Dignitas Infinita Promotes an Ill-defined Dignity

Source: FSSPX News

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a copy of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On April 8, 2024, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) published the declaration Dignitas infinita (On Human Dignity), approved by Pope Francis on March 25.

The first part of the document describes the “Growing Awareness of the Centrality of Human Dignity.” The second part states that “The Church Proclaims, Promotes, and Guarantees Human Dignity.” The third part presents dignity as the “Foundation of Human Rights and Duties.”

Finally, the last part denounces “Some Grave Violations of Human Dignity”: gender theory, sex change, surrogacy, abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

An Unbalanced Notion of Human Dignity

Unfortunately, as noted on the FSSPX.News website on April 11: “The Declaration takes up, and exacerbates, the misguided or unbalanced notion of human dignity which was at the heart of Vatican II, and affirmed in the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis humanæ).”

“The Council spoke of the dignity possessed by all men, ‘in accordance with their dignity as persons, that is, being endowed with reason and free will,’ a dignity referred to ‘ontological.’ The Council founded religious freedom on this ontological dignity, which produces a relativization of the Catholic Faith by giving a ‘right to error’ in religious matters. A ‘negative’ right, but a right all the same.”

In passing, FSSPX.News noted “the aggravation of this doctrine by the use of the term ‘infinite’ associated with ontological dignity. Which is no longer even a deviation, but an aberration. Only God is infinite.” 

And the site recalled: “The human soul, created directly by God, is united by Him to a body: it then exercises a double role. It first gives human nature to the individual created, who from this fact is a person, according to the famous definition of Boethius, cited in footnote 17 of the document. The soul is thus the source of ontological dignity, which is therefore the same for all human beings.”

“Secondly, the soul is the principle of human action by its faculties: intelligence and will. This action constitutes the moral domain. When human actions allow us to fulfill our humanity by directing us towards our end, which is God, they are characterized as ‘good.’ When, on the contrary, they distance us from this end, these are ‘bad’ actions.”

“The moral dignity of a person therefore depends on his action: the man who does good to reach his final end possesses a dignity that is all the greater the more he seeks this end. But he who turns away from his end and does evil forfeits this dignity: he strips himself of it.”

A Naturalist Vision of Man

In a study published in two parts on Réinformation.tv, on April 8 and 9, Jeanne Smits denounces “the naturalist vision of man,” contained in the Roman document.

Thus, she writes, “Dignitas infinita, by deliberately ignoring the wounded nature of man, by basing everything on the value of the person, by eliminating the need for grace, despite some contrary assertions, is situated generally in the sphere of a horizontal utopia. But this declaration will undoubtedly appeal to those who will find in it the condemnation of certain excesses of the times.”

Further on, the French journalist quotes Fr. Victor Berto, himself quoted by Fr. Bertrand Labouche in the Nantes priory bulletin, L’Hermine (n°46, June-July 2015).  Archbishop Lefebvre’s private theologian at the Second Vatican Council wrote this about Dignitatis humanæ, which, at the time, was still in the form of a schema:

“Human dignity adequately considered requires that one’s actions be taken into account. The ignorant and the cultivated man do not have the same dignity; and above all, dignity is not equal in those who adhere to truth and those who adhere to error, in those who want good and those who want evil.

“The editors, who built their entire scheme on an inadequate notion of the dignity of the human person, have on this alone presented a deformed work of extraordinary unreality; in fact, whether we like it or not, there are, between human persons adequately considered, immense differences in dignity.

“And this is all the more true as it concerns the schema on religious freedom; because obviously religious freedom suits the person not according to their radical dignity, but according to their operative dignity, and thus freedom cannot be the same in the child and in the adult, in the fool and in the penetrating spirit, in the ignorant and in the cultivated man, in someone possessed by the demon and in someone inspired by the Holy Ghost, etc.

“Now this dignity which we call operative, does not belong to the physical being, but obviously relates to the intentional order. The neglect of this intentional element, namely science and virtue, is a very grave error in the schema.”

Jeanne Smits concludes her study in these terms: “By basing everything on the infinite dignity of man, being created and oh so dependent on God who, alone, possesses infinite dignity, the (Roman) declaration enlarges the created through its relationship to the Creator; the worship and service due to Him takes a back seat, stranded somewhere in the swamp of religious freedom. . . .it magnifies man to the point of facilitating the worship of man, while waiting for the right wonder in the face of the created to lead this thought to forgetting God and to pantheism, a global spirituality that is already more and more precisely taking shape. In any case, it does not contradict them, omitting to recall that without grace, man in his fallen condition here below is in a state of submission to evil.”

Dignitas Infinita and the UN Declaration of Human Rights

In a less theological and more political way, the Argentinian blog Caminante Wanderer of April 11 notes another incongruity in Dignitas infinita, namely “the insistence on relating the dignity of man to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In fact, this United Nations document is mentioned 11 times.

“Cardinal Fernández's argument is that although the issue of human dignity has always been defended by the Church, it is really with the Declaration of Human Rights that it reaches its splendor.”

“It turns out then that a constitutionally atheistic declaration, such as the Declaration of Human Rights that never mentions God, and that was officially resisted by the Church, with the new pontificate of Francis becomes the cornerstone of a relevant part of his magisterium.”

The Roman document says: “From this perspective, Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti constitutes a kind of ‘Magna Carta’ of our contemporary tasks to protect and promote human dignity” (n. 6). Forget St. Gregory of Nyssa’s De opificio hominis, and St. Leo the Great’s Agnosce, o christiane, dignitatem tuam, sermon on the Nativity.

“The Magna Carta on the dignity of man is not given by the Fathers and the Tradition of the Church, but by… Fratelli tutti of Bergoglio! It seems like a joke.”