Dignitas Humana - June 2008.pdf - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch

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Dignitas Humana - June 2008.pdf - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch

June 2008a publication by theCatholic Commission for Justice and Peaceof the Diocese of ChristchurchPrinciples Behind Catholic Social TeachingThe Importance of the Human PersonCatholic Social Teaching (CST) providesguidance on economic and social matters with aview to ensuring the common good. In this way,the Church strives to inspire right attitudes withregard to earthly goods and our relationshipswith one another.CST often talks about the idea of the “dignity ofthe human person”. By taking a look at theChurch’s understanding of the human person,we can quickly recognise why it is such animportant part of the Church’s teaching on howwe are to relate to other people.In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of theChurch, we see that “the Church sees in menand women, in every person, the living image ofGod himself” (No.105). Given an immortal soul,the human person is destined for eternalhappiness with God. Each and every one of usis called to conduct our lives in such a way as tobe worthy of this lofty vocation. In Genesis, weread that “God created man in his own image, inthe image of God he created him; male andfemale he created them” (Gen 1:27). God placesthe human person “at the centre and summit” ofcreation (Compendium, No 108), thus providingeach person with a “built-in” relationship withGod. Therefore, Genesis shows that only thehuman person has “a capacity for God” and atthe same time relates how man and womanwere created together, thus demonstrating theimportance of communion with other persons.Today many people see the human person as acompletely autonomous being. However, this isa hopeless quest of ascribing the infinite to afinite being, a being which is subject to manylimitations and obvious frailty. This is to losesight of the unity between body and soul, amistake that can lead to either a spiritualism thatdespises the body, or a materialism that closesthe eyes to the spirit (Compendium Nos 125-129).What does this mean for Society?The Church teaches that we can only have atruly just society when it is based on the respectof the dignity of the human person. In this way,we are called to accept the equal dignity of allpeople, whether they are male or female, youngor old, people with disabilities or those stillgrowing inside their Mother’s womb.Another upshot of the Church’s vision of thehuman person is that we should recognise thatthe social nature of all humans means that welive our vocation in life in relation to others. As aresult of pride and selfishness, people can beinclined to close themselves within their ownindividuality and try to dominate theirneighbours. However, every society worthy ofthe name can be sure that it stands in the truthwhen all of its members, thanks to their ability toknow what is good, are able to pursue it forthemselves and for others (Compendium, Nos.149-51). In simple terms, we can call this ‘thegift of self’.In this way, we are neither absolutelyautonomous nor mere cogs in the widermechanics of society; rather we must ‘tune’ourselves to the voice of God which urges us todo what is good and avoid evil. This law makesitself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in thelove of God and of neighbour (Catechism, para1706). As Pope Paul VI once said, that in theChurch, each one of us finds our “twofolddestiny – personal and social – incomparablyharmonised… [t]his destiny constitutes our callto perfection, demanding and always movingforward in time, so as to be one day, the day ofeternity, a call to fullness and joy in the Lord.”1


