The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.
-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
Your Excellency, Mr. President of the Republic of Moldova,
Your Holiness, Eminence,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on the subject of the family at the opening of this international symposium. This subject is important to me and to my wife. Indeed, in our Western societies, we live in a crucial moment regarding the role and place given to the family institution, faced with many assaults. By taking stock of the situation and calling for the necessary renewal, this international congress, under the chairmanship of the President of Moldova, Igor Dodon, and under the patronage of Patriarch Kirill and of Cardinal Parolin, will mark a milestone.
You need to know how to resist the attacks that the traditional family is facing. These ways are numerous: raising a large family, praying, leading political action, social or legal means, and always paying attention and being constantly vigilant. It is no exaggeration to say that families in many countries must assert themselves by resisting the many insidious measures that seek to weaken them. Conferences like this contribute to this spirit of resistance by facilitating exchanges and sharing knowledge. Together, it is easier to discern the stakes and the risks and to think of ways to remedy this situation which, if it were to continue, would lead to the ruin of society, even to that of civilization.
The question of the defense of the family is extremely serious as it touches the essential. The family, through natural transmission from generation to generation, is intrinsically linked to life, and attacking it leads to deadly attitudes. One cannot go without the other, even if, nowadays, some would like to lead us astray in other ways such as the theory of “gender” or unnatural practices such as surrogacy, which in French is often reduced to the initials, GPA, for the French phrase gestation pour autrui, seeking to hide the horror of the practice that the words evoke. The future is not there. On the contrary! Denying the natural family is denying life, as the speakers will remind us.
Speaking at the opening of this congress, it is up to me to pose the problems as I see them, and this in three aspects: as head of the House of Bourbon and successor of the kings of France; as head of a family; and as a person engaged in social life.
First of all, as Head of the House of Bourbon, I find myself heir to a family that has reigned for more than 800 years in France and which, especially, as all historians recognize, has made a small field a powerful and radiant state in Europe and beyond.
This work was possible because it was that of a family, the royal family. Thus, the fundamental laws of the kingdom, the constitution of the time, which allowed the kingdom’s development, were originally a family law. For the greater collective good, these laws organized the transmission of royal power from male to male in order of primogeniture. They thus guaranteed the stability of power and ensured a national dynasty. Such is the “Capetian miracle”—family and social law at the same time since it was based on an order and resulted in natural hierarchies between people. If all did not have the same duties, all had to contribute to the common good. The eldest of the males had the duty of ensuring the permanence of the State, the principal role of the royal function, but the other members of the family concurred in it: being a rightful heir, a function of the Dauphin; assuming the regency in case of the minority of the legitimate holder, often the role of mothers or uncles; or accepting different functions endowed with power charges, often the task of different princes or prinecesses. This way of conceiving the power of the dynasties is not over. In the royal families that remain in Europe, from a very young age, children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters participate in the royal function. How to express better, than by this practice, how much the king and his family are at the service of society?
Beyond this, the king, head of the family, also symbolized the unity of society by being the model of all families. The bond which united the French to each other was, first and foremost, a family tie from the humblest to the king. Far from being an object of law, each Frenchman was above all a subject, that is to say a person with inalienable rights. This link between the social body and the head is currently lacking. This organic connection is perhaps the most important element that the dynasty, the royal family, could offer. These principles were understood, lived, and espoused by the great Louis IX whom the Church made a saint at the end of the 13th century.
These principles have not changed for centuries because they gave meaning to life in society, the latter being much more than a set of individuals held together by laws and regulations but a real community committed to the same collective destiny. That is why France was not only an internal political success, but above all a model of civilization to share. And I say this even today, when our country sometimes seems oblivious to its great principles, to the point of denying some, but, you see, the strength of the principles is that they remain against all odds. So I prefer to say that they are dormant! As the Comte de Chambord already said, France can, from one day to the next, reconnect with what remains the strength of the civilization of which it is a carrier, which rests on the common good. Fruit of the double heritage, Greco-Roman and Christian, this strength is transmitted through those who first find the opportunity to blossom within the family.
But I would like to come also to a second point. If the Head of the House of Bourbon incarnates, the royal family and its values, he is also a head of a family like all of you. This family I feel in my being, deep within me. This family consists of those who preceded me and to whom I must be who I am. You see, there is not a day when I do not think of my ancestors, who have left me a story that sometimes exceeds me; when I do not think of my brother too soon lost; my father, who died when I was too young; my grandparents, my dear grandmother who died a few months ago. To them all, I am indebted for what I am, a small link in a huge chain. It is absurd to want to believe that we are orphaned individuals who would have everything from the state.
Of course, if I value those who have gone before me, this is even more true for those who are now at my side, every day, every moment. What would I be without my wife, or my dear children—and among them I include the fourth who is expected in a few months, but who is already a person in our family? This spiritual aspect is at the heart of the family and part of its mystery. The family is an entity in itself, just as the couple is more than the husband and the wife. Thus attacking the family is ruining the natural balance, it is breaking the chain of generations that extends from the origins of the world to what will be its end. This dimension of the family is essential and to question it is to attack the greatest foundations of human society. It is up to us, to us parents, to defend it.
We are responsible for this social cell, a place of true solidarity and a bulwark against precariousness and isolation. This defense of the family extends through all of life, from conception to natural death and, beyond that, to the respect due to the dead; the defense of family continues through the transmission of values and especially through education but cannot be limited to education.
This is why it is necessary to affirm and especially to continue despite the pitfalls of often hostile legislation. Those who attack the natural family know what they are doing. Through the family they seek to reach the whole society and its foundations. This is how totalitarianisms are born. This danger is present. Regrettably!
You see, and this will be my third point about the social role of each of us, based on the experience of history and recent events, when some seek to break the social pact, very quickly and always they try to break families. Let us think of the Vendée, where women and children were killed even more than the combatants themselves and in atrocious ways; remember the Armenians and the genocidal policies that followed and in many parts of the world continue; as we have seen, there is still little for the Christians of the East. Each time, under the reign of red, brown, and now green totalitarianism, families are worried for what they represent. Each time there are forced separations, the creation of child soldiers, and enslavement for girls and women. On this point the royal families paid their taxes. Remember Louis XVI, murdered with wife, son, and sister; Nicholas II with wife and children.
These instances demonstrate how the family, despite all its fragility, remains for some the main enemy. It is therefore the duty of all, especially those who aspire to religious, social, political but also cultural functions, to defend the family—that is, life.
So, finally, after drawing your attention to the connection between royal family, natural family, and social family, I will make a proposal: Why not propose to UNESCO to include in their World Heritage sites, the model of the traditional natural family—a father, a mother, children—a model that has proved its worth? Would not that instill a real dynamic in the family institution by making it a model with irreplaceable values for tomorrow? Thank you for listening to me. May Saint Louis, my grandfather, the king of the 11 children, protect our families.