The Natural Law: The Only Basis for International Order
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 email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, United Nations, Declaration on the Rights of Man, natural law, Andrew Greenwell
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