Paolo Carozza Comments on Pontiff's Message
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, 9 JAN. 2007 (ZENIT)
On the World Day of Peace,
Benedict XVI warned that the path to peace will be uncertain and wayward
if it is not paved with a "true integral humanism."
According to Paolo Carozza, the words of Benedict XVI reaffirm what Pope
John Paul II had said about peace being the fruit of relationships of
justice and solidarity.
Carozza, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a member of
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, shared with ZENIT how
Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace highlighted the role
of principles such as the dignity of life, religious freedom and
equality among all persons in working toward peace.
Part 2 of this interview will appear Wednesday.
Q: The title of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace, "The
Human Person, the Heart of Peace," addresses the rights and dignity of
the human person as the path to peace. In what ways does this confront
the conventional wisdom of the international diplomatic community?
Carozza: There certainly is a sharp difference between this vision and
an approach to peace based merely on the diplomatic, economic, and
military relations between sovereign states that some approaches to
international peace and security would emphasize. Nevertheless, there is
an important sense in which Benedict XVI's point is not new, but in fact
picks up and strengthens an understanding of the path to peace that has
been present to a significant degree in global affairs at least since
World War II.
The architects of the post-1945 international order were highly
conscious of the relationship between outrages to the dignity of the
human person and the tragedy of war, and that link can already be seen
clearly in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, as the Pope himself recognizes in the
In fact, I would say that in much of the world the strong connection
between peace and the rights and dignity of the person is now accepted
as self-evident. One can see it in the way that the language and
politics of human rights has permeated everything from international
trade to post-conflict institution building to environmental protection.
Where Benedict XVI goes much further than the prevailing mentality is in
his insistence that it is not enough to simply assert
the link between peace and human dignity. To make that connection real
and concrete, not just an abstract ideal or intuition of the truth, one
needs to cultivate an adequate and objective understanding of what the
human person is, and what human dignity requires.
Benedict XVI thus takes us back to what Mary Ann Glendon has referred to
as the "unfinished business" of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights: the question of its foundations. For 60 years the international
community has largely proceeded to try to develop and realize human
rights though positive law while prescinding from any sustained effort
to reach common understandings of their underlying source and scope.
In short, the difference between the vision in Benedict XVI's message
and the conventional wisdom of international affairs is not so much in
the affirmation that the dignity and rights of the human person are the
path to peace, but rather in the Pope's warning that that path will be
uncertain, unstable and wayward without a "true integral humanism" that
embraces the whole human person as a concrete, given reality
without reduction, without manipulation, and without ideology.
Q: Natural law is a central theme in the Pope's message, and he sees it
as a point of convergence among the various cultures and civilizations,
rather than a peculiarly Western idea. Why is natural law an important
component for peace?
Carozza: Perhaps the most eloquent answer to this question is not in the
words of the Pope's message or in any explanation of it that we could
give, but in the witness of his presence in Turkey and the way that in
great simplicity he was able to bridge what seems to many an
unfathomable chasm in human understanding. He did so by a profound
appreciation for and firm focus on what is common to every human heart.
In that recognition of our common humanity lies the only path to a peace
that is more than merely the absence of violent conflict. As John Paul
II often emphasized and Benedict XVI reaffirms in this message, peace is
the fruit of relationships of justice and solidarity, a mutual and
genuine commitment to the good of one another. And that commitment only
arises out of the mutual recognition of what we share
the original needs and desires of every human heart.
Thus Benedict XVI stresses that the personal commitment that is required
of us to renew the world in peace and justice can only be realized on
the basis of "respect for the 'grammar' written on human hearts by the
Recognition of the natural law is essential not in the first instance as
a set of moral rules or restraints, but simply as an acknowledgment of
certain truths about every human being and of what is conducive to human
flourishing because of the way that we have all been created.
Or to see it from the contrary perspective, one cannot build peace
in the thick sense of relationships of justice and solidarity
on the basis of false or weak and uncertain notions of what constitutes
the fulfillment of the human heart. On the contrary, as the Pope points
out, such relativism invites the victory of power over truth and
Q: It seems implicit that Benedict XVI's exhortations to reconsider and
take seriously the role of reason require a major engagement with the
natural law. Because the dialogue of cultures hinges on the acceptance
of reason, how can the Church help other cultures, religions and
societies engage the natural law tradition of inquiry?
Carozza: The Pope has written in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est,"
that it is not the role of the Church to bring about justice in the
world, but rather to help purify reason by fostering an openness of mind
and will, and to liberate reason from its blind spots and
self-limitation so that in seeking justice we are able to act more fully
in accord with the nature of every human being.
