The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said this week, “When the Magisterium of the Church speaks about human rights she does not forget to base them on God, the source and guarantor of all rights, nor does she forget to root them in the natural law.”
During a speech marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the offices of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain in Madrid, the cardinal recalled, “The source of rights is never human consensus, as great as it may be.”
After emphasizing the intrinsic dignity of each person, Cardinal Bertone explained that “the current Roman Pontiff, in perfect continuity with the thinking of his predecessor, underscores that human rights are universal, they apply to all in virtue of the common origin of the person. In reality, the mark of universality is a consequence inscribed in the very concept of human rights: if human rights are those attributed to man for the mere fact of being man, it is therefore evident that they should be recognized for all those who meet this condition.”
“In our days, there is a continual and radical process of redefining individual human rights in very sensitive and fundamental areas, such as the family, the rights of the child and of women, etc. We should insist that human rights be ‘above’ politics and also above the ‘nation-state.’ They are truly supranational. No political minority or majority can change the rights of those who are most vulnerable in our society or the human rights inherent to all human persons,” he stated.
Speaking later about the first right of all human beings, the right to life, the Vatican Secretary of State emphasized, “We find ourselves facing a completely new panorama with respect to the era in which the Universal Declaration was approved, above all because of the development of sciences and technologies, with numerous technical instruments to make life or death decisions. There is a need to recover the full meaning of embracing life.”
Regarding religious freedom, the cardinal said, “It is inconceivable, therefore, that believers have to suppress a part of themselves—their faith—in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to renounce God in order to enjoy one’s own rights.”
“The commitment of the Church for human rights has precise reasons inherent in her very mission,” the cardinal said. “It is part of the Church’s diligence for man in his integral dimension. We could say that the ultimate and fundamental motive for the Church’s interest in human rights is of an ethical and religious order.”