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Speaking Truth to Power

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 30, 2009

On Tuesday, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, warned the UN’s General Assembly against “abuse of power”. Noting that “development necessarily involves an integral respect for human life which cannot be disconnected from the development of peoples,” Archbishop Migliore rebuked the UN because “development aid seems to be tied…to the recipient countries’ willingness to adopt programs which discourage demographic growth of certain populations by methods and practices disrespectful of human dignity and rights.”

“In this regard,” he said, “it is both cynical and unfortunate that frequent attempts continue to be made to export such a mentality to developing countries as if it were a form of cultural progress or advancement. “ Migliore continued: “Yet such a practice is by its nature not one of reciprocity but imposition, and to predicate the decision to give development aid on the acceptance of such policies constitutes an abuse of power.”

He also called the UN back to the fundamental understanding of rights which used to be its primary purpose:

Often in the activity of international organisms is reflected an inconsistency already widespread in the more developed societies: On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public entities, while, on the other hand, fundamental and basic rights, already explicit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world.

Note that there is something unusual about this criticism. Paradoxically, it is refreshingly unoriginal. It is taken, almost verbatim, from sections 28 and 43 of Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate. In following the Pope’s teaching, Msgr. Migliore is doing in reality what dissenting Catholics do only in their imaginary world: Speaking truth to power.

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