With Part One and Part Two completed, we can focus our attention on the true meaning of education as the natural end of the family. Once the essential characteristics of a genuinely human education have been explored, we will be in a good position to evaluate the current educational trends and the use of educational institutions in our society.
III. THE MEANING OF EDUCATION
At this stage in the discussion, education is now placed firmly in the context of the family. As was pointed out previously, it is the education of the children which provides the basis in nature for the existence of matrimony. Education is the right and responsibility of the parents of the child, and it is the goal toward which all common work and resources among the spouses ought to be directed. We must now turn to the question of the specific nature of this education in order to understand more fully the crowning goal of matrimony.
A. Distinctively Human Education
First, the kind of education which is the primary end of matrimony must be a truly human education. That is, it must be aimed at the possession of all that human maturity and perfection implies. Hence, education can only be rightly carried out if it is inspired by a deep understanding of the nature of man and his highest end. The perfection at which education is most properly aimed must be the perfection most benefiting man precisely as man. Education must not take as its primary goal to equip a child with tools he needs to attain the kinds of goods he shares with other, lower creatures. These include the things toward which other living creatures are directed as much as man is, namely, bodily survival and the goods necessary for that end, finding a mate, and the pleasure that attends all sensual goods. Although all of these things are real goods for man, they are not the kinds of goods which are distinctly and specifically human goods. This is because man is not distinctly and specifically a mere animal. He is a rational animal. Thus the perfections most proper to man must also be rational perfections. The goods of the mind and the heart, the intellectual and moral virtues, are the kinds of perfection aimed at by a distinctively human education.
What this means is that vocational training, while good in its own way and even necessary, is not the essence of education as the primary good of matrimony. Surely, it has its place, since man is not simply “other” than the animals. He is rather animal and more, containing all the potency of animal life raised and enlightened in the spiritual powers of intellect and will. But the place occupied by vocational training must be subordinate to the kind of education with which we are here concerned. That is to say, the trades and arts learned must always themselves be ordered by and to the virtues, both intellectual and moral. Not only will this end up producing people with the kind of general practical competency so much lacking in today’s youth, so that the pupil will be prepared to succeed in whatever path seems best, but it will more importantly equip him to actually discern which path is truly best. More importantly, what is best not only for his material success, but for the perfection of his soul.
What follows is that the role of parents is to form their children not just to the point where they can make it on their own in the world by material success, but even to the much loftier goal of the eventual perfection of their children in virtue. This, as was stated in Part Two, is the basis for the life-long bond between the spouses. For such a goal seems practically impossible to finally attain, and it is especially not attained by the time a child reaches bodily maturity. The maturity of the spiritual soul, as all reflective people know well, is something which continues even long after bodily maturity has been attained. The soul continues to mature even as the body fails in old-age. Yet, as the true goal of education, it remains even then the ultimate duty of the parents to continue to direct and guide their children in the way of virtue. Further, it is fundamental to the formation of the children in virtue that the parents themselves always model the virtues for as long as their children are alive. Practically speaking, it is at least extremely rare that divorce is not preceded (and then succeeded again) by other acts contrary to virtue. Thus it appears that divorce is a sin against the primary good of matrimony, that is, the education of the children. A truly human education, therefore, is one which is aimed at the mastery of mind and heart and that is carried out principally and through natural right by the parents themselves, bound together in a lifelong communion for the sake of this goal.
B. The Aim of Modern Education
It should not take much in the way of argument to discern that typically modern education fundamentally contradicts both of these general characteristics of education. How the modern method of education contradicts the second of these characteristics, the natural right of the parents to educate, will be made clear below in the context of the part schools might play in education. Here, let us address the first characteristic, which is the focus upon the mastery of mind and heart. What is aimed at in modern education instead is a basic possession of facts and understanding considered necessary to “make it in the world.” The order of goods has been exactly reversed--the goods of material success now order the goods of the mind and heart. The attainment of truth, goodness, and beauty, are now themselves subordinate to the attainment of the all important “good job.”
It must be made clear to prevent misunderstanding that a good job is a very good and necessary thing to have. But when a good job replaces virtue as the highest good of education, it cannot be denied that what we have done is replaced a distinctively human education with one which could only be called “animalistic,” which consists primarily in the attainment of material survival and pleasure. This disorder cannot fail to end in the general withering of the spirit in a society, and the vitiating of the distinctively human perfection found in the civilizations of our ancestors. This has, as we now well know, not only moral consequences, but even intellectual consequences. The state of modern universities is deplorable, riddled as they are with the intellectual faddism that follows upon the publishing rat race. The situation is such that even at the university level, the pursuits of philosophy, history, literature, and physical science are aimed more and more at material gains, rather than at wisdom.
