Scott Hahn in his book “First Comes Love” cites the monumental work of Harvard University Professor, Carle C. Zimmerman’s entitled “Family and Civilization” which citation, I paraphrase in this article. Zimmerman studied families in different societies throughout history. He classified families in these societies into three categories: the trustee family, the domestic family, and the atomistic family.
The trustee family includes the ancestors, the present living family members, and progeny, yet to be born, as members of the family. This type of family is called “trustee family” because the living members are the trustees of all that belongs to the family: its values, its religious beliefs, its rights, its blood, its name, and its property. The duty of the present members is to preserve, protect, and pass on to future generations all that they consider as properly belonging to the family. The trustee family sees itself in religious terms, and considers itself united by a sacred bond to its ancestors as well as to its future descendants who will perpetuate the family name, honor, and worship. The trustee family considers children to be a divine blessing; a father is treated with great respect as a patriarch who serves the ancestors as well as the offspring. In the trustee family sexual immorality is considered a crime. Marriage is a covenant.
The domestic family limits its members to the living, the children of a father and a mother united as husband and wife by a marital bond. The family members have individual rights, but also family duties. Children are considered as indispensable economic agents. The father is seen as the chief executive of the family. Sexual immorality is considered an individual sin, and the marriage bond is a contract.
The atomistic family emphasizes individual rights above family duties. The offspring consider the household as a place from which to escape. Children are considered a liability and an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The father is viewed as a pathetic figure that must be left behind, in order for an individual to grow. Sexual immorality is considered a private matter, an alternative life style. A society in which the atomistic family model predominates has a high rated of divorce, negative population growth, and pervasive sexual immorality. Marriage is seen as a convenient means of companionship.
The most significant finding of Zimmerman’s studies is that societies that embrace the trustee family model are societies that rise to the level of civilizations. Whereas societies based on the atomistic family model are societies on the verge of ultimate decline.
No civilization is eternal. Over time the concept of family degenerates from the trustee family model to the atomistic family model before the total collapse of that civilization.
The alarming note of Zimmerman’s research is that in our country, the atomistic model of family is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Our elected officials should be protecting the integrity and common good of families, but instead one of our major political parties proposes government funding for contraception, abortion, and sterilization. It supports measures that are destructive to families.
It is also very interesting to note that the Church resembles the trustee family model. It is one Church consisting of three parts, the Church triumphant (the saints in heaven), the Church suffering (the souls in purgatory), and the Church Militant (the living members on earth and those members yet to be born). We, the living members of the Church, are the trustees of the Scriptures, the Sacraments, the doctrines, the Liturgy, and the wealth of spirituality in the living tradition of the Church since the time of the apostles. These will be passed on to future generations in their pristine form without any adulteration. Future generations will be the beneficiaries of all the spiritual treasures that the Church possesses.
The Church considers marriage a Holy Sacrament and children a divine blessing from the moment of conception. It joyfully awaits them at the Baptismal font, recalling the words of Jesus, “Let the children come to me for of such is the kingdom of God.” There they will experience their second birth and become full members of the Church, the Eternal Family of God.
Read more by Deacon Antonio here
Antonio is a retired deacon in the Archdiocese of Denver. Last September his wife, Maud, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. They were told that she didn’t have long to live. Since she is 83 years old, they decided to refuse the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Last October they were sent to Hospice. They have now been there for 8 months. Antonio’s wife is not experiencing the symptoms of multiple myeloma other than the fact that she cannot move and has to stay in bed all the time. She is also in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. You prayers will be appreciated. Antonio spends the entire day with his wife.