.- Pope Benedict XVI told the German parliament Sept. 22 that the countryâs Nazi past highlights the dangers of power divorced from an objective morality rooted in the natural law.
âWe have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right,â he told the parliament, which is called the Bundestag.
The Pope described the Nazi regime as âa highly organized band of robbers,â which was âcapable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.â
The Pope was addressing the German parliament on the first day of his state visit. The speech was boycotted by some left-wing parliamentarians but, on the whole, the Pope found himself looking out upon a packed chamber.
Threatened protests in the surrounding streets also failed to materialize with police estimating âseveral thousandâ demonstrators in the capitalâs Potsdamer Platz, far fewer than organizers had predicted.
The Pope addressed the parliament as a âfellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest.â
The purpose of his 30-minute address, he said, was to provide âsome thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law.â
The model of a good politician, he said, was King Solomon who upon accession to the throne asked not for success, wealth, long-life nor the destruction of his enemies but âfor a listening heart so that he may govern Godâs people, and discern between good and evil.â
This choice highlights that âpolitics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace,â said the Pope.
These fundamental principles cannot simply be determined by a show of hands, he said, noting that âfor the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough.â
The Pope said that âunlike other great religions,â Christianity âhas never proposed a revealed body of law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation.â Instead, Christianity points to ânature and reasonâ as the true sources of law and to the âharmony of objective and subjective reason,â presupposing both to be rooted in âthe creative reason of God.â
The Pope said the assumptions of ânatural lawâ have been uprooted in the past century by the philosophy of âpositivismâ which asserts that the only authentic knowledge is that which is based on sense, experience and positive verification.
âThe idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term,â observed the Pope.
While not entirely dismissing positivism, the Pope said that it was insufficient as a sole guide to ethics. He noted, âwhere positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity.â
Pope Benedict pictured life in a culture dominated by positivism as akin to living in âa concrete bunker with no windows,â one in which âwe ourselves provide lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from Godâs wide world.â
Now, he said, was the time that âthe windows must be flung open again, we must see the wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make proper use of all this.â
He suggested that rise of the green movement in Germany since the 1970s has been an example of a political movement which has moved thinking beyond the simply positivist ideas but added it was now time to develop âan ecology of man.â
âMan too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself,â said the Pope, suggesting that âthe objective reason that manifests itself in natureâ points toward âa creative reason, a Creator Spirit.â
It was this âconviction that there is a Creator Godâ that gave rise to the idea of inalienable human rights in the first place, he said.
âOur cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness.â
He concluded by saying that politicians should, like Solomon, as for a âlistening heartâ that would allow them to âdiscern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace.â
Pope Benedict was met with a standing ovation after he completed his remarks.