Saint Thomas Aquinas’ discussion about the virtue of studiositas and its contrary vice of curiositas helps us to put a finer point upon how disordered is the modern educational situation. Studiositas, according to Saint Thomas, is the part of temperance which moderates the desire to know, while the vice of curiositas consists in a lack of that moderation. But what does “moderation” mean here? How can we desire to know things immoderately? In his Summa Theologiae, Saint Thomas gives two general ways this can happen with regard to intellectual knowledge: First, by seeking to know for the sake of pride or in order to to commit some other evil by that knowledge; Second, by seeking to learn truth in a way that is inordinate. This latter kind of curiositas is divided again four ways: First, when one is withdrawn from his proper study by desire for a less profitable study; Secondly, when one seeks to learn from “whom it is unlawful to be taught” (the example given by Saint Thomas is seeking to learn the future by divination); Thirdly, when one desires to learn about the created world alone without in any way desiring to refer that to the higher knowledge of the Creator; Fourthly, when one desires to know under his own power those things which are clearly above that power to grasp, such as the unsearchable contents of Divine Providence. In addition to these ways, man might inordinately seek sensitive knowledge by going beyond the two-fold use of that kind of knowledge, namely, its utility for man’s bodily survival and its ultimate ordination to deliver to the intellect more material to mine for wisdom. Thus, by seeking too much trivialities or entertainment, or else by seeking to take in those things which are positively harmful (as staring at a woman to inflame lust), our sensitive powers tend neither to our own bodily good, nor to the good of the intellect. In fact, this leads inevitably to a dullness of both body and of mind. (Who has not felt this ‘dullness’ after, for example, a day full of television?)
If we consider these distinctions carefully, a common thread emerges. Each of these acts of curiositas have to do with a lack of discipline, where the desire, even the natural desire for knowledge, is drawn to things in a way that is not moderated and mastered by reason. Our powers of knowing become withdrawn from their primary ends of wisdom and understanding, and instead gravitate almost solely to the knowledge of creaturely things. But, as Saint Thomas says, knowledge of sensible things ought to be directed ultimately to intellectual knowledge, which is itself only perfected by the virtues which allow it to attain to the Truth Himself, God. Without this order, disorder results. The mind becomes obsessed with curiosities for their own sake, and ends up in the mere desire of new experience, what Saint Augustine calls the “lust of making trial.” As soon as one experience is “known” and falls away, not being meaningfully incorporated by wisdom, a new experience is sought. Boredom becomes the only fear, always looming, and progress and change the only refuges from the terror of the emptiness of silence for the soul without the discipline of a well-formed mind. It is not enough, therefore, to simply appease the child’s natural desire of knowledge by feeding him facts. Further, it is straightforwardly detrimental to the maturity of a child to direct that desire, as modern education tends to do, toward earthly things alone and for merely utilitarian ends. To do so by way of entertainment, another method typical in the modern classroom, further exacerbates the problem. All of this only encourages a lack of virtue, a lack of docility and self-mastery which are the hallmarks of maturity. Modern education thus tends to instill in students, not the virtue of studiositas, but rather the vice of curiositas. And let one sober look across the current generation suffice as confirmatory evidence.
This inversion of the goods of education, much like the inversion of the marital goods themselves, inevitably reeks havoc on the very foundations of society. A cycle is perpetuated of malformed parents and educators who malform their children and pupils, and what is produced in just a few generations is a society of men whose minds are controlled by everyone and everything but themselves, fed by a constant diet of propaganda which demands the praise of progress and the repudiation of tradition. There can be no dialogue because there is no dialectic. What remains is a hollow “acceptance,” which, if it means anything at all, means the abandonment of human excellence in favor of mediocrity. Everything must be reduced to the lowest common denominator--a modern dogma which is perhaps nowhere more clearly observed than in the modern classroom. No culture can grow up in such a tangle of smothering weeds, yet a culture is just what is needed. Sometimes, however, to cultivate means first to burn the field. Let us therefore start again at the beginning, the family, which is the source of culture through its primary vocation of education.
C. Culture and Education
At this point, it can be seen how vital education is for the thriving of culture. For culture consists in human beings doing with excellence those things which are distinctively human. Culture is a manifestation on a societal scale of a particular excellence in the whole spectrum of rational behavior of mankind developed over multiple generations and informed by a common tradition. Without an education which focuses on distinctively human perfection rather than the mere animalistic ends of material wealth and pleasure, a generation will be left culturally orphaned, at best superficially incorporated into the culture of their parents, which will shortly become hardly more than the corpse of a culture. What is more probable, and what I think we have begun to experience over the last century, is the breakdown of common culture into a parody of culture that lasts just as long as one generation remains in its prime, if even that long. This is the age of the fad, the praise of novelty, the restless pursuit of change and progress for the sake of progress.
If culture is ever to be recovered, then, it will not be accomplished by any Pontifical Council or governmental movement. Rather, this is a work that will be, as it has always been, a work of education, and as such, a work that takes place most fundamentally in the home. In the rigorous and patient formation of children to master those powers which are distinctively human, and to do so by filling them with the greatest products of a venerable tradition, we find the real seed of all cultural development. It is the family that is the only fertile ground of culture, and the man and woman united in matrimony are the gardeners, tasked with the tilling of the soil, the sowing of the seed, and the tender care unto mature fruition. If the gardeners forget what they are about, thinking of themselves only, the harvest will be exposed to the pestilence of faddism, of animalistic sensuality, and with the eventual withering of the spirit. And this not only for their own children, but for society at large. For since matrimony is aimed at the most basic common good of society, namely, its very preservation, any violation of the goods of matrimony is a detriment not merely to the spouses or the children, but even to the whole community. Indeed, it is for this very reason that the state has the right to make laws regarding the sexual union.
D. The Role of Schools in Education
The last thing to consider in this reflection on the relationship between education and matrimony is what light has been shown on the issue of the schools. Seeing that education is primarily the responsibility of the parents, what role ought schools play in the education of the young?
