In an interview with LifeSiteNews during a break in the Synod on the family last week, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, stressed the importance of parents as the primary educators of their children.
The concept of parents as primary educators is taught by the Church and was given emphasis by the late St. Pope John Paul II. It is also a founding principle of Voice of the Family, the coalition of life and family groups around the world represented in Rome to assist the Synod Fathers in defending the family.
“The children who come to life by means of the cooperation of their parents with God are given to their parents for their education and upbringing,” said Cardinal Burke. “And it’s actually the parents who choose any kind of outside education that the children receive.”
In a position paper on the subject, Voice of the Family says, “Parental rights are under threat as never before, especially through the imposition of anti-life, anti-family sex education in schools and through the provision of abortion and contraception without parental knowledge.”
Having seen those threats over thirty years ago, St. Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1981 encyclical Familaris Consortio: “Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them.”
He added, “In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.”
Cardinal Burke’s full remarks regarding parents as primary educators follow:
LifeSiteNews: Why does the Church teach that parents are the primary educators of their children. What does this mean and why is it important?
Cardinal Burke: When the Church teaches about the crowning of married life in procreation, in the notion of procreation is understood also the education of children. In other words, the children who come to life by means of the cooperation of their parents with God are given to their parents for their education and upbringing. And it’s actually the parents who choose any kind of outside education that the children receive.
Saint Augustine said that the child begins to imbue the faith already from his mother’s milk. And, it’s very true that children are formed by the faith of their parents, the attitudes, the virtues which their parents embody. And this is communicated to them both with words, but most of all, by the example of their parents.
For that reason, the Church stresses this [role of parents as primary educator] very much so that parents wouldn’t think [that] because there are nursery schools and other kind of schools that somehow the schools would take their place or relieve them of the responsibility of educating their children, when in fact they have that primary responsibility.
I saw myself, in my years as an educator — which I enjoyed very much and consider it to be very important work — [that] it was always clear to me that the primary influence in young people’s lives were their parents. And as I’ve met those young people, now that they’re getting older, they’re very much like their parents. And I have to say myself, the older I get, I can see more and more in my own life the influence of my parents.