Earlier today, Pope Benedict met with members of the International Theological Commission, with whom he stressed the need to uphold the dignity of the human person--firmly written into natural law.
The commission is currently being headed by an American for the first time. Archbishop William Joseph Levada recently replaced Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, thus making him the commission’s president.
The Holy Father began his address by noting the particular subjects under discussion at the group’s plenary session. These, according to the Vatican, include issues like children who die without receiving Baptism in the context of God's universal plan of salvation, the uniqueness of Christ's mediation and the sacramental nature of the Church, and the theme of natural moral law.
Benedict said that this last subject "is particularly important for understanding the foundation of those rights that are rooted in the nature of the person and that, as such, derive from the will of God the Creator Himself."
He pointed out that "Prior to any positive law emanated by States, such rights are universal, inviolable and inalienable, and must be recognized as such by everyone, especially by the civil authorities who are called to promote them and guarantee that they are respected.”
“Although in modern culture,” he went on, “the concept of 'human nature' seems to have been lost, the fact remains that human rights cannot be understood without presupposing that man, in his very being, is the bearer of values and norms that must be rediscovered and reaffirmed, not invented and imposed in a subjective and arbitrary manner."
Continuing with this theme, the Pope said that "dialogue with the world of the laity is very important.”
“It must be made very clear”, he said, “that negating an ontological foundation of the essential values of human life, inevitably leads to positivism and makes law dependent on the trends of thought dominant in a society; thus rendering law an instrument of power, rather than subordinating power to the law."