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BUILDING A JUST SOCIETY
Contemporary ideas of social justice are centred upon the concept of individual rights and freedoms. While individual rights and freedoms are an excellent ideal to aspire to as a society these ideas also demand personal responsibility. It is at the point of personal responsibility that Western societies are failing to uphold the standard of not only “Freedom”, but also “Justice for all.”[i]
The Western world in the last fifty years has seen significant advances in human rights for women, and for minority groups in particular. Yet, at the same time that rights are being advanced for certain groups the very foundation of human rights is being eroded by the denial of the right to life for unborn members of our society; the most defenceless humans.[ii] The modern concept of human rights is founded upon the Judeo-Christian view that humans have an inherent dignity and value in and of themselves, not because of what they are able to do or what they possess. This view of human life has been held by the Church since its earliest centuries, and came to influence Christian civilisation profoundly in both East and West.[iii] It is the place of the Church and of all believers today, to preach, by action and word, the news of God’s love for humanity in our best friend and saving God, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity.[iv]
Today the Church is the primary voice speaking for the Rights of All on the global stage, and the clearest voice speaking for humanity’s most vulnerable is that of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. We, as Jesus’ body on earth,[v] are called to preach the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus, “in season and out of season”.[vi] Our Holy Father has been aggressively criticised in recent months and years for uncompromisingly preaching the message of Jesus as expressed in the orthodox teaching of the Catholic faith. Yet again and again Pope Benedict states simply, and concisely, the teaching of the Catholic Church that a just society is built upon the Law of God, the Law of Love that brings True Freedom and Justice for All.[vii]
The Church teaches that each human being is created in God’s image and has inherent dignity, value, and a purpose in creation that only she/he can fulfill.[viii] Every life is therefore important and to be treasured as beyond price, from conception to natural death.
By contrast, if human life has no inherent dignity or value then we as a society leave it to the state and social elites to determine who it is who has the right to live, who must die, and when they should die[ix], ie. in old age, when ill, or showing signs of disability before or after birth.[x] We have already seen the consequences of this world view in the atheistic totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century.[xi]
The Good News of Jesus, and its synthesis in the teaching of the Catholic Church are an absolute affirmation of life and authentic human freedom:
"The protection of human life [at all its stages]
is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation
upon which all other human rights are based."
- Benedict XVI[xii]
Asking Jesus for the most profound communion with God that is possible, let us pray that our Father would unite us to Himself so that each one of us may be his face, hands, and heart for the world. May we, in union with the entire Body of Christ, contribute to the building of a more just society wherever it is that He calls us. In doing so we will reveal the love God has for all humanity, and we will leave a more beautiful world as an inheritance for our young, and many generations to come. Jesus will bring all our hopes and prayers to bear much fruit for God’s Kingdom.[xiii]
[i] United States of America’s “Pledge of Allegiance”.
[ii] Cooper, Milke, and Navarro-Genie, “Drinking intellectual hemlock at the University of Calgary”. MercatorNet.com: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/drinking_intellectual_hemlock_at_the_university_of_calgary/ , 4 March 2009.
[iii] Siemens, Jeremy J. The Head, the Heart, and the Hands; Gregory of Nazianzus and the Emperor Julian on the Importance of Piety, Purity and Philanthropy in Shaping the Empire. M.A. Thesis, University of St. Michael’s College – University of Toronto, 2008.
[iv] See Doherty, Catherine. Sobornost, Experiencing Unity of Mind, Heart, and Soul. 2nd. Ed. Madonna House Publications, 2000.
[v] “Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
– St. Teresa of Avila, Carmelite mystic and reformer. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/268.html .
[vi] 2 Timothy 4:1-2
[vii] Benedict XVI, “Pope: only the light of God can overcome the great "darkness" cast by war and greed.” PIME AsiaNews.it, http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=14793&size=A .
[viii] As in the case of our Holy Mother, Mary, whose “Yes” to God brought our salvation, Jesus Christ, into the world.
[ix] Thadeus Baklinski, “UK Parents told by Court Their Baby Must be Allowed to Die”. LifeSiteNews.com: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/mar/09032301.html
[x] Deborah Gyapong, “Powerful Words from Cardinal George.” http://deborahgyapong.blogspot.com/2009/03/powerful-words-from-cardinal-george.html
[xi] Benedict XVI, “Faith and reason given to man so as not to yield to the law of the strongest, says Pope”. PIME AsiaNews.it, http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=14784&size=A .
[xii] Benedict XVI, “Everyone has right to food, unborn have right to life, says pope.” - VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Everyone, especially the youngest and poorest of the world, has a right to food, and the unborn have a right to life, Pope Benedict XVI said. The protection of human life is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation upon which all other human rights are based, the pope said in a May 31 audience with Guatemala's new ambassador to the Vatican. There will always be more work to do in helping guarantee pregnant women, even those who are in "severe difficulty," will be able to raise their children "with dignity, that way avoiding the unjustifiable recourse to abortion," the pope said. The pope made his comments in a ceremony in which Acisclo Valladares Molina presented his credentials. The pope said protecting all human life, especially the life of the unborn, is an ever pressing task. Pope Benedict lamented the ongoing problems of poverty and emigration in Guatemala. He said another challenge the country faces is finding a solution to the malnutrition suffered by "numerous children." Catholic New Service: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/briefs/cns/20080602.htm .
[xiii] Benedict XVI, SPE SALVI: On Christian Hope. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi_en.html .3