Statement by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti to INTERPOL's General Assembly

«The Transcendent Value of Human Dignity[…]Offers the State of Law a Foundation of Secure Stability»

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ROME, Nov. 6, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address given yesterday by H.E. monsignor Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States of the Vatican State Secretariat, at the 81st Session of INTERPOL’s General Assembly, which is taking place in Rome.

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Mr. President,

Gentlemen Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My Delegation wishes, first of all, to thank the Italian Authorities and all the organizers of this General Assembly of INTERPOL, whose topic “The Challenges Posed to the Police by the Phenomenon of Contemporary Criminal Violence,” is of great relevance for any society.

In the course of the last decades the criminal phenomenon has shown a substantial increase be it from the quantitative point of view or under the profile of the violence of its manifestations. The characteristics of criminal action have evolved in a worrying way, the aggressiveness and cruelty of the incidents being dangerously aggravated. Moreover, criminal activities are now articulated at a global level, with systems of coordination and according to criminal pacts that go beyond the boundaries of States. Hence, globalization has come to shape even this dramatic realm of human life. Sophisticated technical means, huge financial resources, at times dark political complicity, are elements that concur to furnish deleterious support to organized ways of extreme violence (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 513).

At the same time, the development of democratic institutions has made it possible to refine the techniques of protection of the liberty f individuals and the way of a proportionate and responsible use of public force. This notwithstanding, there is always a margin of vulnerability in face of the most cruel criminality, whose manifestations bring into question the very basis of civil coexistence, eroding the fabric of values on which the institutions of the modern State are founded.

The defense and promotion of this fabric of values is the first and most important action to prevent criminality. If the public power is no longer able to operate preventively in this direction, for this very reason its legitimacy should fail. Such a drift is a risk to be avoided with care: the public authority, which has the task of managing the administration of justice and security, necessarily draws its vitality and authoritativeness from a constant reference to an objective ethical order. When the authority loses the credit and trust of the citizens, and leans only on juridical formalism,  the mere governing of rules, without a look of truth on man, this authority becomes a giant with feet of clay.

The democratic States, themselves, must offer all citizens the same guarantee of protection of fundamental rights. It is observed, on the other hand, that even in countries where forms of democratic government are in force, these rights are not always respected (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus, 47). Moreover, in order to stem the most cruel criminal expressions, every State must question itself about the causes that underlie them and investigate the remote origins from which they derive.

The complexity of the phenomenon also implies facing questions that have to do with the force of the State of law also in the most dramatic situations of the life of States, as those posed by the most extreme criminality: how to respect the fundamental principles of law in situations of extreme tension? What role must be ensured to law in the necessary fight against the most violent and unforeseeable criminality? What law must be applied?

The promotion of the State of law is one of the objectives confirmed by the International Community, as recalled once again recently by the high level event organized in New York last September 24, in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly. For the State of law to be in force, a certain number of conditions must be brought together in a harmonious whole: specific constitutional norms concerning the separation of powers and the competencies of different organs, the transparency of the acts of government, the jurisdictional control exercised by an independent magistracy, but also the existence of different voices capable of expressing themselves freely in the public arena. The objective is that either in law or in fact all the physical persons, the public and private institutions, the States and International Organizations, are subject to the law, a law that must be “just and equitable.”

Beyond formalism, the essence of law is justice, or what is just. Today it is not always easy to establish what is the just thing that can become positive law. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man gives us an important reference to delineate what is just, but it is not sufficient. It is the fruit of a complex, rich and articulated historical, juridical and philosophical evolution. The Declaration itself recognizes the existence of a prior and superior human nature to all the social theories and constructions, which the individual and the society must respect and not manipulate at will. In his experience of himself, man recognizes that he has not created himself. He is intellect and will, but also nature. Man’s intellect reflects on a fact that is prior to him: his own existence in a determined way; only by accepting this prior fact, and basing itself on it, the intelligence indicates to the will the right way to act, realizing fully its liberty (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bundestag, Berlin, September 22, 2011). If legislative production and its implementation were limited instead to support themselves on a foundation of formalistic nature, on pragmatic and utilitarian reasons, losing from sight the truth about man, every subsequent regulation, as every institution called to make it respected, would risk being susceptible to instrumentalization. Thus, in the end, the real subject/object would be forgotten of the imperative command: the human person, the whole human person, every human person. Moreover, laws and juridical institutions would fall into discredit among those who should, instead, observe them: “If the moral principles that support the democratic process are not founded, in turn, on anything more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process is shown in all its evidence. Herein lies the real challenge for democracy” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Civil Authorities, London, September 17, 2010).

The transcendent value of human dignity, rooted in man’s very nature and recognizable by right reason, offers the State of law a foundation of secure stability, because it corresponds to the truth of man in as much as created by God, and at the same time it enables the State of law to pursue its true objective, which is the promotion of the common good. If, in fact, this fundamental reference is lacking, risks of imbalance are created: even the affirmation of equality before the law can serve as alibi of evident discriminations and, on the other hand, an excessive affirmation of equality can give way to an individualism where each one claims his rights, removing himself from the responsibility for the common good (cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesima adveniens, 23).

The fight against every form of violence, especially that which manifests itself with greater brutality, implies the moral duty to contribute to bring about the conditions so that it is not born or develop. Those who work in institutions of public security, such as the police forces that you represent, are aware that the first antibodies to every form of criminality are, in fact, the citizens of every country. Built on the alliance and solidarity between citizens and forces of order is the best bastion of resistance to criminality.Among the most effective actions to create a social context ordered to the common good is the removal of the causes that originate and fuel situations of injustic
e. A primary and preventive role in this realm must be recognized to education inspired in respect for human life in every circumstance. Without it, in fact, it is not possible to bring about a strong and cohesive social fabric in fundamental values, capable of resisting the provocations of extreme violence. In this connection, the primary place for being made man is the family. In it the children experience the value of their own transcendent dignity, in as much as received in the anticipating gratuitousness of the mutual and stable love of the spouses. Experienced in it are the first forms of justice and forgiveness, cement of intra-family relations and basis for the correct insertion in social life.

Once the centrality of the family is confirmed and the importance of the other intermediate societies, the full respect of human rights needs a convinced attestation that the criminal, no matter how grave the offense committed, remains always a human person, gifted with rights and duties. In him remains, though disfigured by sin, the image of God the Creator.

This gives reason to the fact that the State must take steps to prevent and repress criminal phenomenons, remedying also the disorders caused by criminal actions; but that in doing so it must abstain in every case from the practice of mistreatments and tortures (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 402, 404), as well as ensure the protection of the fundamental liberty enjoyed by every individual person. To be legitimate, every restriction of individual liberty, even if aimed at the prevention or repression of criminal activity, must never become detrimental to personal dignity or unjustly compromise an effective exercise of human rights.

It is only by operating in such terms that the governmental authority, the police forces and all the institutions deputized to security will succeed in arousing and nourishing the trust and respect of the citizens, renewing the foundation of the State of law and rendering ever more effective the fight against criminality.

Thank you, Mr. President!

[Original text: French] [Translation by ZENIT]
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