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 

The Family Wage and Domestic Work in Roman Catholic Discourse

From Rerum Novarum to Amoris Laetitia

Rafael Hurtado

Every Roman Catholic magisterial document that confronts the key social issues of our contemporary culture should be compulsory reading for many, but especially for those researchers who reflect on the centrality of the family in the lives of every human being and of society at large. The great ideologies that emerged from the liberal movement, mainly capitalism and socialism, have flooded our current perception of who we are and who we want to become, not without being questioned by some of the brightest minds of our time—such as Karol Wojtyła—who identified their common weakness: Both tend to “instrumentalize” the human person. Capitalism and socialism see individuals as simple “means” to an end, not as “ends” in and of themselves.[1]At the same time, a considerable number of magisterial documents of the Catholic Church—both encyclicals and apostolic exhortations—pinpointed the moral obligation of every political order to serve and protect the human family in all its fullness, both in the spiritual and the material realms. Even more specifically, they are eager to clarify the obvious: When a man and woman freely choose to marry and, eventually, become a family with children, they need to be part of a fair economic system that guaranties their well-being, respecting their dignity and their God-given mission.

In that sense, many thinkers, both academics and protagonists of the political realm, have discussed what is known today as the work-family dilemma, providing practical knowledge with its correspondent theoretical base.[2] There is much to go through, both in books and academic studies, if one is to fully grasp the social implications of the contemporary work-family relationship.[3] There are a growing number of research centers and political institutions that have contributed to expanding the relevance of such a topic in the lives of real people.[4] In this regard, the social teachings of the Catholic Church have always been ahead of the times when exploring the everyday life of contemporary families. More recently, in the middle of a broad discussion that has provided both bright spots and shadows in the controversy behind the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, two relevant issues await to be explained in our current culture: the family wage and domestic work, both clearly addressed in various pontifical documents from the 19th and the 20th centuries. The purpose of this paper is to review the key points of such documents concerning these two topics, beginning with Rerum Novarum and finishing with Amoris Laetitia, with the aim of identifying their common grounds and exploring their own particularities.



We begin in 1891, the year Pope Leo XIII published the renounced encyclical Rerum Novarum. The new economic challenges that confronted the family in the midst of the emerging industrialized culture were put forward here. Confronting both the capitalist and Marxist approach to the concept of the homo-oeconomicus,[5] Pope Leo argued in favor of the inseparable relationship between work, family, and the new liberal economic system. The true economy, the document states, would come primarily from the family home, making both husbands-fathers and wives-mothers the key actors.[6] Every other form of economic activity would have to be articulated in favor of the domestic realm, beginning with the need of every family to hold its own property and to earn a sufficient family wage to fully support all its members. The land would have to be worked by the family (giving way to subsequent economic methods of survival, such as formal and informal commerce). The key to a fair economic growth would be manifested in terms of family well-being, property ownership, and sufficient means to bring up the young. The document states:

If a workman’s wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labour question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favour ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.[7]

At the same time, Rerum Novarum argued in favor of the division of labor between men and women. The new industrial society promoted—like no other—the massive incursion of women into the labor market in the name of equality between the sexes. In a few years, women quickly adapted to the emerging demands of the free market—not without toil and frustration. They entered especially those professions that required special attention to detail, such as the textile industry. But this move by women also put new pressures on the “double-income” family, such as the increase of the cost of living and the insufficiency of salaries.[8] In contrast, Rerum Novarum insisted on the promotion of a true family economy that treasures the domestic work performed mostly by women, as well as the care and nurture of children:

Work which is quite suitable for a strong man cannot rightly be required from a woman or a child. And, in regard to children, great care should be taken not to place them in workshops and factories until their bodies and minds are sufficiently developed. For, just as very rough weather destroys the buds of spring, so does too early an experience of life’s hard toil blight the young promise of a child’s faculties, and render any true education impossible. Women, again, are not suited for certain occupations; a woman is by nature fitted for home-work, and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty and to promote the good bringing up of children and the well-being of the family.[9]

