Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/30/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We must recognize as central the 'dignity of the human person, beginning with the centrality of the right to life and to freedom of religion'.

It is only if the principles of the universality and indivisibility of human rights and a "juridical order solidly based upon the dignity and nature of humanity, in other words, upon the natural law" are recognized that international cooperation can occur.  Out of the universal and indivisible rights arising out of man's nature, we must recognize as central the "dignity of the human person, beginning with the centrality of the right to life and to freedom of religion."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/30/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, United Nations, Declaration on the Rights of Man, natural law, Andrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - There was much chatter in the press about the speeches of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Barack Obama, but the press was sparse about the Statement of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and Head of the Holy See's Delegation to the United Nations given on September 24, 2012.

In his intervention, Archbishop Mamberti stressed the importance of the rule of law, and called for its extension across the globe, since the rule of law is what protects human rights.  There is, he noted, an "unbreakable link" between the rule of law and human rights. 

The rule of law, of course, has both procedural and substantive components.  Law is not only a verb, but also a noun.  Not only must process be lawful and transparent, laws must also be substantively good, they must contain "substantial principles of justice" which cover "all spheres of social life." 

The word "law" in the phrase "rule of law," "should be understood as 'justice'--what is just, what is a just thing, an element which is proper and inalienable to the nature of every human being and of fundamental social groups."  For this reason, no person, no private or public institution, and, indeed, no state or international organization can be lawless or unjust, including--one must believe--religions, and so one and all "must be subject to law that is 'just, fair, and equitable.'" 

Procedures alone, even democratic procedures, are not sufficient to assure the rule of law, since procedures or processes alone do not guaranty the substance of law.  Democratic procedures can easily be manipulated to result in laws being "an expression of the will of a few," and hence result in injustice.

Moreover, without some substantive standard, we invariably confront "a proliferation of norms and procedures, susceptible in their turn to multiple applications and interpretations even to the point of contradicting each other and placing the certainty of law itself in jeopardy." 

A cacophony of voices of what is good and right leads to disregard of law and, ultimately, to the weakening of the rule of law.

There is therefore need of "objective criteria as a basis and guide for legislative activity."  Without such "objective criteria," the "rule of law is reduced to a sterile tautology, to a mere 'rule of rules,' and not the "rule of law." 

In some cases, the failure to recognize objective criteria has lead to a "legalistic mentality," one based upon a philosophy of law called legal positivism, which results in a "formal and uncritical adherence to laws and rules."  This can quickly result in the abuse of human dignity, as happened in the "totalitarian regimes of the 20th century."

Therefore, the "rule of law" requires a foundation.  And that foundation must be, and can only be, "a unified and comprehensive vision of man."  This vision of man must be one that appreciates "the complexity and richness [of] how people relate to each other."  That is, it must be both personal and social in expanse.

Where, then, are individuals, social and political institutions, and indeed governing bodies, including the United Nations and its member states, to go to understand what is "just" or what is a "just thing" so that the rule of law can be furthered?

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides some "points of reference," the human rights therein referenced "are not of themselves sufficient," particularly if we fail to understand them "in the spirit in which they were formulated and in their historical context."  The Declaration notoriously prescinded from giving the basis of those rights.

But in fact, the underlying basis for the Universal Declaration of Human rights is the "result of a lengthy juridical and political process," one that found in the philosophy and theoretical thinking of the Greeks and the juridical and practical reasoning of the Romans.  Added to this mix were "other elements, such as Judaeo-Christian wisdom, the laws of other European peoples, canon law," Scholastic and Enlightenment philosophies based in large part on Aristotle, and "the political developments" found in the French and American as well as other revolutions.

It is this uniquely Western contribution, this "complex, rich, and intricate edifice, which is simultaneously historical, juridical, and philosophical," upon which the "inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person can and must be appreciated as the essence of the law and to which the rules must refer."

To a certain degree, one must have "faith" in the rule of law, which means necessarily that one must have faith in something "transcendent, something which does not depend on feelings, concessions, recognitions, or accords."  Faith in man's transcendence "becomes the fundamental and indispensable key to understanding rights," including those in foundational documents of the United Nations.

While the rule of law requires faith in this transcendent reality, it is not religious faith that is involved, but rather a faith based upon "philosophical reasoning."  This "philosophical reasoning" allows us access to the "meaning of human existence and of the universe," and allows us to grasp "the existence of human nature," which is what "offers a true and solid basis to the rule of law," namely, the natural law, since human nature is "prior and superior to all social theories and constructions."

Here is the basic fact: "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."

It is only through the acceptance of his created human nature, and in no other way, that one may "speak truly of the rule of law."  Without acknowledgment of our created human nature as the undergirding of law, the rule of law is a farce, and we lapse into mere legal positivism. 

Where law is concerned, "positivistic reasoning excludes and is unable to grasp anything beyond which is functional."  At best, positivistic reasoning will "give birth to the 'rule of rules,' a system of norms and procedures built merely upon pragmatic and utilitarian reasons."  This is law based upon a "tautology" a rule of rules alone, one without "permanent values," one "liable to manipulation."

This vision of a transcendent man, a man who has a created nature, whose transcendence and created nature must be the prior basis of any law, is under threat from two sides according to Archbishop Mamberti.

