Peace on Earth

Beneath the bust of their founder, Blessed John Paul II, the members of the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences (PASS) presented four days of papers on Blessed Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the encyclical. For the forty year anniversary John Paul II said

 Looking at the present and into the future with the eyes of faith and reason, Blessed John XXIII discerned deeper historical currents at work. Things were not always what they seemed on the surface. Despite wars and rumours of wars, something more was at work in human affairs, something that to the Pope looked like the promising beginning of a spiritual revolution. (See entire speech here)

They key to peace is respect for the dignity of the person, as John Paul II explained in that message:

The road to peace, he taught in the Encyclical, lay in the defence and promotion of basic human rights, which every human being enjoys, not as a benefit given by a different social class or conceded by the State but simply because of our humanity: “Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights and obligations are universal and inviolable so they cannot in any way be surrendered” 

 The proper understanding of rights continues to be a matter of controversy, in society at large, and in the Church itself. Some Catholics thinkers today actually want to abandon the use of “rights discourse” because it capitulates, supposedly, to liberalism. But this is absurd. John XXIII and John Paul II provided us with a clear guide to understanding the nature of rights and their importance in our world today. The hermeneutic of continuity places rights on the side of Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII et al. The Church teaching on rights is not a new fangled invention of Vatican II..

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