Such brave enunciation was the subject of unjust criticism, like that made by the French economist Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, who wrote against the notion of a “family wage” in 1896, labelling it a “socialist” initiative that would be impossible to accomplish.[10] At the same level, the proto-feminists disqualified it as a new “patriarchal” attempt to subdue women to men’s power.[11] In contrast, John Daniel Callahan, a Jesuit theologian, labeled the family wage as an imperative of “commutative justice” and as a right that every father should demand.[12] He promoted the divinely established relationship between institutional marriage and the procreation of children, one that comes from the natural law. A remunerated job is meant to provide sufficient material means for every member of the family to thrive. In that sense, Pope Leo understood that the family would be in a position to overcome the new challenges of the industrial society if: 1) the household maintained its economic autonomy in the face of the free market’s ambitions, remaining as a place for salary redistribution; and 2) parents upheld their authority over their children and were fully responsible for their upbringing and the primary providers of their well-being.[13]

During the next two decades there was a bit of confusion among theologians and prelates about the social implications of a family wage.[14] Eventually, a few Catholic entrepreneurs decided to accept Rerum Novarum’s challenge in an interwar period of despair. A French manager of La Joya Engineering Works in Grenoble, M. Romanet, developed a certain family subsidy scheme in which the male workers would receive a complementary salary based on the number of children they provided for. By the end of World War I, similar subsidy schemes were implemented in the railroad and mining sectors, as well as in various divisions of the public sector in France.[15]

Forty years after the publication of Rerum Novarum, Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno ratified the former document’s thesis on the centrality of the family in the new economy. Quadragesimo Anno put an emphasis on a fair distribution of property, in order that the family might be able to increase its material assets, such as tools and equipment for domestic food production and gardening. In the matters of women’s work outside the home, Pope Pius made a very strong claim about the tendency to force mothers to work for a “low wage,” paid to her or her husband, an injustice that should be abolished at all cost:

[T]he worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family. . . . Mothers, concentrating on household duties, should work primarily in the home or in its immediate vicinity. It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children. Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman.[16]

Consolidation: From Laborem Exercens to Familiaris Consortio.

After the publication of Quadragesimo Anno, the Catholic faithful had to wait 50 years to hear more about a family wage. By the end of the 1970s, a new world had risen from the ashes of two World Wars, the new communist order (and consequent Cold War) and the emergent Sexual Revolution. But it was the first Polish pope in history, Saint John Paul II, who brought new hope to families who were victims of the work-family drama through the publication of two magisterial documents: Laborem Exercens and Familiaris Consortio, both appearing in 1981. It was not the first time John Paul II showed interest in this specific aspect of the now apparent “marriage and family crisis.”[17] However, he never referred to the connection between work and family in such a crystal-clear way as he did in Laborem Exercerns, paragraph 19, where he stated that the family wage was a natural right owed to the “head of the family” (specifically, the husband-father). At the same time, the pope encouraged society to legislate in favor of a family wage paid to every adult who is responsible for a family with children. As a consequence, the work of the home (and the care for children) performed by the mother would be a real choice for women, and not a luxury. The document clearly states:

Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Such remuneration can be given either through what is called a family wage—that is, a single salary given to the head of the family for his work, sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home—or through other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families. These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is, to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives. . . . Experience confirms that there must be a social re-evaluation of the mother’s role, of the toil connected with it, and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons. It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother—without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women—to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age. Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother. . . . In this context it should be emphasized that, on a more general level, the whole labor process must be organized and adapted in such a way as to respect the requirements of the person and his or her forms of life, above all life in the home, taking into account the individual’s age and sex. It is a fact that in many societies women work in nearly every sector of life. But it is fitting that they should be able to fulfil their tasks in accordance with their own nature, without being discriminated against and without being excluded from jobs for which they are capable, but also without lack of respect for their family aspirations and for their specific role in contributing, together with men, to the good of society. The true advancement of women requires that labor should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable role.[18]

