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Family, Child-Rearing, and the Role of Women (December 3, 1961)

Using forceful language, Franz-Josef Wuermeling, Federal Minister of Family and Youth Affairs, describes what he perceives as the threat to the family posed by the growing number of working mothers and the dwindling number of children. He argues for the traditional ideal of women as housewives and mothers.

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Today’s Family and its Child-Rearing Powers

In viewing the situation of our families and our youth in today’s world, a typical “trend of the time” that we have to recognize as a challenge to our Christian worldview and child-rearing goals becomes apparent: Today’s man is no longer willing or able to unhesitatingly recognize and reverently accept all of the universe as a divine creation and order. He has become aware of his powers of reason to an extent never before experienced and places them above all else. He already shoots the arrows of his curiosity not only into the earthly realm to explore “what holds our world together at its core”; in these days he also ventures much farther into the expanses of the universe, into outer space.

[ . . . ]

Nothing Can Replace the Family

Can we, must we, in this strange and dangerous situation, put our hopes in the family? I say yes! Because as the first and most original institution the family can justify faith in God and knowledge of the true meaning and aim of our lives as a firm, religious element of all our struggles and aspirations. In the community of the family in particular, all those qualities that each individual needs to live together with others, even in larger communities, can be best and most effectively developed: self-responsibility and turning to our fellow man, adaptability and consideration. As a holistic living community, it is the family that can best create a hierarchy of values between the individual and society, and link personal freedom with social initiative, responsibility, and a sense of security.

[ . . . ]

In modern industrial society, the family – though previously not only a partnership but a production community as well, and economically largely autarkic – has largely developed into a consumer collective. Especially in the children’s formative years, the family usually has to rely on a single income – that of the [male] breadwinner – which derives from employment. More than three-quarters of all employed people – most of whom still have no notable property today – work for outside companies, spatially separated from the family, in a dependent position. They work there for wages that are in principle based on performance, which are equal for everyone if equal work has been performed, regardless of how many family members have to be supported by that wage.

From these wages a father usually has to pay for every loaf of bread and every gram of butter in cash the same number of times as there are members of his family. Thus his income is practically divided by the number of people in his family. This is why, today, families with children are economically the weakest.

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