Saturday, November 5, 2016

On Human Dignity Human Rights and Family Rights

1.Of course the Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC) will really give weight to human dignity. This is so central. In society we really need to respect human dignity. Already in the Vatican II council this respect for human dignity has been emphasized, as we see in the document Gaudum et spes. The document insists on the fact that dignity cannot be taken away from any person. No matter who the person is, no matter what the past the person had, no matter what social status and gender, the person is a person of dignity. Gaudium et spes gives us a "charter"of what and who a person is in the light of our faith. 

Who is the human person then? Human dignity

2. Chapter 1 of Gaudium et spes is immediately entitled "THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON". The human person is unique and has such a deep value that the social thinking of the Church is guided by this value of the human person. The document, Gaudium et spes (GS) states that " According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown." (GS#12). Human dignity is really a foundation of social life. Human dignity directs social life. This vision about the human person is open to all. We cannot deny the supreme importance of human dignity. We can also be illuminated by faith and revelation. "In the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light" (GS#22). Today we see how so many people cry out for respect of this value--the value of respect fr the entire human person. The Church takes support for this value from Revelation. The human is created in God's image. The Son of God, Jesus, became human; he incarnated and this incarnation has honored our very own humanity. The human has been redeemed by the passion and resurrection of Jesus and so it has become clear that human vocation is transcendent--to live in communion with God. 

3. Ok, the human is created in God's image (see Gen1/26). This is what God has willed. Hence this being image of God cannot be taken away from the human--no matter what a person has done. By being human one is image of God. This tells us many deep things.
     i. It means that the human being is understood fully in his/her relationship with God. 
     ii. This dignity is therefore given by God. It is not self given by the person. It is not given by any government or institution of society.
     iii. The fact of of being image of God, human dignity is not taken back. It is not removed. 
     iv. So no matter who a person is and no matter what status in social life, a person has dignity. A person has dignity and this dignity does not depend on success or failure in society. This dignity is shared by all humans. All members of society have dignity. Dignity is not exclusive of particular groups or classes. This is why human rights are to be defended. The rights of people are based on their dignity. Gaudium et spes emphasizes this: "there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one's own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious"(GS#26).
     v. Dignity depends on the love of God for each person. Talk about the handicapped. Talk about abortion or euthanasia. Talk about oppression of workers. Talk about ethnic biases. Human dignity has no discrimination. Each person is worthy of respect. 
Human dignity also calls attention to the fact that we are all equal in dignity. Maybe someone is richer than another, maybe someone has a better salary than another. Maybe someone is more talented than another. Still, all are equal in dignity. Nobody is more dignified than another. The Incarnation of Christ explains why. Christ joined each and every person; he went into solidarity with each human person: "by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man" (GS#22). Each and every person, therefore, is joined to Christ. In Christ everyone has dignity whatever the social status, talents, etc. 

Who is the human person then? Human body of dignity in relationship with the world

4. Vatican II Council has added understanding of who the human is. The human person is "incarnated". This may look so obvious but it has been so unnoticed. We do not fully see how human we are--with real human flesh and as really in-the-world. We are not to look down at ourselves and at our being humans in flesh. Gaudium et spes has this to say, "Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator. For this reason man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day" (GS#14). The human is the crown of creation--at the top, so to speak. The whole world is summarized in the human. In us are the minerals, life, movement and reason. We recapitulate the whole created world. The world gives praise to God through us. Thus we should not despise our bodily life. What is the consequence of this? 
     i. The human is not a thing. The human body is dignified and cannot just be a tool, instrument or accessory. We become truly human as we are incarnate--as we are flesh. 
     ii. What concerns our body concerns us too, in our entire selves. The human cannot be set apart from the human body. 
     iii. It is because we are incarnated that we have relationship with the world. We enter into relationships with others and with God thanks to our being incarnated. In faith we say that the body--the human body--is "temple of the Spirit". It is sacred.

5. With these points we can really see how we deal with questions touching on bio-ethics, sexuality, family life, etc. Because of this view of the person and human body we reject acts like torture, body mutilations, prostitution, inhuman treatment of workers, etc. "Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator" (GS#27). 

6. We can also say why we reject destroying the human body, like taking illegal drugs and rejecting the care for health. We have reasons to say why we promote health care in many countries where it is neglected. We are part of a whole ecosystem and we have a responsibility to nature for we are definitely linked with her. 

