“Dignitas Infinita”, “Infinite Dignity”: a Very Quick Look

Selected Google News Feed Headlines, reacting to Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith 'Dignitas Infinita' on Human Dignity. Monday morning. (April 8, 2024)
Monday morning headlines. (April 8, 2024)

There’s more than sex change and gender theory in the Vatican’s new “ethics document”: assuming that what hit the fan this week is the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Dignitas Infinita”, on Human Dignity.

“Dignitas Infinita”, “Infinite Dignity”, runs to a little over 12,600 words in my language.

I’ll be taking a very, very quick look at it. But I’ll get started with something Pope Francis said a month ago.

Pope Francis, Gender Ideology, and Being Human

VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto's photograph: Pope Francis addressing international Symposium 'Man-Woman: Image of God. Towards an Anthropology of Vocations' in the Vatican. (March 1, 2024)
Pope Francis at the “…Towards an Anthropology of Vocations” international Symposium. (March 1, 2024)

Pope Francis: Gender ideology is the ugliest danger of our time
Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News (March 1, 2024)

“Pope Francis on Friday again spoke out against gender theory describing it as an ‘ugly ideology of our time’, because it erases all distinctions between men and women. To ceancel [!] this difference ‘is to erase humanity. Man and woman, instead, exist in a fruitful “tension”‘, he said….”

The Vatican News piece didn’t link to the pope’s speech, but knowing when he made it made finding it easier.

Man-Woman: Image of God. Towards an Anthropology of Vocations
To participants in the International Conference [English translation]
Pope Francis (March 1, 2024)

“Good morning! I will ask for my address to be read, so I don’t get too tired; I still have a cold and I get tired reading for a while. But I would like to highlight something: it is very important for there to be this encounter, this encounter between men and women, because today the worst danger is gender ideology, which cancels out differences. I asked for studies to be made on this ugly ideology of our time, which erases differences and makes everything the same; to erase difference is to erase humanity. Man and woman, on the other hand, stand in fruitful ‘tension’. I remember reading a novel from the early 1900s, written by the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘The Lord of the World’….”

I wouldn’t have expressed myself the way Pope Francis did. But I don’t have a problem with what he said about vocations and being human.

Rules I Live With, and an Explanation

Sporki~commonswiki's (?) photo taken during World Youth Day, Rome. (2000) via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permissionThat’s partly because I think people matter: each of us, all of us.

“…The life of each one of us, no-one excluded, is not incidental; our being in the world is not merely the fruit of chance, but rather we are part of a plan of love and are invited to come out of ourselves and fulfill it, for ourselves and for others….”
(“Man-Woman: Image of God. Towards an Anthropology of Vocations“, [English translation] Pope Francis (March 1, 2024))

And that in turn comes from ‘the greatest commandment’. I should love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism of the Catholic Church 2052-2055, 2067, 2196)

I don’t see a conflict between loving my neighbor and seeing some behaviors as bad ideas, because I think “love” doesn’t necessarily mean “approval”.

Now, an explanation for why this post is so much shorter than most.

It’s been an — interesting — week.

Along with the rest of this household, I’m still sick.

Monday and Tuesday were largely taken up with something I may talk about next week.

Monday evening I hurt my left shoulder, which made using a keyboard harder than I like.

I slept through much of Wednesday and Thursday.

The point of this reminiscence is that I had precious little time left over for writing this post, and wasn’t nearly as awake as I’d have liked. So discussions of vocations, and why I’m not upset over this latest “ethics document”, will wait.

New “Ethics Document”, Old Ideas

Selected Google News Feed Headlines, reacting to Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith 'Dignitas Infinita' on Human Dignity. Monday afternoon. (April 8, 2024)
Monday afternoon headlines. (April 8, 2024)

I’m assuming the Vatican’s new “ethics document” is “Dignitas Infinita”. It’s the only recent one that’s likely to have struck so many nerves.

I suspect part of the problem folks have with “Dignitas Infinita” is its insistence that human beings are people: all human beings. And that we shouldn’t pick and choose who we see as really-real people.

That, and getting specific about “grave violations of human dignity” which are “particularly relevant” these days:

  • The Drama of Poverty
  • War
  • The Travail of Migrants
  • Human Trafficking
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Violence Against Women
  • Abortion
  • Surrogacy
  • Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
  • The Marginalization of People with Disabilities
  • Gender Theory
  • Sex Change
  • Digital Violence

“Dignitas Infinita”, on Human Dignity, also outlines how the idea of human dignity has developed: from Genesis and classical antiquity, through St. Thomas Aquinas, to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948).

