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Benedict XVI on the Path to Peace (Part 2)

1/12/2007 - 8:00 AM PST

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Paolo Carozza on Building an Integral Humanism

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, JAN. 12, 2007 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's exhortation on the World Day of Peace to strengthen and clarify our reason, and not settle for weak or diluted anthropological visions, is essential to the challenge of building an integral humanism.

So says Paolo Carozza, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

He shared with us how Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace stresses the dignity of the human person, the common good, true advocacy of human rights and the use of transcendent principles in developing international law.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday on Catholic Online.

Q: The heart of the Pope's message seems to be that the path to peace is grounded in a proper anthropology of the human person, in which man is understood as having inherent dignity by virtue of being created in the "imago Dei," as well as a transcendent end. But are there forums in the international community where this "integral humanism" is taken seriously?

Carozza: By its own nature the ideal of integral humanism is one that always demands renewed personal commitment and deeper understanding about the good of human persons in new and different historical and cultural circumstances -- so in a certain sense it is never fully realized but always only in progress.

At the same time, all international fora and institutions were in some way created in response to real, tangible human needs -- for example, as responses to crises or out of a growing awareness of human interdependence and the necessity of coordinating activity for the common good.

Thus, at some level, they all contain within them an important degree of inherent concern for authentic human goods, even if it is always only imperfectly realized. It is important, therefore, always to seek and strengthen those good and constructive elements, while clearly working to resist or "prune" whatever is contrary to them.

This is often a difficult judgment to make because it requires us to steer a course that avoids both an uncritical acceptance of internationalism for its own sake and also an unreflective rejection of international institutions and processes in response to the fact that some of them are very unhealthy.

This is exactly why Benedict XVI's exhortation to strengthen and clarify our reason and not settle for weak or diluted anthropological visions is so essential to the challenge.

Ultimately, a consistent concern for integral humanism in international fora will only be present to the extent that there are individuals there who give it voice and take action consistently with it.

I am happy to say that in my experience of working in international law and institutions there are such persons, and it is always an encouragement and inspiration to encounter them, sometimes in most unexpected ways and places. But there is no doubt that the need is even greater, by far.

First, the world of global affairs desperately needs more people, especially young professionals whose reason and hearts are educated to appreciate the breadth and depth of the dignity of human persons, to dedicate themselves to constructing peace and justice in the world. Secondly, there is a great need for strengthened unity among the disparate individuals already present in these institutions, a unity of conscience and judgment.

In building up that integral humanism, we should not forget that it is not only intergovernmental institutions that are the relevant actors. There is enormous potential today for civil society organizations to contribute, or to undermine, the ideal.

For example, two of the international nongovernmental associations that I am most familiar with that do tremendous good in promoting true humanism today are the World Youth Alliance and the Association of Volunteers in International Service.

Q: In what ways does the vision of human rights advocated by Benedict XVI diverge from the conception of human rights espoused by many international organizations that the Pope says actually divests them of their authority as advocates for the rights of persons?

Carozza: The Pope's use of the word "authority" here is very interesting. Obviously he does not mean authority merely in the sense of the fact of being able to exercise power, or even in the technical juridical sense of having the legal warrant to make decisions and take action.

He refers to the moral authority that ultimately grounds and justifies those actions and exercises of power. And that kind of authority is founded in the common good, which is the total set of conditions allowing for individual ...

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