Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dignitas Personae: On the Originality of Every Human Person

My friend Fr. James Schall, SJ, has an article up on Ignatius Insight on the Vatican Document Dignitas Personae. It was Fr. Schall, who brought to my attention, way back in the 1990's that something is owed to children. This was not an idea I was comfortable with, back in my libertarian days, to say the least. But as my life as mother was developing, I could not ignore the things I was learning about the human condition. (My dissatisfaction with libertarianism on the subject of children is what motivated me to write Love and Economics, but that is another story.)
Anyhow, here is what Fr. Schall has to say about what is owed to children in this essay on biotechnology:
The origin of the human child, moreover, in view of what it is, should only have its origin in marriage, not in scientific laboratories. "The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman. Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born 'must be the fruit of marriage.'" (#6). Marriage is not simply intended to be a human institution. In what it is, it is intended to be the proper and only place where human life should be begotten and brought forth. One might say, on this basis, that the Church is hopelessly romantic—which it is—but in defending the dignity of the person, it is defending what love itself is intended to be. (my emphasis: I love this part!)

The coming to be of new human life is a gift, not a right. The proper relation of a man and a woman is the only place where the good of the begotten child can properly flourish and be recognized in its origins in a relation of a man and a woman. Anything else that pretends to be marriage or a place for the inception of human life is, in principle, a violation of the dignity of an actual child.

Rather than focus on the negatives, that is, what the Church forbids us to do, Fr. Schall bids us pay attention to the positives. Every "no" is a "yes" to its opposite.

G.K. Chesterton once remarked, speaking of the Commandments, that though they often seem "negative" what in effect they do is make possible all the wonderful things we are free to do if we do not do what is wrong or forbidden. This is, I think, the effect of this Document. If we do not do, individually or as a society, what we are not to do as it violates our dignity, we are free to live the live that God intended for us, a life that really does enjoy the gift of children and the adventure of their lives.

Read it all here.

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