“Dignitas Infinita” as a Naturalistic Vision of Mankind

Following the presentation in Rome of the Declaration on Human Dignity, Dignitas infinita, the most frequent reactions, including in so-called conservative circles, are focused on its reminder of the prohibition of abortion, surrogate motherhood, euthanasia, assisted suicide, gender theory and sex reassignment, not to mention its plea for respect for the disabled. None of this is new, nor should it be. What needs to be analyzed, however, are the arguments deployed and the principles asserted. As might be expected, the Declaration Dignitas Infinita (“infinite dignity”) is, despite many traditional assertions, in line with a naturalistic vision of man. While it quotes extensively from Vatican II, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and—in abundance—Pope Francis, the magisterium of earlier popes is virtually absent.

The fruit of five years’ work and back-and-forth before the Doctrinal Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now a Dicastery under the leadership of Cardinal Victor Manuel “Tucho” Fernandez), the French and English versions of the introduction written by the latter strangely evoke “the infinite and inalienable dignity due to every human being”, as if dignity could be a “due”. In Italian, we read spetta (“belongs”); in Spanish corresponde. But it’s the term “infinite” that really stands out, even though it was first used by John Paul II in relation to the respect due “to persons suffering from certain limitations or handicaps”. Infinite dignity, in fact, belongs only to God, and it is in God’s name that we must respect the human life He created and which belongs to Him—and especially that of the “least” among His own…

In such a context, Cardinal Fernandez writes quite logically in his introduction that in Fratelli Tutti “Pope Francis wanted to emphasize with particular insistence that this dignity exists ‘in all circumstances’, inviting everyone to defend it in every cultural context, at every moment of a person’s existence, regardless of any physical, psychological, social or even moral deficiency”. Even moral! Would the criminal, the genocidist, the devil worshipper, and why not the damned soul still benefit from this “infinite dignity”? Better still, according to Fernandez, this “universal truth that we are all called to recognize” is a “fundamental condition for our societies to be truly just, peaceful, healthy and, ultimately, authentically human”. Has respect for natural law evaporated, and are the Ten Commandments no longer as relevant? God has chosen to explicitly remind man of this charter, which indicates to every human being the duties that are imposed on all, and which condition justice and peace. The language of “dignity”, which would form the basis of “rights”, does something different. It considers man sacred, unconditionally sacred, and no longer God, even when it relies on man’s creation in God’s image (which it doesn’t always do!), and ends up, as some have written, sacralizing any human desire.

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