Posts Tagged ‘justice’
Secretary of Justice and Peace Council Comments on Benedict’s Message
By Mercedes De La Torre
ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On the first day of the new year, in which the World Day of Peace was observed, Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commented on the Pope’s message for the Day, titled “Educate Young People in Justice and Peace.”
Bishop Toso pointed out that the Holy Father trusts young people, because they show hope and are able to receive God in the midst of human history.
ZENIT spoke with the Salesian bishop, professor of social philosophy, former rector of the Pontifical Salesian University and Consultor for 20 years of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, about Benedict XVI’s message.
ZENIT: Why does Benedict XVI address young people in particular in this 45th Message for the World Day of Peace?
Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI wished to address this message in particular to young people who today live in a world of incessant transformation, in a world that sociologists describe as “liquid”: new projects are begun and are not solidified, so that youth live in a reality that changes constantly, and even those points that seem to be the most solid also seem to change.
In this context of swift changes and a lack of solid points of reference, Benedict XVI addresses young people, seeing them as a part of the human family that has great resources of hope. In fact, young people, especially in the World Youth Day that was held in Madrid, but also in other events that we have learned about in the media, are showing — also in reference to the fall of regimes and the need to erect democratic institutions — a young, fresh intuition, which helps adults to accept the fundamental values we must invest in and which can constitute the foundation of a more just and peaceful society.
ZENIT: Why does the Pope have confidence in young people as builders of peace?
Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI’s confidence in young people is based above all on two motives: the first is that young people, in face of life and the great responsibilities of the human family, believe in the possibility of a profound transformation, of the renewal of institutions, and their enthusiasm can be the engine for positive change in our societies, even becoming witnesses and leaders, enabling adults to question themselves.
The second reason is that Benedict XVI believes in the capacity of young people to intercept God, to receive Him in the midst of human history as the One who can help humanity to come out of the dark tunnel in which it finds itself. In reality, the dark tunnels that cause despair are different, disallowing even the possibility of a more just world. They are tunnels represented by the food crisis, the financial crisis, the crisis of appropriating essential resources, the ecological crisis and, above all, the anthropological, ethical crisis.
ZENIT: How can young people help to create a more fraternal society?
Bishop Toso: As the Message for the World Day of Peace acknowledges, young people not only have the task to be involved in the educational process, but they have a mission — Benedict XVI states clearly — to stimulate, to be an example to adults and to one another.
Young people especially have a youthful and genuine intuition in regard to great values and they make every effort and commit themselves enthusiastically in the small daily things as well as those that are important: respect for the environment, the fight against corruption and illegality, the implementation of justice, and dignified and respectful treatment of persons in the field of the economy, in the field of finance. With their example, they have the possibility of offering models of what could be the construction of a new society, and new human relations based on the values of fraternity, solidarity and mutual gift — values in which young people are particularly sensitive.
It is often said that today’s young people are the first generation that think that their descendants will live in worse conditions of life. However, I sincerely believe that young people of the age of globalization wish and know that they can contribute to the construction of a better, more united and solidary humanity, the humanity that Jesus Christ inaugurated with his Incarnation.
“The Most Difficult Moment Was in Cairo”
ROME, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Though Cardinal Renato Martino wanted to be a missionary, his poor health prohibited him from following that dream. Instead, he joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service and in this way, he says, fulfilled his great desire to evangelize.
Cardinal Martino is now the president of two pontifical councils: the Pontifical Councils of Justice and Peace, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers. This summer he celebrated the golden anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, a vocation with which he says he is “still enchanted.”
In this interview with ZENIT, the 74-year-old prelate reflects on some of the milestones of his ministry.
Q: Your Eminence, how did you discern your vocation?
Cardinal Martino: I come from a family marked by faith and Catholic tradition, with a wonderful mother, who was also an artist. The holy card marking my 50th anniversary to the priesthood, with the Virgin and Child, was painted by her. [I had] a strict father and four brothers and sisters. A large family, totaling 56 people at Christmas gatherings; I have 13 nephews and nieces and 26 great-nephews and nieces.
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a missionary. I was fascinated by the Jesuit missionary preachers who came to Naples, to our parish.
