Newspaper: Vatican plans document on human dignity

Newspaper: Vatican plans document on human dignity Pope Francis celebrates an ecumenical evening prayer service marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome January 25. Photo: CNS/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

Vatican City (CNA) According to a media report, the Vatican intends to publish a new document on the subject of human dignity this month. As the Vatican correspondent reports in the Catholic newspaper “La Croix international” (online), Pope Francis has commissioned the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to do so.

The authority, headed by Argentinian Cardinal Victor Fernandez, recently caused a worldwide stir shortly before Christmas. In the declaration “Fiducia supplicans”, it recommended a church blessing for people in same-sex relationships for the first time. Numerous Catholic bishops, particularly in Africa, refused to follow suit.

According to “La Croix international”, the preparatory work for the new declaration on human dignity began five years ago. At that time, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was still headed by the Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria. The Pope has now instructed the authority under Cardinal Fernandez to thoroughly revise the text; publication is scheduled for March.

The Pope’s religious authority last published a moral-theological declaration of principles (instruction) entitled “Dignitas personae” (The Dignity of the Person) in 2008. The subtitle was “On some questions of bioethics”. In view of developments in the field of medicine and biotechnology, the Instruction was intended to update the fundamental document “Donum vitae” (The Gift of Life) from 1987. It was written by the then Prefect of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. He based the Church’s positions predominantly on the doctrine of natural law.

The 1987 and 2008 texts focussed on topics such as euthanasia, abortion, genetic manipulation and reproductive technologies. According to the report, it is to be expected that the new document will also include the topics of migration and environmental destruction as a threat to human dignity.

It remains to be seen whether the text will contain changes to the Catholic Church’s previously strictly negative positions on euthanasia and reproductive medicine. For some years now, the Pope’s advisory body responsible for this, the Pontifical Academy for Life, has also included experts who are in favour of an opening in these questions of moral theology.