“Human dignity” to open dialogue

“Human dignity” to open dialogue

Dignitas infinita (Infinite dignity). The summary of the moral teaching of Pope Francis published Monday April 8 by the Vatican deals with the most current subjects: “Helped dying”, “sex change”, “gender theory”, inequality between women and men, violence via social networks, migrants… And delivers several inflections or developments of the doctrine of the Church. Thus, surrogacy (GPA) “infringes, first of all, the dignity of the child”, then that of the mother who carries him; assisted dying “is an objective attack on the dignity of the person requesting it”; “any sex reassignment procedure risks, as a general rule, threatening the dignity received from conception,” the declaration states.

The text signed by Cardinal Fernandez, prefect of the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by the Pope, is based on the teaching of previous pontiffs. Certain passages engage a high degree of magisterial authority, with formulations invoking divine revelation: “The Church encourages the promotion of the dignity of every human person, whatever their physical, mental, cultural, social and religious qualities. She does so with hope, certain of the strength that flows from the risen Christ, who revealed in its fullness the integral dignity of every man and woman.”

The key to reading the text is found in this affirmation of a dignity linked to the very being of the person, independently of their actions, of their possible physical, moral or psychological decline. The choice to bring together all social issues under this prism of human dignity is new. Until now, the Catholic Church favored the concept of “natural law” – the ability of every human to discern good and evil – as the basis of a universal ethics. More surely, the notion of human dignity makes it possible to dialogue with society on ethical questions, since it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ( 2000), and establishes human rights. But it is not understood by everyone in the same way. The document signed by the Argentine theologian very close to the pope, criticizes understandings of human dignity reduced to the person capable of reasoning, or even identified “with the psychophysical well-being of the individual”, which deviate from human dignity “inherent in all members of the human family” as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Principles firmly remembered

Any form of violence against people because of their sexual orientation is contrary to human dignity, it is recalled, while the laws of certain African countries criminalize homosexual people. Renewed criticism of “gender theory” – a catch-all term contested by social science researchers involved in “gender studies” – signals a stalled dialogue on the question of the social dimension of male and female roles . However, the document recognizes a progression in human history “in the understanding of the dignity of people, in the growing aspiration to eradicate racism, the marginalization of women.” Not without seeing in it a fruit of Christian influence.

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