By DONALD DeMARCO
The 1945 Charter of the United Nations proclaimed its intention “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person . . . to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom . . . to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.”
All these aims are most commendable and one could put forward a strong case that they are consistent with the aims of the Catholic Church. The fact that it is only too clear that the UN and the Church do not see eye-to-eye on many other important moral issues raises the question concerning their fundamental differences.
The United Nations is a secular organization attempting to achieve something that human beings, left to their own devices, have never been able to achieve. Its aims are utopian, but of this world, the desperate attempt to lead imperfect men into a perfect world. Given this grandiose project, it must enlarge its scope beyond its charter and become, like atheistic Communism, a kind of Godless religion. In the end, it violates the very peace, tolerance, and freedom it originally espoused.
In 1951, the United Nations began issuing postage stamps. Its very first stamp is an excellent depiction of its religious propensities. The one-cent stamp, “Peoples of the World,” shows five shadowy figures representing the “principal races of mankind.” The figures, having been liberated from their bondage, look up adoringly at an image of the UN emblem that is set shining in the sky. Their hope is not in Christ, but in a concept. Their life is not one of grace, but of will.
The Christian religion places its hope in a person, the person of Christ. It commands its followers to love their neighbor and not expect to find perfection in this world, but to look forward to sharing God’s life in a better world. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, man’s soul is in the world “containing it rather than contained by it” (continens magis quam contenta).
The UN is now as aggressive promoter of abortion throughout the world. Its mandate to prevent war has turned into a war against the unborn. As a result, the UN does not honor the rights or the dignity of any human being at least for the first nine months of his existence. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently admonished the Catholic Church for its teaching on homosexual sexual behavior and sexuality in general. In so doing, it finds itself in a most un-peaceful, intolerant, and un-neighborly relationship with the Catholic Church.
It is inevitable that a false religion will find itself in conflict with a true religion. The UN has little provision in its arsenal for protecting the spiritual order. It is absorbed by the temporal order and looks more and more, as in ancient Rome, like an adversary of Christianity.
Rather than enlist the help of the Catholic Church to improve and widen its understanding of the dignity of all human beings, including the unborn, it seeks to cut the Church down to its size. Without God, and grace, and justice for all, however, the United Nations becomes a travesty of a religion, seeking to depose its superior rival. The UN affirms the attributes of God — peace, freedom, dignity, brotherhood — but in denying God it loses the real basis in which these attributes are rooted.
The UN is a false religion because it affirms God’s attributes while rejecting God Himself. It is like loving the light, but loathing the lamp.
Henri de Lubac, SJ, in his superb study, The Drama of Atheist Humanism, shares his agreement with Dostoyevsky when he writes: “Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God he can only organize the world against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”
Likewise, Nikolai Berdyaev has observed, “where there is not God, there is no man either.”
The UN is not a religion, much as it aspires to be. It will serve its legitimate purposes best not by trying to do more than it can, but simply by being itself as a secular agency that attempts to bring the voice of reason to a world in which reason needs to be awakened to life.
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(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)