Pope to EU Parliament: Protect life, dignity and avoid ‘angelic forms of purity’
In a speech to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe Tuesday, Pope Francis said that today, “the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person.” He warned against treating human beings as objects who can “be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”
But that dignity also requires, he said “the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith.” Promoting the dignity of the person, said the Pope, “means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.”
A misuse and misunderstanding of human rights happens today, said Francis, when “the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.” What is required is “to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the ‘all of us’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society,” added Pope Francis, quoting a passage from Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate.
Without that proper ordering of the rights of each individual to the greater good, “those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.”
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“Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited,” said Francis, “with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the ill, the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.”
The pope also drew direct attention to Christians persecuted in Islamic countries. “Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world,” he said. “Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.”
“Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality,” said the pope. Those harmful tendencies, he said, are “angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.”
He called on Europe to invest in the family, “the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society.”
“The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future,” said Pope Francis. “Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences.”