Cardinal Martino Warns of Ethics-Technology Split

At the Opening of Spain’s Social Weeks

TOLEDO, Spain, NOV. 3, 2006 ( Respect for human rights is being threatened by the dissociation of ethics and technology, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Renato Martino said this Thursday when opening Spain’s four-day Social Weeks, convoked in Toledo, with an address entitled “Human Rights, Foundation for Building a Universal Culture.”

To understand the challenges to the defense of human rights, the cardinal said that it is necessary to understand “the difficult relationship between technology and ethics.”

“Modern humanity is ever more divided on the relationship between technology and ethics,” to the point that the latter will become “the two new blocs of the future,” he said.

In this context, Cardinal Martino said the division places on one hand those who hold that “the freedom to do” is based on itself, and on the other, those who affirm that “the freedom to do must be based on something other than itself, in short, on the dignity of the human person.”

According to the cardinal, “a view of technology disengaged from ethics makes man a historic, cultural and artificial product, truncating the nexus with nature, tradition and creation.”

“Only rights”

“In this perspective, man is no longer the project, but becomes something projected. Man no longer has duties, but only rights. Thus is born the absolutism of prohibition to prohibit,” and “new absolutes” arise, he said.

Cardinal Martino continued: “Terrorism, a technical concept of politics, secularism understood as a place neutral to values and absolutes, democracy as a procedure, the financing of the economy, the relativism of cultures, the technicalization of law and human rights, are new negative absolutes in as much as they absolutize technology.

“All this is of great relevance, and that is why the anthropological question — and within it the inherent questions of human rights, is today the social question par excellence.”

The president of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council said that “cultures marked by efficiency, practical materialism, utilitarian and hedonist individualism, stemming ultimately from skepticism of epistemology and ethics, endanger the whole corpus of rights. …

“Given such cultures, which no longer have an integral vision of man as a point of reference, the very juridical protection of rights is radically argued and emptied of content.”

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