CHARTER OF THE RIGHTS OF THE
Presented by the Holy See to all persons, institutions and authorities
concerned with the mission of the family in today's world October 22, 1983
A. The rights of the person, even though they are expressed as rights of the
individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and
vital expression in the family;
B. the family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in
complementarity between a man and a woman which is constituted in the freely
contracted and publicly expressed indissoluble bond of matrimony and is open to
the transmission of life;
C. marriage is the natural institution to which the mission of transmitting life
is exclusively entrusted;
D. the family, a natural society, exists prior to the State or any other
community, and possesses inherent rights which are inalienable;
E. the family constitutes, much more than a mere juridical, social and economic
unit, a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and
transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential
for the development and well-being of its own members and of society.
F. the family is the place where different generations come together and help
one another to grow in human wisdom and to harmonize the rights of individuals
with other demands of social life;
G. the family and society, which are mutually linked by vital and organic bonds,
have a complementary function in the defense and advancement of the good of
every person and of humanity;
H. the experience of different cultures throughout history has shown the need
for society to recognize and defend the institution of the family;
I. society, and in a particular manner the State and International
Organizations, must protect the family through measures of a political,
economic, social and juridical character, which aim at consolidating the unity
and stability of the family so that it can exercise its specific function;
J. the rights, the fundamental needs, the well-being and the values of the
family, even though they are progressively safeguarded in some cases, are often
ignored and not rarely undermined by laws, institutions and socio-economic
K. many families are forced to live in situations of poverty which prevent them
from carrying out their role with dignity;
L. the Catholic Church, aware that the good of the person, of society and of the
Church herself passes by way of the family, has always held it part of her
mission to proclaim to all the plan of God instilled in human nature concerning
marriage and the family, to promote these two institutions and to defend them
against all those who attack them;
M. the Synod of Bishops celebrated in 1980 explicitly recommended that a Charter
of the Rights of the Family be drawn up and circulated to all concerned;
the Holy See, having consulted the Bishops' Conferences, now presents this
"Charter of the Rights of the Family" and urges all States, International
Organizations, and all interested Institutions and persons to promote respect
for these rights, and to secure their effective recognition and observance.
All persons have the right to the free choice of their state of life and thus to
marry and establish a family or to remain single.
a) Every man and every woman, having reached marriageable age and having the
necessary capacity, has the right to marry and establish a family without any
discrimination whatsoever; legal restrictions to the exercise of this right,
whether they be of a permanent or temporary nature, can be introduced only when
they are required by grave and objective demands of the institution of marriage
itself and its social and public significance; they must respect in all cases
the dignity and the fundamental rights of the person.
b) Those who wish to marry and establish a family have the right to expect from
society the moral, educational, social and economic conditions which will enable
them to exercise their right to marry in all maturity and responsibility.
c) The institutional value of marriage should be upheld by the public
authorities; the situation of non-married couples must not be placed on the same
level as marriage duly contracted. Article
2 Marriage cannot be contracted except by free and full consent duly expressed
by the spouses.
a) With due respect for the traditional role of the families in certain cultures
in guiding the decision of their children, all pressure which would impede the
choice of a specific person as spouse is to be avoided.
b) The future spouses have the right to their religious liberty. Therefore to
impose as a prior condition for marriage a denial of faith or a profession of
faith which is contrary to conscience, constitutes a violation of this right.
c) The spouses, in the natural complementarity which exists between man and
woman, enjoy the same dignity and equal rights regarding the marriage.
The spouses have the inalienable right to found a family and to decide on the
spacing of births and the number of children to be born, taking into full
consideration their duties towards themselves, their children already born, the
family and society, in a just hierarchy of values and in accordance with the
objective moral order which excludes recourse to contraception, sterilization
a) The activities of public authorities and private organizations which attempt
in any way to limit the freedom of couples in deciding about their children
constitute a grave offense against human dignity and justice.
b) In international relations, economic aid for the advancement of peoples must
not be conditioned on acceptance of programs of contraception, sterilization or
c) The family has a right to assistance by society in the bearing and rearing of
children. Those married couples who have a large family have a right to adequate
aid and should not be subjected to discrimination.
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of
a) Abortion is a direct violation of the fundamental right to life of the human
b) Respect of the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental
manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.
c) All interventions on the genetic heritage of the human person that are not
aimed at correcting anomalies constitute a violation of the right to bodily
integrity and contradict the good of the family.
d) Children, both before and after birth, have the right to special protection
and assistance, as do their mothers during pregnancy and for a reasonable period
of time after childbirth.
e) All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, enjoy the same right to
social protection, with a view to their integral personal development.
f) Orphans or children who are deprived of the assistance of their parents or
guardians must receive particular protection on the part of society. The State,
with regard to foster-care or adoption, must provide legislation which assists
suitable families to welcome into their homes children who are in need of
permanent or temporary care. This legislation must, at the same time, respect
the natural rights of the parents.
g) Children who are handicapped have the right to find in the home and the
school an environment suitable to their human development.
