The Unification Pater-Materfamilias

By Alexa Blonner

The Paterfamilias motif has dominated world religious history.  It is most obvious in the Roman Catholic Pontiff, but the senior male as the “family” head, holding chief responsibility for carrying out householder and state religious rites and other duties, is a familiar one in most cultures.

The True Parents doctrine of the Unification faith represents a unique innovation.  It replaces the Paterfamilias with a Pater-Materfamilias.

Surprisingly, the Unification True Parents are barely mentioned in the chief Unification text, Exposition of the Divine Principle (EDP), but the concept increasingly featured in the sermons and other homilies of the founder, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, to emerge by the end of his life in 2012 as perhaps Unificationism’s most seminal and distinguishing theological principle.

The True Parents doctrine has been further refined under the leadership of Rev. Moon’s wife, Hak Ja Han.  Indeed, without this doctrine, it is unlikely Mrs. Moon would have been accepted as leader of the Unification movement following her husband’s death.

Paterfamilias

The Roman paterfamilias classically exemplifies the status of the father or male elder as the socially dominant figure. Pater, or “father,” is an Indo-European word that stems back many thousands of years. By a range of evidences, the Indo-European kinship system was patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal.  This patriarchalism had cosmological justification. Women were related to the raw, untamed processes of nature while men were associated with the progressive civilizing force by which nature could be tamed.  The male was thusly construed as being the more important of the two genders and deserving precedence.

Among the paterfamilias’ duties was that of priest.  It was his responsibility to faithfully and accurately execute the household religious rites. The Roman Emperor, who from imperial times was also the Pontifex Maximus, or State High Priest, was like the Paterfamilias of the Empire.  He was both the Empire’s administrative and religious caretaker.

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