Human Rights Don´t Depend on Majority Consensus, Warns Pope

Democracies Can Become Oppressive, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2002 ( John Paul II strongly warned against the notion that human rights depend on the powerful of society or on the consensus of the majority.

On Wednesday afternoon, when the Pope received the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he stated that if society does not rediscover the natural law, human rights will be relegated to the free will and interests of the most influential.

Only on the basis of the natural law, he insisted, it is possible to have «true dialogue and authentic collaboration between believers and nonbelievers,» because without it, everything is relative.

The members of the academy met in Rome from Feb. 25-27 to address the topic «Nature and Dignity of the Human Being as a Foundation for the Right to Life: The Challenges of the Contemporary Cultural Context.»

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Holy Father said that it «is important to help our contemporaries to understand the positive and humanizing value of natural moral law, correcting a series of misunderstandings and erroneous interpretations.»

John Paul II continued: «The Church´s magisterium invokes the universality and the dynamic and perfective character of natural law with reference to the transmission of life, both in order to maintain the fullness of marital union in the procreative act and to conserve openness to life in conjugal love.»

«The magisterium makes a similar invocation on the theme of respect for innocent human life: Here our thoughts go to abortion, to euthanasia, and to the destructive suppression and experimentation with human embryos and fetuses,» the Pope said.

The Church affirms this position because the rights of man «must refer to what man is by his nature and by reason of his dignity and not to the subjective choices of those who enjoy the power to participate in social life or who manage to obtain the consensus of the majority,» he added.

This false interpretation of the rights of man, the Holy Father pointed out, «can also lead democratic regimes to a form of substantial totalitarianism.»

Lastly, the Pope said that «the Church affirms each innocent human being´s right to life, in each moment of his existence.»

«The distinction, sometimes proposed in some international documents, between ´human being´ and ´human person,´ [and] to then recognize the right to life and physical integrity only for people already born, is an artificial distinction with no scientific or philosophical foundation,» John Paul II stressed.

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