Unfortunately, the dream very soon vanished, because I was too frail and the doctors told me clearly that my constitution would not endure in missionary lands.
My desire to carry the Gospel to the world took on another path. Through a number of circumstances, I frequented the Vatican Diplomatic Academy, the oldest in the world and, since 1962, I have worked with the nunciatures of Nicaragua, Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil.
Between 1970 and 1975, I was in charge of the section for international organizations in the Secretariat of State. Subsequently, on Sept. 14, 1980, the Pope at that time, John Paul II, sent me as pro-nuncio to Thailand, as apostolic delegate, to attend to the relations with Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Brunei.
In 1986, I was appointed permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and, in that capacity, I took part in the major international conferences promoted by the United Nations during the 90s, particularly in New York, 1990, at the World Summit for Children; in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992, at the Conference on Environment and Development; in Barbados, 1994, at the Conference on Small Island Developing States and, that same year, in Cairo, at the Conference on Population and Development.
In Beijing, China, 1995, at the World Conference on Women; in Istanbul, Turkey, 1996, at the Conference on Human Settlements; in Rome, 1998, at the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court; in New York, 2000, at the Millennium Summit;
In Monterrey, Mexico, 2003, at the International Conference on Financing for Development. Also, in Madrid, Spain, at the World Assembly on Aging, and, that same year, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Conference on Sustainable Development.
Q: You have had to face many difficult situations, including frequent disagreements with United Nations offices and delegations that, particularly in the 90s, were especially critical of the Holy See, above all with regard to demographic policies, abortion, contraception … Could you comment on this experience?
Cardinal Martino: The most difficult moment was in 1994, in Cairo, during the Conference on Population and Development. President Bill Clinton’s administration, together with a greater part of the developed countries, were determined to get the conference to recognize abortion as an international right.
Some nongovernmental organizations even requested that the Vatican delegation be expelled from the United Nations. But with the Lord’s help and thanks to the support, on that occasion, of Latin American and Islamic-majority countries, we succeeded in rejecting the attempt to approve abortion as a contraceptive method.
As head of the Vatican delegation, I managed to obtain the support of 43 delegations and to ensure that paragraph 8.25 of the final document adopted by the conference should declare that “on no account may abortion be invoked as a family planning method.”
This regulation remains in force to this day, despite frequent and continuous attempts to eliminate it. So far, voluntary interruption of pregnancy, which, unfortunately, is still a dramatic phenomenon these days, has never been approved by any United Nations body.
Q: What mission to you look back upon with most satisfaction?
Cardinal Martino: From May 15 to 21 this year, at the express request and in representation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, I visited Ivory Coast, a country torn by a long period of strife and bloodshed.
During my stay, I celebrated the Eucharist in several cities and parochial communities; I met with the bishops and highest authorities in the country. Particularly, I attended a meeting with the President, Laurent Gbagbo, who appointed as his prime minister former rebel chief, Guillaume Soro, a brilliant 34-year-old Catholic.
In order to give consistency and solidity to the peace agreements, I invited both of them to the solemn Mass I celebrated in St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Abidjan, on May 20.
The cathedral was crowded with faithful, together with the bishops and civil authorities. I encouraged the people of Ivory Coast to continue along the way of peace and to promote national reconciliation and the participation of all the country’s living forces, without any form of political, religious, cultural or ethnic exclusion.
When the time came to exchange a gesture of peace, I invited the president of the republic and the prime minister to come up to the altar to receive my peace gesture. After that, I invited them to exchange peace with each other: They hugged each other, assuring that this would last — a great gesture of reconciliation, before the applause of several thousand people.
All this was transmitted live by the national television channel. I instructed them never to forget that day, should difficulties arise in the future, because this was a historical gesture, a commitment of peace and concord sealed in the cathedral, before God. To all the people of Ivory Coast, to the numerous innocent victims, to the groups of those displaced, to those wounded, and to so many others, I expressed the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father and, in his name, I offered some financial help toward the primary needs of those in most dire hardship.
This was the most effective way of presenting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and its practical application.
