Saturday, December 17, 2011
A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued the 2012 World Day of Peace message. [HERE] Even though these messages traditionally bear the date of January 1, they have been traditionally issued on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This year’s message is entitled “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.” While there is a lot to digest in this relatively short text, there are a few important points worth focusing on here since the Mirror of Justice is dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory—and surely education, justice, and peace have something to do with this project.
The Holy Father begins this message by noting that young people are gifted with enthusiasm and idealism (yet, perhaps not during final exams); therefore, they are often a source of new hope for the world. Educators have a role to exercise in helping to direct and inform this enthusiasm and idealism. In this regard the Pope points out that those who have a responsibility for the education and formation of young people (I would think this includes law professors) must acknowledge the impact they can and do have on what inspires the enthusiasm and objectives of the young. The attending obligations that educators have must then have to understand the difficulties which all face regarding hope for the future and what are the sources of these obstacles.
One of the major obligations of educators, then, concerns the need to help the young see beyond themselves. If we are truly living in an “it’s-all-about-me” culture, there is an antidote to the problems which such a taste engenders.
It is responsibility. Claims, meaning rights, are important, but there is more to the theme of rights for them to mean something that is durable and good—and that is responsibility. Without responsibility, the freedom that rights claims stimulate will be nothing more than the misguided pursuit of license to do whatever I want to do simply because I want to do it. But with responsibility guiding the way, the independence of rights will eventually enable the one exercising rights to recognize that this exercise necessitates interdependence.
And the best realization of this is the interdependence that anyone can gain in the family where the mother and father are both present and with their complementarity that exercises a sustaining love that can be passed on to the next generation regarding the challenges that the young will inevitably face. Within this exercise of love come many other facets of the education that anyone would ever need—including profound insight into what is just and what is peaceful. The external educator who is outside this family bond, including the law professor, has an important role to ensure that these educational precepts are continued in the environments where the young go. Alas, so often they are not, but there is our challenge.
I pray fervently that we are up to the challenge to see and to instill these truths about who we are and what we can do together! As Pope Benedict, relying on St. Augustine, recalls: what does the human person desire more deeply than truth? That is, truth about: who one is; who one is in community with others; and, who one is before God. If these are the questions posed by all educators, then the vital answers desperately needed for enduring justice and peace will follow—with the help of God. And there will reign justice and peace.