The Catholic Church habitually challenges the notion of moral relativism, the notion that what is morally right or wrong can vary across different peoples and cultures. The Church insists that moral standards are universal. The tragic relationship between routine contraception, infant mortality, maternal mortality and sexually transmitted diseases is a challenging and always frustrating example of this debate.
The most famous and influential secular manifestation of this great human debate is The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
And we are today faced with an historic moral and ethical question surrounding the growing global rage over Edward Snowden. Both Democrats and Republicans alike are calling Mr. Snowden a traitor. But the United States has repeatedly condemned and even executed functionaries who engaged in immoral violations of human rights despite the arguement that they were only following orders. Mr. Snowden appears to have put the universal human right of privacy and international law above "following orders."
On December 10, 1948, under the passionate leadership of the United States, the United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I quote from this iconic document:
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Article 12 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as authored by The United States of America:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
Is the United States now stating that "Universal" is "relative"? Is the universal human right of privacy relative to different situations? Is an invasion of privacy a crime for the Chinese but a national security imperative for the Americans?
What would Eleanor Roosevelt think of all this, I wonder?