Dignitas Infinita and the Idolization of Man

In this current age of mass media and constant Internet access, the process of theological reception can oftentimes be rushed and clumsy. The race is on, as it were, to forge and brandish one’s latest “hot take” on any given Church topic, document, or papal interview. Merely minutes after the introduction of Dignitas Infinita by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), Catholic social media circles were ablaze with knee-jerk reactions, especially given the document’s opening line: “Every human person possesses an infinite dignity…”

I believe there is an important conversation to be had regarding the concept of human dignity and to what degree we can say humans possess “infinite” dignity, even if in a very limited, analogous way. There have already been solid analyses of the document and its possible limitations. But by fixating almost exclusively on the meaning of the word “dignity, we may lose sight of something far more important—namely, that with Dignitas Infinita we see the crown jewel of a fully-entrenched anthropocentrism, one that stains the window panes of the post-conciliar Church.

Anthropocentrism is the explicit or implicit belief that humanity is the central important entity in creation. Just as heliocentrism and geocentrism argue that the sun or the earth are at the center of the universe respectively, anthropocentrism sees man at the center of all things.

Anthropocentrism is one of the charges often made by critics of the post-conciliar liturgical reform—that, following the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the Roman liturgy inverted from being concerned with the worship of God to now worshipping man. Books ranging from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s They Have Uncrowned Him to Fr. Anthony Cekada’s Work of Human Hands have highlighted the ways in which the reformed rite mutes the doxological, numinous, and mysterious. In the Novus Ordo, the Liturgy of the Word is primarily didactic—readings are not chanted, are spoken in the vernacular, and can be read by anyone. The priest faces the people (ad populum), and defenders of this liturgical orientation appeal to its (dubious) historical basis and its reflecting the inclusive “new ecclesiology” taught by Vatican II.

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