I have also been thanked for this meeting and for the reinforcement of the peace process by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who I had met before he took on that position, because he represented South Korea before the United Nations during the same period as my stay in New York, where I attended to a group of South Korean Catholics.
For 18 years, I administrated confirmation to members of this group. I saw Ban Ki-moon in Rome, when the promotion of his candidature had not yet begun, and I told him I was sure of his election. He looked at me in surprise, incredulously. I assured him: We’ll talk about it after your election. I’m sure you will do a lot of good.
Q: On Oct. 1, 2002, John Paul II called you to Rome, to take over the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but as head of this dicastery, you continued your travels throughout the world …
Cardinal Martino: Taking on the direction of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and, since March 11, 2006, also that of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, allows me to sustain and prolong the task of evangelization which I wished to carry out from the days of my youth.
The publication and diffusion of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was a stimulating task. As I noted in the introduction to the volume, “transforming social realities with the power of the Gospel, to which witness is borne by women and men faithful to Jesus Christ, has always been a challenge and it remains so today at the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era.”
I am fully aware that the announcement of Jesus Christ is not easily swallowed in the world today, but precisely because of that, the people of our time are in need, more than ever, of faith that saves, of hope that enlightens, and of charity that loves.
These are the reasons that move the Church to intervene with its teachings in the social field, in order to help and accompany Catholics in serving the common good.
Q: Is there something that you would like to accomplish but which you have been unable to?
Cardinal Martino: I have no regrets. I am still enchanted with the priesthood. I thank the Lord every day for the grace of the priesthood. I have celebrated more than 19,000 masses, and each one of them has been a real gift to me, because, even if my role had only been that of celebrating the Eucharist alone or for a small community, I would, however, be grateful to the Lord for having had the opportunity to serve him.
Kevin Lee on the Church and Legal Culture
Buies Creek, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Much ink has been spilled over the supposed implications of having five Catholic justices sitting simultaneously on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But beyond speculation about what results this development may produce in specific cases such as abortion, there has been little discussion of what a uniquely Catholic understanding of American law actually means and how it may apply in the various substantive areas of law.
A new book, “Recovering Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law,” (CUA Press), attempts to fill this void by explaining the theological and philosophical considerations that are foundational to a Catholic understanding of the law.
Kevin Lee, a professor of law at Campbell University, and author of the chapter titled “The Foundations of Catholic Legal Theory: A Primer,” shared with ZENIT the contours of a distinctively Catholic understanding of law, and how Catholics may productively contribute to the law’s development.
Q: What does it mean to offer a Catholic perspective on American law? Is it simply a critique of legal institutions like feminist legal theory, or does it offer something more?
Lee: A Catholic perspective must be concerned with what it means to be committed to Christ and to his Church.
So a Catholic perspective on American law means considering what law looks like from within that commitment.
It involves a critique of institutions and theories, but it also requires critical reflection on the patterns of meaning that shape and are shaped by the law and the legal system.
Q: Why is it necessary to ground an understanding of a legal system in a distinctively Christian anthropology?
Lee: It is not “necessary,” in the sense that it is possible to create a legal system rooted in some other anthropology.
Much of contemporary American legal theory, for example, can scarcely be considered compatible with a Christian anthropology.
But I think Catholic anthropology has a contribution to make. It offers a unique understanding of the irreducible dignity of the person and the giftedness of the community.
Catholic thought affirms that human beings are creatures with particular natures, capacities and limitations.
We all have dignity as bearers of the “imago Dei,” but we are also sinful and prone to weaknesses. We form communities naturally, through small acts of love and kindness, but that does not mean that we are not capable of meanness and selfishness.
The Anglo-American legal system could simply abandon its Christian roots as archaic or nonsensical, but doing that would mean abandoning our tradition and denying that tradition has anything to offer.
Anyone who would advocate that position would bear a heavy burden of proof.
Q: A number of scholars are rediscovering the Catholic influence on the formation of Western legal systems — an influence that lasted well into the last century. Does the Catholic conception of reciprocal rights and duties, so long a part of Anglo-American law, continue to govern our legal system, or have individualistic and modern liberal theories such as those of John Rawls transformed American law?
