President of the European Association of Catholic Families: Our society is practically killing itself
Sometimes people think, that the family can be substituted with other forms of unions, other structures,… etc. If this view takes root, I don't think we have a bright future. Families have a crucial role in sustainability and raising new generations in European societies. Our interview with Vincenzo Bassi, President of the European Association of Catholic Families, representing 27 Catholic-inspired Family Associations all over Europe.
Italian constitutional lawyer, Vincenzo Bassi, who previously served as vice president of the organization, has been elected as president of the European Association of Catholic Families this year. During his visit to Hungary, he showed great interest in Hungarian family politics, however, beside this we also discussed the challenges facing the family institution in contemporary Europe.
What was the purpose of establishing FAFCE and when was the organisation founded?
The organisation was officially founded in 1997 and has three goals.
The first one is to bring the voice of European families to European institutions. What we are trying to do is to emphasise the importance of families and the institution of the family, which we think is at the core of society. From a logical point of view, preserving the family has both political and financial benefits.
Our second role is to educate families on what is happening at European level and also to alert them when obstacles are put in place that go against the role of the family.
The third goal is to support family associations all around Europe.
How would you specify the mission of FAFCE?
It is a very simple concept, but sometimes the problems we strive to solve are complex. Nonetheless, we have to remind ourselves always, that our aim is simple:
The ultimate mission of FSFCE is to convince people that without families we have no future. We need children, new generations, and internal cohesion just as much as external. Family forms the basis of any society; without it communities become fragile. It has to be stressed that families are not a part of society, they themselves are society.
On what occasion did you visit Hungary?
We came by invitation of the Maria Kopp Institute, for a three day international convention on family values, gathering experts from all Europe and overseas. Of course we have our Hungarian member too, the Catholic Family Association, and we are very much interested in Hungarian family policy. Whenever we visit Hungary, we meet people who are engaged in family-related policies, trying to put our experiences together and strengthen it on the European level.
Would you name a few challenges that families have to face in contemporary Europe?
Our first challenge is to be recognised as a resource for society, I mean our mission of course. Sometimes people think, that the family can be substituted with other forms of unions, other structures, public bodies…etc. If this view takes root, I don’t think we have a future, more precisely, Europe doesn’t have a future. For this reason we have to be recognised in order to take up the responsibility not for the good of the families but for the common good.
What is your family definition?
The family is the original foundation of society by virtue of its “generative” function.
How can a functioning family be described?
As already said, the essential nature of the family is to be generative. As a consequence, the family serves society and contributes to the common good, by being open to life and by assisting their members. The family is the original institution, where one [person] offers life to the other, looking forward to generating new lives. Offering their lives to each other, man and woman, together as spouses, exercise a function of public relevance.
In what areas and how can FAFCE engage in order to reinforce families in Europe and what are the channels through which you can reach European politicians?
Representing 27 Catholic-inspired Family Associations all over Europe, FAFCE has the honour and the duty of bringing an original perspective to the European institutions, as the voice of families on our continent. Our office in Brussels works closely with the major European stakeholders (institutions, NGOs and the Catholic Church) to promote a family-friendly approach from the EU Institutions.
At the same time, we try to inspire a renewed family movement in the Member States: family associations are the response to the prophetical call made by St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter Familiaris Consortio. There we read that families should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference (FC44). The voice of families (with their votes!) is the best channel we can use to convince policy-makers.
From a conservative perspective, families are the basis of society. As J. D. Unwin wrote in his book, Sex and Culture, “With undermining the traditional family structure, a social entropy begins within a society and with a good chance in four to six generations, society will stop functioning.”
Now, how can this problem be tackled in contemporary Europe?
By a renewed commitment for the common good: our society is killing itself, not only by a totally uncontrolled digitalisation with all its risks of isolation but also by simply not reproducing itself! No European Country reaches the so-called replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman. Fewer and fewer people get married. The Schuman Foundation, a couple of years ago, published a Report (available online) entitled “Europe 2050: demographic suicide.” Until then, FAFCE was the only European organisation raising awareness about this issue.
Now we even have a commissioner designated to work on the demographic challenges and we are supporting the creation of a European Parliament inter-group on this topic. Something is moving at the political level. But much more is needed. A cultural shift, that will allow us to put the family at the centre again, to abandon individualism and to give back hope and meaning to European youth.
What are the results that you could mention that have been successfully achieved here in Hungary during your visit?
We were invited by the Maria Kopp Institute to study the best practices of the Hungarian Family Policy, which is – in a certain way – leading the way in a good direction. We had an excellent exchange with the Minister of State Katalin Novak, and we agreed that we need to share the best practices in Europe, keeping in mind the principle of subsidiarity, according to which family policies must be decided at the national level.
We also had an inspiring meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary, H. E. Mgr. Michael A. Blume and we met Attila Korencsi, President of the Hungarian Union of Catholic Jurists and Head of Compliance of the Hungarian National Bank. We need to speak about the good successes of the Hungarian Family Policy: it’s a matter of solidarity with other women and men in Europe who experience every day a hostility from institutions which want to work for a child-free society. But we say that a child-free society is a society without a future! The family is generative, is open to life, is the guarantee for the future.
We leave Budapest with great hopes.