The Abortion Situationin New ZealandThe abortion tragedy is unfortunatelycontinuing and is increasingly being acceptedas part of our culture. In 2006, 17,930abortions were performed and we had thesecond highest rate of abortion in the OECDcountries (Statistics NZ). The teaching of theChurch is clear and consistent in speaking upon behalf of our unborn citizens. “Human lifemust be respected and protected absolutelyfrom the moment of conception. From the firstmoment of his existence, a human beingmust be recongnised as having the rights of aperson – among which is the inviolable rightof every innocent being to life” (Catechism ofthe Catholic Church, Para 2270).Since the first century the Church hasaffirmed the moral evil of every procuredabortion. This teaching has not changed andremains unchangeable. Direct abortion, thatis to say, abortion willed as either an end or ameans, is gravely contrary to moral law. Theinalienable right to life of every innocenthuman individual is a constitutive element ofa civil society and its legislation. Theinalienable rights of the person must berecongnised and respected by civil societyand the political authority.These human rights depend neither on singleindividuals nor on parents; nor do theyrepresent a concession made by society orthe state; they belong to human nature andare inherent in the person by virtue of thecreative act from which the person took hisorigin. Among such fundamental rights in thisregard is every human being’s right to life andphysical integrity from the moment ofconception until death (Catechism, Para2273). Some components of civil society andsome people of influence lack the formationof conscience to make a stand on behalf ofour unborn children. The recent positiontaken by Amnesty International supportingthe decriminalization of abortion is such anexample. The principle that we are notpermitted to do evil that good may resultseems to have been forgotten.abortion states: “But today, in many people’sconsciences, the perception of its gravity hasbecome progressively obscured. Theacceptance of abortion in the popular mind; inbehaviour and even in law itself; is a tellingsign of an extremely dangerous crisis of themoral sense, which is becoming more andmore incapable of distinguishing betweengood and evil, even when the fundamentalright to life is at stake.Given such a grave situation, we need nowmore than ever the courage to look truth inthe eye and to call things by their propername, without yielding to convenientcompromises or to the temptation to selfdeception.In this regard the reproach of theProphet is extremely straightforward: ‘Woe tothose who call evil good and good evil, whoput darkness for light and light fordarkness’ (Is 5: 20). Especially in the case ofabortion there is widespread use ofambiguous terminology such as “interruptionof pregnancy” which tends to hide abortion’strue nature and to attenuate its seriousness inpublic opinion. Perhaps this linguisticphenomenon is itself a symptom of anuneasiness of conscience. But no word hasthe power to change the reality of things;procured abortion is the deliberate and directkilling of a human being in the initial phase ofhis or her existence, extending fromconception to birth.”Steps are being made to help build a cultureof life. Recently an organization has started inChristchurch called Adoption Option(www.adoptionoption.org.nz) which seeks topromote adoption as a positive option forwomen considering an abortion. Anotherpositive local development has been theopening of the John Paul II Centre for Life inBryndwr, Christchurch, which seeks topromote life, faith and family and offers helpfor women throughout pregnancy andbeyond. We would do well to encouragethese, and other like-minded agencies withour meaningful support.Pope John Paul II in his “Gospel ofLife” (Evangelium Vitae, 58) writing about2


Interfaith DialogueThe Inter-Faith CouncilThe City of Christchurch has long been thehome of adherents of most of the major faithsand its history is one in which this diversityhas long been recognised. As far back as theearly 1860’s, Bishop Harper came toappreciate that Christchurch would not be aplace where the Anglican Church would betransplanted but rather a place wheredifferent faiths interacted and cooperated inunity. Since that time the city has generallyenjoyed a record of good communalrelationships and it is only in recent times thatthe city has experienced racial and othertensions.The first AGM of the Otautahi ChristchurchInter-Faith Council was held in 2007. Themeeting was well attended and chaired byDavid Coles, the Anglican Bishop ofChristchurch. The meeting began with anaddress by Professor Paul Morris, Professorof Religious Studies at the Victoria University,Wellington. Professor Morris was a key playerin the statement on Religious Diversityproduced in early 2007 with the assistance ofthe Human Rights Commission and endorsedby the Anglican/Catholic Bishops’Conference.In his address, Professor Morris argued thatthe establishment of the Interfaith Council canhelp to dissipate tensions in the community.In Indonesia, for example, in areas whereinterfaith activity have been established, therehas been a reduction in communal violence.But, says Professor Morris the real test ofInterfaith Councils and groups is in crises, like‘9/11’ or the advent of suicide bombings. Theaim, therefore, should be to buildrelationships that are robust and honestenough to weather the inevitable flash pointsand storms that occur. The importance ofcommunities visiting each other’s place ofworship and attending each other’s eventscannot be overstated. The pressuresgenerated by increased cultural, ethnic andreligious diversity will rise. Interfaith activity isessential to manage this diversity and tofoster mutual supportive relationships.Interfaith Dialogue is never easy, and thedifficulties cannot be overestimated. Good willis a good place to start but will never beenough. A willingness to be open to others, arecognition of the different ways of seeing theworld and an extension of our own right to areligion precious to us, must be mutuallyaccorded to those of different faiths.Communities should visit each other’s placeof worship and attend each other’s events. Inthis way community relationships arestrengthened. Developing trust is alwayseasier when the relationship is project driven.A wider community working together is bothsensible and positive.The Church’s bond with non-Christianreligions is based on the idea that we are apart of a universal human family. In theCatechism of the Catholic Church (para 842)we read that we all share a common destiny,namely God. Therefore, the Catholic Churchrecognises in other religions that search,among shadows and images, for the Godwho is unknown yet near since He gives lifeand breath and all things and wants all mento be saved. Thus, the Church considers allgoodness and truth found in these religionsas “a preparation for the Gospel and given byhim who enlightens all men that they may atlength have life.”The saving designs of God, His providenceand evident goodness extend to all ofmankind (Wis 8:1). The Church therefore,encourages us to enter into discussion withmembers of other religions but always inprudence and charity; and whilst authenticallywitnessing to our own faith and way of life weare encouraged to preserve andacknowledge the spiritual and moral truths ofnon-Christians together with their social lifeand customs.3


