One of the most relevant themes of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI. are the non-negotiable principles. In a 2006 speech, the Pope focused on the protection of life in all its phases, the natural family and the right of parents to raise their children. A very timely lesson.
– DOSSIER: IN THE DEATH OF A POPE
The evocation of the figure of Pope Ratzinger makes most sense when one remembers his teaching, the most important legacy of his pontificate. If you now Benedict XVI. say, at least in the Catholic home, think of non-negotiable principles, certainly one of the most characteristic themes of his magisterium. The basic text in which the Pope Emeritus spoke about this is the address to the participants of the conference organized by the European People’s Party on March 30, 2006.
We extrapolate the passage where Benedict XVI focuses on non-negotiable principles: “For the Catholic Church, the main interest of its interventions in public is the protection and promotion of human dignity and therefore deliberately points to non-negotiable principles. Among the latter, the following stand out today:
– Protection of life in all its phases, from the first moment of conception to natural death;
– Recognizing and promoting the natural structure of the family as a conjugal union between man and woman and defending it against attempts to equate it legally with radically different forms of union which in fact harm it and contribute to its destabilization which obscures his special character and irreplaceable social role;
– Protection of the right of parents to raise their children.
These principles are not truths of faith, although they receive further light and confirmation from faith. They are inscribed in human nature itself and are therefore common to all humanity. The Church’s funding activities therefore have no denominational character, but are aimed at all people, regardless of their religious affiliation.
We comment point by point what Benedict XVI said. Every legal order must respect the principles of natural morality limited to the common good – the principles of the natural moral law. The Church cares about human dignity and it is therefore her duty to call on States to protect her. The dignity of the person is the basic criterion of natural morality (but not least: the final criterion is always God) and indeed the basic principle of all behavior is the following: always act in accordance with the dignity of the person, i.e. in a way that is compatible with corresponds to the preciousness inherent in the human person.
If this is the underlying criterionIt follows that there are behaviors that should never be engaged in. Here the moral category is intrinsic mala, moral absolutes, absolute negative duties, that is, those actions that have an evil object, an evil immediate end, that is, a goal that is always contrary to personal dignity and that remains beyond that any other good cause for which we take that action and beyond the circumstances in which we choose to take that action. For example, assassination, that is, the direct killing of an innocent person, remains an evil act even when done for a good purpose and even when driven by necessity.
Benedict XVI decided to translate these positively bad in itself, that is, converting some prohibitions (which are injunctions, that is, obligations to refrain from certain actions) into commandments (which are injunctions): here is the unprecedented moral category of “non-negotiable principles.” The principle is a very general rule of conduct, which conscience then breaks down into individual rules. Thus the principle of protecting life is substantiated both in positive-commissive norms (e.g. treating a sick person) and in negative-omissive norms (e.g. not killing those who have already been born and those who are yet to be born). The absolute non-negotiability of the principles is less relevant to the commissioning aspect, since there are no actions that must always be carried out (e.g. sometimes therapies have to be abandoned because they are useless). , but on the aspect of omission: As already mentioned, there are actions that must never be performed.
The pope named three non-negotiable principles, not because they were the only ones in existence, but because there were three areas in which personal dignity was and is particularly endangered: the protection of life, the family and the freedom of education for parents. The first area corresponds, among other things, to the absolutely negative obligation to murder: However, the Pope emphasizes his aversion to abortion and euthanasia. In the second area would fall many crimes against the institution of the family (see divorce), but even in this case the Pope emphasizes a particular absolute negative duty that concerns rulers: the approval of regulations that deny their identity, that is, the legitimacy of homosexuals. Marriage”, registered civil partnerships and factual partnerships, also heterosexual.
The third area concerns the natural right of parents to bring up their offspring. As already underlined, there is no such thing as an injunction that must always be complied with, and if it is true that all parents have the natural right to educate their children, it is equally true that parents must prove themselves capable of exercising this right, and that therefore sometimes it is entitled and obliged to exercise this right not by them but by others on their behalf if they are found to be unable to carry out this task. And this can be done vicariously (and in this hypothesis it would be a specific declination of exercising the right to education) or even without parental consent (think of an uncomprehending parent). Despite all this, when the Pope spoke of freedom of education, he was thinking of the unfair substitution of education by the state at the expense of parents, with all the harmful consequences that this entails (we only recall the current gender indoctrination that takes place in schools) and the unjustified restriction of parents’ freedom of education (e.g. the unjustified discrimination against private schools by the state).
In conclusion, the Pope recalls that these three principles are non-negotiable, since they belong to natural morality, because they are inscribed in human nature, have no confessional character, are not truths of faith, and are therefore understandable for everyone who practices recta ratio, i.e. uses reason correctly. Ergo, they can and must also be respected by non-Catholics and thus by believers of other religions, by atheists and agnostics. Therefore, even the rulers are enjoined their respect, beyond what they think of God, precisely because these three non-negotiable principles are “secular”, that is, if we want to express ourselves with a certainly more correct term, they are rational and concerned common good.
needless to add that this lesson of Benedict XVI. on principles with no tolerance for exceptions or negotiation is still very relevant today, perhaps even more so than in 2006.