Abp. Charles J. Chaput: “Four Points in Defense of Human Dignity”
From the essay, “Being Human in an Age of Unbelief”, adapted from a talk given yesterday by Abp. Chaput at the University of Pennsylvania:
Here’s my first point. We remember Bonhoeffer, Solzhenitsyn, and other men and women like them because of their moral witness. But the whole idea of “moral witness” comes from the assumption that good and evil are real, and that certain basic truths about humanity don’t change. These truths are knowable and worth defending. One of these truths is the notion of man’s special dignity as a creature of reason and will. Man is part of nature, but also distinct from it.
The philosopher Hans Jonas said that three things have distinguished human life from other animal experience since early prehistory: the tool, the image, and the grave. The tool imposes man’s knowledge and will onto nature. The image—man’s paintings and other art—projects his imagination. It implies a sense of beauty and memory, and a desire to express them. But the greatest difference between humans and other animals is the grave. Only man buries his dead. Only man knows his own mortality. And knowing that he will die, only man can ask where he came from, what his life means, and what comes after it.
The grave then is an expression of reverence and hope. When Christians and other people of good will talk about “the dignity of the human person” and “the sanctity of human life,” they’re putting into words what we all instinctively know—and have known for a very long time. Something elevated and sacred in men and women demands our special respect. When we violate that human dignity, we do evil. When we serve it, we do good. And therein lies one of many ironies. We live in a society that speaks persuasively about protecting the environment and rescuing species on the brink of extinction. But then it tolerates the killing of unborn children and the abuse of human fetal tissue as lab material.
Read the entire address on the Public Discourse site.
H/T: Insight Scoop