The Holy See’s International agenda? The common good. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States of the Vatican Secretariat of State, explained it in an insightful lecture on «The Social Doctrine of the Church in International Relations» to the young students of the Studium Aquinatis-Workshop on the Social Doctrine of the Church (organized by Circolo San Tommaso d’Aquino). The workshop took place in Canneto – an Italian Marian sanctuary in the Southern Latium – July 21 to 23. There, the Vatican “Minister of Foreign Affairs” outlined the key points of the international agenda of the Holy See: from the protection of family and life to religious freedom, commitment to peace, and subsidiarity. Mamberti also underlined the value of democracy, which «always means responsibility and participation, rights and duties». The ultimate aim is the human person, pursuant to the «integral humanism» that has enthused the Church since the times of Thomas Aquinas. The «tool» to reach the goal of integral human development is the Holy See. The Holy See is a tool «in the world», because it works within the community of nations, accepting the rules of diplomacy. But the Holy See, at the same time, is not a tool «of the word». «The Holy See – Mamberti says – does not focus (narrowly) on specific diplomatic situations. It aims to promote a society based on law and justice: this is the only way to avoid the spread of multiple conflicts and to promote the formation of a society at peace».
The Church in the community of nations
This is the reason why the Holy See is present within the diplomatic framework of the community of nations –the only religious, not political, institution therein. «Reawake and inspire consciences», this is the task of the Church’s international agenda, according to Mamberti. The Social Doctrine of the Church, in fact, is rooted in the heart of man. As is the Charter of the United Nations. In the preamble of the Charter, the founders of the United Nations reaffirmed «faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small». The choice of the word «faith» is revealing. Faith makes reference to deeply held beliefs. So, the United Nations is based on this faith in man’s rights that all peoples can relate to, no matter what their religious beliefs may be.
Mamberti explains that «the Holy See has always worked to uphold the centrality of the human person. This vision comes from the human person’s true nature. No one should lose sight of the basic principle that man is at the center of the concerns of the international community».
The Church’s struggles
Mamberti presents an example. He remembers the Church’s struggles for life, he underlines that «even if the right to life is affirmed, it is also ever increasingly questioned. It suffices to think about the debate on abortion, on human embryo experimentations, on euthanasia. Countries speak about “reproductive health” euphemistically. And “to die with dignity” is just a slogan to support euthanasia. It is very important to be alert to defend the right to life».
The Holy See diplomatic work is never ending, and it is always more sophisticated. Diplomacy must «fight» a change of vocabulary that Silvano Maria Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN office in Geneva, described as the change of a way of thinking: «The change of the vocabulary –Tomasi wrote – began with the sexual revolution of 1968 and asserted itself after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989». It was then that the two blocks of the Cold War were replaced by a plurality of actors in the international scenario. «In this new situation – Tomasi explained in a debate on February 17, 2011– the United Nations felt freer. Moreover: they felt charged with the specific mission to promote practical priorities that – according to the advisors involved – would have led to a more rightful and free world.»
From 1989 on, the new language to sustain this mission has been built up on a series of «key words»: human globalization, sustainable development, good governance, world ethic, cultural diversity, dialogue among civilizations, quality of life, gender, equal opportunities, homophobia, sexual orientation, safe abortion, future generation rights, non-governmental organization, partnerships, civil society, participative democracy, transnational networks, consensus building, inclusive approach, agent-actor of social transformation, best practices, sexual and reproductive rights, right to choose, equal commerce, diverse forms of family.
On the other hand, the words that belong to the Christian-Judaic tradition are excluded, or even tend to disappear: truth, morality, conscience, reason, earth, will, parents, spouse, husband, mother, father, son, daughter, chastity, complementariness, service, authority, hierarchies, law, commandment, dogma, sin, nature, marriage.
The Church’s new (and old) challenges
This new vocabulary is – Tomasi explained – «a mix of words of authentic human aspirations and values with words that represent an individualistic ideology taken to the limit. The latter inspires and guides the managers of world governance. This is how we get to a systematic and lasting transition of words in the documents of the United Nations: from government to governance, from authority to autonomy and rights of the individuals, from spouse to partner, from happiness to quality of life, from given to built, from family to family in all of its forms, from dignity sufferance to the right to die, from majority decision to consensus, from dogma to freedom of interpretation.»
The language of specialized fields also evolved: the Holy See path to financial transparency forced Holy See officials to come to terms with the terminology of international financial law. How to be a «secure» country in the community of nations was the most important topic during the talks with MONEYVAL – the body of the Council of Europe that evaluates the financial adherence of the member States.
Nevertheless, the diplomatic contributions of the Holy See, disseminated like gems inserted in several international documents, gave its fruits. For example, the right to assistance for victims of cluster bombs was a struggle fought by the Holy See in the drafting of the International Convention in Dublin in 2008. The Cluster Munition Convention was signed in Oslo at the end of 2008.