The first and most obvious point to make is that the schools can never replace the parents as educators of their children. They must always exercise only the role of the instrument in the hands of the parents, serving in what remains primarily the latter’s responsibility. Thus, the more detached a school is from the family, the more detached it is from the right to educate. From this law, we can see that a number of conclusions regarding the institutional make-up of schools follow. Schools ought to be small enough to be based upon individual families. Class sizes must be small enough to allow a teacher to have genuine relationships with all the parents of his students. Only then could the parents justly bestow a share of their own natural office of educator upon the teacher of their children. Bureaucracy within the school, which tends to place more and more “middle-men” between parents and teachers should be eliminated as much as possible. Extra-curricular activities ought to be of the kind which fosters primarily the community of the family, rather than those which tend to erect a kind of “sub-community,” in which parents often have no part to play at all. (Even worse, some such activities in modern schools seem to foster a sub-community of only the children themselves, the social and moral formation of the children being carried out by their peers than by any adult, much less the parents.) This lends a great deal of weight to arguments for the older models of education, even to the classical tutor being brought into the home and treated almost as a member of the household. On the other hand, it is very difficult to see how the typical modern school with hundreds or even thousands of students, sometimes 30 to a class, could effectively meet this requirement of true education.
A second point that follows from what has been said regards the curriculum of schools. Since a true education of the children must be a distinctively human education, the curriculum of schools must be geared not primarily to vocational training, but rather to the possession of virtues of the mind and heart which dispose the child well for all distinctively human actions--most fundamentally, to think well, to interpret and express thought well, and to have a taste for that which is best in all fields. Children must be given the tools of the mind before they are given the tools of the hand, since how they use the latter and to what end is wholly dependent upon their mastery of the former. The goal of the school ought not to be turning out good politicians, businessmen, athletes, scientists, or doctors. Rather, it must be to help parents bring their children to a point of real and fundamental human maturity, which consists precisely in the mastery of mind and heart. In this way alone can the education of schools be ordered to the true nature of education as a good of matrimony. Teachers themselves must have, first and foremost, a deep understanding of the human person and his development, and have a mastery over the tools of the mind such that he can exercise them on any number of subjects. Thus, the neat separation of teachers and their curricula into departments often having little to no interaction, all vying for the attention of the student, ought to be abandoned as much as possible.
Here again it will be noticed that a more classical curriculum is naturally more favorable than modern programs. The classical Trivium, which places emphasis on the “tools of learning,” as Dorothy Sayers called them, rather than on more or less detached and intimidatingly numerous “subjects,” more closely approaches a natural and organic education than the current model. This seems more analogous to a factory assembly line where “educated people” are mass produced, where graduation is dependent not upon the mastery of the powers of the mind itself, but merely the ability to repeat back to the teacher a certain number (a ‘C’ will do!) of given facts.
This Third Part of the series on the goods of matrimony concludes then with a very brief, if somewhat superficial sketch of what an educational institution might look like if it were to be based upon the right understanding of education as the primary good of matrimony. It will be a small, family based institution, with little to no bureaucratic elements, not broken up into distinct and highly specialized departments, with teachers who form deep relationships with the families of their pupils. The curriculum, like the classical Trivium, will focus on the mastery of the tools of the mind, aimed at virtue. Parents themselves will be encouraged to enter as much as possible into the life of the institution, since the latter only exists as a servant of the former. Extra-curricular activities will take the form of communal activities, since they will be ordered to the building up of the individual families and also their relationship to other families. In short, the truly classical school, and even better the classical homeschool in conjunction with tutors as needed by the parents, is most naturally fitted to the true education of human beings.
We have seen, therefore, how far reaching is the error of displacing the goods of matrimony. From the failure to place these goods in their proper order, society itself is threatened at its very foundation. On the other hand, if and only if we preserve the order of these goods, society may be refreshed, re-cultivated, and defended against the destructive tide of modernism.
In the next and final part of this series, we will conclude our discussion by reflecting upon matrimony as a Sacrament in relation to all that has been said.
Written by Peter Youngblood, DRE and Choir Director at Saint Leo IV Roman Catholic Church in Roberts Cove, La, and Co-founder & Tutor of Saint John of the Cross Academy.
Here it becomes obvious that one’s view of matrimony and, consequently, one’s view of education, actually implies an entire anthropology and morality. For if education as a good of matrimony does not primarily mean the development of virtue, man is reduced to a mere animal whose ultimate end does not consist in communion with the perfect object of his rational powers, being the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty Himself. Thus “morals” would exist, at best, to help man in his natural society to attain material success and to ensure the mere material survival of his species.