During that same period, the Synod of Bishops took place in Rome with a primary purpose of discussing the role of the Christian family in the midst of the new modern culture. Their conclusions gave birth to the famous Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, the summa—according to Jean Laffitte—of the teachings of the Church in matters of the life, tasks, responsibilities, and the mission of marriage and family in today’s world.[19] As a whole, the document can be seen as Saint John Paul II’s invitation to every husband-father and wife-mother to reflect on their own vocation to married life and how to perform it in a world that invites them to live according to the new free-market economic stardards. Paragraph 23 closely relates to Laborem Exercens’ paragraph 19, but takes the issue much further, to the point of denouncing the contemporary “necessity” of working. The document states:

[T]he true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions. Furthermore, these roles and professions should be harmoniously combined if we wish the evolution of society and culture to be truly and fully human. . . . This will come about more easily if, in accordance with the wishes expressed by the Synod, a renewed “theology of work” can shed light upon and study in depth the meaning of work in the Christian life and determine the fundamental bond between work and the family, and therefore the original and irreplaceable meaning of work in the home and in rearing children. Therefore the Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value. This is of particular importance in education: for possible discrimination between the different types of work and professions is eliminated at its very root once it is clear that all people, in every area, are working with equal rights and equal responsibilities. The image of God in man and in woman will thus be seen with added luster. . . . While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family. . . . Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home. . . . With due respect to the different vocations of men and women, the Church must in her own life promote as far as possible their equality of rights and dignity: and this for the good of all, the family, the Church and society. . . . But clearly all of this does not mean for women a renunciation of their femininity or an imitation of the male role, but the fullness of true feminine humanity which should be expressed in their activity, whether in the family or outside of it, without disregarding the differences of customs and cultures in this sphere.

It is clear that Familiaris Consortio opens up a tremendous path for academic discussion, aiming to clarify the intrinsic relationship between: 1) work and family life at home; and 2) domestic work’s impact on social life. It is necessary to examine these two relationships, first of all, to determine what is truly necessary for a family to thrive, and also to articulate the answers in terms of the needs of civil society and its intermediate institutions for healthy and mentally stable citizens. Issued ten years later, Centesimus Annus was consistent with all the previous documents, most specifically on the issue of the family wage, pinpointing the need for developing countries to treat their workers as more than just a commodity of the free market.[20] Yet again, these topics were put on hold for the next 18 years until finally taken up again during the short papacy of the German pope, Benedict XVI. 


Novelty: From Caritas in Veritate to Amoris Laetitia

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dedicated various public speeches to the topics of married love and the family institution during his pontificate (2005-2013), giving continuity to the magisterium of his predecessor. In 2009 he signed the publication of his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, where he returned to the concept of work and its relation to family life in the same vein as the other documents. There are, however, a few hints of change to be considered. The teachings of Leo XIII, Pius XI, and John Paul II all challenged liberal economics by promoting a new social order that would: 1) allow a family wage owed to the head of the family; 2) protect domestic work and the rearing of children in the home; and 3) guarantee the right to property and ownership of material resources for a family to thrive. Curiously enough, Caritas in Veritate paid little attention to these radical topics, although they were not denied or put to question. They simply were not explored with the same rigor and amplitude. However, paragraph 63 suggests that eventually every member of society, male and female, might join the labor market. Benedict also referred to the dignity of human work, as a freely chosen activity that benefits society at large: 

No consideration of the problems associated with development could fail to highlight the direct link between poverty and unemployment. In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or “because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.” For this reason, on 1 May 2000 on the occasion of the Jubilee of Workers, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II issued an appeal for “a global coalition in favour of ‘decent work,’” supporting the strategy of the International Labour Organization. In this way, he gave a strong moral impetus to this objective, seeing it as an aspiration of families in every country of the world. What is meant by the word “decent” in regard to work? It means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labour; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.[21]

In contrast with the earlier documents, this part of the encyclical does not make explicit reference to domestic work, which has been traditionally embodied by the feminine charisma. In any case, Caritas in Veritate promotes a “decent” concept of work: one that every man and women should freely choose, as long as they are not subjects of discrimination or unfair wages that would encourage children to work instead of being schooled. The last statement indicates that Pope Benedict is well aware of the current cultural trends that have settled for the two-career model as the social norm. Also, while the word “family” is mentioned in the document more than once, it is used in a more general manner—such as “the great human family” or “matrimonial family.”

