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Human Rights: Natural Or Political?

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Chapter Summary

According to the German historian Wolfgang Schmale, natural law ended up on the guillotine along with the ancien régime. Pope Leo XIII started the legitimization of human rights in terms of natural law in 1891, and pope Benedict XVI became the most recent proponent in 2008. What happened in the interim is the theme of this chapter. The chapter first gives a historical account of the legitimisation of human rights in terms of natural law in ecclesiastic documents from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. It then highlights political aspects of natural law in these, especially with regard to the relation between church and state. The chapter also reconstructs the development of the legitimisation of human rights in terms of nature and politics.

Keywords: Catholic Church; ecclesiastic documents; legitimisation of human rights; natural law; political aspects



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