IIa-IIae, Q. 167, art. 1
ibid, art. 2
Confessions, Bk. X, xxxv: “To this is added another form of temptation more manifoldly dangerous. For besides that concupiscence of the flesh which consisteth in the delight of all senses and pleasures, wherein its slaves, who go far from Thee, waste and perish, the soul hath, through the same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire, veiled under the title of knowledge and learning, not of delighting in the flesh, but of making experiments through the flesh. The seat whereof being in the appetite of knowledge, and sight being the sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in Divine language called the lust of the eyes. For, to see, belongeth properly to the eyes; yet we use this word of the other senses also, when we employ them in seeking knowledge. [...] But by this may more evidently be discerned, wherein pleasure and wherein curiosity is the object of the senses; for pleasure seeketh objects beautiful, melodious, fragrant, savoury, soft; but curiosity, for trial's sake, the contrary as well, not for the sake of suffering annoyance, but out of the lust of making trial and knowing them. For what pleasure hath it, to see in a mangled carcase what will make you shudder? and yet if it be lying near, they flock thither, to be made sad, and to turn pale. Even in sleep they are afraid to see it. As if when awake, any one forced them to see it, or any report of its beauty drew them thither! Thus also in the other senses, which it were long to go through. From this disease of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre. Hence men go on to search out the hidden powers of nature (which is besides our end), which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to know. Hence also, if with that same end of perverted knowledge magical arts be enquired by. Hence also in religion itself, is God tempted, when signs and wonders are demanded of Him, not desired for any good end, but merely to make trial of.”
[5 ]It is very important to note that “well-formed” is not the same as “talented,” “sharp,” or “intelligent.” As any parent or teacher knows, a child can be naturally gifted in intellectual things, yet still suffer the dulling effects of curiositas. What is needed, then, is not talent, but discipline.
 It would be worth studying the extent to which this corresponds to the modern notion that the child’s natural desires need only be supported and facilitated, but never disciplined. Many modern examples can be found of this notion, such as this disturbing NPR story on the “gender transition” of a 3-year old little boy (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/04/419498242/at-age-3-transitioning-from-jack-to-jackie)
In Part Two of this series, I will discuss the doctrine of the Church and of sound reason with regard to the the goods of matrimony, particularly the two natural goods of offspring and fidelity. I have chosen to save the discussion of the sacramental good of matrimony for the end of the series, as it is a crown of supernatural perfection upon the natural perfections. As I noted in Part One, the order of these goods will be of particular importance to resolving the issues plaguing marriage and the family of our day.
II. THE NATURE OF MATRIMONY
A common and subtly important assumption about matrimony is that it is merely a social construct imposed upon man not by nature, but by the purely pragmatic concerns of the State or the Church. It does not take much consideration to discern what is at stake. If matrimony is merely an invention of man, then its definition and use are at the whim of positive human laws. On the other hand, if matrimony is indeed something imposed by nature, then it follows that the human laws regarding matrimony are only just insofar as they correspond to the natural law. Here, we must be careful not to be deceived: when I say “natural law,” I mean a rule of action in accord with right reason. I do not mean “what happens in nature,” which is sometimes supposed. “Natural law” refers to the governance of human actions by a true cognition of reality. So the question whether matrimony is of natural law can be asked in another way: Is there something about the nature of human beings that directs them toward matrimony? When the Christian answers that there is, that God “created them male and female,” and commanded that the “two become one flesh,” he is essentially saying that God, in the very act of creating human nature, endowed it with certain powers which of themselves are inherently directed toward and conditioned by matrimony.
This assertion is of course rationally verifiable. Is there something about human sexuality for which reason demands some kind of lasting bond between the spouses? Here, two fundamental and related questions emerge, the answers to which will reveal not only whether matrimony is of natural law, but also what natural law actually demands in this regard: What is the natural end of the sexual power of mankind specifically? Does this end impose secondary ends upon the human beings which make use of that power, without which the primary end would remain unattained or else be gravely hindered?
A. Marriage as an Office of Nature
At least part of the answer to the question of the end of the sexual power of mankind is plain to everyone except the most delusional ideologue. Clearly, sex exists for the sake of procreation. Nature inclines each thing to maintain itself in being, and in all biological things, this extends even to the species as a whole. But it is also obvious that nature provides each with an inclination not to the bare maintenance of being, but even to the perfection of its being. Thus, there is no species which is not equipped with the ability to actually attain what is naturally fitted to it, and if there is an individual of that species which lacks the ability, we intuitively recognize the lack as an injury or iniquity. Now, since the sexual relationship exists for the propagation of the species, it would seem that relationship between the sexes is directed not simply to the bearing of offspring, but also to its rearing unto maturation. Otherwise, the end of sexuality would either not be attained or else be greatly hindered. Not many species would survive long if nature inclined them only to reproduce and then to leave the vulnerable offspring to itself. And we observe how in many cases throughout the animal kingdom the mates of both sexes work together to rear their offspring if their survival and maturation require it. Thus, the nature of continued relationship between the mates seems itself to be determined according to the needs of the offspring.
All of this, while certainly interesting in its own right, is only of preliminary importance. None of these “inclinations of nature” are of themselves in the moral order until we consider their specific application to human action. No one in their right mind holds a bird morally responsible for abandoning its nest. That is because “natural inclination” is only raised to the status of natural law when the being in question is a rational one, who can freely choose either in accord with the good of reason or against it. So let us make the transition into the moral order by asking: What does the specific maturation of human offspring require from the mates? In order for a human being to attain to true and fully human maturity, what does he need from his parents? The answer to this question turns on our notion of what “perfection” is for human beings specifically. The perfection of man “as man,” that is, a perfection in accord with his rational nature, must mean his position of the goods of wisdom and moral virtue--for its on the basis of these qualities that we call someone a “good man.” Let us hear the words of St. Thomas Aquinas:
Here, St. Thomas makes it clear that matrimony, that is, the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, is an institution of nature precisely because the human species naturally requires it for its own propagation and perfection. Matrimony is not merely a social construct, but arises from the very nature of human sexuality and its primary end of the bearing and rearing of offspring.
