Address of Cardinal Parolin on Social Doctrine

Today, the preservation of peace and the international responsibility to protect populations from war and from all types of aggression is a duty that has shifted from individual states and has been entrusted to the international Community

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Here is the text of an address given by the Pope’s secretary of state last month (Sept. 26) to a conference on poverty and development, held at Fordham University.

The conference was cosponsored by CAPP-USA and Fordham University Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development (IPED). It was called Poverty and Developemt: a Catholic Perspective, and held Sept. 26 – 27.

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Father McShane, President of Fordham University, Professor Schwalbenberg, Director of the “Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development”, Distinguished Faculty Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply grateful to the administration of Fordham University and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontefice Foundation, for inviting me here and for providing this opportunity to address you at this “Dinner Event”, in the course of your conference entitled “Poverty and Development: A Catholic Perspective”, as you seek to deepen your understanding of the Social Doctrine of the Church in light of the recent teachings of His Holiness Pope Francis.
The themes of this conference – peace and the protection of peoples, on the one hand, and human and economic development, on the other – are two very important issues.  They form a significant part of recent Papal Magisterium, as well as of the Holy See’s international activity, and are particularly important to Pope Francis. This evening, I would like to propose some considerations, looking first at the issues of peace, legitimate defense and the international juridical institute known as “the responsibility to protect”, and then turning to the question of development, revisiting the latest teachings of the Holy Father.
Not so long ago, Pope Francis recalled that if “there is a right to stop an unjust aggressor”, the means by which this is done must be properly evaluated. For such a reason, “after the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations”. The words of the Holy Father encapsulate the Church’s teaching on legitimate defense, including her position on the “responsibility to protect”.  Today, the preservation of peace and the international responsibility to protect populations from war and from all types of aggression is a duty that has shifted from individual states and has been entrusted to the international Community.  The developing phenomenon of international terrorism, utterly new in some of its expressions, methods of action and objectives, must become the occasion for a deeper study of the international juridical framework and serve as an opportunity to strengthen multilateralism.

I would like, therefore, to share my reflections with you in the context of ethics and fundamental law.  The first question that we are faced with, viewed in the light of international law, is whether the phenomenon of the terrorism carried out by the IS (Islamic State), as well as other similar cases, reveal lacunae in the norms of the United Nations, which could be used to justify unilateral military action and which could give rise to supplementary norms authorizing, ex post facto, these very unilateral measures.  It needs to be said, however, that norms regulating “legitimate defense” and possible humanitarian intervention have long existed and that the mechanisms of the United Nations for preventing war, stopping aggressors, protecting populations and providing help to victims, are an integral part of such norms.  What is needed here is to identify a way to apply these norms effectively.

Furthermore, one must not forget that the attacks of 11 September 2001 accelerated the process, which was already underway, of defining and developing the legal instruments needed to combat and prevent international terrorism, by updating various conventions and concluding new international instruments.  The principal international conventions against terrorism, trafficking of arms and drugs, money laundering and organized crime, were ratified by almost all of the United Nations member states.  As a result of this process, the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Secretary General and the Security Council developed a new corpus of norms which have produced many positive results in the fight against terrorism in accordance with international law.

Today all necessary juridical elements for fighting terrorism and for protecting populations are established.  The conditions required for legitimate defense are outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the norms of the United Nations Charter for the prevention and resolution of conflicts.  In addition, they are contained in the articulated regulations against terrorism developed in recent decades, the Geneva Conventions for the protection of victims of war as well as the United Nations’ developments on the “responsibility to protect”; the latter express the consequences of natural law even though they have not yet been formulated into a positive norm.  Prescinding a priori from this corpus iuris would mean combating illegality with illegal means.

The Holy See thus maintains that only by respecting the international legal framework the international community will be able to confront this new set of circumstances.  In fact, the present world order is formed by a group of sovereign states, juridically organized in a solemn alliance, which was created, above all, to avoid war and to sustain a mechanism for collective security.  One of the foundational pillars of this alliance is adherence to the principle that every act of war not sanctioned by the United Nations is illegitimate.

The general principle, therefore, is that the use of force is sanctioned for states within their own jurisdictions, and always governed by the rule of law, the respect for human rights and for the humanitarian law contained in the Geneva Conventions. The only exception for using force beyond one’s frontiers is the natural right of self-defense, as outlined in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.  On the other hand, we observe that the new forms of terrorism exceed the operational capacity of the security forces of any single state and require the combined force of many countries in order to guarantee the defense of unarmed peoples.  Since, however, no juridical norm justifies a unilateral policing action outside one’s frontiers, every action against terrorism which takes place beyond a country’s borders requires not only the free consent of the state concerned in which that force will be used, but also the authorization of the Security Council.  This is because there exists at least the potential risk of not respecting the sovereignty of the state concerned.  The present situation, therefore, for all its gravity, is an occasion for the member states of the United Nations to actualize the spirit of the UN Charter, reforming, with the consensus of all, the norms and pertinent mechanisms, where necessary.

Turning now to the question of development, which you will be discussing more in-depth tomorrow, I would like to refer to two recent statements of Pope Francis, which offer some fundamental considerations concerning economic activity and reflect the continuity of the Social Teaching of the Church.  I am referring to his Message to the World Economic Forum of 17 January 2014, and his Address to the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination of 9 May 2014.

In the first of these, primarily addressed to heads of multinational corporations, the Holy Father recognized the important role that modern entrepreneurship plays in the technical and scientific progress of humanity by “stimulating and developing the immense resources of human intelligence”.  Expressing his confidence in the abilities of the business world, the Holy Father also reiterated the importance of economic activity, conducted by “men and women of great personal honesty and integrity, whose work is inspired and guided by high ideals of fairness, generosity and concern for the authentic develop
ment of the human family”.  He stated that economic activity, understood in this way, should contribute to integral human development for everyone so that “humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it”.  In other words, while acknowledging the legitimacy of a strong private sector and the advantages which derive from it, there must also be the firm commitment to ensure that private enterprise strives for the common good.  Thus, in every business activity, the personal and social virtues of honesty, integrity, fair-mindedness, generosity and concern for others should prevail over the maximization of profits.

The second discourse which I wish to refer to is the Holy Father’s address to the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. In it, His Holiness recalled that “the gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions […] at the service of men and women”.  In continuity with the teachings of Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate (Nos. 6, 24-40, et al.) and in keeping with the teachings of Saint John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (Nos. 42-43) and Centesimus Annus (43), Pope Francis affirms the necessity of harmonious collaboration among all social forces (business men and women, governments, civil society), with each one committed, according to their area of expertise and responsibility, to the pursuit of the common good.  To this end, everyone should “work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded”.

We see, moreover, that the subsidiary function of the state and of international organizations is also indispensable in achieving the common good.  It must, however, be harmonized with the combined efforts of society so that public and private actors may be supported in living out the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, and foster a worldwide mobilization of resources in favor of the poorest and marginalized.  The moral value and effectiveness of economic systems are not products of a priori ideological definitions. They are, rather, the result of the lifestyles of different economic actors, such as simple workers, politicians, business men and women, and civic personnel, who reveal true dedication and responsibility.        

I encourage you, therefore to continue deepening your understanding of the Church’s Social Doctrine, so that you may define the new challenges of today in its light, with the knowledge that your study and research, rooted in the Magisterium and Tradition, will offer a new and significant contribution not only to the life of the Church, but also to all of humanity.

I thank you once again for your kind welcome and hospitality, and I assure you of my prayers for your work.

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