Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is another oldie-but-goodie. It comes from Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, well known as the first modern “social encyclical.” Perhaps lesser known is the fact that Pope Leo spoke in this encyclical of marriage as a “right” not able to be tampered with by the State, and as playing a key role vis a vis the State. His latter point is picked up at length in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which spills much ink discussing “the family, the first natural society” (see nos. 209ff, esp. 216).
Pope Leo XIII: “In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie. No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply.’ [Gen 1:28] Hence we have the family, the ‘society’ of a man’s house – a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.”
– Rerum Novarum, no. 12 (emphasis added)