We must carefully note that in discovering matrimony as a natural condition implied by the primary good of the conjugal act, we have discovered also a secondary good of matrimony itself which flows from it’s directedness to the good of the offspring. This secondary good, called by St. Thomas faith (or fidelity), is an inseparable and exclusive union between the spouses. Notice specifically how St. Thomas says that the very ground in natural law for the inseparability and exclusivity of matrimony is the good of the offspring, particularly their being properly raised. Thus, the union of fidelity, the communion of life and work, is a secondary good, of itself naturally directed toward the primary good of offspring as its term: “Offspring signifies not only the begetting of children, but also their education, to which as its end is directed the entire communion of works that exists between man and wife as united in marriage, … so that the offspring like a principal end includes another, as it were, secondary end.”
B. The Consequences of Disordering the Goods
It appears from the above that we have answered our two questions. Natural law does indeed demand matrimony as the proper context of human sexuality, and further, it demands a particular character of that union: true and life-long fidelity. Further, this only makes sense when we maintain the proper ordering of these natural goods. Unless the unitive aspect expressed in the good of fidelity is itself subordinated and secondary to the primary good of the offspring, it becomes difficult to understand how matrimony could be an institution of nature rather than a mere social construction. It also becomes impossible to provide principled arguments against many kinds of immoral sexual behavior. If the unitive aspect of the conjugal act is not subordinate to the procreative aspect, our arguments against contraception and homosexual sex fall flat. If the good of union and fidelity are thought of as primary rather than secondary, then our arguments against homosexual marriage similarly fall flat. In fact, this error would leave us without principled ground to stand against the “marriage” of any two (or more) people whatsoever who have a desire to be devoted to one another. Without this rational support, any such stand is bound to appear simple and backward bias.
This error also has another grave consequence. It is less obvious, but for that perhaps more dangerous. When the secondary “unitive” good of human sexuality is elevated to the status of the primary good, it is gutted of its true form and finality, as is the case with all secondary things which are so elevated. But what is left upon which to base and towards which to direct this unitive good? What else besides the mutual fond feelings of the couple, their mutual pleasure, both emotional and physical? What results is a situation in which a relationship, which is started with even the best of intention and good will, is left tossed upon the formless sea of sentiment. If the fond feelings cease for any extensive period of time, the union begins to seem like nothing but a lie. And for all intents and purposes, it is. For the union is now reduced to its external manifestation, and the couple begins what they call “going through the motions.” Even in those marriages that have borne children, many parents treat the union with their spouse as if it had little or nothing to do with their role as parents. Divorce necessarily runs rampant.
Such a terrible confusion is prevented if we consider the goods of matrimony aright. If the union and fidelity of the spouses are themselves directed to the offspring, then the service rendered to one another and the personal communion of life and work are considered a duty to the whole family. One’s fine feelings, while welcome as they come, are inconsequential. They are neither the root nor the flower, but more like the fragrance of the flower. This view of matrimony calls the spouses out of themselves and directs them to a good which transcends their individual contentment. St. Thomas even tells us that a violation of the matrimonial bond is a sin of injustice not only to the spouse, but even to the whole common good of society. For the fidelity and communion of the spouses is directed to the development of virtuous new citizens, which is the duty of all those members of society who enter into the bonds of matrimony. It is this alone which gives the State reason to license and incentivize marriage. It is also the reason that State has no reason to license and incentivize sexual relationships which of themselves are inherently incapable of the primary good of matrimony, and by that fact incapable of even a properly ordered secondary good of matrimony.
C. The Teaching of the Church
It should be clear from the above that the proper ordering of the two natural goods of matrimony are at the heart of the traditional, morally sound view of the nature of matrimony. If this ordering is skewed, there will be no end to the new ways in which matrimony will be defiled. Who can deny that we see the evidence of this all around us? For this reason, the Church in her authority has only ever affirmed the primacy of the good of the offspring among the blessings of matrimony. As Pope Pius XII declared:
His predecessor, Pius XI also taught clearly that “amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place,” and further, that:
The 1917 Code of Canon law held the same (cn. 1013). Unfortunately, the current hierarchy of the Church has only taught this through a great cloud of ambiguity. However, even in Gaudium et Spes, we read, “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.” Though some modernizing influences, which prompted the clarifications of Pius XII cited above , have hindered the clarity with which the Church teaches on this issue, the fact remains that we must understand the ambiguities in the light of immemorial Tradition. It would be unthinkable to interpret these ambiguities with a modernist perspective rather than the clear teachings of the Fathers, the Doctors, and so many Supreme Pontiffs of the Church.
Just as St. Thomas taught, Pius XI reiterated that it is the education of children that provides the natural ground for the secondary goods of matrimony. Thus, the rearing of the child unto virtue is the proper term of the intimate union of the spouses. It is not surprising, therefore, that as our view of matrimony has been skewed, it is not only the relationship between the spouses that has suffered, but also the education of children. The education of children unto virtuous maturity, as it ceased to hold primacy of place in the goods of the family, has been practically removed from the family and placed in the hands of the State. Now, however, considering that education is a natural good belonging primarily to the family, it is possible to discern just how unjust this situation is. For the same reason that we would object to the State taking control over the bearing of children, we should object to State-controlled education of children. Just as the parents are and ought to be the generators of their children, so should they be the primary educators of their children--for this is the very reason of their continued union growth in community of life and work.
