the detriment of family life and especially of the
education of the children.
b) The work of the mother in the
home must be recognized and respected because of its value for the family and
The family has the right to
decent housing, fitting for family life and commensurate to the number of the
members, in a physical environment that provides the basic services for the life
of the family and the community.
The families of migrants have the
right to the same protection as that accorded other families.
a) The families of immigrants
have the right to respect for their own culture and to receive support and
assistance towards their integration into the community to which they contribute.
b) Emigrant workers have the
right to see their family united as soon as possible.
c) Refugees have the right to the
assistance of public authorities and International Organizations in facilitating
the reunion of their families.
Familiaris consortio, no. 46.