Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zenit: Benedict XVI's Message for World Food Day

Benedict XVI's Message for World Food Day

"Access to Food Is a Fundamental Right of Persons and Nations"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N.'s Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the occasion of World Food Day.

The day, observed every year on Oct. 16, commemorates the anniversary of the foundation of the FAO in 1945. The theme for this year is: "Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis."

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To Mr. Jacques Diouf
Director General of FAO

If the celebration of World Food Day recalls the foundation of FAO and its action to combat hunger and malnutrition, it underscores above all the urgency and need to intervene in favor of all those who are deprived of daily bread in so many countries, due to the lack of adequate conditions of food security.

The present crisis, which goes across without distinction the whole of the sectors of the economy, affects particularly in a serious way the agricultural world, where the situation is dramatic. This crisis appeals to governments and to the different components of the international community to make determinant and effective choices.

To guarantee persons and nations the possibility of overcoming the plague of hunger means to ensure their concrete access to healthy and adequate nourishment. It is, in fact, a concrete manifestation of the right to life, which, though solemnly proclaimed, often continues to be far from full realization.

The topic chosen by FAO this year for World Food Day is "To Obtain Food Security in Times of Crisis." This invites one to regard agricultural work as an essential element of food security and, therefore, as an integral component of economic activity. For this reason, agriculture must be able to have a sufficient level of investments and resources. This topic reminds one and makes one understand that the goods of the earth are limited by nature, and hence that they require behavior that is responsible and capable of fostering food security, also thinking of future generations. Needed are a profound solidarity and long-term fraternity.

The attainment of these objectives requires a necessary modification of lifestyles and ways of thinking. It obliges the international community and its institutions to intervene in a more adequate and determinant way. I hope that this intervention will foster a cooperation that protects the methods of cultivation proper to each area and avoids an inconsiderate use of natural resources. I also hope that this cooperation will safeguard the values proper to the rural world and the fundamental rights of the laborers of the earth. Leaving privileges, profits and comfort aside, these objectives will be able to be realized for the advantage of men, women, families and communities, which live in the poorest areas of the planet and which are, moreover, more vulnerable. Experience demonstrates that technical solutions, even the advanced, lack efficacy if they do not refer to the person, principal actor who, in his spiritual and material dimension, is the origin and end of all activity.

More than an elemental necessity, access to food is a fundamental right of persons and nations. It could be a reality and hence a security if an adequate development is guaranteed in all the different regions. In particular, the tragedy of hunger will be able to be overcome only by "eliminating the structural causes that cause it and by promoting the agricultural development of the poorest countries through investments in rural infrastructure, irrigation systems, transport, the organization of markets, formation and diffusion of appropriate agricultural techniques, capable of utilizing in the best way possible the human, natural and socio-economic resources accessible in the main at the local level" (Caritas in Veritate, n. 27).

The Catholic Church, faithful to her vocation to be close to the poorest, promotes, supports and participates in the efforts made to allow each nation and community to have the necessary means to guarantee an adequate level of food security.

With these wishes, I renew, Mr. Director General, my expressions of highest consideration, and invoke on FAO, on the member States and all its personnel abundant heavenly blessings.

In the Vatican, October 8, 2009

[Translation by ZENIT]

Zenit: Holy See on the Rights of Children

Holy See on the Rights of Children

"For Too Many Children the Right to Life Is Denied"

NEW YORK, OCT. 16, 2009 ( Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Thursday on the promotion and protection of the rights of children before the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

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Mr Chairman,

As we consider the promotion and protection of the rights of children, we also commemorate the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an important instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children.

In the course of the past twenty years the Convention has been ratified or acceded to by almost two hundred States; the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict has been ratified by almost 130 countries; and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography has been ratified by over 130 countries. International consensus has grown as governments have become more aware of the need to protect all children. In this regard, my delegation encourages all States that have not yet done so to join in furthering the legal protection of children by ratifying or acceding to the Convention and the Protocols and calls for a correct application of these legal instruments which entails respect for the inherent right to life of all children.

A recent UNICEF report comes with good news: the global under-five mortality has decreased steadily over the past two decades. However, statistics also tell us that in the last decade more than two million children have been killed in the course of armed conflict, six million have been left disabled, tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines, and over 300,000 recruited as child soldiers.

In our discussions on ending violence against children we cannot but call to mind that for too many children the right to life is denied; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that oftentimes children become the first victims of famines and wars; that they are maimed by unexploded munitions; that they lack sufficient food and housing; that they are deprived of schooling; that they become sick with AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis without access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work.

Eliminating violence against children demands that the state and society support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility. Governments must assume their rightful role to protect and promote family life because the family has obvious vital and organic links with society. Civil society also has an important role to play in supporting the family and counteracting all forms of violence against children. For its part, the Catholic Church's over 300,000 social, caring and educational institutions work daily to ensure both education for children and provide the reintegration of abused and neglected children into their families if possible, and into society.

At times, in deliberations on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, there can unfortunately be a tendency to speak in terms of the relationship between the child and the state while inadvertently minimizing the role of parents. In this regard my delegation cannot emphasize enough the importance of the family in the life of each and every child and that all legislation regarding children must take into account the indispensable role of parents, for children are born of a mother and father, and into the fundamental community which is the family. Not surprisingly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has rightly affirmed that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” (Article 16,3), and that, relatedly, “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance” and “all children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection” (Article 25,2). These affirmations are not concepts imposed from the outside but instead are complementary principles derived from the nature of the human person.

