The Natural Law: The Only Basis for International Order
We must recognize as central the 'dignity of the human person, beginning with the centrality of the right to life and to freedom of religion'.
It is only if the principles of the universality and indivisibility of human rights and a "juridical order solidly based upon the dignity and nature of humanity, in other words, upon the natural law" are recognized that international cooperation can occur. Out of the universal and indivisible rights arising out of man's nature, we must recognize as central the "dignity of the human person, beginning with the centrality of the right to life and to freedom of religion."
In his intervention, Archbishop Mamberti stressed the importance of the rule of law, and called for its extension across the globe, since the rule of law is what protects human rights. There is, he noted, an "unbreakable link" between the rule of law and human rights.
The rule of law, of course, has both procedural and substantive components. Law is not only a verb, but also a noun. Not only must process be lawful and transparent, laws must also be substantively good, they must contain "substantial principles of justice" which cover "all spheres of social life."
The word "law" in the phrase "rule of law," "should be understood as 'justice'--what is just, what is a just thing, an element which is proper and inalienable to the nature of every human being and of fundamental social groups." For this reason, no person, no private or public institution, and, indeed, no state or international organization can be lawless or unjust, including--one must believe--religions, and so one and all "must be subject to law that is 'just, fair, and equitable.'"
Procedures alone, even democratic procedures, are not sufficient to assure the rule of law, since procedures or processes alone do not guaranty the substance of law. Democratic procedures can easily be manipulated to result in laws being "an expression of the will of a few," and hence result in injustice.
Moreover, without some substantive standard, we invariably confront "a proliferation of norms and procedures, susceptible in their turn to multiple applications and interpretations even to the point of contradicting each other and placing the certainty of law itself in jeopardy."
A cacophony of voices of what is good and right leads to disregard of law and, ultimately, to the weakening of the rule of law.
There is therefore need of "objective criteria as a basis and guide for legislative activity." Without such "objective criteria," the "rule of law is reduced to a sterile tautology, to a mere 'rule of rules,' and not the "rule of law."
In some cases, the failure to recognize objective criteria has lead to a "legalistic mentality," one based upon a philosophy of law called legal positivism, which results in a "formal and uncritical adherence to laws and rules." This can quickly result in the abuse of human dignity, as happened in the "totalitarian regimes of the 20th century."
Therefore, the "rule of law" requires a foundation. And that foundation must be, and can only be, "a unified and comprehensive vision of man." This vision of man must be one that appreciates "the complexity and richness [of] how people relate to each other." That is, it must be both personal and social in expanse.
Where, then, are individuals, social and political institutions, and indeed governing bodies, including the United Nations and its member states, to go to understand what is "just" or what is a "just thing" so that the rule of law can be furthered?
While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides some "points of reference," the human rights therein referenced "are not of themselves sufficient," particularly if we fail to understand them "in the spirit in which they were formulated and in their historical context." The Declaration notoriously prescinded from giving the basis of those rights.
But in fact, the underlying basis for the Universal Declaration of Human rights is the "result of a lengthy juridical and political process," one that found in the philosophy and theoretical thinking of the Greeks and the juridical and practical reasoning of the Romans. Added to this mix were "other elements, such as Judaeo-Christian wisdom, the laws of other European peoples, canon law," Scholastic and Enlightenment philosophies based in large part on Aristotle, and "the political developments" found in the French and American as well as other revolutions.
It is this uniquely Western contribution, this "complex, rich, and intricate edifice, which is simultaneously historical, juridical, and philosophical," upon which the "inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person can and must be appreciated as the essence of the law and to which the rules must refer."
To a certain degree, one must have "faith" in the rule of law, which means necessarily that one must have ...
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