Who is the human person then? Community

7. The human is essentially relational. Nobody is a stone isolated from others. We grow and develop within relationships--with family, with neighbors, school, work, etc. The human is created as image of God. This God--the God of our faith--is Trinitarian. Hence we are image of the Trinity. ust as the Trnity s relational--a community--we too are relational and in communion with others. "Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, 'that all may be one. . . as we are one' (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (GS#24). We fulfill ourselves in our giving of ourselves to others--in service, in fraternity, in mutual respect. We are basically relational. This has consequence. 
     i. Human dignity is protected by community. This is protected by mutual respect and service. If we are indeed relational, then our dignity is preserved by this. Our social life is not something extra and just pasted on us. Gaudium et spes says it clear, "Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny" (GS #25). 
     ii. Social life is therefore to be organized in view of human dignity. Social institutions promote this dignity. The "subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person" (GS #25). People do not exist to serve social institutions. The reverse is demanded: society should serve people and respect their dignity.  If we consider economics we need to ask if economics is meant for the development of a class of people at the expense of others. Are economic and political activities exclusive among a few? No. Everyone has the dignity to participate. Is work only for a few? No. Each person has the dignity and right to work. 


8. There are so many poor and neglected people in our societies. They are not respected in their dignity. If we talk of human dignity we might need to make the effort to pay closer attention to those marginalized by social life. The SDC is a response in view of promoting the dignity of everyone with emphasis on the "least" of our brothers and sisters in society. 

How then does a society protect and promote human dignity? We can see this in human rights.

Human Rights

1. "Human rights" are rooted in human dignity. Human rights are based on human nature as created by God. God is the real foundation of human rights. 
The human is human; the human has nature given by God and the human has dignity as image of God. 

     Rights are universal--they are for all humans in any place or time. They are "present in all human beings, without exception of time, place, or subject." (Compendium, 153)  These rights apply equally to all humans irrespective of what status, race, gender and other conditions they are in.
     Rights are inviolable--they are inherent in every single human person; therefore they should be respected. Social groups and institutions must recognize the inviolability of human rights.
     Rights are inalienable--no human person is to be deprived of rights. To deprive a person of human rights is to violate that person. 

2. The universal, inviolable, and inalienable qualities of human rights must be defended entirely. Each and every right merits to be defended. Rights are indivisible. We cannot say that only some rights can be observed while others can be violated. Human right cover the whole person from the first beginning of life to his/her natural death. There is no group or institution that can delete human rights. "The ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human being, in the reality of the State, in public powers, but in man himself and in God his Creator." (Compendium 153). 
3. What exactly are those human rights? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), hailed to be a good step in the history of morality, gives us a list. The Compendium gives a list, taking from Pope John Paul II. (See Compendium 155). For Pope John Paul II 
     Every person has the right to live, from conception to death. Included here is the right to develop within the womb of the mother. 
     Every person has the right to live in a unified family and within a moral environment. 
     Each person has the right to develop one's own intelligence and freedom in seeking to know the truth. 
     Each person has the right to have a share in work. Work allows for the wise use of resources and support for self and dependents. 
     Each person has the right to establish a family with the right to raise children and have a responsible exercise of sexuality. 
     Finally, each person has the right to religious freedom. Inasmuch as every person has a transcendent dignity--the dignity in which one is fulfilled in God--each person then has the right to live in the truth of one's own faith. The Compendium says that the Church wants to promote human rights as part of her gospel duties. How?  By “proclamation of the Christian foundations of human rights” and by “the denunciation of the violations of these rights." (Compendium 159)

3. Rights are always partners with duty. To have rights is to have them responsibly. In a way we can abuse rights and lose the sense of duty behind them. But rights are coupled with duties. "The Magisterium underlines the contradiction inherent in affirming rights without acknowledging corresponding responsibilities." (Compendium, 156). The notion of human rights for the Compendium is so different from that contemporary practice of wanting only of rights and never of duties. 

4. Ok, so we might think that rights are purely individual. No, not quite. Rights can be social--there are social rights, or rights of a people, a society, a nation. People have the right to exist socially. They have the right to their own language. They have the right to spiritual sovereignty. They have the right to shape their own lives according to their tradition. People have the right to build their future by providing appropriate education for their children. (See Compendium 157).