Also found in Caritas in Veritate, in paragraph 15, is the central argument of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae—the unitive and procreative significance of the sexual act. However, there is no clear reference to the economic responsibilities that parents assume when giving birth to their children.[22] All the same, in paragraph 44, Pope Benedict comments on demographic policies and points to a connection between low birth rates and economic difficulties in many countries. He responds:

These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.[23]

Later on, Benedict XVI took up these topics again at the VII World Meeting of Families, Milan 2012, which bore the title, “The Family: Work and Celebration.” It should not be surprising to learn that the previous works of the meeting took place in 2011, in the context of the 30th anniversary of the publication of Familiaris Consortio. The seventh catechesis, paragraph four, shows a clear advancement toward paragraph 63 of Caritas in Veritate, calling it “unfair” to fully charge domestic work to women. At the same time, Benedict exhorts the full participation of all family members, husbands and children, in such work with true commitment. Nevertheless, he also refers to both fathers and mothers who follow the two-career model and begs them to finds creative ways to avoid long absences from home, while adding that the constant need to provide for a family keeps many parents from choosing wisely on this front.[24] Why would Pope Benedict stop using the term family wage from the previous encyclicals, but still refer to all its practical challenges? Why does he remind us of the importance of domestic work without exalting the supremacy of women-mothers who perform it? It is clear that domestic work, home-keeping, homemaking, the rearing of children, and the care of the elderly and the sick are more meaningful and humanly fulfilling—even professionally, as Saint Josemaría would have agreed[25]—than most socially recognized professions[26], as Familiaris Consortio had clearly stated. What Pope Benedict did say about women was pretty much in alignment with classic moderate feminism, praising women’s irreplaceable contribution to family life and the development of society at large, a contribution that awaits to be fully recognized and treasured by many.[27] This last statement could be understood as a hint of what was brewing, for which the Church had to wait another four years. In 2015, the Synod of Bishops gathered one more time to rethink marriage and family in 21st-century culture, aiming to issue a new Apostolic Exhortation that would focus entirely on the joy of love in the family. The final draft of the text was signed by the first Latin-American Pope in history, Francis, on March 19, 2016 (onomastic of Saint Joseph), with the title Amoris Laetitia.


Amoris Laetitia

“The desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church.”[28] In this way Pope Francis starts his new message to families, in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy (which started on December 2015 and concluded in November 2016). Perhaps the jubilee year theme confirms the intrinsic motive of Amoris Laetitia: to promote a stronger pastoral care for all Christians in order to build “sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan.”[29] To do so, Francis dedicated 272 pages (three times more than Familiaris Consortio) to delivering a healing message to all contemporary families, setting the stage for a new pastoral agenda that puts at the center of its dialogue the emerging “irregular situations” that abound in our current modern families.[30]

Concerning the importance of a family wage and its connection with domestic work, Pope Francis makes very relevant contributions in chapter two, emphasizing the challenges still ahead for women who decide to grow socially and professionally outside the home. The rationale of this new approach is made explicit in his quotation of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (“Matrimonio y Familia,” 1979), which states that contemporary families “have come to enjoy greater freedom ‘through an equitable distribution of duties, responsibilities and tasks’; . . . Neither today’s society nor that to which we are progressing allow an uncritical survival of older forms and models.”[31] To which “models” is this assertion referring? Is the Pope making a case against patriarchy and correlating it with the “models of the past”? Are these “models” the ones that prevailed in encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum or Laborem Exercens? In any case, Amoris Laetitia is also determined in its warning against the risks of radical liberalism for family life:

“[E]qual consideration needs to be given to the growing danger represented by an extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the idea that one’s personality is shaped by his or her desires, which are considered absolute.” . . . When these factors affect our understanding of the family, it can come to be seen as a way station, helpful when convenient, or a setting in which rights can be asserted while relationships are left to the changing winds of personal desire and circumstances.[32]

