Dignitas infinita was published today after 5 years in the making. Pope Francis takes Mass. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

New document ‘Dignitas infinita’ by Vatican lists “violations of human dignity”

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The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has released a new document titled ‘Dignitas infinita’ after five years of crafting. The document expands upon the papal teachings of the last decade, covering a wide array of issues from war and poverty to violence against migrants and women, and from abortion to euthanasia and gender theory.

Structured into three foundational chapters followed by a fourth dedicated to “grave violations of human dignity,” ‘Dignitas infinita’ reaffirms the intrinsic dignity of the human person in Christian anthropology, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One of the key highlights of this document is its incorporation of themes from recent papal teachings alongside bioethical concerns. It addresses a variety of violations of human dignity, aiming to bridge the gap between those solely focused on life-and-death issues and those overlooking other attacks on human dignity.

Fundamental principles in Dignitas infinita

The first three parts of the declaration deal with fundamental principles such as the ontological dignity of the human person, equality, and the dignity of every individual are reiterated.

“The Church proclaims the equal dignity of all people, regardless of their living conditions or qualities” (17), and she does so on the basis of biblical revelation: women and men are created in the image of God.”

The document emphasises that human dignity remains intact in all circumstances, rejecting the misuse of the concept to justify arbitrary rights proliferation. For example, it highlights the misunderstandings of those who prefer the expression “personal dignity” to “human dignity”, “since they understand a person to be only ‘one who is capable of reasoning’” (24).

Thus, according to them, “the unborn child would not have personal dignity, nor would the older person who is dependent upon others, nor would an individual with mental disabilities. On the contrary, the Church insists that the dignity of every human person, precisely because it is intrinsic, remains in all circumstances” (24).

List of ‘violations’ outlined in Dignitas infinita

The Declaration outlines numerous grave violations of human dignity, including what it deems offences against life, violations of personal integrity, and various other forms of exploitation and abuse. It condemns practices like abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking, surrogacy and discrimination against women, among others.

The document also addresses contemporary issues such as gender theory and digital violence, urging respect for human dignity in all circumstances.

Poverty, war and human trafficking

The first issue mentioned is poverty, “one of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world” (36).

Then there is war, “another tragedy that denies human dignity”, and always a “defeat of humanity” (38), to the point that “it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war.’”(39).

The Declaration also discusses the “travail of migrants”, whose “lives are put at risk because they no longer have the means to start a family, to work, or to feed themselves” (40).

The document then dwells on “human trafficking”, which is taking on “tragic dimensions” and is described as ” vile activity, a disgrace to our societies that claim to be civilized “. The Declaration invites “exploiters and clients” to make a serious examination of conscience (41).

Similarly, it calls for the fight against phenomena such as “the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism, and international organized crime” (42).

Surrogacy

The document emphasises “the essential dignity of the human person in Christian anthropology” and strongly condemns surrogacy, describing it as a practice that reduces the child to a mere commodity and violates the dignity of both the child and the woman involved.

The Vatican asserts that every human life, starting from the unborn child in the mother’s womb, should not be treated as a commodity and calls for a global ban on surrogacy.

“Every human life, beginning with that of the unborn child in its mother’s womb, cannot be suppressed, nor become an object of commodity,” says the document.

“In this regard, I consider deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which seriously damages the dignity of the woman and the child.

“It is based on the exploitation of a mother’s situation of material need.

 “A child is always a gift and never the object of a contract.”

Italy’s right-wing government has proposed legislation to criminalise surrogacy universally, potentially prosecuting couples who bring children from surrogate mothers into Italy.

Abortion

The condemnation of abortion is strong.

“Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable”, and reference is made to the fact that “defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right” (47).

Gender Theory

This section of Dignitas infinita stresses that “every sign of unjust discrimination” against homosexual persons “is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence”.

It is “contrary to human dignity”, the Declaration says, that in some places “not a few people are “imprisoned, tortured and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation” (55).

However, the document then goes on to say that gender theory is “extremely dangerous since it cancels differences in its claim to make everyone equal.”

The document goes on to say that desiring a personal self-determination, as gender theory prescribes … “amounts to a concession to the age-old temptation to make oneself God”.

Furthermore, it says, gender theory “intends to deny the greatest possible difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference”.

Therefore, ” all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman” are “to be rejected”.

Sex change is also judged negatively since it “risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception”. This does not mean, however, excluding the possibility that “a person with genital abnormalities that are already evident at birth or that develop later may choose to receive the assistance of healthcare professionals to resolve these abnormalities”.

Discrimination and violence against women

Violence against women and the fact that equality between men and women is more a theatre of words than action, are recognised in the document.

Even in the most developed and democratic countries, the concrete social reality testifies to the fact that women are often not accorded the same dignity as men. Pope Francis highlighted this when he affirmed that “the organisation of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. Indeed, ‘doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment, and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights.’” [44]

Regarding violence against women, the Vatican says, “one cannot condemn enough the phenomenon of femicide.” It goes on to quote Pope Francis asking all “to fight against this source of suffering by calling for legislation and a culture that repudiates every form of violence.”

With femicides a common issue in Italy, this may help drive the conservative right-wing government to do more to engender a culture of equality and respect for women at all levels of society, and whatever their beliefs.

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