|Compendium of Social Doctrine Looks at International Relations
ROME, 5 FEB. 2005 (ZENIT)
The Church's interest in the relations
between nations stems from the universality of God's action in the
world. Thus starts the chapter of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine
of the Church dedicated to international matters. God's creative action
embraces the whole world and, in spite of humanity's sinfulness, he
continues to bless of creation.
Initially God established a covenant with Abraham, but even at this
early stage Genesis 17:4 notes that he was destined to be "the father of
a multitude of nations." Referring to a number of passages in St. Paul's
letters, the Compendium explains that with the coming of Jesus we have
been given a new life in Christ, where racial and cultural differences
should no longer be a cause of division. And in Pentecost the message of
the Resurrection is announced to a diversity of peoples, who understand
it in their own language.
"The Christian message offers a universal vision of the life of men and
peoples on earth that makes us realize the unity of the human family,"
explains the Compendium (No. 432). This unity is built on the supreme
model of unity, namely the Holy Trinity.
The construction of an international community is founded on two main
elements: the centrality of the human person and the natural inclination
of people to establish relationships. This community, continues the
Compendium, should aim at ensuring "the effective universal common good"
Among the obstacles that thwart the functioning of an international
community, the text names factors such as "materialistic and
nationalistic ideologies" and racism. In opposition to these negative
tendencies the Church proposes values such as truth, justice, solidarity
and freedom. Moreover, the Compendium asks that relations between
nations and peoples be conducted according to "the principles of reason,
equity, law and negotiation."
The text also emphasizes the importance of international law, while also
recognizing the value of each nation's sovereignty. "The international
community is a juridical community founded on the sovereignty of each
member state, without bonds of subordination that deny or limit its
independence" (No. 434).
National freedom and a country's cultural identity are important
elements, but the text also notes that sovereignty is not unlimited.
Moreover, some of the national rights can be renounced in the search for
achieving common international goals. On this point the Compendium adds
that one problem in finding the equilibrium between national sovereignty
and international laws is that there is no accord on what exactly is
constituted by the "rights of nations."
A moral order
The international community should be ordered by the same moral law that
governs personal relations, recommends the text. The Compendium invokes
a "universal moral law, written on the human heart" (No. 436) that
should form the basis of international life.
The respect for principles such as the equal dignity of every people,
the rejection of war, the obligation to cooperate for the common good
and respecting international pacts are also essential, notes the text.
The Compendium urges that nations resolve disputes by means of "common
rules in a commitment to negotiation and to reject definitively the idea
that justice can be sought through recourse to war" (No. 438). To this
end the further development of processes of negotiation and mediation
based on international law would be an important means in order to avoid
the use of force in resolving differences.
The Church, notes the text, has generally taken a favorable view of the
development of intergovernmental organizations such as the United
Nations. However, it adds, "it has reservations when they address
problems incorrectly" (No. 440).
In spite of these drawbacks the Compendium notes that the magisterium
favors a universal public authority that has the effective power to
safeguard security, justice and rights. However, "it is essential that
such an authority arise from mutual agreement and that it not be
imposed, nor must it be understood as a kind of 'global super-state'"
How then to regulate the exercise of authority at this global level? The
Compendium recommends that it "be regulated by law, ordered to the
common good and respectful of the principle of subsidiarity" (No. 441).
A global authority, continues the text, is more necessary than ever due
to the globalization of many problems that require coordinated action in
order to ensure peace and development. But the international
organizations that are entrusted with such a task are in need of
revision in order to overcome the negative effects of political
rivalries and the desire to manipulate these bodies for ends that are
not in agreement with the common good.
The Compendium also welcomes the activity of private non-governmental
organizations that are active in the international sphere, particularly
in the area of drawing public attention to the matter of human rights.
An important task for the international community, explains the
Compendium, is ensuring the economic development of nations. There are
many obstacles to be overcome, but the Church's magisterium considers
that there is a right to development.
This right is based on the following principles: the unity of origin and
shared destiny of the human family; the equality between people and
communities based on human dignity; the universal destination of the
earth's goods; the very notion of development; the centrality of the
human person; and the principle of solidarity.
Integration into markets at the international level is an important
means that poorer countries need to have available if they are to break
out of their problems. Other problems to be overcome include illiteracy,
the lack of food, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of basic health
and sanitation. The Compendium also notes the importance of political
stability and the need to ensure liberty and individual economic
But, in addition to factors that are based on economic principles, the
Compendium asks that there "be an awareness of the duty to solidarity,
justice and universal charity" (No. 448). It is important to be aware
that there are duties toward others because of their human dignity, thus
creating a consciousness of a common good that extends to the whole
In fact, the poverty of billions of people should be an issue that
challenges our human and Christian consciences, adds the Compendium. The
world's material goods are destined for the benefit of all people and
each one of us is responsible for the good of all. It is also important
not to see the poor just as a problem, "but as people who can become the
principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone" (No.
The chapter closes with a reminder of the need to resolve the burden of
international debt that afflicts many poor nations.
The causes of the debt problem are complex, admits the Compendium, but
those who bear the greatest burden of suffering are the poor of the
indebted countries who bear no responsibility for this situation. We
cannot ignore the importance of respecting the principle that debts
should be repaid, the text concludes, but a remedy to the debt problem
must be found. ZE05020503