This means first that the task of the Church is to present with clarity
and reasonableness the wealth of her teaching, and to propose to the
world the insights she has gained from her experience of humanity.
Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace is itself a lucid
example of this: It does not pretend to provide solutions
let alone detailed blueprints
about how to achieve peace and justice, but educates us by reminding us
of the central importance of such principles as the gift of life,
freedom of religion, the natural equality of all persons, the destiny of
the created world, and so on.
It is up to us to be the bearers of these truths in our work and to
generate thereby a culture of "authentic integral humanism" that is
capable of transcending cultural divides.
The most important locus for engaging the natural law tradition and
fostering a radical openness of reason, therefore, is above all in
ourselves. Only if we are attentive first to the education of our own
hearts and the purification of our own reason, can we act in the world
with the clarity and certainty necessary to engage every person and
every culture in a genuine dialogue about what is good for human
Without that affection for the truth of one's own life, even the natural
law can easily be reduced from the ground of cross-cultural
understanding to a meaningless formalism or an imposition.
Q: The Pope stated: "Peace requires the establishment of a clear
boundary between what is at man's disposal and what is not." Can you
explain in more detail what he means by this? How can that boundary be
Carozza: In several places in this text Benedict XVI shows an acute
concern that has consistently marked his thought and teaching more
generally, both as Cardinal Ratzinger and since becoming Pope: If
nothing is beyond the bounds of human possession and instrumentalization,
then there is ultimately no possibility of safeguarding human dignity
The phrase quoted in the question raises this preoccupation in the
particular context of a discussion of "gift" and "life." Recognizing
that our life is given, and not created by us to use as we will, is the
first indispensable step toward protecting all human rights with
The boundary between what is ours to use and what is not, and thus the
boundary between inviolable human rights and merely conventional norms,
begins with the protection of human life in all the contexts where it is
most vulnerable to being reduced to the measure of its material
usefulness and disposed of at the will of the more powerful.
The Holy Father mentions, in particular, victims of armed conflict,
terrorism and other forms of violence, as well as the "silent deaths"
caused by hunger, abortion, euthanasia and experimentation on human
It is worth highlighting, too, that Benedict XVI explains the
fundamental importance of religious freedom along the same lines. By
existing beyond the boundaries of what is ours to possess and use, the
relationship between the human person and a transcendent "other" is a
keystone holding up the edifice of all other human rights. ZE07010926
Paolo Carozza on Building an
SOUTH BEND, Indiana, 10 JAN. 2007 (ZENIT)
Benedict XVI's exhortation
on the World Day of Peace to strengthen and clarify our reason, and not
settle for weak or diluted anthropological visions, is essential to the
challenge of building an integral humanism.
So says Paolo Carozza, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame
and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
He shared with ZENIT how Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of
Peace stresses the dignity of the human person, the common good, true
advocacy of human rights and the use of transcendent principles in
developing international law.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.
Q: The heart of the Pope's message seems to be that the path to peace is
grounded in a proper anthropology of the human person, in which man is
understood as having inherent dignity by virtue of being created in the
"imago Dei," as well as a transcendent end. But are there forums in the
international community where this "integral humanism" is taken
Carozza: By its own nature the ideal of integral humanism is one that
always demands renewed personal commitment and deeper understanding
about the good of human persons in new and different historical and
so in a certain sense it is never fully realized but always only in
At the same time, all international fora and institutions were in some
way created in response to real, tangible human needs
for example, as responses to crises or out of a growing awareness of
human interdependence and the necessity of coordinating activity for the
Thus, at some level, they all contain within them an important degree of
inherent concern for authentic human goods, even if it is always only
imperfectly realized. It is important, therefore, always to seek and
strengthen those good and constructive elements, while clearly working
to resist or "prune" whatever is contrary to them.
This is often a difficult judgment to make because it requires us to
steer a course that avoids both an uncritical acceptance of
internationalism for its own sake and also an unreflective rejection of
international institutions and processes in response to the fact that
some of them are very unhealthy.
This is exactly why Benedict XVI's exhortation to strengthen and clarify
our reason and not settle for weak or diluted anthropological visions is
so essential to the challenge.
Ultimately, a consistent concern for integral humanism in international
fora will only be present to the extent that there are individuals there
who give it voice and take action consistently with it.
