Tag Archives: human person

Speak for every person, especially the dehumanized and minimized

As society incessantly gravitates towards secular ideologies, it becomes ever more desensitized to the inherent and inviolable dignity of the human person. Jesus’ teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) often and tragically falls upon deaf ears, leading to the spiritual blindness so prevalent in our cultures today. Like the rich man in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 16:19-31), many ignore the poor and downtrodden “Lazarus” at their “gate,” failing to recognize his inherent dignity. Society must be reminded that because we are made in the image of God – Imago Dei – every human life is precious and has inalienable and immutable dignity and value, without exception.

“If the right [to] life is an inherent and inalienable right,” says St. Teresa of Calcutta, “it must surely obtain wherever human life exists.” It is unjust, therefore, to deny, diminish, ignore, or deprive any human person of his or her fundamental human rights at any stage of life based on age, social status, health, or condition of dependency.

In a disposable society, the sanctity of human life is devalued. Its beauty and wonder are constantly under threat, especially at its beginning and end when it is most vulnerable. The violence of abortion destroys the lives of tens of millions of unborn children each year – a little over one million in the U.S. alone. Euthanasia grows more and more common as the value of the sick, elderly, and the disabled is minimized.

The “father of lies,” said Pope St. John Paul II, “relentlessly tries to eradicate from human hearts the sense of gratitude and respect for the original, extraordinary and fundamental gift of God: human life itself. 

Our task in defending and serving life, whether we are debating healthcare or the right to life, is to peel back the layers of obfuscation and deception and to show to the world what – or rather who – is at the center of the debate: the human person. And the second part of our mission is to speak for every person whose voice has been silenced or compromised. For as we know, when government or any legal authority is given the power to bestow these rights, then that same authority can choose to withhold them. 

Human life, no matter the circumstance, is a gift of immeasurable worth. It deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Human persons are not just individuals who serve our ends. They are ends in themselves. Each person, reflecting their God-given dignity, has basic rights and responsibilities that flow from our human nature, which cannot be negotiated or compromised regardless of any social or political structures. These rights are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his or her humanity and do not depend on the opinions or beliefs of anyone else.

At the heart of any discussion about universal human rights is the insistence that they apply to each and every human person, recognizing his or her inherent dignity. While godless and secular people try to dehumanize the human person, beginning in the womb, our task is to consistently and constantly keep the inestimable value of the human person and his fundamental rights front-and-center.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org) and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Thriving society hinges on health of the family

Regardless of creed, national origin, or cultural background, a nation’s strength and survival fundamentally depend on the stability of the family.

The family and marriage need to be defended and promoted not only by the State but also by the whole of society. Both require the decisive commitment of every person because it is starting from the family and marriage that a complete answer can be given to the challenges of the present and the risks of the future. — Charter of the Rights of the Family, ¶9

Because of the weakening of families, society is plagued by a host of violent behaviors. Evils ranging from promiscuity, pornography, contraception, abortion, the rejection of parental rights, divorce, co-habitation, legalization of same-sex unions, and human trafficking, lead to societal and family violence, chronic poverty, and the abandonment of society’s care for the aged and handicapped.

If a healthy society hinges upon the health and vibrancy of the family, then we must defend its immutable role as instituted by God. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote, and defend the institution of marriage, an indissoluble and exclusive union between one man and one woman, as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Within natural marriage, man and woman give themselves completely to one another, begetting and raising children. Within this sacred environment, the first school, children learn: love, goodness, care, responsibility toward their neighbors, forgiveness, mercy, and charity.

Man Needs God

We should note here that while governments can adopt policies that to some degree protect the family, the real work is at the cultural level, which both determines and is determined by politics. The wealthy nations and NGOs that are promoting the radical redefinition of rights and values have great access to governments, but they often are thwarted where the Church has a toehold, and where she is still often leading the fight to protect the natural family and sacredness of human life.

