Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dialogue between nations?

From the First Things blog:
The Pope’s Plan for the U.N.

By Douglas A. Sylva

The question then becomes, in a world of undeniable pluralism, how do we bring religion into the political sphere? This is where the vision of church and state as practiced in the United States becomes central. According to Benedict, “The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order.”

This is the U.S. model of church-state relations. There is no established religion, but believers are permitted to inform the public discourse with their beliefs—if they can be communicated through reason, which would then tie beliefs back to the universal nature of humanity.

All this is in contradistinction, Benedict implies, to the European model, where the secular state has been scoured free of religious influence, and where believers “have to suppress a part of themselves—their faith—in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights.” And it is in contradistinction to the Muslim model, where religious freedom is lacking and where there are “majority religious positions of an exclusive nature.”

Benedict therefore left the assembled ambassadors and diplomats with this challenge: to transform the current state of dialogue at the U.N.—and the human rights revolution the institution was created to further—from the relativism they are currently helping to impose upon it. That he suggested, however subtly, an American model of dialogue in order to accomplish this would be an irony that few of them would probably enjoy.

Is talk about the preambles of faith, whether speculative or moral truths, enough? Will that be the instrument by which God can convert hearts? Is the U.N. the right forum for this to take place? Would it not be appropriate for the citizens within the community to take the lead in evangelization? I do concede that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. But I do question whether the the delegates at the U.N. would be receptive to such talk, and whether it would have any impact on policy recommendations. An intellectual or philosophical conversion to God is not sufficient--there must be a conversion of heart. And, not only must the delegate be converted, but his government as well.

Perhaps the EC and the UN will eventually become the seats of the antichrist. But who knows when that will happen. Nonetheless, what good can be done now, to turn the hearts of men towards God and Christ our Saviour? And the Holy Father can certainly exhort delegates and leaders of Catholic nations to remember the place of God in political discussions, and to stand for true justice and respect for the Divine Law. But will Catholic nations be able to withstand the forces of decay from within and without?

While nature requires an international authority constituted by the different nations and states of the world, is this really feasible? I still doubt that it is, because of sin.


Address of the Holy Father to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in New York (April 18, 2008)
[English, French, German, Italian, Spanish]

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