‘The Family is Prior to the State’

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An interesting contribution to the immigration debate from the archbishop of Denver:

The moral theologian Johannes Messner wrote in 1958 that “the family is prior to the state. It holds natural rights which the state is bound to recognize.” In fact, Messner says that the “prominent task of the state” is “to make it possible for families to fulfill their natural function.”

Libertarians will likely object to some of the details of these assertions, but the central message (albeit marred by much statism in the article overall) is that the state exists to provide peace and then get out of the way of private society, namely, families. In this case, Abp. Aquila is referring to how national borders are used by states to wreck families and the free movement of people.

This position on the family has of course long been Christian doctrine: The primary corporate unit in society is family, and certainly not the state. Nature itself asserts this, since human family units pre-date the state by about, oh, at least 200,000 years. And even today, many people in the world, such as Indians in remote locations of South America, or bedouins in Africa and Asia, have essentially no need of a state at all. There is nothing “natural” about the state. Ancient Israel was primarily a society of extended family units. There was no “state” as we think of it today, at all.

The state hates families, since someone who has allegiance to his family does not have total allegiance to the state. This hatred is seen not only in the administration of the imaginary lines known as national borders, but also in the drug wars, the regular wars, welfare policy, and much much more.

8:47 am on April 16, 2013