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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXIV, No. 1
Eastertide 2009

Women for Faith & Family
Celebrating 25 years of service to the Church
1984-2009

What We Need Is New Order in the World

by Sheila Gribben Liaugminas

In September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit assembled the largest gathering of world leaders in history to determine what the UN’s role was to be in the new era of modern man. Part of that was figuring out how the UN needed to reform, to fulfill its mission as peacekeepers and defenders of human rights.

The Vatican had been answering these questions for years. In 1995, Pope John Paul II addressed the UN General Assembly and told them that the natural law contained the moral grammar necessary to engage the discussion of the world’s future. But the UN spoke an evolving language of rights, no longer ordered to a universal moral law. Instead we began to hear about what was often described as a “New World Order”.

Reduce the Guests at the Common Table
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took the opportunity to address this growing international ideology in writing the preface to a 1997 book by Michael Schooyans, The Gospel: Confronting World Disorder. Marxism failed, Cardinal Ratzinger said, but there were renewed efforts to “build the future” on liberal traditions.

Under the title New World Order, these efforts take on a configuration; they increasingly relate to the UN and its international conferences, especially those of Cairo and Beijing that transparently reveal a philosophy of the new man and the new world, as they endeavor to map out the ways of reaching them.… This philosophy recommends … not worrying about taking care of those who are no longer productive nor have any hope of a quality life. Furthermore, it no longer expects that people, used to riches and well being, be ready to make requisite sacrifices, on the contrary, it recommends ways of reducing the number of participants at humanity’s table, so that at least the so-called happiness, already acquired by some, will not be touched. (Emphasis added.)

He was sounding the alarm about our progression toward becoming a utilitarian society, one driven by a radical agenda. The “basis of the New World Order”, he said, “is revealed above all in the image of woman, in the ideology of ‘Women’s empowerment’ proposed at Beijing. The goal is the self-realization of women for whom the principle obstacles are the family and maternity”.

This “fear of maternity”, Ratzinger wrote, causes antagonism toward whoever threatens self-fulfillment. “The other person is always, in the end, a competitor who takes away part of my life, a menace to my Ego and my free development. Today we no longer have a ‘philosophy of love,’ but only a ‘philosophy of egotism.’…”

He continued: “But it is precisely there that man is deceived”, for when we are advised against loving, we are actually counseled not to be human. And only “the essential traits of the Christian image of man” can adequately address “the big problems of the future world”, with a model of a “civilization of love” that is “worthy of the greatness of man, as well as [insuring] the dignity of those who are unable to defend themselves”.

Cardinal Ratzinger repeated these warnings with renewed emphasis in the days after the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 ended, in remarks published in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. The cardinal said, “Woman must be liberated especially of what characterizes her, namely, her feminine specificity. This must be annulled before a ‘Gender equity’ and ‘equality,’ before an indistinct and uniform human being, in whose life sexuality has no other meaning than a voluptuous drug, that can be used without any criteria”.

The following year, Cardinal Ratzinger strongly rebuked the practices of experimenting on human embryos and marketing human organs in a 2001 address at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, where he said “the contempt for man that underlies [such marketing and research], when man is used and abused, leads — like it or not — to a descent into hell”.

In November 2002, a “Doctrinal note concerning some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith spelled out clearly the Catholic politician’s obligation to oppose laws that attack human life or give legal recognition to homosexual unions. (See www.wf-f.org/CDF-Politicians.html).

As politics continued to force the abortion issue to prominence for Catholic voters and Catholic politicians, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a memorandum to the US bishops in July 2004, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles”, which stressed the grave sin of abortion and euthanasia, and said that those who support these views are not in communion with the Church. (See www.wf-f.org/Catholics_and_ Politics.html).

In the 2004 election, Catholic presidential candidate John Kerry stood for abortion “rights” and forced the issue of politics trumping religion. Or “conscience” determining morality.

Re-define “The Common Good”
In the last year of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate, the Terri Schiavo ordeal forced the issue of human dignity and “the responsibility to protect” — cited in the UN Charter — to the public consciousness. Pope John Paul II’s March 2004 address to a conference on “Life-sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State” was an urgent clarification on the misuse of medical terms that dehumanize people and on the moral obligation to give the minimal care of food and water. (See www.wf-f.org/JPIILifeSustaining 0304.html).

The cultural clash the Schiavo case forced to the public arena revealed how far the “right-to-die” movement had advanced in the legal system and the media. And in the public mind.

A published letter from a European journalist predicted that if this woman was allowed to die, “Dutch euthanasia will come to America”. She was and it did. We have increasingly accepted all sorts of newly defined “rights” over life, death and family. It was all predicted by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, by Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, and by Pope Benedict XVI in his writings as Cardinal Ratzinger. And, notably, in his homily at the Mass on April 18, 2005, just before the conclave that would elect him pope, the then-Dean of the College of Cardinals said:

“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking”, he said. “The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves thrown from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what Saint Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4:14) comes true.”

