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Benedict XVI challenges United Nation on Life Issues
by Rev. Jerome Magat, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Crystal City, South Arlington VA
It's been just over a week since the Holy Father's historic visit to U.S. and his marvelous speech given at the UN. It was a pleasure and high honor to meet him. You could tell right away that he is a man of profound wisdom, spiritual insight and knowledge. Moreover, he is a keen student of human nature and the various philosophies that have captured the hearts and minds of the human person worldwide. He can accurately dissect and analyze the challenges that all believers face in a world steeped in moral relativism and the culture of death. I take great comfort in knowing that we are being led by a successor of St. Peter who truly understands the human condition and better - has the remedy for every question and concern we have - rooted in Christ Jesus, our hope.
Upon further examination of the text of his speech to the General Assembly, it is clear that the Pope was like Daniel walking into the "lions' den". Here was the Pope, walking into the most celebrated hall in the secular world, totally immersed in moral relativism and notions of freedom rooted in tolerance, not truth. I cannot confidently say that all of the ambassadors or delegates really understood the Pope, not because he was unintelligible, but because the Pope operates on a set of philosophical principles foreign to a complete secularist.
Pope's speech itself was remarkable. He immediately cited the common ground that exists between the Church and the UN, including the human aspiration for freedom, security, protection of human rights and genuine human progress.
Beyond the common ground that exists between the Church and the UN, the Holy Father went on to cite profound differences in the respective world views. Herein lies the challenge he posed: Can the UN accept the fundamental truth about the human person, created in the image and likeness of God, which is grounded in natural law? If the UN recognizes natural law, then it must concede that natural law came to us from a Creator and is not a mere invention of man. Such a concession leaves little room for the moral relativism that pervades this international organization. The Pope reminds us that it is natural law that helps us correlate the relationship between rights and duties "by which every person is called to assume responsibility for his or her choices, made as a consequence of entering into relations with others." This reference to natural law was part of the Holy Father's assessment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which turns 60 years old this year.
This theme extends into other areas of life. For example the Pope stated that the UN has a duty to guarantee a rational use of technology and science and to rediscover the authentic image of creation, "the high point of God's creative design for the world and its history." He said, "This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives." Certainly, questions regarding embryonic stem cell research, cloning and IVF (in vitro or "test tube" fertilization) come to mind in this remark.
Moreover, the Holy Father reminded world leaders not to merely fall back on pragmatic approaches when it comes to solving the world's problems. If the human person is created in the image and likeness of God, then the human person deserves special consideration when policy makers discern courses of action. We can infer here that sins like abortion and contraception may seem to be pragmatic solutions to so-called overpopulation challenges, but such types of actions are contrary to human dignity, which the UN is pledged to protect.
While it is difficult to predict what impact the Holy Father's words will have on the culture and workings of the UN, we must take encouragement from the fact that the Culture of Life raised a mighty voice in the lions' den. God uses a slight, humble worker who is a intellectual giant and lover of mankind to sow seeds of light. We must pray and fast that his challenges will render fruit for the Harvest-Master.