I am happy to say that in my experience of working in international law
and institutions there are such persons, and it is always an
encouragement and inspiration to encounter them, sometimes in most
unexpected ways and places. But there is no doubt that the need is even
greater, by far.
First, the world of global affairs desperately needs more people,
especially young professionals whose reason and hearts are educated to
appreciate the breadth and depth of the dignity of human persons, to
dedicate themselves to constructing peace and justice in the world.
Secondly, there is a great need for strengthened unity among the
disparate individuals already present in these institutions, a unity of
conscience and judgment.
In building up that integral humanism, we should not forget that it is
not only intergovernmental institutions that are the relevant actors.
There is enormous potential today for civil society organizations to
contribute, or to undermine, the ideal.
For example, two of the international nongovernmental associations that
I am most familiar with that do tremendous good in promoting true
humanism today are the World Youth Alliance and the Association of
Volunteers in International Service.
Q: In what ways does the vision of human rights advocated by Benedict
XVI diverge from the conception of human rights espoused by many
international organizations that the Pope says actually divests them of
their authority as advocates for the rights of persons?
Carozza: The Pope's use of the word "authority" here is very
interesting. Obviously he does not mean authority merely in the sense of
the fact of being able to exercise power, or even in the technical
juridical sense of having the legal warrant to make decisions and take
He refers to the moral authority that ultimately grounds and justifies
those actions and exercises of power. And that kind of authority is
founded in the common good, which is the total set of conditions
allowing for individual persons and groups to reach their fulfillment
Where international institutions are in fact undermining the common
good, they do not have the authority, in the fullest sense, to act or to
expect our cooperation even though they might have the factual power and
positive legal license to do so. This happens in the world today any
time that organizations fail to respect and safeguard the basic rights
of persons, to promote social well-being and development, or to foster
the stability and security of a just order.
Although Benedict XVI does not say so directly, he knows well that there
is one specific issue in particular that threatens to compromise the
authority of a wide array of international organizations, and that is
It is no secret that there has been for some time a very intense and
sustained effort on the part of powerful interests to advance access to
abortion globally through the influence of international institutions,
and that must be one of the prime examples of what Benedict XVI is
implicitly referring to, especially in light of his prior, beautiful
reminder that "life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of
Q: The Pope's message included an exhortation to apply the principles of
international law to new forms of conflict and violence, including
terrorism. How might this be done? What contributions can the Church
make to such a conversation?
Carozza: When existing international law no longer is completely
adequate to address new realities and global concerns
whether it is forms of conflict and violence, new technologies affecting
human dignity, new ecological threats, or other problems
the most reasonable response is not to discard international law, which
is an essential tool for the realization of the universal common good
generally, but to provoke its development and adaptation to those new
One of the critical ways to do so is to recall and insist on the
underlying fundamental principles that gave the law its direction and
meaning, so that any new rules and practices still adhere to and respect
the basic human goods that animated the prior legal order. That
consistent insistence on transcendent principles is a tremendously
important contribution that the Church makes to global debate.
With regard to the problems posed by contemporary forms of violence, for
instance, Benedict XVI rightly points out certain requirements that must
be maintained in any evolution of the rules of armed conflict and
humanitarian law: that noncombatants be protected and not targeted; and
that there must be clear ethical limits on methods of guaranteeing
such as, presumably, the prohibition on torture.
When these principles and similar ones are maintained with sufficient
conviction and resolve, the freedom of international law to change in
response to the demands of the common good is enhanced, not diminished.
Q: Significantly, the Pope makes reference to the growing competition
for energy sources and its potential for international conflict and war.
In what ways can an anthropology of integral humanism and Catholic
social doctrine address this problem?
Carozza: The problem, of course, is generated by the multiplicity of
interests in possessing and controlling scarce resources. While it is
played out through highly complex dynamics in diplomatic, economic and
military arenas, it is most fundamentally a problem of the human heart
and its relationship to the goods of creation.
Without the growth of the virtue of solidarity, without an increased
consciousness of the common destiny of all human persons, and without an
education to the meaning and purpose of the things we possess and use,
any resolution in the struggle to acquire energy resources or other
scarce goods will be no more than a temporary truce, or the partial
victory of one power or interest over another.
To generate a lasting solution, therefore, we must start with an
adequate appreciation of the person, and of the common stewardship of
mankind over the goods of creation, for the benefit of all. Catholic
social doctrine is nothing other than this
distillation of "what is in accord with the nature of every human being"
(as the Pope wrote in "Deus Caritas Est"), and thus an aid to the
attainment of justice and peace. ZE07011029