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
A. 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
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
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 with dignity;
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 them;
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 contracted. Article
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
which attempt in any way to limit the freedom of couples in deciding
about their children constitute a grave offense against human dignity
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
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 embryo.
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
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
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
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
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 this freedom.
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
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
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
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 whatsoever.
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 children.
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
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 for society.
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.
novarum", no. 9; "Gaudium et spes", no. 24.
B. "Pacem in
terris", Part 1; "Gaudium et spes", nos. 48 and 50;
"Familiaris consortio", no. 19; "Codex Iuris Canonici",
C. "Gaudium et
spes", no. 50; "Humanae vitae", no. 12; "Familiaris consortio", no. 28.
novarum", nos. 9 and 10; "Familiaris consortio", no. 45.
consortio", no. 43.
F. "Gaudium et
spes", no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", no. 21.
G. "Gaudium et
spes", no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 42 and 45.
consortio", no. 45.
consortio", nos. 46.
consortio", nos. 6 and 77.
consortio", nos. 3 and 46.
consortio", no. 46.
novarum", no. 9; "Pacem in terris", Part 1; "Gaudium et spes", no. 26; "Universal
Declaration of Human Rights", no. 16,
a) "Codes Iuris
Canonici", nos. 1058 and 1077; "Universal Declaration", no. 16, 1.
b) "Gaudium et
spes", no. 52, "Familiaris consortio", no. 81.
c) "Gaudium et
spes", no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 81 and 82.
spes", no. 52; "Codex Iuris Canonici", no. 1057; "Universal Declaration", nos. 16, 2.
a) "Gaudium et
spes", no. 52.
humanae", no. 6.
c) "Gaudium et
spes", no. 49; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 19 and 22; "Codex Iuris Canonici", no. 1135; "Universal
Declaration", no. 16, 1.
progressio", no. 37; Gaudium et spes, nos. 50 and 87; Humanae vitae, no. 10; Familiaris consortio, nos. 30 and 46.
consortio, no. 30.
consortio, no. 30.
c) Gaudium et spes,
Gaudium et spes, no.
51; Familiaris consortio, no. 26.
a) Humanae vitae,
no. 14; Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, November 18, 1974;
Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
b) Pope John Paul
II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 23, 1982.
Declaration, no. 25, 2; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Preamble and no. 4.
Declaration, no. 25, 2.
consortio, no. 41.
consortio, no. 77.
Magistri, nos. 27-34; Gravissimum educationis, no. 3; Familiaris consortio, no. 36; Codex Iuris Canonici, nos. 793 and
consortio, no. 46.
educationis, no. 7; Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Pope John Paul II, Religious Freedom and the Helsinki Final Act
(Letter to the Heads of State of the nations which signed the Helsinki Final Act), 4b; Familiaris consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris
Canonici, no. 797.
humanae, no. 5; Familiaris consortio, nos. 37 and 40.
humanae, no. 5; Familiaris consortio, no. 40.
consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris Canonici, no. 796.
f) Pope Paul VI,
Message for the Third World Communications Day, 1969; Familiaris consortio, no. 76.
consortio, no. 46.
a) Rerum novarum,
no. 10; Familiaris consortio, no. 46; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no. 17.
b) Gaudium et spes, nos. 48 and 50.
no. 5; Religious Freedom and the Helsinki Final Act, 4b; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
consortio, nos. 44 and 48.
a) Apostolicam actuositatem, no. 11; Familiaris
consortio, nos. 46 and 72.
consortio, nos. 44 and 45.
nos. 10 and 19; Familiaris consortio, no. 45; Universal Declaration, nos. 16, 3 and 22; International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos. 10, 1.
a) Mater et
magistra, Part II; Laborem exercens, no. 10; Familiaris consortio, no. 45; Universal Declaration, nos. 22 and 25;
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 7, a, ii.
consortio, nos. 45 and 46;
Universal Declaration, no. 25, 1; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, nos. 9, 10, 1 and 10, 2.
c) Gaudium et spes,
no. 52; Familiaris consortio, no. 27.
no. 19; Familiaris consortio, no. 77; Universal Declaration, no. 23, 3.
a) Laborem exercens,
no. 19; Familiaris consortio, nos. 23 and 81.
consortio, no. 23.
actuositatem, no. 8; Familiaris consortio, no. 81; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos.
consortio, no. 77; European Social Charter, 19.