The Question of Progress and Families

Our society is becoming more individualistic. As Hahn and McGinley quote in their book, It is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion,

“Liberalism puts the rights and liberties of the individual at the center of the constellation of political values, displacing communal duties and pursuit of the common good. Liberalism therefore conceives of society not as an organic whole with various goods that are proper to that whole, but as a collection of autonomous individuals pursing their own goods.” (It is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing. 2020. 76-77, quote originally published in Hahn, The First Society, xviiin1.)

Of course, not all of society is following the path of Liberalism but there is a strong emphasis on individual freedom in the name of “progress.” What is progress? Hanley and McGinley write,

“The theorists of the newly minted “progressivism” were vague about what exactly we should be progressing toward – the unleashing of the potential of human personality, or something like that – but they were unshakable in their conviction that “progress” was both a moral requirement and, as long as we don’t get in our own way, the natural evolution of human communities” (126).

I’ll put it this way, how can it be progress if we do not know what we are progressing towards? Is not progress measured by knowing that we are coming closer to a goal? My goal is to do the will of God and to spend eternity with God in his heavenly kingdom. With this in mind, “The engine of true progress is not the political and economic regime but the covenant oath, and its fuel is not human ingenuity but divine grace” (Hahn and McGinley, 127).

We are not just a bunch of individuals partnering together only when we see an advantage for our individual self. We are part of the Body of Christ. We need to work together to do the will of God. As part of one human body, the foot counts on the hand to do its part (Hahn and McGinley, 128. 1 Corinthians 12). We form basic social structures to enable us to work together. The most basic of our social structures is the family.

Chapter 13 of Hahn’s and McGinley’s book, It is Right and Just is centered on the family. Early in the chapter they write, “In other words, the whole idea of “family” is falling into meaninglessness. If any household arrangement can be a family, then nothing is a family” (149-150).

We should ask ourselves what does God intend “family” to be. We find the answer in the Holy Family. God called Joseph to be the human adopted father of Jesus because the family is to be a father, mother, and children. Hahn and McGinley see a “Trinitarian element” in the family with father, mother, and children (151). We seek to model the unity found in the Trinity.

Family is more than the sum of its parts, meaning family is more than just the individual members of the family cooperating to get what they want. As a domestic church, family works towards a greater good.

To achieve this, grace is needed. We see this grace, in part, in the Sacrament of Marriage (see Hahn and McGinley, 154-155 where they identify marriage as the “first society”).

Family faces its challenges today. For example, as children become adults, they often move to other places, separated geographically from the support of their families. Yet, we are still called to work together for the common good, the common good that “includes both the good of the community as a whole and the good of each member” (Hahn and McGinley, 156).

Family is meant to be the place “where we first practice and come to appreciate the common good.” If a family sees itself only as a collection of individuals, each with their own goals, the common good becomes lost. Likewise, “It is through practicing the virtue of religion as a family – not as individuals who happen to share a name and a home – that this love of God is nurtured, allowing the family to play its essential role in God’s order” (Hahn and McGinley, 157).

Why should society care about the “family”? I hope what I have already said helps answer this question (for more on this see Hahn and McGinley, 158-159). Unfortunately, there are elements of society who want to take away the parents right to teach their children as they see fit.

These elements of society speak of tolerance (see “Tolerance, Hate Speech, and Dialogue”) but they want to control what children are taught. They find fault with parents who teach from the Bible what is immoral behavior.

Families are important. I know families are not perfect. My own parents divorced when I was a child. This does not change what we are to strive for in family life. We need families for our own good. Society needs faithful families and, as Hahn and McGinley write, “families need the support of a faithful society” (160).

Let us end by seeking the intercession of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, to help us be the families that Christ calls us to.


Fr. Jeff

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