Mamberti reminded the students of Studium Aquinatis that «the Holy See has always been active in the diplomatic front of disarmament. The Holy See was among the founding members of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in 1957, which goal is to limit, reduce and eliminate nuclear armaments and to facilitate the shared use of atomic energy for pacific purposes. The Holy See has been and is among the countries that negotiated the treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as other related international conventions and treaties. With regards to cluster bombs, the Holy See was one of the most active States: I personally signed on behalf of the Holy See the adhesion to the Convention and I deposited the ratification documents on the first day it was possible in Oslo on December 2008. The Holy See wanted to send a signal to the international community».
A piece of the history of the negotiations of the Cluster Munitions Convention shows the struggles the Holy See is facing in the international arena. After gaining acknowledgement for the right of victims to be assisted, a delegation wanted to amend the paragraph concerning this right, asking that the assistance needed to be «gender sensitive». The Holy See was very aware of this: from this addition, each country could be forced to be «gender sensitive» and to develop legislation for a new kind of «health care system» – this process is called “soft law”. This is why the Holy See worked in order to make clear that everything was applied according to the legislation of each State. It is the same reason why the Holy See did not want to sign the document for the UN declaration on decriminalization of homosexuality, thus becoming the target of international complaints. It was not because the Holy See is against «LGBT rights». The Holy See maintains that, already, the Universal Human Rights Declaration covers all human beings. The so-called «gender sensitivity», or the declaration on decriminalization of homosexuality, would in some ways assess that there are men that are more equal than other men. The question is: why to state the need to decriminalize the homosexuality, why to have anti-homophobic law, when Universal Righet already protect all the human beings from every discrimination?
The Church’s struggle for human rights
The Holy See cares deeply about human rights. The concern for religious freedom has always been one of the core commitments of the Holy See. «Christians or other believers – Mamberti says – are persecuted and discriminated in subtle ways, and this happens when religious freedom is reduced to freedom of conscience or freedom of worship. Religious freedom does not only deal with a personal religious component, it also deals with community». Mamberti recalled that «John Paul II said that religious freedom is the litmus test of human rights. Where religious freedom is under threat, all human rights are under threat. I can assure you that defending religious freedom is the main task of the Holy See, and this brings benefits not only to Christians and Catholic believers, but to all believers.»
The human person is at the core of the Holy See International agenda. That is why the Holy See is committed to the common good. «Human rights – Mamberti says – are a common patrimony to defend, without any alteration. Fundamental rights are not the fruit of a consensus or of majorities, they do not come from the State or from any other human institution. Human rights are part of the human being: they are a gift that God gave to humanity».
Recently, the Church has been accused of being a champion of a New World Order, because of the recent reflections of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace about an «authority with universal competences», a super partes international organization to regulate international finance and also the relations among States in order to get to the Common Good – as John XXIII put it in Pacem in Terris. Is this authority a sort of great Leviathan? Or is international finance the Leviathan, as msgr. Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, maintained? The United Nations seems to aim to a New World Order, and this is the reason why it is creating – in its documents – a sort of new anthropology.
A book has been published in Italy that brings to light for the first time in a direct and detailed way the anti-Catholic aversion of the UN and the EU: «Contro il cristianesimo. L’ONU e l’Unione Europea come nuova ideologia [Against Christianity: The UN and the European Union as a New Ideology] », by Eugenia Roccella and Lucetta Scaraffia. In the introduction to the volume, Roccella and Scaraffia identify the roots of the new ideology as the «separation between sexuality and procreation». «More –they write– than a different model of sexual behavior, but conceptually analogous to those that have preceded it in history, this is a question of a real and true utopia, because it is based upon the idea that human beings can find happiness in the realization of their sexual desires, without the moral, biological, social, and relational limitations linked to procreation. This utopia has its roots in the sexual revolution in the West during the 1960′s, and it has not yet been disputed, even though it seems not to have kept its promises. It is a utopia that echoes another, one that brings painful memories: that the selection of new human beings can create a better, more healthy, more beautiful humanity».
It is not just a matter of words. It is a matter of ideology. The conceptual scenario has its own dynamics, and this leads to concrete transformations in several branches of social and political life. Religious freedom and the way it has been handled is an example. An approach to religious freedom linked to intolerance was first included in the Declaration on the principles of Tolerance of UNESCO in 1995 and was then promoted in the Resolution 2004/36, adopted in the 60th session of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in 2004. A new chapter was then opened with resolution 61/164 (Combating the defamations of religions), adopted in the General Assembly of the United Nations December, 19th, 2006. In that resolution, religion is used to limit other basic freedoms (the right to freedom of expression) and to oppress religious minorities when some impose with force and terrorism their religious ideologies, and deny a place in the public sphere to others’ faith and beliefs.
As always, one should look back in time. It was in 1981 – when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief – that the concept of tolerance was placed side by side to religion or belief. «But tolerance – Tomasi explained – is a tool, not a right. In fact, while with religious freedom we mean the guarantee of Government that individuals have freedom of belief and the guarantee of freedom of worship for individuals and groups – including the freedom not to believe in any god– religious tolerance is about accepting or permitting beliefs or religious practices that are different from one’s own.»
These are just some of the hurdles the Holy See faces in its commitment to the Common Good. A commitment that comes out from believing in the inherent dignity of human beings. The same belief that the founders of the United Nations identified in reaffirming «faith» in fundamental human rights, and in the dignity and worth of the human person.