excerpts on parental authority in the education of the children

taken from the encyclical of Pope Pius XI on the education of youth,

Divini Illius Magistri, 1929; sections 30-34

... 30. In the first place the Church’s mission of education is in wonderful agreement with that of the family, for both proceed from God, and in a remarkably similar manner. God directly communicates to the family, in the natural order, fecundity, which is the principle of life, and hence also the principle of education to life, together with authority, the principle of order.

31. The Angelic Doctor with his wonted clearness of thought and precision of style, says:

The father according to the flesh has in a particular way a share in that principle which in a manner universal is found in God. ... The father is the principle of generation, of education and discipline and of everything that bears upon the perfecting of human life. S. Th., 2-2, Q. cii, a. 1

32. The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.

33. That this right is inviolable Saint Thomas proves as follows:

The child is naturally something of the father ... so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father’s care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parents. S. Th., 2-2, Q. x, a. 12

34. And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. “Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue” (Suppl. S. Th. 3. p. Q. 41, a. 1) says the same Saint Thomas.

The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, canon 1113: “Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being.” [as expressed in the former Code of Canon Law, c. 1113; editor] ...


Note that Pope Pius XI calls the work of parents to educate their offspring a sacred mission transmitted directly from God. Parents have primary rights in the education of their children because they first have the authority from God to perform a sacred mission.

The Church has always taught that parents are the primary educators of their children. Holy Church, mater et magistra, has repeatedly affirmed this fundamental truth as interpreter of the Natural Law, and as guardian of the Gospel Law of Jesus Christ. The above quotations are merely examples.

Should you need help coping with unjust demands imposed by diocesan ‘guidelines’ for home-schooling, or if you can provide us with important information about your diocese, contact:

National Coalition of Clergy & Laity

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