The Social Role of the Family

The family and economic reality

1. The family can be seen in the light of economics. Pope John Paul II, for example, would talk of the family as standing on work. Work—labor—is what sustains the family. It is through work that the family is able to sustain itself (see Laborem Exercens 10). 
2. The economic reality is basic; it is what allows the family to sustain itself. Only then can the family play a role in society through education and social links. The family is, yes, the place of love and all that stuff. But the poverty and misery wound family life. Misery prohibits the family to play it´s social role. The Church is interested in looking at the conditions of families, especially the poor families. Such families must be accorded just salary and access to private property.

Just salary

1. What is so important about a just salary? Well, it allows the worker to live decently and allows the family of the worker to live decently. With Pope Leo XIII this was underlined this in his Rerum Novarum. The Popes after him made their specific stands. 
Pope Leo XIII denounced the exploitation of workers; the exploitation led to misery (see Rerum novarum 17). Workers were forced to accept working with very low salaries.  Workers were "simply surviving".
2. Later Pope Pius XI developed an idea of “just salary”. Three important factors had to be considered: the living condition of the workers and their families, the situation of the business, and common good (see Quadragesimo anno 76-82 and Divini redemptoris 52).
Later Pope John XXIII emphasized justice for workers. Workers, he said, must have just salary to lead a decent life—the life based on dignity—and to allow their families to live decently (see Mater et magistra 71). The Popes after also mentioned this.
3. Pope Benedict XVI gave a strong word regarding this. Work, he says, must give power to workers to live decently, let their families live decently and be able to send their children to education. This education must be available so that the children themselves will not have to work, not at their tender ages.  Workers must be in work conditions that allow them to be in touch with their human roots—on the level of family and faith (see Catitas in veritate 63). 
Note then the link between the economic reality and the family. Note also the importance given to just salary. But then the Church would emphasize also the right to private property. Families must own property. We have discussed this notion of private property before, it is not new to the class. 


1. Parents must feed the children. The parent must look ahead into the future of the children. Later, when the children will have grown, they will be equipped with the capacity to defend themselves against the harshness of life. Later, children must be equipped to face unexpected cases of bad fortune. How can the parent make this possible? This is made possible through private property (see Rerum novarum 10).
2. Later Pope Pius XI will make a stand on this too. Through private property the children will be able to face uncertainties, against “surprises” that will throw them away. When a parent dies, it would be important to leave behind property that will secure the children (see Quadragesimo anno 68).
3. It would be wonderful to have systems like the security social. These systems help in allowing families to access private properties. Vatican II itself would emphasize private property. Private property allows for personal and family autonomy. Through private properties families can exercise social responsibilities. Families feel more free (see Gaudium et spes 71). Let us not forget the stand of the Church regarding private property. It is not an absolute. It has a social feature grounded on the principle of universal destination of goods (Ibid.).
4. Notice how less sentimental this approach to family is through economic reality. In many instances family problems can be more than about finances and economics. There are issues that touch on parenting and marriage dissolution, for example. These have created new forms of poverty. 

The Family has a social role

1. Vatican II mentioned the family a source of social life (see Gaudium et spes 52). We learn to live with others through family life. The human person becomes human within relationships. In philosophy we say that we are “being-with-others”. The family plays the primordial role. When the family I wounded human life becomes wounded.
2. We tend to think of the family life as a kind of “stage” to living a free and blooming life. The family is to help us “move on”, so to speak. There is a kind of “individualistic” view here—as if the family’s role is simply to let a child be ready to assume a job and raise a family later. But consider the very social role of the family—how the family participates socially and not just to help an individual child. 
3. Socially the family assures education in justice (see Justicia in mundo 57). Ok, fine, the individual child begins in the family—but this too is social. The child—and all children in families—learn about work in the family (see Laborem exercens 10). Our ideas of truth and goodness are formed in the family. We learn about love—how to love and how to be loved in the family. The notion of solidarity is learned in the family—first with the solidarity of husband with wife and later with children  (see Centeimus annus 39-40). 
4. In the family we develop “hidden talents”. We learn a lot of things in the family and we carry that with us as we grow up. Through those talents we feel capable to build relationships and give the best of ourselves in social responsibilities. If we look closely at what we do in the larger regions of society we really see what the family has contributed.

No comments:

Post a Comment