Achbishop calls human dignity a primary doctrine of church


NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Calling the dignity of the human person “a primary doctrine” of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York told an audience at the University of Notre Dame Dec. 6 that it must prompt Catholics “to treat ourselves and others only with respect, love, honor and care.”

That doctrine also means people must not be identified “with our urges, our flaws, our status, our possessions, our utility,” but each seen as “a child of God, his creation, modeled in his own image, destined for eternity,” he said.

The archbishop, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was delivering the inaugural lecture in the university’s new Project on Human Dignity.

“My identity, my personhood … does not depend on whether or not I have a green card, a stock portfolio, a job, a home or even a college diploma,” Archbishop Dolan said. “Nor does my identity depend upon whom I am sexually attracted to, or to race, religion, gender, social status, bank account, passport or health insurance, but on my essence as a child of God.”

The talk quoted from a wide variety of sources — from Blessed John Paul II to a formerly drug-addicted Vietnam veteran, from Voltaire to a 20-year-old ex-prostitute who came to World Youth Day in Toronto on a dare in 2002 and said it saved her life.

“When we mention Catholic doctrines, we usually mention the Trinity, the Incarnation, the redemption, the Eucharist,” the archbishop said. “I wonder why we never include the doctrine of the dignity of the human person? It’s pivotal; it’s way up there; it’s normative.”