What is the source of human dignity?

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God is the supreme source of human dignity. His Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, became like us in all things except sin. His perfect sacrifice offered on our behalf to His Father gives us an opportunity to have an everlasting relationship with Him. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us we are made in the image and likeness of God and as such have transcendent worth and value. As human beings we alone among all other creatures are capable of knowing and loving God. Thus, human dignity is an intrinsic quality that cannot be taken away from us.

Unfortunately, a wholesale denial of God and His Commandments as exemplified by the forces of radical secularism can lead to an erosion of certain ethical principles and an attack against our God-given rights.

Before Creation, before time itself began, God for some mysterious reason decided to create the Universe. In one place our Catholic Liturgy comments that “God’s Love creates us.” Perhaps from our limited human perspective this may sum up why we are here.

Science tells us the process of the Creation of this Universe began some 13.7 billion years ago and the very vastness of our Universe was necessary to support life on a planet such as ours. Astronomer Hugh Ross quips, “Given the vast quantity and time and resources involved in creating a cosmic home for humanity…only one conclusion makes sense: The Creator of the cosmos places an extremely high value on and has a purpose for human beings.” In chapter 14 of his book The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh Ross lists twenty six “parameters that the universe must have within narrowly defined ranges for life of any kind to exist.”

So the latest science postulates that the universe had a beginning at the precise moment of the “Big Bang” and it seems one may logically infer that everything that exists must have a cause. If you go back in time you cannot go back infinitely so you must arrive at the first cause. This first cause by necessity must, in itself, be uncaused. Nothing can exist without a cause except for God. Therefore, God exists. (Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College, gives a detailed explanation of the five proofs of God’s existence in an article entitled The First Cause Argument.) These proofs are based primarily on the teachings of ancient Greek philosophers and medieval theologians, e.g., Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas. The latest cosmological science, postulating the “Big Bang”, supports the teachings and conclusions of these ancient minds.

So we have a God, Who out of an act of love creates an exquisitely fine-tuned Universe to support his creatures, culminating with the first man, Adam, our first common ancestor. The latest modern day science, using the forensic tools of DNA has posited the existence of the first man whom they nicknamed “Adam.” Spencer Wells, a geneticist and historian, used DNA technology to explore human history. He has traveled the world collecting blood samples in far-flung cultures. He sought to learn how closely we are related. Wells concluded that all human beings living on earth today are descendants from a single ancestor who lived some 60,000 years ago. This quest for “Adam” is an ongoing project undertaken in a partnership between IBM and the National Geographic Society. By analyzing genetic changes in the Y-chromosome of people in all regions of the world, Wells and his colleagues concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man. “We’re all effectively cousins, separated by 2,000 generations,” he said.

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Now on August 12, 1950, Pius XII wrote an encyclical entitled HUMANI GENERIS (CONCERNING SOME FALSE OPINIONS THREATENING TO UNDERMINE THE FOUNDATIONS OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE), which in part was written to combat the errors of Modernist theology which relies heavily on the theory of evolution. The Pope declared in paragraph 37 that Adam is the first true man and all human beings are his descendants. In this document the Pope also condemned polygenism which is defined as the theory that all human races descended from many ancestral types. This theory was born from a secularized interpretation of evolution in part to undermine the Scriptural account of Adam and Eve. However, the latest forensic DNA science used by The National Geographic genome project confirms that all humans are descendants from the one man, named “Adam.”

The book of Genesis gives us an account of the fall of the first Adam and as a result all human beings are part of his fall. We have inherited his sinful nature. This sets up the need for a New Adam to reconcile us with the Creator, God. Despite being a fallen race, God’s Love for humanity is so great that He devised a means whereby we may become reconciled to Him. In the passage of Romans 5:12-19 we see that Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. While Adam filled the world with sin and misery, the grace of Christ (the New Adam) more than compensates for the damage done by the first Adam. Verse 18 reads, “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” To reiterate, Christ more than compensates for the damage done by Adam’s rebellion.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is one of our Church’s greatest mysteries and underscores the extraordinary honor bestowed upon human dignity. At the moment of Christ’s conception in the womb of the Virgin, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed a human nature. The Catholic Catechism (CC) paragraph 468 tells us that the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553, “confessed that ‘there is but one hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Trinity.’ Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death…’” God then could humble Himself taking the form of a suffering servant and die on the cross on our behalf. (Philippians 2:5-11) “The Church confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother…” (CC paragraph 469)

Jesus Christ as true God and True Man greatly exalts human dignity. By becoming our brother, Christ reconciles us with His Father. With God as our Father we become His children and heirs of Heaven. (Romans 8:17 and Galatians 4:4-7)

The past century, and even to the present day, the world has witnessed the growing forces of radical secularism blatantly disobeying God’s commands, resulting in the violent death of hundreds of millions along with many more millions suffering the ravages of war, ethnic cleansing, famine and disease. Today, it is common to kill the babes in their mother’s wombs and declare it to be a good in the name “of a woman’s right to choose.” Likewise outrages such as same sex marriages are celebrated as one’s “civil rights”. The book of Isaiah (chapter 5:20) reads, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil . . .”

However, the source of human dignity is a God, who created an exquisitely fine-tuned Universe for us to live in and created our common ancestor in His Own Image. When our ancestor sinned and died leading us into sin and death, the Love and the Grace of God through the merits of His beloved Son restores us to eternal life.