Part Three, on the nature of education, is to follow.
Written by Peter Youngblood, DRE and Choir Director at Saint Leo IV Roman Catholic Church in Roberts Cove, La, and Co-founder & Tutor of Saint John of the Cross Academy.
 ibid., Q. 67, art. 1
 ibid., Q. 49, art. 2 ad 1
 ibid., IIa-IIae, Q. 154, art. 2; art. 8; see also Q. 153, art. 3
 ibid., 59
 Pius XII, immediately following the text cited above: “It was precisely to end the uncertainties and deviations which threatened to diffuse errors regarding the scale of values of the purposes of matrimony and of their reciprocal relations, that a few years ago (March 10, 1944), We Ourselves drew up a declaration on the order of those ends, pointing out what the very internal structure of the natural disposition reveals. We showed what has been handed down by Christian tradition, what the Supreme Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and what was then in due measure promulgated by the Code of Canon Law. Not long afterwards, to correct opposing opinions, the Holy See, by a public decree, proclaimed that it could not admit the opinion of some recent authors who denied that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of the offspring, or teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinated to the primary end, but are on an equal footing and independent of it.”
 To understand in particular how ambiguity has insidiously crept into the modern Church, compare the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Can 1013 §1: “The primary end of matrimony is the procreation and education of children; the secondary end is mutual help and the remediation of concupiscence,” to the current Code, Can. 1055 §1 “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.” Though both Canons contain the two natural goods of matrimony, the current Code contains no clear ordering of those goods. Its verbosity clouds the fact that it actually communicates much less than the more austere Code of 1917, which is more typical of pre-conciliar teaching. See also Michael Davies, Pope John’s Council, p. 104-116 on the conciliar debates regarding Gaudium et Spes in particular, and how it was precisely the modernists and liberals among the Council members themselves that not only planted ambiguities in the document with regard to the order of matrimonial goods, but even blocked all attempts to explicitly condemn contraception.
As is the case with nearly all the teachings of Holy Mother Church on human sexuality, her teaching on Holy Matrimony is much-maligned by modernity. Unfortunately, this is true not only of the external enemies of the Church, but also of many of her members. The question of the cause of this state of affairs, whether it is the result of malice, negligence, or innocent ignorance is not the one which I now intend to discuss. Rather, my aim in considering the goods of matrimony is four-fold. First, I want to examine the traditional teaching of Holy Church on matrimony, both as an office of nature and as a Sacrament. Secondly, I want to discuss some of the presuppositions embedded in a typically modern approach to matrimony. Thirdly, by comparing these two ideas, I hope to arrive at a clearer understanding of what ails the modern family, particularly with regard to the rearing of children. Lastly, I want to relate a proper understanding of the goods of matrimony to the idea of education itself. We should be in a good position to situate the education of children among the goods of matrimony as an ordinance belonging primarily to the family rather than the State. Understanding education in these terms, we can then evaluate the educational institutions in our world as being either properly ordered and conducive, or else a hinderance, to the natural parental rights and responsibilities with regard to the formation of their children. My hope is that by gaining even a slightly clearer perspective on these issues, we might be able to better diagnose the concrete problems we face in our homes so as to be able with prudence to go about curing these ailments.
In order to understand the nature of Matrimony, it is necessary to consider the goods for which the institution exists. I will spend a considerable amount of attention upon not simply enumerating them, but upon their proper order and inter-relations. A lack of clarity with regard to either of these aspects is and has been the ground for much error. While it seems to me that Catholic teaching has been fairly strong in the last few decades on maintaining a proper enumeration of the goods of matrimony, there has been less emphasis on their order and relation. I will focus more on this latter aspect.
The main reason for this focus is that, in my evaluation of the current state of the family, it seems that it is suffering most of all from a disintegration of the natural goods and interests of each its members. Not only is there still, as always has been, the natural tension between the individual interests and the common good of the family (which results from the fact that a family is composed of selves who are, by that fact, potentially selfish), there is added a further tension between the goods of the husband-wife relationship and that of the parent-child relationship. Children are seen often as a distraction from or a burden on the relationship of the spouses, often even by those who happily bear such a perceived burden. Husbands can be heard too often to complain that their marriage is neglected by their wives in favor of the children, and wives might complain of their husbands no longer engaging in the romantic pursuit of earlier days. Even the children often seem to be lost within their own homes, especially as they approach adolescence, without being integrated meaningfully into the life of the whole family. A kind of apathy characterizes large portions of today’s youth, and no amount of doting upon them or micro-managing their affairs seems to make the difference. What real role do they play in the family?
