The Argument for Human Dignity

In the Spring 2012 issue of The Human Life Review, I came across an article about Wesley Smith’s piece on human dignity and Rev. W. Ross Blackburn’s interesting response. I would like to share it with all of you.

Here is an excerpt:

We spoke to Smith about Blackburn’s article, and the idea of a symposium was born. As you will see, while all of the nine contributors to “Truth-Telling in the Public Square” agree on the inviolability of human life, each comes at the question of how best to argue for it in the public square from their own unique, and engaging, angle. Some come down on the side of the secular, some the sacred, and some think each argument makes sense . . . to a point. Some question whether one can persuade through argument at all.

We are honored to begin with His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sets the tone by stressing the importance of what we are doing, not merely “preparing for a debating contest” but considering a question which “goes to the very essence of what it means to be human and how we are to live with one another.” “We are not mere creatures of reason or appetite or interest,” writes His Eminence. “Science alone cannot speak the full truth about human nature. We are necessarily spiritual beings, concerned about transcendent values.”

You can read the whole article here.

4 Responses to “The Argument for Human Dignity”

  1. Robert Fox says:

    Thanks for the links, Cardinal Dolan. The “loss of the sense of the very essence of what it means to be human” is a direct result of a loss of the sense of the Social Reign of Christ the King.

    While it is true that there have always been people who were not Judeo Christian… nevertheless this sense of the temporal reign of Christ was (until about 50 years ago) a light to the whole world… even if only subliminally at times. Non Catholics saw that transcendent light when they went to a Catholic liturgy for a friend’s wedding or funeral, when they read about Catholicism, as they sat at a Catholic’s dining room table or spoke to Catholic children. It was known even by the non-Catholic. It is said that Ann Seton was converted the very first time she saw what we now call the “old” Mass while staying at the Filicchis residence.

    That “light” was extinguished when we were intentionally no longer taught this reality. And so now our way of life as Catholics, our liturgies, our households, resemble the world much more then, say the small rooms wherein lived a young Raymond Kolbe or a John Vianney. I refer here to the interior “room” of one’s prayer life wherein burns the candle of perpetual adoration. We can not find the “tabernacle”, we do not have many good reference points any longer. This has to do with a lack of priestly formation and a “protestantization” of worship which is community centered… not sacrifice centered… with a false sense of priest as “presider” instead of “the one chosen and trained to offer sacrifice for the living and the dead”.

    When I first began working in the pro life movement… I wrongly believed I could argue this cause of life from a secular or even a merely Christian perspective. This is a delusional outlook though because it hides the very essence and meaning of why we were created and because it ignores the influence that sin has upon the darkening of our intellects without sacramental grace. Like it or not, for most of the civilized world… the way the Catholic Church goes, so goes the rest of the world… this is the law of prayer which shapes the law of belief.

    And so the reality of the cross/crucifixion can not be separated from the reality of LIFE… and done so in any meaningful or effective way. It was an astonishing realization for me back then when I was in my 20’s. The ideals and praxis of chastity can not long be sustained without the Eucharist, Our Lady and frequent confession in an approved Catholic venue.

    No! It won’t be heady arguments or fascinating symposiums which will change the culture of death. Not at all. It will HAVE to be nothing less then a change (a true restoration) in the “lex orandis” of the Catholic which will slowly melt the hearts of those on the fence. For some… God will either have to open their eyes or permanently close their eyes in order for this to happen.

    Based upon my own observations we are still far too close to the “spirit of the last council” to break away from the false irenecism which, as Catholics, we have come to be so comfortable with. I refer to leader and layman alike in this. It will take, at this rate, another 100 years and men who see the last 21 councils in a much broader and more authentically Catholic view. We have very rocky days ahead. The oncoming persecution will help it along a bit though I believe. “Less” will actually be “more”.

    As Fr. Zuhlsdorf always says: “Save the Liturgy, Save The World”. It’s the most pro-life thing we can do because it’s iconography mitigates most effectively against the distractions and seductions of our day. This is even more important now than it was back in Elizabeth Ann Seton’s time precisely because of it’s extraordinary nature and it’s subliminal character.

    vty Bob

  2. Tom Torchia says:

    It has become crystal clear. There can be no doubt or ambiguity and thus no plausible

    deniability. The presumptive successor to bloomberg, the current king of N.Y. City,

    christine quinn, has chosen to act like henry viii. We, the Faithful, are praying that you,

    Cardinal Dolan, have the Faith and Courage to act like Saint Thomas Moore.

  3. Well said Tom! To act like Saint Thomas Moore would be to suffer like St. Thomas Moore. There were PLENTY OF CATHOLIC CHURCHMEN IN AUTHORITY in good standing who assured St. Thomas Moore that he could “sign the document” in good conscience. The conciliar subjectivists would say they were right… but Our Lord tells us through His Holy Church by way of Moore’s canonization that they were wrong.

    The fact is that no matter how canonist today try and twist canon 915 for a more comfortable interpretation, in the end, the canon says what it says. It does not matter if even the Holy Father equivocated on this reality. It IS what it IS.