“Having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” (See: www.vatican.va/gpII/documents/homily-pro-eligendo-pontifice_20050418_en.html).

That ideology of relativism, of putting self-interest before definitive human values, has continued to gain ground.

In the 2006 US elections, two particular state referenda involved the fundamental recognition of human life and dignity and asked voters to put safeguards into law to prevent violation of human sanctity. Both failed.

In Missouri, the measure to allow research on embryonic stem cells narrowly passed, aided by strenuous television ad campaigns heavily funded by the profitable bio-tech industry. Their campaign for “stem-cell research” always neglected to mention it was specifically the embryonic ones they were after.

In South Dakota, an initiative to ban abortion with the recognition that a unique human being is present at conception narrowly failed, after a vigorous campaign of disinformation by Planned Parenthood and NARAL to convince voters of false arguments about the law.

But the largest success for the aggressively secular liberal ideology came in the 2008 general election, with a pro-abortion president and a pro-abortion Democrat-controlled Congress assuming power. In the weeks that followed, their transition team spokesmen repeatedly referred to “the common good” as a political talking point to prepare listeners for executive decisions the new president would be making on things like embryonic stem-cell research and federal funding of abortion.

“The common good” is an important concept of Catholic social teaching. It means the good of each individual and of all society, with recognition of universal human rights founded on the sanctity and dignity of human life. In a letter to President-elect Barack Obama, Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke for the US bishops in reminding him that:

In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the poor … is another…. However, the common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice.

Three days after his inauguration, President Obama reversed the US government’s “Mexico City Policy”, which had prevented the use of federal funds to pay for abortions on foreign soil This action opened up taxpayer funding of abortions outside the US.

Propose a “New World Order”
Last summer, presidential candidate Obama faced a massive crowd in Berlin and delivered a speech carried globally. “I speak to you as a fellow citizen of the world”, he said, and recalled certain moments in history when the world was at war and times were dark. He exhorted them: “People of the world: now do your duty….” Look at history, he said, and learn from it how to work together in trust, unified against challenges.

That was what Henry Kissinger probably had in mind when he made a startling comment in a brief interview with CNBC before the Obama inauguration. Asked about the responsibility that falls to the new president, the former US Secretary of State said that Obama’s most important, or defining task would be the creation of “a new world order”.

That’s another phrase to beware of if it becomes a political talking point, because it can signal the ideology Pope Benedict warned about more than a decade ago, and again prominently in his address on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the United Nations General Assembly on April 18, 2008.

In this address he said that humanity experienced upheavals “when reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated”. The “pragmatic approach”, which just looks for “the common good” separate from objective values, is a mistake, said the pope.

That’s another buzz phrase of the new administration’s spokesmen: “the pragmatic approach”.

Pope Benedict warned all authorities, by way of his UN address, that

Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or … decisions taken by … those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal.

“In tackling the theme or rights, since important situations and profound realities are involved”, the pope said, “discernment is both an indispensable and a fruitful virtue”. The pope seemed implicitly to refer to the language of “reproductive rights” that disguises contraception and abortion as humanitarian aid. In stressing “the transcendent value of every man and woman” he indirectly addressed the spread of euthanasia disguised as compassion.

Since then, two additional states, Washington and Montana, have joined Oregon in legalizing physician-assisted suicide. The new president came into power and exported abortion in the Mexico City Policy reversal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly defended a birth control earmark in the economic stimulus package because it would save state and federal government money, when she said in a television interview that fewer people means lower expenses for services.

These are utilitarian policies that seek to reduce the guests at the common table, for the “good” of those who are already there. That’s the world disorder that Pope Benedict saw coming if nations deny that respect for human life is the pre-eminent value.

In his address to the United Nations, Pope Benedict said that the UN embodies the hope of “a greater degree of international ordering”, and not by the power elite who declare law and policy by consensus. Might does not make right, he said essentially, and just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral.

The Vatican was quick to respond to Obama’s approval of federal funding for overseas abortion, which Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said was done with “the arrogance of those who, having power, think they can decide between life and death”.

What Endures
The message of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s “dictatorship of relativism” homily in 2005 was the confrontation in modern times between opposing worldviews competing to define the terms we use to discuss or debate the future of humanity.

All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? Money does not. Even buildings do not, nor books. After a certain time, longer or shorter, all these things disappear. The only thing that lasts forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.

The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord. So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.

To conclude, let us return once again to the Letter to the Ephesians. The Letter says, with words from Psalm 68, that Christ, ascending into heaven, “gave gifts to men” (Eph 4:8). The victor offers gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to mankind, to build up His body — the new world…


Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, a member of the editorial board of Voices, is a Chicago journalist who covered the apostolic visit of Pope Benedict for Relevant Radio. She writes on news of faith and culture on her InForum blog: www.inforumblog.com.


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