The Family and Intermediary Associations

September 5, 2013

Knight and page. Painting by Franz Eduard Meyerheim

Knight and page. Painting by Franz Eduard Meyerheim

Leo XIII speaks of the family as a social matrix when he states that “the family may be regarded as the cradle of civil society, and it is in great measure within the circle of family life that the destiny of the States is fostered.”(1) Hence, we see the spirit of the family mirrored in the associations, guilds, and communities, which in fact came from the family. That is why medieval society gave so much importance to these intermediary bodies—they were extensions of the family.

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At the French Revolution’s National Assembly, one delegate in his rage called for the abolition of guilds and other intermediary societies in favor of the omnipotent State, acknowledging that “the moment one enters a corporation or particular society, one must have it as a family. But the state must retain the monopoly of all affections and all obedience.”(2)

The Lord Mayors Dinner at the Guildhall, 9th November 1828

The Lord Mayors Dinner at the Guildhall, 9th November 1828

These intermediary bodies are not actual families but associations with their proper characteristics and ends. Nevertheless, they are receptive to the temperate spirit of the family, which radiates its benevolent influence outwards in permeating guilds, universities, and other intermediary bodies with loose family-like ties. Even small towns and cities can come to have an extended family-like atmosphere since all become in some way related. Finally, we might say that this same family spirit has such a capacity to absorb and integrate that everyone in a region, even outside elements, eventually shares a common family-like mentality, temperament, and affection. We can say that a person from the South, for example, participates in the great “Southern family” or, to extend the analogy further, in our greater American family.

Shirley Plantation is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and is the oldest family-owned business in North America. Eleven generations have successfully continue to own, operate, and work Virginia's first plantation.

Shirley Plantation is the oldest active plantation in Virginia and is the oldest family-owned business in North America. Eleven generations have successfully continue to own, operate, and work Virginia’s first plantation.

 

(1) Leo XIII, encyclical Sapientiae Christianae (1890) in The Papal Encyclicals, vol. 2, 221, no. 42.

(2) Bernard W. Dempsey, The Functional Economy: The Bases of Economic Organization (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1958), 123. Originally quoted in Social Justice Review (Mar. 1941): 383.

 

John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need To Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 184-5.

 

 

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