Sunday, September 02, 2012

John Paul II on the Right to Citizenship

A reader left a link to Javier Hervada's The Principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church in the combox. It's been a while since I've looked at the essay. Professor Hervada is probably a good man (indeed I owe him for an act of generosity), and I may have even recommended his introduction on this blog at some point, but I wanted to call attention to one part which is probably problematic:

6. THE NATURAL RIGHTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON. One characteristic of the human person is self-mastery. This dominion has two aspects. First, control by reason and will over the other faculties makes a person's acts free and responsible; second, his being and the natural ends proper to it entitle the person to rights and liberties, as well as to duties, in his relations with others. These rights (and duties) a-e called natural rights (or fundamental rights--an expression much used by John XXIII) or inalienable rights of the human person (as John Paul II often calls them).

Usually these rights are stated in general terms; it then belongs to the interpreter to explain them more precisely. The main fundamental rights are as follows (MM 11-27; UN--Address of John Paul II to the 36th General Assembly of the United Nations, Oct. 2. 1979):


18) the right to citizenship.
So Professor Hervada is not offering his own opinion or giving his own synthesis of liberalism with CST - rather, he is citing a speech given by Pope John Paul II. Does Pope John Paul II endorse universal democracy as the most just form of government as well? I would argue that this opinion goes against an Aristotelian-Thomistic political theology, and probably against the dominant Catholic theological opinion before the 20th century.

Given Professor Hervada's institutional affiliation one would expect that he not be critical of the opinion of a Roman pontiff. But there is something to be said about ultramontanism being an obstacle to the reforming of the Church.

(Is there a basis for the charges given by certain groups and personages against John Paul II?)

I was reminded how weak our current conception of citizenship is because a friend mentioned that he had passed the citizenship test not too long ago - a test based merely on "knowledge" rather than on demonstrated virtue.

The concept of dominion is used as a theoretical foundation for rights. Something I'll have to remember when reviewing his book on rights.