    Either a few good men suffer now by defending the Eucharist… or a lot more good men will suffer later. THAT is what this all means to me, my children… and some day my grand children.

  4. Frank Tomi says:

    What canonical consequences might Andrew Cuomo face now?

    Reminder: 1. This website offers my* commentary on the canonical implications of certain news events. 2. My regular readers are familiar with sound Catholic thought in such areas as, for example, the nature of marriage, the moral parameters of private and governmental decision-making, personal sin and public scandal, the theology of holy Communion, and the basic role of canon law in the Church, and so I do not lay the kinds of foundations in such matters that one engaged in, say, apologetics would otherwise have to provide. 3. If anyone finds himself insufficiently familiar with some of the Catholic terminology and concepts assumed in this discussion, I would urge study of the pertinent passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or consultation with the auctores probatos.

    The Catholic Church, drawing upon the teachings of Jesus Christ and echoing Natural Law, holds that marriage is possible only between a man and a woman and, consequently, that only men and women who have undertaken to live in such a relationship should be recognized and treated as married. The male-female requirement for marriage is an unalterable teaching of the Church and, while it might be subjected to ridicule by some nowadays, it is not subject to revision by either Church or State. Moreover, unlike some teachings of the Church that have no practical implications in the civil arena, that teaching which holds marriage possible only between a man and a woman has vital ramifications for civil society and—long story omitted—for those Catholics privileged to be especially charged with caring for the common good through political institutions.

    Among the many persons laboring in New York to accord same-sex unions the civil legal status of marriage, no one played a more important, and indeed a constitutionally essential, role than did the governor of the Empire State, Andrew Cuomo, a Roman Catholic. Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign touted his strong support for “gay marriage”, he used his enormous influence to push key legislators into voting for New York’s “gay marriage” bill, and he signed that bill into law hardly an hour after it was passed. Without Cuomo’s long-standing and vigorous public support for “gay marriage”, without his unswerving political efforts to advance that project and, most specifically, without his signature on the bill (placed there with obvious enthusiasm and much self-satisfaction), New York would not have legalized “gay marriage” on June 24.

    In the wake of these incontestable facts, and speaking only from my expertise in Catholic canon law (leaving cultural and political commentary to others) Andrew Cuomo faces, as I see it, at least two major canonical problems.

    First, Cuomo’s long pattern of conduct in regard to “gay marriage” warrants, in my opinion, a canonical investigation under Canon 1717 into whether he has “in a public show or speech, published writings, or in other uses of the instruments of social communications … gravely injure[d] good morals…” and on that account is to be punished (puniatur) with a just penalty per Canon 1369. That said, only rarely has the canonical criminal process been invoked against lay persons in our lifetimes**, and the outlines of that process deserve more treatment than can be accorded them in a blog post. In any event, assuming the canon means what it plainly says, I suggest that some among the friends and foes of Cuomo (I figure among neither group) begin briefing Canon 1369.

    Second, and much more urgently because it arises from sacramental discipline and not from the canonical penal process, Cuomo’s long pattern of conduct in regard to “gay marriage” triggers, in my opinion, an obligation on his part to refrain from approaching for holy Communion per Canon 916 and, should he approach anyway, upon ministers of holy Communion to withhold that august sacrament from “those obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” per Canon 915.

    I am already on record as believing Cuomo ineligible for holy Communion on the basis of his improper living arrangements with a television celebrity, a relationship I characterized as “public concubinage” and which characterization no one has yet canonically challenged, let alone rebutted. See generally Edward Peters, “The Cuomo-Communion Controversy”, Catholic World Report (May 2011) 33-35.

    But in almost every relevant way, Cuomo’s protracted actions in regard to “gay marriage” are even more brazen.

    Cuomo’s concubinage gives prominent bad example against marriage, but his official actions in regard to “gay marriage” have changed the very definition of marriage in the populous state under his care; Cuomo’s living arrangements are of immediate canonical concern to only two of New York’s eight arch/bishops, but his political actions in regard to “gay marriage” negatively impact the pastoral mission of every Catholic bishop, parish priest, deacon, and lay minister throughout the Province of New York; finally, while most of the bishops of New York said little or nothing about Cuomo’s living with a woman not his wife, his long-standing actions in regard to “gay marriage” were challenged repeatedly, directly, and forcefully by the Archbishop of New York and by all his seven suffragans.

    In light of the foregoing, I see no way, absent a public reversal of his public conduct, that Andrew Cuomo may present himself for holy Communion (per Canon 916), and, if he does present himself, I see no way that a minister of holy Communion may administer the sacrament to him (per Canon 915). Indeed, the only question in my mind is whether the ordinaries of New York should lift from the shoulders of individual ministers the burden of reaching this decision, by making a determination to this effect themselves and, assuming they do reach this conclusion, whether they should announce it publicly or in a personal letter to Cuomo. (Personally, I think a public announcement more befits the markedly public character of Cuomo’s conduct and responds better to the danger of scandal presented to the faithful by his actions).