It is true that Amoris Laetitia pinpointed the need for families to acquire a suitable home for all its members to prosper, because—Francis adds—“families and homes go together.”[33] He even revisits the common topic of past social encyclicals—family and work—by making a plea to all civil society to promote “an adequate family policy on the part of public authorities in the juridical, economic, social and fiscal domains.”[34] Francis also comments on current “problems related to work,” especially wherein “[w]orkdays are long and oftentimes made more burdensome by extended periods away from home,” a situation which works against the family developing strong relationships with one another.[35]

We can draw from these statements that Pope Francis is well aware—just as Pope Benedict was—of the challenges ahead for two-career families and the promotion of this model as the social norm. It is strange not to read more here about the need for a family wage as a political and economic solution that lightens the modern family’s economic burdens, allowing parents and children to invest more time in being together. What Amoris Laetitia does mention is the impact the modern lifestyle is having on the young: “In many cases, parents come home exhausted, not wanting to talk, and many families no longer even share a common meal. Distractions abound, including an addiction to television. This makes it all the more difficult for parents to hand on the faith to their children.”[36]

Referring to domestic work, Francis makes a curious claim regarding traditional masculine and feminine roles: “[M]asculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame.”[37] Which kind of “wife’s work schedule” is the Pope talking about? Is he referring also to the responsibilities implied in domestic work? Is he talking exclusively of waged labor outside the home? Why does the document explicitly remind fathers to take responsibility for domestic activities without asking mothers to do the same? As explored before, Familiaris Consortio was very clear about the need to recognize and treasure the domestic work performed by women for its irreplaceable worth. Why does Amoris Laetitia not revisit this topic with the same clarity? Perhaps it is here that the document shows its own central focus, one that is taken further in paragraph 54, which discusses the challenges women face in a still “chauvinist” culture:

Unacceptable customs still need to be eliminated. I think particularly of the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected, domestic violence and various forms of enslavement which, rather than a show of masculine power, are craven acts of cowardice. The verbal, physical, and sexual violence that women endure in some marriages contradicts the very nature of the conjugal union. I think of the reprehensible genital mutilation of women practiced in some cultures, but also of their lack of equal access to dignified work and roles of decision-making. History is burdened by the excesses of patriarchal cultures that considered women inferior, yet in our own day, we cannot overlook the use of surrogate mothers and “the exploitation and commercialization of the female body in the current media culture”. There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid, “it is false, untrue, a form of male chauvinism”. The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity.[38]


Neither the family wage nor domestic work were explored with the same intensity and rigor in Amoris Laetitia as they were in the social encyclicals of the past two centuries. This is not saying the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has changed or is becoming contradictory. Nevertheless, from Rerum Novarum to Laborem Exercens (and Familiaris Consortio), the Church stood up for universal truths drawn from the life of families who suffered the social changes of liberalism, industrialization, and Marxism, all three eager to change family life as we know it, especially the image of the mother as homemaker,[39] which eventually became the target of Betty Friedan’s feminism.[40] At all times, popes and Catholic intellectuals had understood that the true heart of the economy should remain close to the family, not the individual; they had aimed to promote a new social order that puts domestic dignity at the forefront. This was true for all social classes and all cultural settlements. In the end, it appears that Amoris Laetitia stands for the new image of modern families, where roles and tasks are more flexible, not sexually defined or performed, but still needed for the healthy upbringing of children.[41]  

