Some claim that moral norms are ``just a social construct.'' It is true that morality, as accepted by any society, is the product of social forces: man is after all a social creature.
Morals are not arbitrary however. The vast areas of agreement between moral codes of different societies throughout the ages and throughout the world is strong evidence that these moral norms were discovered in light of an unchanging and objective set of moral principles that find their source in the realities of human existence.
These moral rights protect the human person and allow him to achieve his end in life. In the modern age, respect for these moral principles have been upheld through the promulgation of human rights.
It is important for us to grasp what might be called the inner structure of this worldwide movement [the universal quest for freedom]. It is precisely its global character which offers us its first and fundamental "key" and confirms that there are indeed universal human rights, rooted in the nature of the person, rights which reflect the objective and inviolable demands of a universal moral law. These are not abstract points; rather, these rights tell us something important about the actual life of every individual and of every social group. They also remind us that we do not live in an irrational or meaningless world. On the contrary, there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples. If we want a century of violent coercion to be succeeded by a century of persuasion, we must find a way to discuss the human future intelligibly. The universal moral law written on the human heart is precisely that kind of "grammar" which is needed if the world is to engage this discussion of its future.
In this sense, it is a matter for serious concern that some people today deny the universality of human rights, just as they deny that there is a human nature shared by everyone. To be sure, there is no single model for organizing the politics and economics of human freedom; different cultures and different historical experiences give rise to different institutional forms of public life in a free and responsible society. But it is one thing to affirm a legitimate pluralism of "forms of freedom", and another to deny any universality or intelligibility to the nature of man or to the human experience. The latter makes the international politics of persuasion extremely difficult, if not impossible.
(Pope John Paul II, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, October 5, 1995, no. 3)
Prime examples of agreement between manifestations of moral law in different societies are the institutions of marriage and the family. Every society, with a few isolated exceptions, has afforded special protection to the family. This protection is rooted in the nature of the human person: clearly no society can long survive without new members being raised to fill the places of the old, and lacking a family new members cannot be born and raised to responsible maturity.
Another example of agreement between is the institution of religion. No stable society has existed without some provision for the worship of a god or gods. Again, this provision is rooted in the nature of the human person: man is limited and his fate is ultimately not in his own power to determine; he has a natural need of expressing his dependence on the greatest of all mysteries, God.
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