A commission of theologians is wrapping up a five-year study on the ability of natural law to serve as a set of universal ethics for mankind. With relativism gaining prominence in the modern world, Pope Benedict asserted that natural law is "the authentic guarantee" of freedom and the defense against "any form of ideological manipulation."
Pope Benedict delivered his address on natural law to participants in the plenary session of the International Theological Commission at the Vatican on Friday morning. The meeting coincided with the conclusion of the commission's five-year mandate, the seventh since it was created.
Referring in his remarks to a soon-to-be-approved draft document on the ability of natural law to serve as a form of universal ethics, the Holy Father pointed out "the urgent need, in the current situation of culture and of civil and political society, to create the conditions necessary to raise awareness of the indispensable value of natural moral law."
In a culture where a "survival of the fittest" mentality often holds sway, Pope Benedict praised the natural law as "the authentic guarantee everyone has to live free and respected in their dignity as human beings." Moreover, the natural law helps people "feel they are defended from any form of ideological manipulation and all abuses perpetrated on the basis of the law of the strongest," the Holy Father said.
Since the International Theological Commission also studied the question of the "meaning and method of theology" for the last five years, Benedict XVI went on to remark that "the real task of theology is to enter into the Word of God, to seek to understand it and to make it understood in our world, and thus to find the answer to our great questions."
"Methods in theology cannot be constituted only on the basis of criteria and norms common to other academic disciplines, but must above all observe the principles and norms deriving from [God’s] Revelation and from faith in its personal and ecclesial dimensions," the Pope explained.
Pope Benedict also touched on the sensitive topic of academic freedom for theologians. After first pointing out that "the fundamental virtue of theologians is that of seeking obedience to the faith, which makes them collaborators of truth," the Pope affirmed that "obedience to truth does not mean giving up research or the effort of thought."
"Restiveness of thought, which in the life of believers can certainly never be fully placated because they too are searching for and studying the Truth, will nonetheless be a restiveness that accompanies and stimulates them on their pilgrimage of thought towards God, and in this way it will bear fruit."