Lee: There is no doubt that the contemporary Anglo-American legal system has been massively influenced by modern liberal democratic theories.
But, I don’t think that Catholic thought is in total opposition to either modernity or liberalism. It is much more complex than that.
Modern liberals, like Catholics, are concerned with rights and justice.
For example, Pope John Paul II’s passion for individual freedom against totalitarian rule found support among liberals.
The critique is more nuanced than a simple rejection of modernity and liberalism.
Q: What role does natural law play in Catholic legal theory? Is the natural law the “self-evident truths” that the American founders asserted governed political life?
Lee: Natural law is based on the belief that nature has rational purposes. It seeks to read moral precepts from such purposes as they are visible in nature.
Citing St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Christian natural law theorists have held that these precepts are based on self-evident foundational principles. But, it is a theory that is no longer widely accepted.
Modern science opposes the idea that there is any purpose to nature, moral or otherwise.
Contemporary secular philosophy largely denies moral truth altogether, and even contemporary Christian ethicists tend to look to virtue rather than law when speaking about morality.
Nonetheless, natural law theory still offers many insights and poses interesting questions.
For Christians, natural law theory has to be worked out in relation to the creation stories of Genesis. There are of course two antithetical natures for human beings in Genesis: one of eternal innocence and integrity, and the other of the fall and fragmentation.
The fall suggests a limit to our ability to gain moral knowledge from examining nature. It is possible to read the signs of nature correctly only if we understand the realities to which the signs refer.
But the fall impedes our capacity to know the ultimate reality because we no longer read the signs correctly. So a complete reading of the natural law will always elude our fallen, temporal selves.
Catholics typically have been more optimistic than Protestants in assessing the depth of our fallen nature. They have tended to argue that even the fall calls us to salvation because we can remember something of our pre-fallen state.
Protestants are more likely to see the fall as a complete forgetfulness of God that can only be healed by God’s initiative. Nonetheless, Catholics and Protestants agree that we are deeply marked by the fall, and reason alone does not secure our ability to “read the signs” that tell of the purposes of nature.
That is why reason alone offers no sure guide to moral life. Benedict XVI has referred to the “pathologies of reason” to suggest this danger.
Christian moral theory must always be sensitive to excessive claims about the role that nature and natural reason can play in the moral life.
God’s gifts of grace — or example what St. Thomas called the infused virtues: faith, hope and charity — are essential to the moral life, but they are typically discounted in natural law theories because they suggest limits to natural reason, and therefore moral knowledge is not self-evident.
Q: G.K. Chesterton and many other commentators have said that the American Declaration of Independence is a very Catholic document. Why would they make such a claim when all but one of the signatories were Protestants?
Lee: I believe Chesterton was referring to the presumption of equal dignity that he saw in the declaration and in the ethos of the American democracy. Equal dignity is part and parcel of the distinctly Catholic reading of Genesis that I referred to earlier.
Because Catholics affirm that the dignity of human beings is intrinsic and therefore independent of variable traits, it is equal among all persons.
Catholics affirm that human beings have an intrinsic dignity that is not contingent or alienable, that all human beings share equal dignity in the “imago Dei.” That’s a distinctively Catholic view.
It is not found in Locke, for example, who related human dignity to the contingencies of consciousness. I think that’s what Chesterton had in mind.
Q: You argue that Pope John Paul II left an important legacy for those seeking to explore what the Catholic intellectual tradition may offer modern legal systems. Can you elaborate?
Lee: John Paul II was one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the last century.
His thought offers a unique Catholic approach to modernity. His philosophical project sought to be a modern science of human experience.
But, his work is also fully theological. For him, the point of philosophy is to live with divine wisdom. He offers a rich theological anthropology for thinking through difficult questions about matters such as the nature of moral value, the experience of moral meaning, and the scope of human agency and responsibility.
His work strikes out against the modes of human self-creation that are common in scientific and technological thinking. His insights into moral experience, human dignity, freedom, philosophy and wisdom are all hallmarks of the depth and substance of his thought.
I think we are only beginning to understand his importance both as Pope and as scholar. His legacy will continue to grow for a long time to come.