Since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original,
primary and inalienable right to educate them; hence they must be acknowledged
as the first and foremost educators of their children.
a) Parents have the right to educate their children in conformity with their
moral and religious convictions, taking into account the cultural traditions of
the family which favor the good and the dignity of the child; they should also
receive from society the necessary aid and assistance to perform their
educational role properly.
b) Parents have the right to freely choose schools or other means necessary to
educate their children in keeping with their convictions. Public authorities
must ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free
to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have
to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly
limit the exercise of this freedom.
c) Parents have the right to ensure that their children are not compelled to
attend classes which are not in agreement with their own moral and religious
convictions. In particular, sex education is a basic right of the parents and
must always be carried out under their close supervision, whether at home or in
educational centers chosen and controlled by them.
d) The rights of parents are violated when a compulsory system of education is
imposed by the State from which all religious formation is excluded.
e) The primary right of parents to educate their children must be upheld in all
forms of collaboration between parents, teachers and school authorities, and
particularly in forms of participation designed to give citizens a voice in the
functioning of schools and in the formulation and implementation of educational
f) The family has the right to expect that the means of social communication
will be positive instruments for the building up of society, and will reinforce
the fundamental values of the family. At the same time the family has the right
to be adequately protected, especially with regard to its youngest members, from
the negative effects and misuse of the mass media.
The family has the right to exist and to progress as a family.
a) Public authorities must respect and foster the dignity, lawful independence,
privacy, integrity and stability of every family.
b) Divorce attacks the very institution of marriage and of the family.
c) The extended family system, where it exists, should be held in esteem and
helped to carry out better its traditional role of solidarity and mutual
assistance, while at the same time respecting the rights of the nuclear family
and the personal dignity of each member.
Every family has the right to live freely its own domestic religious life under
the guidance of the parents, as well as the right to profess publicly and to
propagate the faith, to take part in public worship and in freely chosen
programs of religious instruction, without suffering discrimination.
The family has the right to exercise its social and political function in the
construction of society.
a) Families have the right to form associations with other families and
institutions, in order to fulfill the family's role suitably and effectively, as
well as to protect the rights, foster the good and represent the interests of
b) On the economic, social, juridical and cultural levels, the rightful role of
families and family associations must be recognized in the planning and
development of programs which touch on family life.
Families have the right to be able to rely on an adequate family policy on the
part of public authorities in the juridical, economic, social and fiscal
domains, without any discrimination whatsoever.
a) Families have the right to economic conditions which assure them a standard
of living appropriate to their dignity and full development. They should not be
impeded from acquiring and maintaining private possessions which would favor
stable family life; the laws concerning inheritance or transmission of property
must respect the needs and rights of family members.
b) Families have the right to measures in the social domain which take into
account their needs, especially in the event of the premature death of one or
both parents, of the abandonment of one of the spouses, of accident, or sickness
or invalidity, in the case of unemployment, or whenever the family has to bear
extra burdens on behalf of its members for reasons of old age, physical or
mental handicaps or the education of children.
c) The elderly have the right to find within their own family or, when this is
not possible, in suitable institutions, an environment which will enable them to
live their later years of life in serenity while pursuing those activities which
are compatible with their age and which enable them to participate in social
d) The rights and necessities of the family, and especially the value of family
unity, must be taken into consideration in penal legislation and policy, in such
a way that a detainee remains in contact with his or her family and that the
family is adequately sustained during the period of detention.
Families have a right to a social and economic order in which the organization
of work permits the members to live together, and does not hinder the unity,
well-being, health and the stability of the family, while offering also the
possibility of wholesome recreation.
a) Remuneration for work must be sufficient for establishing and maintaining a
family with dignity, either through a suitable salary, called a "family wage,"
or through other social measures such as family allowances or the remuneration
of the work in the home of one of the parents; it should be such that mothers
will not be obliged to work outside the home to the detriment of family life and
especially of the education of the children.
b) The work of the mother in the home must be recognized and respected because
of its value for the family and for society.
The family has the right to decent housing, fitting for family life and
commensurate to the number of the members, in a physical environment that
provides the basic services for the life of the family and the community.
The families of migrants have the right to the same protection as that accorded
a) The families of immigrants have the right to respect for their own culture
and to receive support and assistance towards their integration into the
community to which they contribute.
b) Emigrant workers have the right to see their family united as soon as
c) Refugees have the right to the assistance of public authorities and
International Organizations in facilitating the reunion of their families.
