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Natural law is the only defense against tyranny, Pope tells audience

December 16, 2009

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Pope Benedict XVI returned to one of his favorite themes-- the importance of natural law—during his regular weekly audience on Wednesday, December 16. The Holy Father devoted his talk to the influence of John of Salisbury, the 12th-century English philosopher and theologian who was exiled by King Henry II (along with St. Thomas a Beckett, who later returned and was martyred) and became Bishop of Chartres before his death in 1180.

In his work Policraticus, the Pope said, John of Salisbury set for the argument that there is “an objective and immutable truth, the origin of which is in God, a truth accessible to human reason and which concerns practical and social activities.” That truth—the natural law—is particularly important today, the Pope said. He added that the need to appreciate natural law is especially urgent in societies that have lost the ability to recognize objective moral standards.

Making his argument more concrete, the Pontiff continued:

Perhaps John of Salisbury would remind us today that the only 'equitable' laws are those that defend the sacredness of human life and reject the legitimacy of abortion, euthanasia and unrestrained genetic experimentation; the laws that respect the dignity of marriage between a man and a woman, that are inspired by a correct understanding of the secularism of the State - a secularism that must always include the safeguarding of religious freedom - and that seek subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level.

The alternative to natural law, the Pope concluded, is a “dictatorship of relativism” in which no rights are truly protected.


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