All of this creates a tension in which the parents constantly try to strike a balance between seemingly disparate aims within the family. They must mutually “keep the spark alive” between them, while giving all for the sake of their children. In the most extreme cases, the communion of life of the spouses appears as something wholly distinct and unrelated to the good of the parent-child relationship. For the husband and wife, a chasm is opened between their role as parents and their role as spouses, and too often the chasm claims real casualties. In the end, homelife ends up like the frontlines of a battlefield with conflicting interests vying for their due. Now there are surely many causes of this situation. We cannot ignore the extent to which basic human selfishness is at play. But it seems to me that one way of at least beginning to find resolution is by searching for an understanding of the goods of matrimony and the family which is integrating rather than disintegrated. Is there a way to understand the goods of matrimony and the family that allows us to see the diverse goods as ordered to an overarching and unifying end? Can the union of the spouses, in all its personal and psychological depth and intimacy, be meaningfully integrated with the truly magnanimous and self-giving call of parenthood? It seems to me that the answer is emphatically yes, and this understanding is precisely the understanding found in the immemorial teaching of Holy Mother Church.
Matrimony, for Catholics, can be considered from two perspectives: as a natural institution and as a sacrament. Since the sacrament is the supernatural good of matrimony, as bestowing grace upon the natural union, my discussion of the goods of matrimony will first be concerned with the natural goods before moving on to discuss how they are taken up and brought to a higher perfection in the sacrament. As a natural institution and the condition imposed by nature upon human sexuality, matrimony is primarily directed to the bearing and rearing of children. My central thesis especially relates to this last end, namely, that of the rearing of children. This is absolutely essential for any integrating view of matrimony. Only after we develop a deep understanding of what it means to raise a child will we then develop a more ordered view of the family. According to St. Thomas, it is the rearing of children which demands of the spouses a lifelong communion of life and work. As the Second Vatican Council proclaimed in Gaudium et Spes, the bearing and rearing of children are together the “ultimate crown” on the union of the spouses. It is on account of this primary good that the spouses are to “render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions.” Thus the “intimate union” of the spouses is inherently directed toward the rearing of offspring, as a secondary good is directed to a primary good. As will be shown in greater depth in my next post, this truth helps resolve not only the issue of tension in the family considered above, but it is also at the heart of other modern confusions about marriage, including the practice of contraception as well as the attempt to redefine marriage.
It is at this point that it becomes necessary to introduce the idea of “education,” which is another and more specific name for “rearing” as it applies to human persons. Education means a “leading out of” (ex, Latin “out of”, ducere “to lead”)-- a leading out of the shadows of ignorance, of slavery to sensuality, and into the light of reason, of wisdom, and of self-control. Animals do not need education to become what nature has designed them to be. Their rearing entails only that they be fed and protected and taught, unless nature has supplied sufficient instincts, to find their own food and a mate. Once an animal is able to survive on its own, its rearing is complete. Human beings, as rational animals, are directed to something altogether higher than animal life. They are directed to the good of reason, both as to their understanding and their action. The rearing of a human being is therefore only complete once they have attained the proper disposition of virtue. This is the reason, as every parent knows, that their children never cease to be their children. For as long as there is progress to made in virtue, there is need of further guidance and care. Therefore, parenthood for human beings is a life-long responsibility of the pursuit of virtue in the child. This is what “rearing” means when applied to human beings, and this is why it is such an integral good of matrimony. Without a lifelong communion of life and work between the spouses, without their pursuit of virtue for themselves and one another, how could they possibly hope to achieve this primary good of matrimony, the good of rearing truly virtuous offspring? Nature demands, in order to bring about the full fruit of human sexuality, that their be a lasting and intimate union of a man and a woman. The education of children, as we will see in greater depth throughout the series, is the very basis in nature for such a union.
Following that line of thinking, this series will culminate with a consideration of education itself, both as a natural end of matrimony and as a social institution. Rightly understood, the latter must flow from the former, just like positive human laws must flow from natural laws. Any infringement in this regard will necessarily result in a fracture within the family itself, leaving parents unable to fulfill their natural end of properly rearing their children, and the child without his natural right to be properly reared by his parents. A corollary to restoring a rightly ordered view of matrimony, therefore, is to restore to parents all the rights and responsibilities of the education of their children. Any institutional education should take the form of the handmaid of the parents rather than their master. Accordingly, the very last item to be considered will be the various models of education found in our world. We will evaluate their ability to maintain a proper relationship between the institution and the family, as well as the ability of their methods and curriculum to be useful tools in the hands of parents attempting to truly educate their children as rational beings whose common end is life in accord with perfect virtue.
I hope this introduction serves to provide an overview of the line of thinking that will pursued over the next few weeks. I hope it also allows the readers to get a head start thinking of questions, comments, and objections to this line of thinking. May the dialogue be fruitful!
With all the recent confusion about matrimony in the news, whether it be on the issue of so-called homosexual marriage, or else about the upcoming Synod on the Family (for which we should all be praying and fasting), it seems useful to begin a discussion on the topic. What I am particularly interested in exploring is the interrelation between matrimony and another hot-button issue of our day -- education. According to traditional Catholic teaching, the education of children is considered as belonging to the goods of matrimony, and therefore all rights and responsibilities regarding education naturally belong to the parents themselves. I will also attempt to show that many other controversial issues find resolution from a corrected understanding of matrimony. To paraphrase Aristotle, one small error here will cause manifold errors there. One of the chief ailments of the modern mind is the inability to discern this relation, leaving us too often helpless to address the true heart of an issue. In order truly to go about healing some of the self-inflicted wounds of our society, it is necessary to trace these errors to to their common roots.
