Pacem In Terris 75-79: Three Juridical Demands

Today in Pacem in Terris, Pope John provides a manifesto of sorts: three juridical demands (that’s the word) for all people. It restates the basic purpose of a government. Modern US Republicans, take note. First a Bill of Rights:

75. There is every indication at the present time that these aims and ideals are giving rise to various demands concerning the juridical organization of States. The first is this: that a clear and precisely worded charter of fundamental human rights be formulated and incorporated into the State’s general constitutions.

A public constitution:

76. Secondly, each State must have a public constitution, couched in juridical terms, laying down clear rules relating to the designation of public officials, their reciprocal relations, spheres of competence and prescribed methods of operation.

An elaboration of both rights and duties as they apply to citizens and public authorities:

77. The final demand is that relations between citizens and public authorities be described in terms of rights and duties. It must be clearly laid down that the principal function of public authorities is to recognize, respect, co-ordinate, safeguard and promote citizens’ rights and duties.

No such thing as sovereign individuals, however:

78. We must, however, reject the view that the will of the individual or the group is the primary and only source of a citizen’s rights and duties, and of the binding force of political constitutions and the government’s authority.(Cf. Leo XIII’s apostolic letter Annum ingressi, Acta Leonis XIII, XXII, 1902-1903, pp. 52-80)

So much for the primacy of the individual.

79. But the aspirations We have mentioned are a clear indication of the fact that (people), increasingly aware nowadays of their personal dignity, have found the incentive to enter government service and demand constitutional recognition for their own inviolable rights. Not content with this, they are demanding, too, the observance of constitutional procedures in the appointment of public authorities, and are insisting that they exercise their office within this constitutional framework.

The challenge today, both in long-standing western democracies and in the Third World, is to overcome the sense of apathy and discouragement that comes with frozen or unresponsive governments. The great opportunities remain, despite the machinations of corporations and survivalists.

Those Americans. That democracy. See what those people over the pond have wrought. Imagine if these principles were applied to the Church–I mean the portion of the Body that treats our duties to one another and is responsible for responding to God’s invitation of grace to holiness.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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