Human Rights and the New Cosmology

I came across the paragraphs below in a Zenit report of the daylong forum organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See entitled “For Everyone, Everywhere: Universal Human Rights and the Challenge of Diversity,” held at the Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina in Rome on Oct. 16.

“Legionary of Christ Father Thomas Williams, author of “Who Is My Neighbor? Personalism and the Foundations of Human Rights” closed the day’s session by addressing the nagging question of how to recognize a universal foundation for universal rights. Those who framed the Declaration 60 years ago drew from Catholic social teaching and the idea of human dignity to draft it, while the intervening years have hacked away at that very foundation resulting in an increasing fragmentation of the notion of universal human rights.

Father Williams contrasted two incompatible visions of human dignity: one that sees dignity as possessed by all human beings in equal measure, and only by human beings, and a second vision that admits of degrees of dignity both among humans and among other species as well. Only the first vision, the priest asserted, is capable of grounding universal human rights. Without this grounding, he warned, the Human Rights Project will continue to evolve into a simple list of special interests determined by consensus and subject to the power plays of pressure groups.”

Without knowing the arguments put forward by Fr Williams or the full context of his remarks, it would seem that he might not be open to “reflect on the Jesus story in the light of our evolving understanding of the Cosmos” as suggested by our recent Chapter!

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