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Vatican document on ‘Grave Violations of Human Dignity’

By Stanislaus Alla

April 9, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

The much-awaited Vatican Declaration on Human Dignity was issued on April 8 by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While the instructions on sex and gender grabbed the headlines globally, the document has several aspects of human dignity that have focused on critically significant concerns that need greater attention and implementation.

Besides an introductory ‘Presentation’ drafted by Cardinal Fernadez, the document consists of 66 numbered paragraphs as well as 116 footnotes which only illustrates how diverse sources enriched it. The writings and speeches of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis are cited all along, apart from the other magisterial texts.

The Prefect of DDF remarks that the Declaration has been in the making for at least five years, and it is out only after numerous consultations and drafts. The long process, in which several times Pope Francis got involved, ‘reflects the gravity and centrality of the theme of dignity in Christian thought,’ the cardinal noted.

Happily, the publication of Dignitas Infinita (on Human Dignity) coincides with the 75th anniversary of ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights,’ issued by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

After explaining how Dignity is central to Christian thought and how the Church constantly strives to proclaim, promote and guarantee human dignity, it states that human dignity is the fountain from which rights and duties flow. The document emphasizes the relational nature of the human person and reminds of the danger of promoting ‘isolated and individualist freedom:’ rather, it reiterates that human dignity is to be ‘based on the constitutive demands of human nature, which do not depend on individual arbitrariness and social recognition.’

‘The Drama of Poverty’ is the first topic that is discussed among some grave violations of human dignity. 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 are the other topics that are explained and on which instructions are given.

Since Pope Francis recently called gender theory (which says that one’s sex/gender is more complex and is in the becoming than fixed and assigned: in contrast, the Christian faith holds that God creates us as males and females, period) as the ‘ugliest danger,’ and named surrogacy and attempts to change sex as grave human right violations, the Vatican’s views and explanations on these topics attracted much attention.

Most of the topics listed above are not new but the declaration brings greater clarity on several of them. Some issues that were overlooked earlier are brought under the moral radar. Newer concerns such as migrancy and human trafficking, immense in their scope and size and magnitude, required a formal document that speaks of the urgency with which we have to tackle them.

In India too, most of these issues show their ugly and monstrous heads and there is a need to review and address them. Human dignity is violated in many ways and in several walks of life: it happens when persons are discriminated against or when freedoms are curtailed, when the truth is suppressed and falsehood promoted, when people are treated as though they don’t matter.

Sanctity and dignity are crucial and central, foundational and indispensable values: without them we will not be able to speak of liberty and equality, sovereignty and fraternity, justice and rights! Made in God’s image and likeness, all of us, irrespective of who we are, where we are born, and what we uphold, are to be guaranteed dignity. In light of Dignitas Infinita the Indian Church will need to discuss human dignity and find ways to ensure that it is not violated but upheld and pursued.


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