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In UN Address, Pope Francis Says Just Society Must Be Based on ‘Rule of Law’

Pope Francis is underscoring the importance of the rule of law for society, insisting that it has to be grounded in justice and in the natural moral law.

In his address to the United Nations, Francis told the assembly that the limitation of power is “an idea implicit in the concept of law itself.” Citing the classic definition of justice as giving to each his own, Francis said that “no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights” of others.

The Pope also praised the classic division of branches of government, noting that the distribution of power “among a plurality of subjects,” and “the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests,” are one concrete way of limiting power.

Francis also warned that some so-called “rights” are really just specious claims with no basis in natural justice.

Today’s world, he said, “presents us with many false rights” as well as neglecting broad sectors of vulnerable people, “victims of power badly exercised.”

Pope Francis appealed to “a moral law written into human nature itself” as the foundation of the rule of law, and argued that natural law “includes the natural difference between man and woman” as well as “absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions.”

Even more explicitly, the Pope said that the pillars of a just society where integral human flourishing can occur have a common foundation, “which is the right to life.”

Appealing once again to natural law as the basis for the rule of law, Francis said that “without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits” the ideal of “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption.”

Picking up on his theme of gender ideology, Francis said that the abandonment of natural ethical limits easily leads to “carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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