As an extremely brief summary, I think it’s an accurate picture of that particular idea’s background. On the other hand, I can see how it might offend folks who cherish various ‘not invented here’ attitudes.

Cherry-picking from the thirteen-point list, I could say that “Dignitas Infinita” is part of a right-wing conspiracy.

Choosing another subset, I might imagine that it’s documentary proof of a leftist plot.

Since I’m a Catholic, and prioritize what the Church actually says over what spokespersons for assorted contemporary viewpoints say the Church says — I think it explains why ethics matter. Even when they don’t support someone’s politics.

“Dignitas Infinita”: “Balanced, Challenging”

Vatican News photograph: 'Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. (Arcidiocesi di Washington)' (April 11, 2024)
Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. via Vatican News (April 11, 2024)

“Cardinal Gregory sees ‘Dignitas infinita’ as balanced, challenging document”
Christopher Wells, Vatican News (April 11, 2024)

“Dignitas infinita (DI), the Vatican’s new Declaration on human dignity, is ‘probably the most comprehensive summary’ of Church teaching on the topic ‘that could be issued at this time,’ says Cardinal Wilton Gregory….

“…Asked about the issues raised by DI, Cardinal Gregory acknowledged that the document touched on a number of ‘hot-button’ issues and has sparked controversy on various sides. ‘But if you take the document as a whole,’ he says, ‘it’s not a document about one specific issue beyond the fact that it treats human individuals, human people, as dignified in a way that is irreplaceable, that we never lose the dignity that God entrusts to us as He creates us.’

“He notes that the Declaration is ‘humble in its context, but also very, very deeply rooted in Catholic moral and anthropological teachings[‘]….”

Some issues mentioned in “Dignitas Infinita”, like extreme poverty and human trafficking, have plagued humanity for millennia.

Others, like “digital violence”, are new wrinkles on ancient vices.

I see value in identifying “grave violations of human dignity” that have become “particularly relevant” in the here and now.

I also think there’s value in remembering that, although details of our daily lives change, the ‘greatest commandment’ hasn’t. And won’t.

If I was a Christian living in the first century, I’d have been expected to love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor.

Since I am a Christian living in the 21st century, I’m expected to love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor.

If I was living in the 41st century, I would be expected to love God, love my neighbor, and see everyone as my neighbor.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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5 Responses to “Dignitas Infinita”, “Infinite Dignity”: a Very Quick Look

  1. Reading this while I’ve picked up a tiny bit of traction lately for being able to make voice impressions of a few famed female entertainers I follow and finding my latest arc of creative impulse through that, I think about how I would’ve taken this discovery of ability if I were not letting my faith anchor me. And then I remember that one reason I prefer being a man even when my fellow men tend to be self-destructive and are often enabled to be such is that I want to be there for them like how God was, is, and will be here for me and my self-destructive self that can and must do way better than that by His will. Of course, even this way of life has immense pain, but again, God Almighty on the Cross. May my endurance be more than fatalism, then, and my reward more than hedonism.

    • Well! Faith in God the Father, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Holy Spirit is a very good place to start!

      So, I think, is accepting the circumstances each of us is given. Enjoying those circumstances may be optional – and that’s almost another topic.

      On the whole, I like being a man – which is just as well, considering what, as well as who, I am. That’s despite various cultural expectations over here that are and have been a mess. Being a woman isn’t, I gather, any easier – and that’s almost another topic.

      As for voice impressions: best wishes! That particular aspect of voice performance might not make sense for me, since my vocal qualities are a bit like those of James Earle Jones (brief interview at https://youtu.be/l2LkdNls4bw?si=eoc2YXHSD9cDTTyu ) – – I even look a bit like him, and that’s also another topic.

      Finally, may God bless you with endurance, strength, and good success in your various creative endeavors.

      • Thanks very much again, Mr. Gill. Also, I’ve seen a lot of liking for lower voices as well in the nerdy communities I’m usually around. And speaking of which, it’s only in these recent years that I’ve learned to appreciate my lower vocal range as much as everything else above that. Glad I got to achieve that anyway. And hey, not everyone may be built for everything, but everyone’s built for God’s sake, and that makes us awesome! But here’s still the matter of choosing to be that awesome or not, of course. XD

  2. Manny says:

    Well said Brian. I have read a good deal of it. The document is Catholic to the core, not liberal Catholic nor conservative Catholic. I find it amazing that no matter what Pope Francis says (and in this case it was through the Dicastery) there will be Catholics who criticize.

    • “Catholic to the core” – – – glad to hear it, but not surprised. As for the seemingly-inevitable carpers – – – amazing, in a sense, yes. I figure they’ve got reasons, incentives, motives, whatever, for the behavior: and that’s another topic.

Thanks for taking time to comment!