Pope Francis has warned MEPs that Human Rights legislation could lead to further conflict and violence. Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg this morning (Tuesday) the pontiff said that the concept of duty was “equally essential” to the concept of rights, a fact which he viewed as no longer linked.
And he sought to remind members that it is impossible to have “rights” without “responsibilities”. Abandoning this view, he added, is something which has caused social angst.
Criminals have previously used the European Court of Human Rights to escape deportation to face trial, and Article 8, the right to a family life, has cost the tax payer untold millions in extradition appeals and delayed hearings whilst fundamentalists live in social housing, sometimes with multiple wives and huge families.
High profile cases include Abu Qatada, the hate cleric accused of links to Al-Qaeda. He was finally deported to Jordan in 2013 to face charges of terrorism after the Strasbourg court and the UK Special Immigration Appeals Commission took the view that he faced torture if extradited.
This interpretation of Human Rights was criticised by The Pope:
“As a result,” His Holiness said, “the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.”
And he said that the long term approach should be to focus on society as a whole, rather than simply sticking to the letter of the law and causing divisions amongst communities.
“I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the ‘all of us’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society,” he said.
“In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.”
But his message was completely misinterpreted by the Socialist group in the Parliament. Leader Gianni Pitella issued a statement praising the speech for “offering an alternative path to selfishness and blind consumerism” saying that:
“Europe is only faithful to its mission if it wakes up from this malaise of loneliness and indifference.”
Conservative MEP Dan Hannan, who called the Pontiff’s words “uplifting”, tweeted that the Parliament’s President, Socialist Martin Schultz, said the speech would be all about praising the EU even before it had started.
Unsurprisingly, Martin Schulz declares, in advance, that the Pope’s message is a European one, his story a European story.