Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

1/16/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

The family is the foundation of a truly free, just and healthy society

In the economy of the family, profit is of no motive, and there is no such thing as Pareto efficiency; rather, love is at the heart of it all.  And love does not think in terms of efficiency or net margins.  "To love means to give and to receive something which can neither be bought nor sold, but only given freely and mutually." (Compendium, No. 221)  Indeed, love is profligate, wasteful, heedless of efficiency and gain.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

1/16/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: marriage, family, Pro-Family, Family politics, Pope benedict XVI, Social Justice, Compendium, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The word economy comes to us from the Greek word oikonomia, which literally means law of the house or law of the hearth.  There is indeed an oikonomia, a law of the hearth, a law of the family, and that law is a law of love.  The means of exchange in the family economy is not one measured in specie or in utility, but one measured in communion.

In the family "business," investments are made not in manufacturing plants or in fixed assets, but in persons.  "The family is present as a place where communion . . . is brought about.  It is the place where an authentic community of persons develops and grows thanks to the dynamism of love." (Compendium, No. 221)

In the economy of the family, profit is of no motive, and there is no such thing as Pareto efficiency; rather, love is at the heart of it all.  And love does not think in terms of efficiency or net margins.  "To love means to give and to receive something which can neither be bought nor sold, but only given freely and mutually." (Compendium, No. 221)  Indeed, love is profligate, wasteful, heedless of efficiency and gain.

In the family economy, men and women are not exploited in self-interest, sharp practice, or fraud.  No.  The relationship is one as distant from mutual exploitation as can be possible, for the dignity of the other is what is at the heart of all labor and effort.  It is in marriage and family that the person "is recognized, accepted, and respected in his dignity."  The "only basis for value" in this family economy is the dignity of the other, and this results in "heartfelt acceptance, encounter, and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service, and deep solidarity." (Compendium, No. 221) 

These are the goods that are traded in the family economy.  These are the goods that sets this economy apart from the greater economy.

What a contradiction is the economy of the family from the economy on Wall Street or even Main Street!  Indeed, the "existence of families living this way exposes the failings and contradictions of society that is for the most part, even if not exclusively, based on efficiency and functionality." (Compendium, No. 221)

The family thrives on this reversal of values, and that is why the law of the jungle that seems to govern businessmen will cast away those things that are most treasured in the law of the hearth: The young--who are treasured for their promise and their innocence--and the elderly--who are treasured for their prior contributions and their current wisdom.  But the innocence of children never fails to show us where we are jaundiced, cynical, where we have lost that sense of wonder.  And the usufruct of the old never declines. The elderly in particular have something to teach us, for "they show that there are aspects of life--human, cultural, moral, and social values--which cannot be judged in terms of economic efficiency . . . ." (Compendium, No. 222)

At the foundation of the family is a contract.  But this is no ordinary contract, one based on the consideration or peppercorn.  And it is a contract without any condition, without any escape clause.  It is a contract more properly called a covenant, where force majeure based upon fickle feelings is unknown, and where the only "act of God" clause is this: "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)

In the world at large, unions are measured in terms of convenience, not of permanency.  And while it may be acceptable for the consumer to shift loyalties from Kellogg's Frosted Flakes to General Mill's Cheerios, or from the Blackberry to the iPhone, such fickleness is not part of marriage and family life.  In the family, loyalties outlast even death.

The stability and indissolubility of the marriage union must not be entrusted solely to the intention and effort of the individual persons involved, but is also the responsibility of the whole of society.  The introduction of divorce into civil legislation violates this principle, and such laws have fueled a relativistic vision of the marriage bond which "truly [is] a plague on society." (Compendium, No. 225) (quoting CCC § 2385)

Marriage is a natural institution between two persons, a man and a woman, but it is also a social institution since it has "a social dimension that is unique . . . attending as it does to caring for and educating children," with the aim of having them both self-integrated and integrated into social life.  That is one reason, among others, that the law ought not to legitimize forms of relationships that are nothing but ersatz marriages or relationships that ape--even mock--marriage.  A marriage that does not have the four "marks" as we discussed in our last article, is in fact an anti-marriage.

The fact is that there will never be anything close to approaching a just society as long as our laws do not recognize the characteristic and fundamental traits of marriage, the four "marks" of marriage: a relationship between one man and one woman that is marked by unity, indissolubility and fidelity, and fruitfulness.  Our society must reject other false models of marriage.  Similarly, it must promote the unique oikonomia of the family.

