Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Pope Meets Democratic Leaders

Much has been made of the fact that Pope Benedict XVI turned down a request to meet with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during his August vacation. She was presumably seeking endorsement for a Middle East Peace plan. The pope, like his predecessor, is careful to avoid even the appearance of alignment with a particular political entity.

Yesterday, the Pope met with an international group of Christian Democratic politicians. He had a number of points to make which are not new, of course, but will be useful to recall in the coming election year. It is packed with judgments on the political and social ideologies of our time, East and West, offering the more human point of view which Christianity brings.

As for the West, with its challenges of consumerism, the redefinition of the family, and the practice of abortion and euthanasia, he said:
I wish to encourage you to persevere in your efforts to serve the
common good, taking it upon yourselves to prevent the dissemination and
entrenchment of ideologies which obscure and confuse consciences by
promoting an illusory vision of truth and goodness. In the economic
sphere, for example, there is a tendency to view financial gain as the
only good, thus eroding the internal ethos of commerce to the point
that even profit margins suffer. There are those who maintain that
human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of
pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity. There are some
who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest
or final stages. Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family,
which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble
bond of marriage between a man and a woman. Experience has shown that
when the truth about man is subverted or the foundation of the family
undermined, peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is
compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.
For those countries which persecute people for their religious beliefs, the Pope is specifically asking that every place allow the individual to change and practice his religion freely.
Another cause highly esteemed by all of you is the defence of religious
liberty, which is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and
inviolable right rooted in the dignity of every human being and
acknowledged by various international documents, especially the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The exercise of this freedom
also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed
not only legally, but also in daily practice. In fact, religious
liberty corresponds to the human person’s innate openness to God, who
is the fullness of truth and the supreme good. An appreciation for
religious freedom is a fundamental expression of respect for human
reason and its capacity to know the truth. Openness to transcendence is
an indispensable guarantee of human dignity since within every human
heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfilment in God
alone. For this reason, God can never be excluded from the horizon of
man and world history! That is why all authentically religious
traditions must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly,
free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.
On terrorism, he stated that the "ends and means" used to protect a country from terrorism must be just.
Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in
God’s name and harbour an inexcusable contempt for human life. Society
naturally has a right to defend itself, but this right must be
exercised with complete respect for moral and legal norms, including
the choice of ends and means. In democratic systems, the use of force
in a manner contrary to the principles of a constitutional State can
never be justified. Indeed, how can we claim to protect democracy if we
threaten its very foundations? Consequently, it is necessary both to
keep careful watch over the security of civil society and its citizens
while at the same time safeguarding the inalienable rights of all.
Terrorism needs to be fought with determination and effectiveness,
mindful that if the mystery of evil is widespread today, the solidarity
of mankind in goodness is an even more pervasive mystery.
The Church's role, he recalls, is to advise the conscience according to universal principles.
This teaching is based on reason, natural law and the Gospel: that is,
principles that both accord with and transcend the nature of every
human being. The Church knows that it is not her specific task to see
to the political implementation of this teaching: her objective is to
help form consciences in political life, to raise awareness of the
authentic requirements of justice, and to foster a greater readiness to
act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations
of personal interest (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 28). In this her mission,
the Church is moved only by love for humanity and the desire to work
together with all people of goodwill to build a world in which the
dignity and inalienable rights of all persons will be safeguarded. For
those of you who share a faith in Christ, the Church asks you to bear
witness to that faith today with even greater courage and generosity.
The integrity of Christians in political life is indeed more necessary
than ever so that the "salt" of apostolic zeal does not lose its
"flavour", and so that the "lamp" of Gospel values enlightening the
daily work of Christians is not obscured by pragmatism or
utilitarianism, suspicion or hate.
The whole text, along with some commentary on the media, is available at Whispers in the Loggia.

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