“EVERY FAMILY MATTERS” as a theme does not only apply when it comes to relationships but applies in all areas of life.  For the month of March our focus is on FAMILY RIGHTS.  Most often when we think of rights we think of a person and individual rights, which is necessary and correct but excludes an important aspect, a family as a unit.

In many Charters of Rights the term “everyone” is used and it tends to mean each person.   The Church’s Charter of Family Rights recognizes this and begins by stating that rights also have a social dimension. Family rights include couple rights, to be able to live as a couple, be housed, have work that can support them, services for them as a couple and for them with children or an extended family.  Different configurations of people e.g. families of single parents with children and other forms similarly have rights as units.  The SA White Paper recognizes this and stresses that as the basic unit of society the family unit expects the support of the state and society as a whole. It all seems so simple and yet it does not happen.  Society’s focus is mostly on the needs of women, of children, of fathers sometimes, even of persons with disabilities. Education too is given priority over family units. Combating domestic violence is could be viewed from the perspective of the whole family.

An interesting paper from the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO) just released speaks of the possibility of instituting a Basic Income Grant (BIG) as a vehicle for poverty alleviation.   The Briefing Paper does not go into what the amount would be and whether every family member would be entitled to the same amount or how it would be dealt with in families.  How sad it would be if everyone were to claim their own grant purely for themselves.  Most likely mothers would end up having to cover the communal costs.

At this time when we are preparing for the upcoming election family unity and diversity are issues to be faced. Everyone is entitled to vote for their party of choice.  Our bishops have provided a helpful list of questions to ask oneself and discuss together before making a choice.   Download the SACBC pastoral letter and prayer from

Practical issues should be taken into consideration too when it comes to services to be provided by government to honour people’s rights. Take the fundamental right to water. We are a water-scarce country and the situation is getting worse by the year.  Urbanisation and climate change have put enormous pressure on the service providers at all levels. A right exists for clean, healthy, drinkable water to be piped into one’s home. Is this a pipe dream?   Who is responsible? Someone at every level of government from national – to plan the infrastructure such as dams – to provincial and local government share responsibility  for bringing water to the people and for the maintenance and construction of pipes and reservoirs. And so on.

While many needs in all aspects of life have to be addressed by government we as families ourselves have a role to play with all the services. Our role includes delivery as well as accountability.

Catholic Social Teaching promotes concepts of solidarity and subsidiarity that can be applied at any level.   Solidarity is very much a family matter and is no doubt best learned at home.  We each take responsibility for managing and not wasting our scarce water resources.  In Cape Town during the times of drought 50 litres of water only per person daily were allowed. Obviously families had to work together for communal use of washing clothes and dishes while each had their own personal allowance. Jason could not just use all his allowance for a nice shower after a hot working day. Children could shower or bath together.  Bath water could be recycled by using it to flush the toilet or water a vegetable patch. Don’t let taps run unnecessarily and stop drips.  For those using communal taps there is often a lot of wastage.  Many plans were hatched during the water crisis in the Cape and no doubt some caused conflict while others created that sense of solidarity.

Subsidiarity, a good family management tool, can apply when someone with less power and influence is given or takes responsibility for a situation.  What do you do when you see someone hosing down their driveway in the middle of the day?  Say that is not my problem, the police must come, or can one stop and tell them – in the nicest possible way – that this is not permitted while there are water restrictions. Would that start a neighbourhood feud or should that be considered as taking one’s rightful responsibility?

If water rights are not addressed or not attainable what action should be taken?  We have a vote, we have the right to protest (non-violently). We can lobby authorities and raise awareness using social media.  We can band together to help out as has been done so often in the past.   A village or parish is no more than a community of families. Or should be!

Looking at life with family eyes, taking mutual or combined responsibility helps to build up a family and a community.   Working for the common good is an excellent Lenten Activity. Discussing, sharing and praying about such matters is even better, in fact is family catechesis at its best.    TR FAMILY WEEKLY 20 MARCH

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