It is therefore necessary that public authorities "resist these tendencies which divide society and are harmful to the dignity, security, and welfare of the citizens as individuals, and they must try to ensure that public opinion is not led to undervalue the institutional importance of marriage and the family." (Compendium, No. 229) 

Clearly, positive law alone will not cure the social ills we suffer from as a result of false concepts of marriage and family.  Positive law is a slim reed, and is a poor tool to hold social corruption in check.  It is a horribly blunt social instrument.  The cure for our social disease will require the concerted action of the entirety of civil society.  It will require a change of hearts, something the law cannot supply, though it can support.  At the forefront of this effort to change hearts and to change laws ought to be the Catholic witness.

"It is the task of the Christian community and of all who have the good of society at heart to reaffirm that 'the family constitutes much more than a mere juridical, social, and economic unity, [but that it is] a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual, and religious values essential for the development and well-being of its members and of society.'" (Compendium, No. 229)

We have our marching orders.  Let us get to marching.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Living Faith

3 Biblical ways to achieve small victories in our Walk with God Watch

Image of Walk with God.


Life struggles are inevitable but to look at them more than just a bump in the road is like putting rocks in your backpack before a hike. God doesn't want that - our journey to Him is meant to shape us in a way He planned for us. Little by little, we achieve victories ... continue reading

Families 'free us from the sea of loneliness and indifference,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of After recently concluding a series of catechesis on the family as a lead-in to this year's synod gathering, Pope Francis explained that he would start a new catechesis on the

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Family rescues us from indifference and loneliness and teaches us the essentials of life, Pope Francis said - adding that as the family of God, the Church has the same role and must evaluate how to live this out. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "Like Saint ... continue reading

Respecting life the Gospel way Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

For the sake of our salvation, we need to pay serious attention, and act with purpose, to what Jesus teaches here in Matthew's Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will ... continue reading

Young girl blessed by Pope Francis during visit to U.S. believes the 'miracle has begun' Watch

Image of Julia Bruzzese was blessed by Pope Francis.


12-year-old Julia Bruzzese, who has been experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, suffered from sudden paralysis that doctors are still unable to explain. However, following a blessing from Pope Francis, the young girl seems to be healing. NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) ... continue reading

'God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone,' Pope Francis says of marriage Watch

Image of Pope Francis' comments were made during his Oct. 4 Mass marking the official opening of this year's Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis formally opened the synod of bishops Sunday, telling participants that the union between a man and woman is the foundation of God's plan for the family, and a solution to the many forms of loneliness in today's world. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading

FULL TEXT: Family synod prayer vigil, Pope Francis's full address Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Presiding over a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis led the beginning of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, at the Vatican. Drawing tens of thousands of the faithful, many were present in the Square since the afternoon for a ... continue reading

Vatican issues statement in regards to monsignor's declaration of homosexuality Watch

Image of


The director of the Holy See press office has issued a statement in response to Vatican official Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa's declaration in a recent interview that he is homosexual and has a boyfriend. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Msgr. Charamsa, 43, granted a ... continue reading

Guardian Angels are always by our sides, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Pope Francis explained that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God could have left them to fend for themselves. Instead, as an act of love and mercy, the Lord sent with them an angel to guide and protect them.


Each of us has a Guardian Angel who, acting on behalf of God, advises us and protects us from evil, if we only listen to him, Pope Francis said during his homily at Mass on Friday. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "May we ask the Lord for the grace of this ... continue reading

Top 5 Bible verses to turn to when you're angry Watch

Image of What does the Bible have to say about anger?

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What makes you angry? Maybe you don't like the way your boss talks to you at work or your spouse spends too much money. What do you do when you feel anger coming on? Who do you turn to? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When we get angry we can say or do things we ... continue reading

Megachurch Pastor's new book tells people to 'get over themselves' Watch

Image of Pastor Kyle Idleman (YouTube).


Megachurch Pastor Kyle Idleman claims that to live life, "everyone simply needs to get over themselves" to truly "experience abundant life with Jesus," a theory he promotes in his new book The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins. LOS ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Malachi 3:13-20
13 'You have said harsh things about me, says Yahweh. ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:5-13
5 He also said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 8th, 2015 Image

St. Pelagia
October 8: Pelagia, more often called Margaret, on account of the ... Read More