Rorate Caeli

"To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician"


ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Reichstag Building, Berlin
Thursday, 22 September 2011



The Listening Heart
Reflections on the Foundations of Law



Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the Bundestag,
Madam Chancellor,
Madam President of the Bundesrat,
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the House,

It is an honour and a joy for me to speak before this distinguished house, before the Parliament of my native Germany, that meets here as a democratically elected representation of the people, in order to work for the good of the Federal Republic of Germany. I should like to thank the President of the Bundestag both for his invitation to deliver this address and for the kind words of greeting and appreciation with which he has welcomed me. At this moment I turn to you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, not least as your fellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest. But the invitation to give this address was extended to me as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, who bears the highest responsibility for Catholic Christianity. In issuing this invitation you are acknowledging the role that the Holy See plays as a partner within the community of peoples and states. Setting out from this international responsibility that I hold, I should like to propose to you some thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law.


Allow me to begin my reflections on the foundations of law [Recht] with a brief story from sacred Scripture. In the First Book of the Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success – wealth – long life – destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead, he asks for a listening heart so that he may govern God’s people, and discern between good and evil (cf. 1 Kg 3:9). Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, without which he would have no opportunity for effective political action at all. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right. Success can also be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice. “Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?”, as Saint Augustine once said. We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss. To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician. At a moment in history when man has acquired previously inconceivable power, this task takes on a particular urgency. Man can destroy the world. He can manipulate himself. He can, so to speak, make human beings and he can deny them their humanity. How do we recognize what is right? How can we discern between good and evil, between what is truly right and what may appear right? Even now, Solomon’s request remains the decisive issue facing politicians and politics today.



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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the video, I think it's great.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed how Benedict XVI put it:


"At this moment I turn to you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, not least as your fellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest. But the invitation to give this address was extended to me as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, who bears the highest responsibility for Catholic Christianity."

Gratias said...

Benedict XVI is an amazing thinker. He addressed politicians in his efforts to remind Europeans where their culture comes from.

He explained that the Law should distinguish between what is Right and Wrong. The law should follow the truth, what is actually right.

It is very much worth reading the entire speech through the link provided to our excellent Vatican website.

Consider this gem as an example: "The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history."

The concept of inalienable human rights because we are all created by God, as you probably know, is an entirely Catholic concept.

Long live Benedict XVI.

gratias said...

The idea of universal rights of Man began when Spain conquered enormous lands in America with large Indian populations. Priests such as Bartolome de las Casas wrote back home about their mistreatment and what to do about them. Theologians in Salmanca, in particular Dominican Fr. Francisco de Vitoria argued that God had created Man in his image and therefore even Indian heathens were God-like and entitled to human rights. This was an entirely new concept originating in the Catholic Church. The idea of inalienable rights of Man were then taken up by the French enlightment and eventually enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Western world, our civilization, is Catholic in origin. Deo Gratias.

jasoncpetty said...

The paragraph where he ties in the ecology/environmentalist movement to his theme of human nature and human rights is brilliant.

The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will.

Genius.

Anonymous said...

In spite how many of us may disagree in some issues with Pope Benedict XVI, but we must admit that he is very very bright!