The U.N. Would do Well to Read Pope Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical

When Does “Human Rights” Not Mean Human Rights?

As this year draws to its close, we note the 20th anniversary of the papal encyclical Fides et Ratio (On Faith and Reason) of Pope Saint John Paul II. In the document, the Holy Father deplored the separation of the two entities, which lead to a kind of nihilism (section 45-47). He wrote: “These forms of rationality are directed not towards the contemplation of truth and the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of life; but instead, as ‘instrumental reason,’ they are directed—actually or potentially—towards the promotion of utilitarian ends, towards enjoyment or power.” This leads us to the marking of another, less joyful anniversary.

Last week, December 10th, the United Nations observed the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its checkered path towards rejection of universal human rights – in favor of abortion for all – was foreseen by our late, great Holy Father. Abortion is now seen as a “right” like euthanasia, as “utilitarian” – witness the use of fetal tissue from abortions – or as “enjoyment,” in sexual relations for its own sake without God or the Unborn in the mix. Respect for life from conception until its natural end has largely been abandoned.

Glancing back 70 years to 1948, U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, having been named as the first chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (now known as the Human Rights Council), led the effort in drafting the said document. The legislative history of this document reveals that a discussion on the acknowledgement of a universal human right to life from conception to natural death was discussed and rejected. Instead, as it is known, there is only a general recognition given to a right to life: “Everyone has the right to life,” it reads in Article 3.

To mark the 70th anniversary of this document occasion, promoted as “Human Rights Day”, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ironically stated: “For 70 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a global beacon, shining a light for dignity, equality and well-being, and bringing hope to dark places.”

“Mystical Rose”

Two days after the U.N. anniversary our Mother, the Church, celebrated the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531. At the time of her apparitions, the Aztecs still had a hold on Mexico, and they believed human sacrifice was demanded of the gods. So, not unlike today, the sanctity of human life was being ignored in horrific ways.

Eleanor Roosevelt Marks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Worth remembering is Franciscan Friar Juan Zumarraga, the first bishop of Mexico, was an integral part of the apparition history. Having been appointed by King Charles V of Spain to promote and defend the human rights of the indigenous people in Mexico, Bishop Zumarraga pleaded, in silent prayer to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to help him with this cause, and to send him, as a sign in response to his prayer. Our Most Holy Mary did more: she appeared herself, pregnant with the Holy Child Jesus, and the indigenous Saint Juan Diego, to gather roses – in winter. Small wonder the “Litany of Loreto” refers to her as “Mystical Rose.” He then delivered them to Bishop Zumarraga, dropping them at his feet, only to miraculously reveal a permanent imprint of Our Lady’s image on Juan Diego’s tilma. She also obtained from God the healing of Juan Bernardino, the old and infirm uncle of Juan Diego. It’s alleged that her apparitions resulted in millions of conversions to Christianity over the next decade, which no doubt saved countless lives. She is the patroness of the Americas, as well as HLI.

Our Lady is flanked on the left by John the Baptist, by Bishop Zumárraga on the right. Painter Miguel Cabrera.

So the year 1531 was no less dark than it is in 2018. That darkness, which has raised its head once again, shrouds human reason from the truth about the sanctity of human life, the first of all human rights.  Yet hope is demanded of us as Catholics, and as John Paul II wrote elsewhere in Fides et Ratio (On Faith and Reason)

“The Church is no stranger to this journey of discovery, nor could she ever be. From the moment….. she received the gift of the ultimate truth about human life, the Church has made her pilgrim way along the paths of the world to proclaim that Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). … May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be a sure haven for all who devote their lives to the search for wisdom. May their journey into wisdom, sure and final goal of all true knowing, be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world.”

The Queen of all Peace chose to appear as the Mother of Christ, expecting Our Lord and Savior. Let us have Faith in Him, Hope that the sanctity of life will be recognized more and more and love for the Christ Child this and every Christmas, as His Church shows us the way.


About HLI Staff

HLI staff writers bring you stories from the mission field and the latest information on life and family issues. All HLI articles are true to Catholic teaching.

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