A Lesson for the New Year from Pope St. Paul VI

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Pope St. Paul VI (Photo: Public Domain)

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in April 2008 stated: “The emphasis on the universality of God’s design for human beings was to put human rights into the context of stability and continuity, which the state must safeguard and foster, especially in today’s globalized world.” This concept had been articulated in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson as the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—an archaic English term for the divine precepts and the natural law (the norm based on nature written by the Creator in our hearts, which permits us to distinguish good from evil)—and thereby became the foundation of liberty and freedom in the West. Regrettably, this has been disavowed because of the eradication of our Judaic-Christian roots.

Jefferson and the American Founding Fathers, while not recognizing any established religion in the newly created United States, realized that in order to enact laws that would ensure the ‘unalienable’ and ‘self-evident’ natural rights, they could not separate themselves from God and his natural law. Today the Western body politic, including multilateral organizations, such as the UN and the European Union have created a moral vacuum in society favoring individualism characterized by selfishness as human rights in its promotion and fostering of the pro-abortion movement, and in a more politically predominant manner by the LGBTQ campaign, in addition to financial exploitation of the poor and the socialist crusade of presidential hopefuls, such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Church leaders, too, because of their pluralist approach to morality and doctrine have facilitated such antisocial behavior to be recognized as rights. As the Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said: “Whereas Christ tolerated sinners but did not tolerate sin—always calling on sinners to “repent”—today most Western Christians believe they must tolerate (or “celebrate”) both sinner and sin. The latter, thanks to entrenched moral and cultural relativism, no longer even seems to exist.”

“The principle of equality between all men is a principle that is commonly born with the Catholic faith and culture,” as the Archbishop of Turin Cardinal Michele Pellegrino used to say—Catholic in a universal sense which, despite the separation of the Orthodox and Protestants of the Church historically founded by Jesus himself; hence Catholic meaning Christian in the fullest sense. Europe survives the Roman Empire on the roads of what was once Rome, bringing this new factor of unity. In a moment of disintegration, somehow the Christian religion constitutes a glue and a continuum of Roman history and therefore a continuum of a history of civilization.

Again, today we must recognize a pervasive lethargy at different levels within the United States, the European Union, and also some of the Catholic hierarchy; the second is seen when they refuse to criticize the politics of politicians, such as abortion, homosexual unions, economic exploitation of the poor, etc.—they tend to go along with the political correctness of global warming, instead. This is largely caused by the non-observance of the apostolic duty, as also stated by Vatican II in “vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.” (Lumen Gentium, 25). This happens because as the assembly of the people of God, we have voluntarily forgotten to put into practice the last order that the Lord Jesus has given us: “Go therefore and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28, 19)

It serves us to reflect on the words of Pope St. Paul VI in Solemni Hac Liturgia (Credo of the People of God) (June 30 1968), when he said: “We confess that the Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and that its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. But it is this same love which induces the Church to concern herself constantly about the true temporal welfare of men. Without ceasing to recall to her children that they have not here a lasting dwelling, she also urges them to contribute, each according to his vocation and his means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to give their aid freely to their brothers, especially to the poorest and most unfortunate. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conform herself to the things of this world, or that she lessen the ardor of her expectation of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom.”

This must make this fundamental exhortation of St. Paul VI our own before all Christianity becomes for mankind just a reminder of the world that used to be.

N. B. This post is a redaction from the original article published in Italian by Il Mantello della Gisutizia on January 3, 2020.