"We Have To Do Good and To Avoid Evil"
Often a question is asked: "Do objective moral values exist capable of uniting men and of procuring for them peace and happiness?". How do believers answer such a question?
Believers are convinced that ethics cannot only produce norms of behaviour, but must shape the human conscience and help to discover the demands of natural law: we have to do good and to avoid evil. [The First Principle of Practical Reason.] This is a fundamental principle which imposes itself on everybody and which allows dialogue with persons of different religions and cultures.
So as believers, we must be able to indicate to our fellow men and women that our values are fundamental for our fellow men and women in order to foster mutual comprehension, recognition and cooperation among all the members of the human family. [We may share the same ends or goods... but does that necessitate that the means always be the same, in every society?]
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 constitutes one of the highest expressions of the conscience of modern history. No doubt it has contributed to make men and women of our time aware of the patrimony of values inherent to the human person and to its dignity.
Believers nevertheless are in a position of giving a new light by teaching that man has been created in the image of God. They have been created equal. They have received from the Creator inalienable rights among which are the right to live, to be free and to look for happiness. [Is he taking this explicitly from the Declaration of Independence?]
So consequently we have to measure the progress of science and of technology not only according to their results, but also according to their capacity to defend the specificity of the human person and to check if the spiritual fundamental values are prevailing over our instinctive reactions.
It is why so often Pope Benedict recalls the nobility of reason which manifests itself through authentic human behaviour of the person and of the society. It is therefore always urgent to check if in our life the truth prevails over ambiguity. A trend to separate human rights from the ethical and rational dimensions should be resisted.
The legislator should behave in a manner which is ethically responsible because politics cannot make abstraction of ethics nor civil law and legal order can make abstraction of a superior moral law.
The great religious wisdoms and philosophies have to witness to the existence of a moral patrimony widely shared, which forms the basis of every dialogue on moral questions; this patrimony expresses a universal ethical message that man can decipher. The form and the extension of these traditions can considerably differ according to cultures and situations, but nevertheless they remind us of the existence of a patrimony of moral values common to all human beings. For example, the "golden rule": "do not do to anyone what you do not want to be done to you" is found, under one form or another, in the majority of the traditions of wisdom. [And what of the love of God?]
Individuals and communities are able, in the light of reason, to recognize the fundamental orientations of an ethical behaviour consistent with the nature of the human subject himself.