Skip to comments.Why Rome Supports the United Nations
Posted on 02/14/2004 12:28:21 PM PST by yonif
NEW YORK, FEB. 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Last year's debate over the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq left some Catholics wondering why the Church seemed so supportive of the United Nations. How is it, they asked, that an organization that promotes abortion, artificial birth control and radical feminism is viewed so favorably by the Church?
In fact, the Church has criticized the United Nations on numerous occasions, particularly on family-related themes. But it also has a long history of support for the organization. John Paul II recently reaffirmed this. "The Holy See," the Pope said last Saturday in his words of welcome for the visit of Julian Robert Hunte, president of the U.N. 58th General Assembly, "considers the United Nations organization a significant means for promoting the universal common good."
The Holy Father's message for World Day of Peace on Jan. 1 laid out in clear terms the Church's position in favor of international cooperation, including a key role for the United Nations.
In a broad historical sweep John Paul II noted how over the centuries a body of law and agreements has slowly developed. "Law favors peace," he wrote in part No. 5 of his message. The document also drew attention to the importance of respecting international accords, "especially at times when there is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law."
A clue to understanding the Pope's thinking comes in the following part, which refers to the founding of the United Nations after World War II. "That war, with the horrors and the appalling violations of human dignity which it occasioned, led to a profound renewal of the international legal order."
John Paul II developed this point at length in a message published May 8, 1995, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war's end. "From the cruel contempt for people's dignity and rights there was also born the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 50th anniversary of the United Nations, being celebrated this year, should be an occasion for consolidating the international community's commitment to the service of peace" (No. 13).
In the years following the U.N. founding, "the ideas and expectations of the immediate postwar period" were often frustrated due to political divisions, violent conflicts and terrorism, the Pope noted in his Day of Peace message. Yet, he insisted that the United Nations, "even with limitations and delays due in great part to the failures of its members, has made a notable contribution to the promotion of respect for human dignity, the freedom of peoples and the requirements of development, thus preparing the cultural and institutional soil for the building of peace."
Certainly, the Pope is not unaware of U.N. failings. In fact, the greater part of last Saturday's remarks made to the General Assembly president focused on the need for reforms. "You have undertaken a restructuring aimed at making the organization function more efficiently," John Paul II told Hunte in a note of encouragement.
John Paul II also recalled a part of his speech during his Oct. 5, 1995, visit to the United Nations in New York: "The United Nations organization needs to rise more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution and to become a moral center where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a family of nations" (No. 14).
This desire for an institution where moral principles can guide international affairs provides a second major clue to understanding why John Paul II and other Vatican figures support the United Nations.
In his 1995 U.N. speech, the Pope warned of the dangers of a utilitarian approach to world politics and economics. Such a doctrine "defines morality not in terms of what is good but of what is advantageous," he said. And this approach "threatens the freedom of individuals and nations and obstructs the building of a true culture of freedom" (No. 13).
Utilitarianism, he continued, "often has devastating political consequences, because it inspires an aggressive nationalism on the basis of which the subjugation, for example, of a smaller or weaker nation is claimed to be a good thing solely because it corresponds to the national interest."
John Paul II returned to this theme in his Jan. 13, 1997, address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. "What the international community perhaps lacks most of all today is not written conventions or forums for self-expression -- there is a profusion of these! -- but a moral law and the courage to abide by it" (No. 4).
The community of nations, he continued, "must be regulated by a rule of law, valid for all of them without exception." This law "has a strong moral implication," he said. International law, moreover, should be founded on values such as the dignity of the person and the rights of nations. As such, international laws are thus moral principles before they become juridical norms.
War and peace
John Paul II went on to call for an international order based on moral principles "which are diametrically opposed to that law which would see the stronger, the richer or the bigger imposing on others their cultural models, economic diktats or ideological models."
"For a long time international law has been a law of war and peace," he observed. In the future, "I believe that it is called more and more to become exclusively a law of peace, conceived in justice and solidarity. And in this context morality must inspire law; morality can even assume a preparatory role in the making of law, to the extent that it shows the path of what is right and good."
It was in this sense that the Pope's call for a "new international order," in No. 7 of the World Day of Peace message, must be understood. Baptizing a concept introduced over a decade ago by the first Bush presidency, John Paul II reiterated his call for the United Nations to become a "moral center" and "a family of nations."
In supporting the United Nations, John Paul II follows in the footsteps of a predecessor. Paul VI, in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 4, 1965, stated: "You are establishing here a system of solidarity that will ensure that lofty civilizing goals receive unanimous and orderly support from the whole family of nations, for the good of each and all." Paul VI criticized, however, a negative aspect of the United Nations, namely, its promotion of artificial birth control.
Such qualified and reasoned support of U.N. programs will likely continue -- even if some observers would prefer to give priority to short-term results, instead of the longer-term goals the Holy See is aiming for.
The Vatican suffers from the same malady that all organizations and countries with rulers who server for life do. As the ruler gets the end of his life he wants to create a legacy. Also the ruler becomes enfeebled in both mind and body and can no longer be trusted to make sound judgements, or underlings are actually in control pulling strings behind the scenes.
That doesn't mean he's not going to try for more. Lately he seems to think that peace at any cost with Islam is the most important issue. I think he's wrong and that resurgent Islamism is the most serious threat Western civilzation faces in the next one or two centuries.
I look at this way. What is the UN at its core? It is a bunch of unelected bureaucrats. What is most important to them? Their jobs.
An international forum which would bring countries together for the purpose of getting along is a great idea, but...
as I see it, there are two basic problems with the U.N.:
1) Their representatives aren't elected and they answer to no one.
2) The U.N. has actual power (troops) and $$$$$.
This is the perfect recipe for corruption, frightening since it's on such a large scale.
1/2 agree. They DO answer to someone though. Their presidents who have the power to remove them as a rep.
New Springtime ping
No my criticism was not about this pope or any particular pope or even the Vatican in particular. It was about how organizations headed by someone who serves for life become weak when their leader's health declines and everyone is awaiting his death.
I think that was one of the weaknesses of the Soviet Union. They had a whole generation that tried to keep itself in power too long. They would replace one sick and tired man with another until there weren't anymore left in that generation. The United States with its 2-term limit on presidential office holders ensures that it is represented by a vigorous leader. The process of getting oneself elected president requires a candiate who is in good health and capable of putting in long days campaining over many months if not years. The Vatican would be a stronger institution if instead of keeping its popes in office till they die, they had a mechanism for allowing a pope to retire and let a new younger more vigorous pope to take office.
Based on what? That they steal money? That they think tyrants are A-ok and the majority of them are tyrants? That they throw out free nations to make room for murdering thugs?
What color is the sky in their world? Name me three good things the UN has done please. Just three in almost 60 years. That shouldn't be to hard should it?
The Holy See did not say that the UN is a moral center but rather called for it to become a moral center
There's no way the UN will ever become a "moral center". It is an organization that gives thuggish dictatorial regimes an equal vote to democratic nations. The non-democratic regimes outnumber the democratic ones.