Roth, “P. C. Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

15890Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all human beings are “endowed with reason and conscience,” a phrase which suggests a Western, individualist worldview. In fact, as Mary Ann Glendon recounts in A World Made New, the phrase appears in the document largely at the instigation of the Chinese delegate, P.C. Chang, who wished to temper Western individualism. The original text referred only to “reason,” which Chang sought to balance by adding the Chinese word, ren, for a Confucian concept which would be roughly translated in English as “two-man mindedness”–benevolence, or empathy. The drafters apparently found it impossible to translate ren in a felicitous way and so settled on “conscience,” which has a rather different connotation. It’s interesting to think about what human rights law would look like today if Chang’s more communitarian concept had made it into the document.

This story is no doubt discussed in a forthcoming book from the University of Pennsylvania Press, P. C. Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by scholar Hans Ingvar Roth (Stockholm University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the world’s best-known and most translated documents. When it was presented to the United Nations General Assembly in December in 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the writing group, called it a new “Magna Carta for all mankind.” The passage of time has shown Roosevelt to have been largely correct in her prediction as to the declaration’s importance. No other document in the world today can claim a comparable standing in the international community.

Roosevelt and French legal expert René Cassin have often been represented as the principal authors of the UN Declaration. But in fact, it resulted from a collaborative effort involving a number of individuals in different capacities. One of the declaration’s most important authors was the vice chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Peng Chun Chang (1892-1957), a Chinese diplomat and philosopher whose contribution has been the focus of growing attention in recent years. Indeed, it is Chang who deserves the credit for the universality and religious ecumenism that are now regarded as the declaration’s defining features. Despite this, Chang’s extraordinary contribution was overlooked by historians for many years.

Peng Chun Chang was a modern-day Renaissance man—teacher, scholar, university chancellor, playwright, diplomat, and politician. A true cosmopolitan, he was deeply involved in the cultural exchange between East and West, and the dramatic events of his life left a profound mark on his intellectual and political work. P. C. Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the first biography of this extraordinary actor on the world stage, who belonged to the same generation as Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. Drawing on previously unknown sources, it casts new light on Chang’s multifaceted life and involvement with one of modern history’s most important documents.

The Weekly Five

This week’s collection of new pieces on SSRN includes an article on Catholic objections to Legal Realism by John Breen and Lee Strang;  a history of Just War theory by Robert Delahunty; an article by Zoe Robinson on the definition of “religious institutions” in connection with the Contraception Mandate litigation; and two essays by Micah Schwartzman on religious and secular convictions.

1. John M. Breen (Loyola University Chicago) and Lee J. Strang (University ofToledo), The Forgotten Jurisprudential Debate: Catholic Legal Thought’s Response to Legal Realism. This article examines the critique of Legal Realism by Catholic scholars in the 1930s and 1940s. Legal historians have unfairly neglected this critique, the authors say, which was both profound and systematic. Catholic legal thinkers who objected to Realism drew on the worldwide revival of Neo-Scholastic philosophy taking place at the time.

2. Robert J. Delahunty (University of St. Thomas), The Returning Warrior and the Limits of Just War Theory. In this paper, Delahunty traces the history of the Just War tradition in Christian thought. Before the twelfth-century Papal Revolution, he writes, the Catholic Church treated the subject in a pastoral, unsystematic way. Soldiers who had killed in wartime were typically required to do penance. In the Papal Revolution, however, the Church transformed itself into an early modern state, equipped with a military force. “As an essential part of this epochal transformation, the Papal program required the Church to abandon its earlier skepticism about war and to settle on the view that war could be justifiable, even sanctified.”

3. Zoe Robinson (DePaul University), The Contraception Mandate and the Forgotten Constitutional Question. Robinson maintains that arguments about the ACA”s Contraception Mandate often neglect the first question: whether the claimants are “religious institutions” that merit constitutional protection. She develops a list of four factors that identify such institutions: “(1) recognition as a religious institution; (2) functions as a religious institution; (3) voluntariness; and (4) privacy-seeking.” Applying these factors, she argues that religious universities qualify as religious institutions, but not for-profit businesses or religious interest groups.

4. Micah Schwartzman (University of Virginia), Religion as a Legal Proxy. In a response to Andrew Koppelman, Schwartzman argues that affording legal protection to religion as such unfairly discriminates against people with non-religious commitments. He argues that the concept of religion should be expanded to include secular claims of conscience. A wide range of international and domestic laws already do so, he points out. Against the backdrop of these laws, the First Amendment’s singling out of religion “feels somewhat antiquated.”

5. Micah Schwartzmann (University of Virginia), Religion, Equality, and Public Reason. This is a review of Ronald Dworkin’s posthumous work, Religion without God, in which Dworkin argues that, as a moral matter, both religious and non-religious convictions deserve legal protection. Schwartzman agrees, but argues that Dworkin unfortunately resisted using the concept of public reason, familiar from the work of John Rawls and others. Schwartzman believes that reliance on public reason is “inevitable” for those, like Dworkin, “who accept that believers and nonbelievers deserve equal respect for their competing and conflicting views.”

Vatican Removes Controversial Papal “Interview” From Its Website

Here’s what looks to be the final update on that interview Pope Francis gave to Eugenio Scalfari of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica this fall. Readers of this website will recall that the interview quotes Pope Francis as saying, among other things, that “proselytism” is “nonsense” and that, with respect to conscience, everyone must follow his own idea of good and evil. Progressives swooned; traditionalists grumbled; everyone wondered what it all meant.

Shortly after the interview ran, it emerged that Scalfari had reconstructed the pope’s words from memory. Scalfari had not tape recorded the pope nor taken notes during the meeting . In other words, the La Repubblica “interview” was not an interview at all. Why a respected newspaper would publish an imaginative reconstruction as though it were a real interview is beyond me–but the Vatican stated at the time that the interview was basically “trustworthy,” if not verbatim. And the Vatican posted the interview on its website.

Last week, however, the Vatican decided to take the interview down. According to this report from the Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis became concerned that people might misunderstand the interview–particularly the discussion of conscience. According to a Vatican spokesman, “The information in the interview is reliable on a general level but not on the level of each individual point analyzed: this is why it was decided the text should not be available for consultation on the Holy See website.” The music was right, I guess, but the lyrics were bit off. Probably the interview is still available at La Repubblica, though.

Chapman on Conscience and Religion

Nathan Chapman (Georgia) has posted a new article, Disentangling Conscience and Religion, on SSRN. The abstract follows:

What does “liberty of conscience” mean? Religious liberty? Freedom of strong conviction? Freedom of thought? Since the Founding Era, Americans have used liberty of conscience to paper over disputes about the proper scope of religious, moral, and philosophical liberty. This Article explores the relationship between conscience and religion in history, political theory, and theology, and proposes a conception of conscience that supports a liberty of conscience distinct from religious liberty. In doing so, it offers a theoretical basis for distinguishing between conscience and religion in First Amendment scholarship and related fields. Conscience is best understood, for purposes of legal theory, as a universal faculty that issues moral commands and judgments. This conception overlaps with religion but is not concentric with it. On one hand, conscience may be informed by religious beliefs (or by nonreligious beliefs). On the other, religious beliefs and practices may be entirely independent of conscience. Protecting fidelity to conscience, whether religious or nonreligious, promotes integrity and undermines the government’s pretensions to moral totalitarianism. This conception of conscience is coherent enough to support a legal right and valuable enough to deserve one.

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