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What Would Make Society Fall

Social Scientist Explains World’s Total Dependence on Families

MEXICO CITY, JAN. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There are certain virtues that keep society working, things like honesty and participation — and without families, those virtues would cease to exist.

Doctor Pierpaolo Donati, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, today at the 6th World Meeting of Families, contended that society utterly depends on families for the virtues it needs to continue existing.

The World Meeting of Families, which has brought together some 10,000 people for the pastoral-theological congress, is under way through Sunday in Mexico City.

Donati’s address today considered if the family is a source of social vices or virtues.

He centered his discourse on an analysis of the important role of the family in social well-being and the formation of virtuous citizens.

In the first half of the conference, Donati reviewed the social virtues that depend on the family, such as participation, disinterested relationships, and honesty.

These virtues are themselves a justification of the necessity for social and civil organizations to offer their support to the family, so that families can give society the “additional social value” that can only be developed within them, he contended.

“The family does not have a working substitute for generating social virtues,” Donati emphasized.

More than friends

The social scientist went on to explain his view that familial relationships are different than friendship because they imply a relationship of interdependence (complementarity and reciprocity), which generates specific virtues linked to an unconditional reciprocal belonging.

When a friendship is betrayed, he clarified, it’s legitimate to end it. But given that in the family, the spousal and fraternal bond cannot be cancelled, the people who are in these relationships must more easily come to forgive, at least potentially, which is the social virtue on which peace rests.

“The social value produced together with this by the family cannot be generated outside of families,” he reiterated. “The family produces a unique and irreplaceable social capital.”

“As much as the meaning of the term ‘family’ can vary from one culture to another, universally it is recognized that to ‘make a family’ means to get married and have children,” he said, adding that it is in this unique family environment that the irreplaceable social capital is developed.

“The future of humanity is linked to the factor of the family being recognized as a generator of social virtues,” Donati concluded. “When the opposite happens, it means that our path has turned toward a new barbarism. To avoid barbarism, it is necessary that the corporal virtues of the family are connected with its natural virtues.”

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