Good News for Familiesin Easter Trading AnnouncementThe recent announcement by the Minister ofLabour that no changes will be made toEaster trading laws following the Departmentof Labour’s recent review has beenwelcomed by many in the community,including Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, theCatholic agency for justice, peace anddevelopment.Caritas had previously told the Department ofLabour during the review process that “Eastermust be maintained as one of the fewremaining communal moments of rest in oursociety.” Caritas Director Mr Michael Smithsaid that while Easter is one of the mostsacred days of the year for Christians, it isalso one of the few remaining collective daysoff for most New Zealanders.The social landscape in New Zealand haschanged, and changed rapidly. Many NewZealanders can recall a time when weekendsand holidays were set apart for relaxation,leisure, family time and spiritual edification.This lifestyle placed importance on the socialand cultural welfare of the people. We havewitnessed a relatively speedy descent into amaterialistic culture which gives pride of placeto rampant commercialism.Who are the losers in this changinglandscape? One example of an affectedgroup is young people. Young peopleundertake the majority of the work in theservice industries. Many of these jobs areconditional upon the applicant’s availability towork weekends. In addition to beingsubjected to unreasonable pressure to acceptconditions which may not be in their bestinterests, they are put in a vulnerable positionat the very beginning of their working lives.Traditionally, the weekend and especiallyholiday weekends have been an opportunityfor families to gather together and perhapsfind time for rest and recreation. However,figures recently released by the InternationalLabour Organisation show that on average,New Zealanders work longer hours thanworkers in many other comparable developedcountries. Within the community at large,sporting bodies struggle to appoint coachesand administrators, at all levels. Voluntaryorganizations, the life blood of thecommunity, have great difficulty attractingmembers to continue vital support services.Contrary to what technological progressinitially promised, people are now workinglonger hours than before. Clearly this doesnot assist the development of healthy familylife. Are those who demand 24 hour a day,seven days a week shopping mindful thattheir freedom to do so is at the expense ofthose who serve?In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, weread that the Sabbath “brings everyday workto a halt and provides a respite. It is a day ofprotest against the servitude of work and theworship of money” (para 2172). TheCatechism goes on to say that “in respectingreligious liberty and the common good of all,Christians should seek recognition ofSundays and the Church’s holy days as legalholidays. They have to give everyone a publicexample of prayer, respect, and joy anddefend their traditions as a preciouscontribution to the spiritual life of society.”The name of the newsletter, which is Latin for the dignity of the person, expressesthe cornerstone principle of Catholic Social Teaching: “the human person...is andought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions.”No 1881, Catechism of the Catholic Church4

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