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On Lube-ing the Slippery Slope

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 13, 2003

After reading Andrew Sullivan's latest article on -- what else? -- Naval Operations in the Pacific Theater, 1941-1943, I was put in mind of the following somber but pointed reflections:

To illustrate one aspect of this dialectic between the theoretical affirmation of human rights and their practical denial, I would like to refer to the Weimar Constitution of the first German Republic of 11 August 1919. This Constitution does indeed speak of basic rights, but puts them in a context of relativism and of indifferentism regarding values, which the legislators considered to be a necessary consequence of tolerance, and therefore obligatory. But precisely this absolutizing of tolerance to the point of total relativism also relativized basic rights in such a way that the Nazi régime saw no reason to have to remove these articles, the foundation of which was too weak and ambiguous to offer an indisputable protection against their destruction of human rights.

Thus, by a dialectic within modernity, one passes from the affirmation of the rights of freedom, detached from any reference to a common truth, to the destruction of the very foundations of this freedom. The "enlightened despot" of the social contact theorists became the tyrannical state, in fact totalitarian, which disposes of the life of its weakest members, from an unborn baby to an elderly person, in the name of a public usefulness which is really only the interest of a few.


-- Card. Joseph Ratzinger, "Threats to Human Life Today," Report of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the Consistory of Cardinals, June, 1991, p.8.

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