When faith is central, the Church is a key component of daily life and her teachings are integrated in the life of the community; there is life, joy and peace – a healthy society. When faith is rejected and acceptance of immoral teachings become normative, the community begins to wither and violence against life and family prospers.

For many in the world, science, technology and man’s own abilities are sufficient for life’s dilemmas and resolutions. We have seen the fruit of such a perilous direction and the consequences resulting from the rejection of God. All we need do is turn back the pages of time to the 20th century to experience one of history’s most violent and murderous periods. It is a testimony to man’s ability to self-destruct without a Truth outside himself guiding him, calling him, and giving him purpose and identity.

The human person is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake. — Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1703

Do you love Me more?

We cannot say this task of conversion belongs to others, for the task belongs to each of us. In order to authentically redirect society from its hazardous direction and transform it into a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love, we must defend the natural family and protect every life; all Christian people must live fully integrated lives in Christ, being light and salt and determined through heroic virtue and witness to regain what has been lost.

When one’s strength is anchored and sustained by faith in Christ Jesus, animated by the Holy Spirit and nourished in prayer, he or she is unstoppable – able to overcome the challenges of the world, thwarting evil from its destructive will, renewing the face of the earth.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

The moment of personhood

Dr. Edward Furton writes that the Catholic Church has always condemned abortion . . .

Dr. Edward Furton

Has anyone ever told you that the Catholic Church does not teach that the human soul is infused into the body at conception? Would you be shocked to learn that this is pretty much true? The Church holds that a “human being” begins at conception, but you will not find any official Vatican statement asserting that there is a “human person” at conception.

Regardless of whether or not a person is present from conception, the Church has always condemned abortion. The sacredness of human life remains inviolable. But it is easy to see why those who are hostile to Catholic teaching would want to use this “loop hole” to argue that human embryos do not really deserve protection.

Donum Vitae (DV), a 1987 document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said that the point at which the soul is infused into the body is not a scientific question but a philosophical one. “No experimental datum can in itself be sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul,” the document notes. But it also says that science confirms that there is a personal presence from the moment of conception. The zygote, or single-celled organism that is formed from the sperm and ovum, is a unique individual, not identifiable with the life of either the mother or father. Donum Vitae then asks: “How could a human individual not be a human person?” (DV I.1)

That rhetorical question strongly implies what the correct answer must be, but that was as far as Donum Vitae was prepared to go. Thus it concludes that:

“The fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence … is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life” (DV I.1).

To say that the human embryo is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception is not the same thing as saying that the human embryo is a person from the moment of conception. There is, in fact, a very significant difference.

The document issued late last year from the CDF, Dignitas Personae (DP), took a further step toward affirming personhood at conception, though it continues to resist arriving at a definitive conclusion.

DP makes it increasingly difficult to imagine how the Church could affirm that there is any other moment at which the soul is infused.

“In recent decades, medical science has made significant strides in understanding human life in its initial stages” (DP I.4). The document acknowledges that great progress has been made in the field of embryology since Donum Vitae. What is now even more evident than before, according to DP, is that “the embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well-defined program with its proper finality” (DP I.4). At no point during that development do we find any other moment (besides conception) that would qualify as the transitional point at which the soul could be infused. Science shows us that embryological development is a continuous process that admits of no sudden leaps or changes.

These are the scientific facts that would seem to justify a stronger conclusion. Dignitas Personae therefore states: “The reality of the human being for the entire span of life, both before and after birth, does not allow us to posit either a change in nature or a gradation in moral value, since it possesses full anthropological and ethical status. The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person” (DP I.5).

We no longer see here Donum Vitae’s language of “as if,” but instead we see the words “the embryo has.” But DP still has not stated point-blank that “the embryo is a person.” Nonetheless, this is the only conclusion that one could possibly draw, for if it is true that the embryo undergoes no change in nature throughout its development, and if it is true that the embryo, by its very nature, has the dignity of a person, then it must also be true that the embryo is a person — and from the moment of conception.

Dr. Edward J. Furton is director of publications for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.