The first threat comes from those who seek to minimize the universality of human rights by advocating "multilateral norms."  In this area we find, for example, the Islamic states, who advocate their own form of human rights which contradict the universal rights based upon the natural moral law in certain particulars.  This cannot be the source of a common governance, of a "common good."

The other threat comes from those who seek to "promote, in the name of democracy, a materialistic vision of the human person united to a mechanistic and utilitarian vision of law."  This is the secularist liberals.

These two--in different ways to be sure--contradict the norms of the natural moral law based upon the transcendent nature of man, and so affect the weakest among us: "children, the unborn, the handicapped, the poor," and so forth.

Two principles must be held on to: the principle of universality of human rights and the indivisibility of human rights.  One for all, and all for one.

One of the most basic rights accorded humans is the right to life.  It is an "unavoidable premise" of the natural law based upon a transcendent and created human nature "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."

Another of these essential indivisible rights is freedom of religion, as this freedom is threatened by both the liberal secularists on the one hand and by the Islamic particularists on the other:

"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.' 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."

It is only if the principles of the universality and indivisibility of human rights and a "juridical order solidly based upon the dignity and nature of humanity, in other words, upon the natural law" are recognized that international cooperation can occur.  Out of the universal and indivisible rights arising out of man's nature, we must recognize as central the "dignity of the human person, beginning with the centrality of the right to life and to freedom of religion."

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

'Faith is the great cure for fear': Obama speaks at annual National Prayer Breakfast in WA Watch

Image of At the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama spoke against Muslim stereotypes and hatred (AP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

During the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, President Barack Obama spoke of God, fear and love. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At the breakfast, both Democrats and republicans set aside their differences to build relationships based on their ... continue reading


After Iowa fail, Donald Trump vows to 'beat the ____ out of ISIS' Watch

Image of Many noted that Donald Trump seemed unusually subdued in New Hampshire. He claimed that he remained optimistic after his second place finish in the Iowa primary. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

While he faced defeat in the Iowa caucuses, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was full of his usual bluster in New Hampshire. Never one to mince words, he vowed to "beat the ___ out of ISIS" if he was elected president. LOS ANGELS, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


'Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it': Trump furiously rants on Twitter about Cruz's win demanding a new Iowa 'election' Watch

Image of Donald Trump calls for a new election or to nullify Cruz's results (Reuters).

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

When news of the Cruz campaign "mistake" concerning Ben Carson at the Iowa caucus reached Donald Trump, he was furious. The business tycoon took to Twitter to call for a new election or to nullify Cruz's results. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Despite his initial ... continue reading


Republican Candidate Drops Out of Presidential Race: But who was it? Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Following a disappointing show in the Iowa caucus, with only 4.5 percent of the votes, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has officially dropped out of the 2016 presidential race. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign ... continue reading


Political sabotage: Ted Cruz pleads GUILTY to wronging Ben Carson at Iowa caucus Watch

Image of Ted Cruz admitted his campaign started the lie that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race prior to the Iowa caucus (NY Times).

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In a shocking admission, Ted Cruz admits his staff spread rumors of Ben Carson dropping out of the runnings just before the Iowa caucus voting began. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As previously reported, the Iowa caucus was filled with surprises that included ... continue reading


A Night of Surprises: What went down during the Iowa caucuses? Watch

Image of Iowa caucus surprises with historical neck-and-neck race and Trump in second place.

By Thomas Heed (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Iowa caucus results are in after a high-energy night fueled by rumors of foul-play, coin tosses and the waning smile of a smug Trump. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Before the Iowa caucus, polls showed presidential hopeful Donald Trump as the leading ... continue reading


Trump leading in polls as he thanks Iowa's evangelicals Watch

Image of Donald Trump has cut Sen. Ted Cruz's advantage with evangelicals, according to a CBS News poll. (Jim Young, Reuters)

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

As the Iowa caucuses heat up, executive Donald Trump has shown a strong lead over Ted Cruz in recent opinion polls. Trump took time to thank evangelical Christians for their support. In the meantime, Hillary Clinton maintains a thin lead over Bernie Sanders in ... continue reading


Whoa! Secret Microsoft algorithm predicts wins for Clinton, Trump in Iowa and beyond Watch

Image of Computerized predictions are big business, both at the sports book and in politics.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are predicted to win tonight's Iowa caucuses according to a sophisticated algorithm used by Microsoft's Bing search engine to predict outcomes. The search engine has an excellent record. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Microsoft ... continue reading


FBI 'Guilty' of unlawfully refused Freedom of Information Act Watch

Image of U.S. district judge Randolph D. Moss ruled in favor of MIT PhD student Ryan Shapiro. Judge Moss found that the FBI's present policy is

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A judge in a Washington, DC courtroom ruled in favor of a PhD student at MIT and found that the FBI unlawfully, obscured, and refused to requests. The bureau was found guilty of not complying with the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Trump dumps Fox News and becomes the 'elephant not in the room': But who really won the 7th Republican debate? Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

With Donald Trump missing from the seventh Republican debate, days ahead of the vital Iowa caucus, many were left wondering: who won the debate? Did Trump actually win by not attending or did another candidate behind him in the polls rise to the occasion, without the ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8
1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord seated on a high and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:1-11
1 Now it happened that he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:1-11
1 I want to make quite clear to you, brothers, what the message of the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 7th, 2016 Image

St. Moses
February 7: Arab hermit and bishop who is called "the Apostle ... Read More