Sunday, December 21, 2008

"The Dignity of a Person"

Rosemary Flanigan

December 19, 2008

Long ago I wrote my dissertation on Robin George Collingwood’s metaphysics of absolute presuppositions, and I was reminded of this far away bit of history when I read the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recently issued “The Dignity of the Person.”

Just as Collingwood taught that certain presuppositions, e.g., that every effect has a cause, help frame our mind’s approach to the analysis of countless events, so, too, do certain moral presuppositions in the Church’s theology frame the analysis of the basis of human dignity.

That human life begins at conception militates against using embryos for stem cell research and cloning; that the unitive and procreative aspects of marital intercourse ought not be separated militates against in vitro fertilization.

None of this is new. Neither is the document’s flexibility on some forms of gene therapy and its open questions surrounding embryo adoption.

There is an interesting discussion in the conclusion of the document concerning the perception that moral teaching in the church “contains too many prohibitions.” To refute this charge, the authors contrast the problems of earlier times.

Working classes were oppressed and denied their fundamental rights; the church came to their defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person. Today’s problems deal with defending the right to life of the unborn. “The Church feels duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice.”

The document praises human progress in the understanding and recognition of the value and dignity of persons by legal and political prohibitions of racism, slavery, unjust discrimination of the marginalized together with today’s developments in information technologies, research in genetics, medicine and biotechnologies for human benefit.

But the authors still call the attention of the faithful to those at the very beginning of life whose very life is threatened.

“Behind every ‘no’ in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil there shines a great ‘yes’ to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single unique human being called into existence.”

What do you think? View and leave comments by clicking here.


Vatican hardens opposition to stem cell research, Associated Press, December 12
Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions, December 12
Will a New Vatican Document Affect Science and Reproductive Health?, Scientific American, December 12
Scientist reacts to Vatican bioethics paper, William B. Neaves, National Catholic Reporter, December 12


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home