Given the great gift of our human dignity, how then can anyone harm or take the life of another, especially the most vulnerable, the babe in the womb? Remember that the Person of God resided in His mother’s womb for nine months thus sanctifying the lives of all the unborn. This was the beginning of His preparation to empty Himself on our behalf even to death on a Cross.


PS: The CC Paragraph 2270 tells us “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” Paragraph 2271 condemns abortion and goes on to say that any formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. “The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

Choose Life / Choose Death

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Late last year, terminally ill Brittany Maynard, age 29, chose to die by her own hand in a well-publicized suicide. She was 29 years old. Brittany used legally-prescribed lethal drugs under Oregon’s assisted suicide law on Saturday November 1, 2014.

She is quoted as saying, “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” Brittany wrote on Facebook. “The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type …. Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”

Contrast her decision with that of Lauren Hill, 19 years old, also diagnosed with a terminal illness called DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) which is inoperable and with a zero survival rate. Lauren not only chooses to live but this St. Joseph University freshman played basketball on the very next day that Brittany Maynard chose to die.

“On Sunday, Lauren Hill played her first and only college basketball game despite her rapidly declining health. She did it in front of 10,250 watery-eyed locals, with a few celebrities to boot. She scored a layup on the first possession of the game, and scored another basket just before the final buzzer. The game was held at Xavier’s Cintas Center, and MSJ beat Hiram 66-55. It very well could have been held at Paul Brown Stadium if not for the Jaguars/Bengals game — the only difference would have been that there would have been more tears.

On the way to the game Sunday, I watched my 8- and 9-year-old daughters in the back seat of the car, innocently tapping away on an IPad, fussing over whose turn it was to play. Ten years ago, that was Lauren. Lauren probably sat in her parents Brent and Lisa Hill’s backseat, no doubt fighting with her younger siblings, Nate and Erin, on the way to who knows where.” (Per Chris Mack, Special for USA TODAY Sports November 3, 2014.)

Lauren wishes to live as long as possible to publicize her illness with the hope that researchers may eventually find a cure so others may not die from DIPG.

Did one choose life thinking of others while continuing to suffer, while the other chose death concerned only with self? Regardless, it is a sad situation in both cases.

Through a Closed Door

Through a Closed Door

Does a bullet fired through a closed door
Kill more acceptably?
Is the trauma of death made easier,
And the bite of conscience less painful,
When the victim need not be confronted?
Like an unwanted kitten drowned in a sack,
Or a faceless innocent of war,
Slaughtered in a hailstorm of bombs from above,
Does anonymity seem to soften the act,
By obscuring the result?

You were there, Lord, in the warmth of conception.
Were You not there too when the partnership was routinely dissolved,
In the chilling void of love and swirl of hospital green?
Did you not breathe in the heavy odor of antiseptic?
See the flash of surgical steel?
Hear the leathal suction?
Know that, to the masked and gowned that were present,
The tiny fetal life was but excess tissue?
An offending cluster of cells,
No more than appendix,
Without future,
Without rights,
Without a whisper of defense.
Is not the rose, cut as a bud, still a rose?

Open wide our eyes that we might see the sacred
Beauty of your creation:
In the flower,
In the kitten,
In the delicate splendor and promise
Of each new human life.

– James Howard Ribbe

Save the Children

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Do we today consider children as a gift from God? Since post WWII, children have often been viewed as a burden, not a blessing! They are sometimes considered a financial yoke. They may be thought a hindrance to the aspirations of the working mother. During the 1950’s, 8% of our homes consisted of a double income. In the 2010 census , 80% have a double income. They are sometimes considered a disturbance to the “peace” of the home. And sadly, many are physically and sexually abused in their own homes, the place that was meant to be safe!

Children are a “gift from God” and if they have survived the most dangerous place on earth (mother’s womb) there are many more pitfalls along the road of young life! More than fifty-five million children have been lost to abortion in the United States (and four hundred million in China) since 1973! There is a wonderful ministry called “Save the Children.” It reaches out to the international poorest of the poor. The question I present to you is — what about our own? With “save the Children” we can sooth the conscience with a few dollars, but with our own, it takes hard work for a good chunk of our life.

What can we do to protect and provide for our children—a gift from God?

  • Have them! Don’t believe the lie that children are too expensive or a burden to the happiness of a marriage. Actually, it’s the other way around. I have had 7 children and God has always provided. By the time I’m 80 there will be approximately 80 members in my immediate family to impact the world!
  • Teach them! The primary responsibility for our children’s education is ours, not the local public school. We have to stand before God some day and give an account for that responsibility. Get involved in their education!
  • Show them! Children don’t expect perfection from their parents but they do expect guidance and a lack of hypocrisy. They will most likely choose our standards, principles and convictions and what are they going to be?
  • Win them! Lead them to a relationship with God. There is a battle going on for our children and we must win the battle.
  • Pray for them! Intercede before God on their behalf. Ask the Lord to bless them and make them a blessing to their generation. Remember, they are a gift from God and to God we must go for guidance on how to raise them.

Reverend Steve Nash is Pastor of Christian Community Chapel in Hillsborough, NJ, and a member of our Advisory Board.