Friday, September 28, 2012

Objectivity and the Rule of Law

Archbishop Mamberti's intervention at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 26, 2012.
In its second paragraph, the preamble of the United Nations Charter underlines the need to "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights". The word "faith" usually indicates the transcendent, something which does not depend on feelings, concessions, recognitions, or accords. It may however be grasped by philosophical reasoning, a process where we ask ourselves about the meaning of human existence and of the universe and about what offers a true and solid basis to the rule of law, insofar as we are capable of grasping the existence of human nature which is prior and superior to all social theories and constructions, which the individual and communities must respect and must not manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled (ibid.), and it is only in this way that we can speak truly of the rule of law. Instead, as explained above, positivistic reasoning excludes and is unable to grasp anything beyond what is functional, and can at best give birth to the "rule of rules", a system of norms and procedures built merely upon pragmatic and utilitarian reasons; a tautology which, insofar as it is deprived of permanent values, is liable to manipulation. On the other hand, faith in the transcendental dignity of the human person, or better recognition of his transcendence, becomes the fundamental and indispensable key to understanding the rights codified in the founding documents of the United Nations and a sure guide for their effective care and promotion.

It is well known that, at the international level, there are interest groups present who, by means of formally legitimate procedures, are impacting on the policies of states in order to obtain multilateral norms which not only cannot serve the common good but which, under the guise of legitimacy, are in fact an abuse of norms and of international recommendations, as has been seen in the recent financial crisis.

Similarly, the attempt to promote, in the name of democracy, a materialistic vision of the human person united to a mechanistic and utilitarian vision of law, is also well known. It is here that, notwithstanding the apparent rule of law, the will of the powerful prevails over that of the weakest: children, the unborn, the handicapped, the poor, or as was seen in the financial crisis, those deprived of the right information at the right time.
On the contrary, the transcendent value of human dignity offers a secure basis to the rule of law because it corresponds to the truth about man as a creature of God’s making; while at the same it allows the rule of law to pursue its true purpose, that is, the promotion of the common good. These conclusions lead to the unavoidable premise that the right to life of every human being – in all stages of biological development, from conception until natural death – be considered and protected as an absolute and inalienable value, prior to any state’s existence, to any social grouping and independent of any official recognition.

To this basis of the rule of law should be added all the other components of human rights, without distinction, as envisioned by the principle of indivisibility, according to which "the integral promotion of every category of human rights is the true guarantee of full respect for each individual right" (JOHN PAUL II, World Day of Peace Message 1999, 3). This is a principle which in turn is linked to universality, thus making it possible to say that the integral promotion of all people, without exception as to time or place, is the true guarantee of the full respect for everyone.

All other fundamental human rights are evidently connected to human dignity, as the basic norm, and thus to the rule of law, including the right to a father and a mother, the right to establish and raise a family, the right to grow up and to be educated in a natural family, the right of parents to educate their children, the right to work and to equitable redistribution of the wealth generated, the right to culture, to freedom of thought and to freedom of conscience.

Among these rights, freedom of religion merits a particular mention. The response to the great questions of our existence, man’s religious dimension, the ability to open oneself to the transcendent, alone or with others, is an essential part of each person and to some degree is identifiable with his or her very liberty. The "right to seek the truth in matters religious" (VATICAN COUNCIL II, Dignitatis Humanae, 3), without coercion and in full freedom of conscience, must not be treated by states with suspicion or as something merely to permit or tolerate. On the contrary, the guarantee of such freedom, apart from its actual use, is an inalienable hinge of the rule of law for believer and non-believer alike. (Read entire article.)

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