Because Matrimony and the related issues are so wide-ranging, I plan to post my considerations in sections over the course of a few weeks. This will allow for a more poignant discussion by giving us all the chance to absorb and weigh in on the ideas presented. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on each post, as long as they are civil and conducive of dialogue.
As it stands, this post will be the first part of what is panning out to be a four part series. I intend in this first part to introduce some of the specific questions with which I will be concerned and the general direction I will take to attempt to answer them. I will also provide a list of resources of which I am making use. Of course, I recommend that readers go through them for themselves both before and after engaging with my own interpretation and evaluation of their contents.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Sup. III, Q. 41, art. 1; Q. 49, art. 2; Q. 67, art. 1
Pius XI, Casti connubii, (with focus on n. 263)
Pius XII, Allocution to Italian Midwives (“Conjugal Act”, and “Primary End of Marriage”)
Edith Stein, Collected Works Vol. 2, pp. 68, 73
Paul VI, Humanae Vitae
Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis & Gaudium et Spes
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Donum Vitae, II, B, 4 & 8
Image credit: Angeluspress.org
Written by Peter Youngblood, DRE and Choir Director at Saint Leo IV Roman Catholic Church in Roberts Cove, La, and Co-founder & Tutor of Saint John of the Cross Academy.
 See Aristotle, De Caelo, Book I, 5
 Summa Theologiae, Sup. III, Q. 41, art. 1; see also Q. 67, art. 1: “By the intention of nature marriage is directed to the rearing of the offspring, not merely for a time, but throughout its whole life. Hence it is of natural law that parents should lay up for their children, and that children should be their parents' heirs (2 Corinthians 12:14). Therefore, since the offspring is the common good of husband and wife, the dictate of the natural law requires the latter to live together forever inseparably: and so the indissolubility of marriage is of natural law.”
 Gaudium et Spes, 48
 If the so-called “unitive good” is elevated to the point of being equal to the good of offspring, and if therefore the conjugal union (more often and tellingly called “sexual union” today) is thought to be a good wholly apart from being essentially ordered to the primary good of conjugal acts, then the way is made clear for matrimony to be defined as nothing other than a commitment between two people who feel “united” in their sexual relations with one another. On the other hand, if we maintain the traditional ordering of the goods of matrimony, it becomes obvious why such redefinition of marriage is impossible. Unfortunately, even among conservative Christians, many seem to hold the idea that the unitive and procreative goods of matrimony are equal, or what is worse, even that the former has primacy over the latter.
Saint John of the Cross Academy (SJCA) facilitates classical tutoring for Catholic families. As a tutorship, the Academy is committed to training its pupils on an individual level, the only level at which real active learning takes place. Modern schools have made such learning impossible as classrooms have turned into lecture halls in which students are not held accountable for their learning but, instead, are made passive observers of lecturing teachers. It is for this reason we the SJCA tutors have avoided the label “school.” Instead, SJCA is called a tutorship--an academy facilitated by tutors.
Unfortunately, the words “tutor” and “tutorship” can be misleading. Given the current usage of term “tutor,” it is no surprise that many interested families have concluded that SJCA tutors do not provide a comprehensive curriculum for its pupils, but only intermittent assistance. The term “tutor” in current linguistic use connotes a part time, remedial teacher, hired at an hourly (often ungodly) rate to assist those students who are struggling in one subject or another. As commonly understood, a tutor is a temporary fix.
This is not the classical meaning of the term “tutor”. In the classical Western tradition, a tutor was responsible for his pupils’ intellectual formation.1 He was not understood as a part time, remedial teacher. C. S. Lewis, one of the last men to be classically tutored, describes the comprehensive formation of his tutor. He was classically formed by his tutor W. T. Kirkpatrick, dubbed “the Great Knock.”2 The Great Knock molded Lewis in the classical tradition as a personal teacher every day for several years. He demanded precision. Ever questioning, coaching, correcting and challenging the boy in his academic exercises, the Great Knock would allow no half-measures. There was no hiding from the Great Knock.
The SJCA classical tutor is responsible for his pupil’s intellectual formation in the Classical subjects of Latin/Composition, Mathematics, History, Science, Literature, and Theology. He is not a remedial, temporary fix for the struggling pupil. On the contrary, he provides the entire curriculum created for each individual pupil, guiding and prodding him at each step of his studies. Like the Great Knock, he allows no half-measures, ensuring that the pupil has mastered each exercise before graduating to the next. Demanding precision and perfection, the tutor is committed to the overall formation of his pupils.
Each SJCA tutor informs parents of their child’s academic strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and interests every week. They should be viewed as instruments in the hands of the parents. The tutors are the tools that parents utilize to train their children in the classical tradition, a tradition sustained and enriched by the Roman Catholic Liturgy and Creed.
To be clear, Saint John of the Cross Academy provides an exhaustive classical curriculum whose tutors function as personal teachers to their pupils at every stage of their academic development. Utilizing the SJCA tutors as instruments of spiritual and academic formation, the parents of the Academy cultivate and preserve the Western, classical tradition of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Written by Nick Trosclair, Co-founder & Tutor of Saint John of the Cross Academy.
1 The Latin Tutor "watcher, protector, or defender" ; tueor "see, examine, or consider.” A tutor is guardian of tradition.
2 Surprised By Joy page 74-76
The authors of this blog are the tutors of Saint John of the Cross Academy: