The question arises because of the principle that the family is the basic unit of society. This principle is often affirmed but rarely explained. Of course if it is affirmed by a politician who thinks that a family is whatever Leviathan says it is, then it is worse than useless; but even with someone who has a sane understanding of the family, it may mean no more than ‘I like families’ or ‘families should be supported’.

Properly understood, it appears to mean that political power arises not in virtue of an implied contract between individuals, the theory rejected by Leo XIII in Diuturnum, but through a concession or pooling of the natural power of parents over their children. If we accept this, then societies are  by definition a union of families, not of individuals.

But if families are to retain their rightful position as the fundamental units of society, each family must speak with a united voice in its relation to the outside world. If husband and wife speak with opposite voices in regard to the election of rulers or the determination of policy, the authority of the family in regard to the State is annulled; the family is in effect silenced.

So it must be either husband or wife who votes in elections or referenda. But for it to be the wife would be a denial of the husband’s headship, and would degrade him in her eyes. So it must be the husband.

This does not exclude suffrage for widows; nor, I think, for single women living alone, who may perhaps be regarded as the beginning of a new family.

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