Mary Ann Glendon's Address to Benedict XVI

“Our Central Focus Has Always Been on the Dignity of the Human Person”

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address given today by Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, to Benedict XVI upon being received by the Pontiff during the plenary session of the academy. The members of the academy are gathered in the Vatican through Tuesday, focusing on Catholic social doctrine and human rights.

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Holy Father,

Your Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences comes before you this morning with immense gratitude for the encouragement you have given us, as we strive to be ever more useful to the Church in the development of her social teachings.

Over the years, no matter what aspect of economics, law, sociology or political sciences claimed our attention, there has been one central theme, one golden thread that has stitched all our work together. Our central focus has always been on the dignity of the human person and the common good. This week, Your Holiness, our Plenary Session has been entirely devoted to the way that theme has found expression in the concept of universal human rights.

In so doing, we have been mindful of the Church’s long engagement with human rights, of her own decisive contributions to the dignitarian vision of rights embodied in so many human rights instruments, including a Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and of the Holy See as a fearless champion of that vision in international settings. That engagement has been characterized by a prudent recognition that the modern human rights project, like all human enterprises, constantly needs to be called to what is highest and best in its aspirations.

We have also been mindful of the fact that in today’s world, ironically, many threats to the dignity of the person have appeared in the guise of human rights. As you pointed out in your memorable speech to the United Nations last year, there are mounting pressures to “move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests.”

Accordingly in these days, with the help of experts in all the social sciences, we have reviewed the long reciprocal relationship between Christianity and human rights ideas. We have explored the expanding circle of human rights protection in an effort to discern how new rights claims are, or are not, conducive to human flourishing. We have paid special attention to rights that are currently under assault such as the right to life, the right to found a family, freedom of conscience and religion, and to rights that have too long awaited fulfillment such as the right to decent subsistence. Then building on our previous studies of globalization, we have taken up the question of the proper roles of states, private actors, and international entities in bringing human rights to life.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of all our members for your teachings on faith, hope and charity that provide an unconditional foundation for human rights, and for the example you set in the difficult Petrine mission to which Providence has called you. We are deeply grateful for your constant solicitude towards our Academy, which is also manifested in the appointment of our new Academician Lubomir Mlcoch.

It only remains for me, dear Holy Father, to ask you to bless this Academy and all those who have generously shared their wisdom with us over the past few days. We thank you most sincerely for the gift of this encounter.

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