This year the General Assembly continues its consideration of the right of children to express their views freely in all matters affecting them and so rightly focuses on the importance of truly hearing them. All children need to be respected fully in their inherent dignity for they are fully human beings. The Convention on the Rights of the Child does not explicitly include an article on a specific right to participate. Nonetheless, the Convention does contain articles that take into account the participation of children, for example, in expressing their views and having these views heard (Article 12). In considering the concrete application of child participation it must always be remembered, as is affirmed in the Convention, that States Parties are called to “respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents … to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention” (Article 5).

On this occasion the Holy See once again reaffirms its constant concern for the well-being and protection of all children and their families and continues to call all States to do the same with renewed urgency since all children deserve to grow up in a stable and healthy environment in keeping with their dignity.

Thank you Mr Chairman.

What is the relationship of these rights to the virtue of justice? Do adults have the same sort of rights? Do these rights acquire any special character simply because children have them? And are children "equal" to adults?
Edward Feser, The Thomistic tradition, Part I

Several schools of thought describing themselves as “Thomistic” have developed over the course of the last century or so, each representing a different response to the characteristic themes and assumptions of modern philosophy. Since they have had such a profound influence on the contemporary debate over Aquinas’s thought, it will be worthwhile briefly to describe the main positions:

1. Neo-Scholastic Thomism: The dominant tendency within Thomism in the first decades after the revival sparked by Leo’s encyclical, this approach is reflected in many of the manuals and textbooks widely in use in Roman Catholic colleges and seminaries before Vatican II. Due to its emphasis on following the interpretative tradition of the great commentators on Aquinas (such as Capreolus, Cajetan, and John of St. Thomas) and associated suspicion of attempts to synthesize Thomism with non-Thomistic categories and assumptions, it has also sometimes been labeled “Strict Observance Thomism.” Still, its focus was less on exegesis of the historical Aquinas’s own texts than on carrying out the program of deploying a rigorously worked out system of Thomistic metaphysics in a wholesale critique of modern philosophy. Its core philosophical commitments are summarized in the famous “Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses” approved by Pope Pius X. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964) is perhaps its greatest representative.

2. Existential Thomism: Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), the key proponent of this approach to Thomism, tended to emphasize the importance of historical exegesis but also to deemphasize Aquinas’s continuity with the Aristotelian tradition, highlighting instead the originality of Aquinas’s doctrine of being or existence. He was also critical of the Neo-Scholastics’ focus on the tradition of the commentators, and given what he regarded as their insufficient emphasis on being or existence accused them of “essentialism” (to allude to the other half of Aquinas’s distinction between being and essence). Gilson’s reading of Aquinas as putting forward a distinctively “Christian philosophy” tended, at least in the view of his critics, to blur Aquinas’s distinction between philosophy and theology. Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) introduced into Thomistic metaphysics the notion that philosophical reflection begins with an “intuition of being,” and in ethics and social philosophy sought to harmonize Thomism with personalism and pluralistic democracy. Though “existential Thomism” was sometimes presented as a counterpoint to modern existentialism, the main reason for the label is the emphasis this approach puts on Aquinas’s doctrine of existence. Contemporary proponents include Joseph Owens and John F. X. Knasas.

3. Laval or River Forest Thomism: This approach emphasizes the Aristotelian foundations of Aquinas’s philosophy, and in particular the idea that the construction of a sound metaphysics must be preceded by a sound understanding of natural science, as interpreted in light of an Aristotelian philosophy of nature. Accordingly, it is keen to show that modern physical science can and should be given such an interpretation. Charles De Koninck (1906-1965), James A. Weisheipl (1923-1984), William A. Wallace, and Benedict Ashley are among its representatives. It is sometimes called “Laval Thomism” after the University of Laval in Quebec, where De Koninck was a professor. The alternative label “River Forest Thomism” derives from a suburb of Chicago, the location of the Albertus Magnus Lyceum for Natural Science, whose members are associated with this approach. It is also sometimes called “Aristotelian Thomism” (to highlight its contrast with Gilson’s brand of existential Thomism) though since Neo-Scholastic Thomism also emphasizes Aquinas’s continuity with Aristotle, this label seems a bit too proprietary. (There are writers, like the contemporary Thomist Ralph McInerny, who exhibit both Neo-Scholastic and Laval/River Forest influences, and the approaches are not necessarily incompatible.)

4. Transcendental Thomism: Unlike the first three schools mentioned, this approach, associated with Joseph Marechal (1878-1944), Karl Rahner (1904-84), and Bernard Lonergan (1904-84), does not oppose modern philosophy wholesale, but seeks to reconcile Thomism with a Cartesian subjectivist approach to knowledge in general, and Kantian epistemology in particular. It seems fair to say that most Thomists otherwise tolerant of diverse approaches to Aquinas’s thought tend to regard transcendental Thomism as having conceded too much to modern philosophy genuinely to count as a variety of Thomism, strictly speaking, and this school of thought has in any event been far more influential among theologians than among philosophers.

5. Lublin Thomism: This approach, which derives its name from the University of Lublin in Poland where it was centered, is also sometimes called “phenomenological Thomism.” Like transcendental Thomism, it seeks to combine Thomism with certain elements of modern philosophy, though in a way that is less radically revisionist. In particular, it seeks to make use of the phenomenological method of philosophical analysis associated with Edmund Husserl and the personalism of writers like Max Scheler in articulating the Thomist conception of the human person. Its best-known proponent is Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005), who went on to become Pope John Paul II.