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Benedict XVI on the Path to Peace (Part 2)

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 persons and groups to reach their fulfillment more easily.

Where international institutions are in fact undermining the common good, they do not have the authority, in the fullest sense, to act or to expect our cooperation even though they might have the factual power and positive legal license to do so. This happens in the world today any time that organizations fail to respect and safeguard the basic rights of persons, to promote social well-being and development, or to foster the stability and security of a just order.

Although Benedict XVI does not say so directly, he knows well that there is one specific issue in particular that threatens to compromise the authority of a wide array of international organizations, and that is abortion.

It is no secret that there has been for some time a very intense and sustained effort on the part of powerful interests to advance access to abortion globally through the influence of international institutions, and that must be one of the prime examples of what Benedict XVI is implicitly referring to, especially in light of his prior, beautiful reminder that "life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of the subject."

Q: The Pope's message included an exhortation to apply the principles of international law to new forms of conflict and violence, including terrorism. How might this be done? What contributions can the Church make to such a conversation?

Carozza: When existing international law no longer is completely adequate to address new realities and global concerns -- whether it is forms of conflict and violence, new technologies affecting human dignity, new ecological threats, or other problems -- the most reasonable response is not to discard international law, which is an essential tool for the realization of the universal common good generally, but to provoke its development and adaptation to those new circumstances.

One of the critical ways to do so is to recall and insist on the underlying fundamental principles that gave the law its direction and meaning, so that any new rules and practices still adhere to and respect the basic human goods that animated the prior legal order. That consistent insistence on transcendent principles is a tremendously important contribution that the Church makes to global debate.

With regard to the problems posed by contemporary forms of violence, for instance, Benedict XVI rightly points out certain requirements that must be maintained in any evolution of the rules of armed conflict and humanitarian law: that noncombatants be protected and not targeted; and that there must be clear ethical limits on methods of guaranteeing internal security -- such as, presumably, the prohibition on torture.

When these principles and similar ones are maintained with sufficient conviction and resolve, the freedom of international law to change in response to the demands of the common good is enhanced, not diminished.

Q: Significantly, the Pope makes reference to the growing competition for energy sources and its potential for international conflict and war. In what ways can an anthropology of integral humanism and Catholic social doctrine address this problem?

Carozza: The problem, of course, is generated by the multiplicity of interests in possessing and controlling scarce resources. While it is played out through highly complex dynamics in diplomatic, economic and military arenas, it is most fundamentally a problem of the human heart and its relationship to the goods of creation.

Without the growth of the virtue of solidarity, without an increased consciousness of the common destiny of all human persons, and without an education to the meaning and purpose of the things we possess and use, any resolution in the struggle to acquire energy resources or other scarce goods will be no more than a temporary truce, or the partial victory of one power or interest over another.

To generate a lasting solution, therefore, we must start with an adequate appreciation of the person, and of the common stewardship of mankind over the goods of creation, for the benefit of all. Catholic social doctrine is nothing other than this -- a distillation of "what is in accord with the nature of every human being" (as the Pope wrote in "Deus Caritas Est"), and thus an aid to the attainment of justice and peace.


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