Perhaps Amoris Laetitia did not focus on connecting domestic work and motherhood because talking about the image of the housewife in our days has become taboo. This is not to suggest that the Catholic Social Teachings have radically changed, but it is true that the private-public nexus between the family home and society’s development is still waiting be brought back to the public discourse. Women’s employment, including that of young mothers, has grown dramatically over the past 50 years.[42] With the exception of a few conservative religious groups (not only Catholic), many women in the West are eager to find their way through the labor market at any cost (up to the extremes of nonparental childcare, contraception, and even abortion), while contemporary feminism has continued its revolution to promote the new image of the “working woman.”[43] At the same time, the promotion of new policies that allow women to have equal pay for equal work, free access to day-care services, maternity leave, and flexible work schedules occupies the central stage of the discourse, aiming at a new order dominated by a 50-50 division of labor in every social structure.[44] Also, over the past five decades, the new image of modern women has labeled the value of domestic work, or the yearning for a family wage, as topics of misogyny or bigotry.[45] Pope Francis reminds families of their God-given charisma to tame the world, to make it domestic.[46] He also comments on the “specifically feminine abilities” of motherhood, ones that “grant duties, because womanhood also entails a specific mission in this world, a mission that society needs to protect and preserve for the good of all.”[47] But the question remains: To what sort of “duties” is the text referring? To domestic work? An examination of Amoris Laetitia does not reveal clear answers to these questions.

It cannot be denied that both Caritas in Veritate and Amoris Laetitia can be seen as attempts to reconcile the Social Magisterium of the Catholic Church with the social and economic challenges of contemporary two-career families. The traditional images of the home-protecting father and the homemaking mother were not promoted as they were in past documents, such as Rerum Novarum or Laborem Exercens. This variation could have been saved if chapter II of Amoris Laetitia had dealt with the difficulties experienced by full-time mothers in coping with domestic work in a culture that rejects them, that calls them parasites, or that even wishes to make them illegal.[48]

At the same time, Amoris Laetitia favors a charitable family model that is meant to prevail in the middle of the new social reengineering, which is much closer to contemporary feminist ideals.[49] In sum, it seems that the Social Magisterium of the Catholic Church has gone from defending the traditional image of the family—where the homemaking mother is presented as essential for the good of the family and the transmission of the faith—to promoting the two-career model, which is favored by both liberal and socialist ideologies. This is not to say that the traditional model is out of date or no longer valid. Nevertheless, if the Catholic Church has accepted that families should no longer aspire to remain close to the previous model, based on the rights to property, a family wage, and domestic work, new lines for pastoral care should be implemented for those families who actually live according to that image. For that purpose, it would certainly be of interest to explore new academic initiatives that remain faithful to the promotion of a better life at home, such as The Home Renaissance Foundation based in London, or The International Organization for the Family in the U.S. Let us hope, for the sake of the good of the contemporary family, that these essential topics are not left behind in future encyclicals.

Rafael Hurtado is a professor of the Departamento de Humanidades at the Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara, Mexico.

[1]     Cf. Juan Manuel Burgos, El Personalismo (Palabra, Madrid: 2003); Karol Wojtyla, Amor y Responsabilidad (Palabra, Madrid: 2008), 36. 

[2]     Cf. José Andrés Gallego and José Pérez Adán, eds., Pensar la familia (Palabra, Madrid: 2001); Ángela Aparisi and José Ballesteros, eds., Por un feminismo de la complementariedad. Nuevas perspectivas para la familia y el trabajo (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2002); Domènec Melé, coord., Conciliar trabajo y familia: un reto para el siglo XXI (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2004); Nuria Chinchilla and Consuelo León, La ambición femenina (Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 2004); Nuria Chinchilla and Maruja Moragas, Dueños de nuestro destino: cómo conciliar la vida profesional, familiar y personal (Barcelona: Ariela, 2009); Carolina Montoro Gurich and Dolores López Hernández, Familias con dos sueldos y tres trabajos, coord. Instituto de Ciencias para la Familia-Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, 2011; Catherine Hakim, Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century: Preference Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Arlie Hochschild, The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012); Brian Robertson, Forced Labor. What´s Wrong with Balancing Work and Family (Dallas: Spence, 2002); Carolyne Graglia, Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism (Dallas: Spence, 1998). 

[3]     Cf. Nuria Chinchilla, Maruja Moragas, and Aline Masuda, Balancing Work and Family (Amherst, MA: HRD Press, 2010).