Sources and References
A. "Rerum novarum",
no. 9; "Gaudium et spes", no. 24.
B. "Pacem in terris",
Part 1; "Gaudium et spes", nos. 48 and 50;
"Familiaris consortio", no. 19; "Codex Iuris Canonici", no. 1056.
C. "Gaudium et spes", no. 50; "Humanae
vitae", no. 12; "Familiaris consortio",
D. "Rerum novarum", nos.
9 and 10; "Familiaris consortio", no. 45.
E. "Familiaris consortio", no. 43.
F. "Gaudium et spes",
no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", no. 21.
G. "Gaudium et spes",
no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 42 and 45.
I. "Familiaris consortio", no. 45.
J. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 46.
K. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 6 and 77.
L. "Familiaris consortio", nos. 3 and 46.
M. "Familiaris consortio", no. 46.
"Rerum novarum", no. 9; "Pacem in terris", Part 1; "Gaudium et spes", no. 26;
"Universal Declaration of Human Rights", no. 16, 1.
a) "Codes Iuris Canonici", nos. 1058 and 1077; "Universal Declaration", no.
b) "Gaudium et spes",
no. 52, "Familiaris consortio", no. 81.
c) "Gaudium et spes",
no. 52; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 81 and 82.
"Gaudium et spes", no. 52; "Codex Iuris Canonici", no. 1057; "Universal
Declaration", nos. 16, 2.
a) "Gaudium et spes", no. 52.
b) "Dignitatis humanae", no. 6.
c) "Gaudium et spes", no. 49; "Familiaris consortio", nos. 19 and 22; "Codex
Iuris Canonici", no. 1135; "Universal Declaration", no. 16, 1.
"Populorum progressio", no. 37;
Gaudium et spes, nos. 50 and 87;
vitae, no. 10;
Familiaris consortio, nos. 30 and 46.
Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
Familiaris consortio, no. 30.
Gaudium et spes, no. 50.
Gaudium et spes, no. 51;
Familiaris consortio, no. 26.
vitae, no. 14; Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
Declaration on Procured Abortion, November 18, 1974;
Familiaris consortio, no.
b) Pope John Paul II,
Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October
d) Universal Declaration, no. 25, 2; Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Preamble and no. 4.
e) Universal Declaration, no. 25, 2.
Familiaris consortio, no. 41.
Familiaris consortio, no. 77.
Divini Illius Magistri, nos. 27-34; Gravissimum educationis, no. 3;
Familiaris consortio, no. 36; Codex Iuris Canonici, nos. 793 and 1136.
Familiaris consortio, no. 46.
Gravissimum educationis, no. 7;
Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Pope John Paul
II, Religious Freedom and the Helsinki Final Act
(Letter to the Heads of State of the nations which signed the Helsinki Final
Familiaris consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris Canonici, no. 797.
Dignitatis humanae, no. 5;
Familiaris consortio, nos. 37 and 40.
Dignitatis humanae, no. 5;
Familiaris consortio, no. 40.
Familiaris consortio, no. 40; Codex Iuris Canonici, no. 796.
f) Pope Paul VI, Message for the Third World Communications Day, 1969;
Familiaris consortio, no. 76.
Familiaris consortio, no. 46.
a) Rerum novarum, no. 10;
Familiaris consortio, no. 46; International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, no. 17.
Gaudium et spes, nos. 48 and 50.
Dignitatis humanae, no. 5; Religious Freedom and the Helsinki Final Act, 4b;
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no. 18.
Familiaris consortio, nos. 44 and 48.
Familiaris consortio, nos. 46 and 72.
Familiaris consortio, nos. 44 and 45.
Laborem exercens, nos. 10 and 19;
Familiaris consortio, no. 45; Universal
Declaration, nos. 16, 3 and 22; International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, nos. 10, 1.
Mater et magistra, Part II;
Laborem exercens, no. 10;
no. 45; Universal Declaration, nos. 22 and 25; International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 7, a, ii.
Familiaris consortio,nos. 45 and 46; Universal Declaration, no. 25, 1;
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos. 9, 10, 1
and 10, 2.
Gaudium et spes, no. 52;
Familiaris consortio, no. 27.
Laborem exercens, no. 19;
Familiaris consortio, no. 77; Universal Declaration,
no. 23, 3.
Laborem exercens, no. 19;
Familiaris consortio, nos. 23 and 81.
Familiaris consortio, no. 23.
Apostolicam actuositatem, no. 8;
Familiaris consortio, no. 81; International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nos. 11, 1.
Familiaris consortio, no. 77; European Social Charter, 19.