[4]     In Mexico: Centro de Investigación de la Mujer y la Alta Dirección (IPADE); in Spain: Centro Internacional Trabajo y Familia (IESE); in USA: Center for Work and Family (Boston College). With a more domestic approach: The Home Renaissance Foundation (London) and The International Organization for the Family (USA). 

[5]     Cf. Miguel Alfonso Martínez-Echevarría, “La Teoría Económica de la Rerum Novarum,” in Anuario de Historia de la Iglesia 12 (2003), 59-70; Allan Carlson, “Family, Economy and Distributism,” in Communio 37 (2010), 634-42.

[6]     Cf. Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, N. 14. 

[7]     Cf. Ibid., N. 46.

[8]     Cf. Robertson, Forced Labor, 100-4. 

[9]     Rerum Novarum, N. 33.

[10]   “The theory of a family wage is nothing less than a socialist theory of wages related to requirements. It leads straight to collectivizing because it cannot be applied by private persons and can only be put in place by the state”; Nicole Questiaux and Jacques Fournier, in S. Kamerman and A. Kahn, Eds., Family Policy: Government and Families in Fourteen Countries  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), 129.

[11]   Cf. Robertson, 98-100.

[12]   Cf. John Daniel Callagan, The Catholic Attitude Towards a Familial Minimum Wage (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1936).

[13]   Cf. Carlson, “Family, Economy and Distributism,” 635-36; G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (Rockville, MD: Serenity, 2009).

[14]   Cf. John Ryan, “Just Wages and Rerum Novarum,” in America 45.5 (1931): 105-6.

[15]   Cf. Hubert Callahan, The Family Allowance Procedure: an Analysis of the Family Allowance Procedure in Selected Countries (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948).

[16]   Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, N. 71.

[17]   Cf. Rafael Hurtado, La Paternidad en el Pensamiento de Karol Wojtyla (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2010).

[18]   Saint John Paul II, Laborem Exercens, 1981, N. 19. 

[19]   Cf. Jean Laffitte, “L’insegnamento della Chiesa sulla famiglia dalla Familiaris Consortio af oggi,” in XX Assemblea Plenaria del Potificio Consiglio per la Famiglia, Villa Aurelia (November 29, 2011), 2.

[20]   Sain John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 1991, N. 38.

[21]   Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 2009, N. 63.

[22]   Cf. Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 2009, N. 15. 

[23]   Ibid., N. 44.

[24]   Cf. Pontificio Consejo para la Familia, La familia: el trabajo y la fiesta (Citta di Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), 72.

[25]   Cf. Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Conversaciones (Madrid: Rialp, 1958), N. 87.

[26]   Cf. Rafael Hurtado, Reflexiones sobre el trabajo en el hogar y la vida familiar (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2013): 51-67.

[27]   Cf. Pontificio Consejo para la Familia, La familia: el trabajo y la fiesta, 65.

[28]   Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 2016, N. 1.

[29]   Ibid., N. 6.

[30]   Ibid., N. 305.

[31]   Ibid., N. 32.

[32]   Ibid., N. 33-34. 

[33]   Ibid., N. 44.

[34]   Ibid., N. 44. 

[35]   Ibid.

[36]   Ibid., N. 50.

[37]   Ibid., N. 286.

[38]   Ibid., N. 54.

[39]   Cf. Robertson, Forced Labor; Carolyne Graglia, Domestic Tranquility; Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia, 2005). 

[40]   Cf. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013). 

[41]   Cf. Amoris Laetitia, N. 175.

[42]   Cf. Hakim, Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century.

[43]   Cf. International Women’s Strike, available at

[44]   Cf. “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” available at

[45]   Allan Carlson, Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies—And Why They Disappeared (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2007), Ch. 2.

[46]   Cf. Amoris Laetitia, N. 183.

[47]   Cf. Amoris Laetitia, N. 173.

[48]   See the recent declarations made by the Australian Sarrah Le Marquand, “It Should Be Illegal to Be A Stay-At-Home Mum,” Daily Telegraph, March 20, 2017, available at 

[49]   Cf. Amoris Laetitia, N. 54 & N. 173.