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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Human Dignity / Self Sacrifice

I know the right path to take.

Every morning, on my knees, I ask God to give me the necessary strength (grace) to walk the path I freely choose.  It is a path of Faith - Faith in Him, in the Church He founded and in the Natural Order of things He created.

I am schooled in Scripture, reading it with the eyes of Faith and the understandings that come with that mindset.  I am schooled in the Catechism, looking with astonishment at the incredible doctrine developed over 15 to 20 thousand years of philosophical applications.  It humbles me.

Recently someone asked me how I could believe that a loving God would strike children down with fire for exploring their own bodies.  The question was asked several times, leading me to understand that this was a very important issue for this person.  Essentially, the question was why does the Catholic Church teach that masturbation is a sin.  At least I think that was the question.  I have no memory of EVER being told I would be struck down with fire for committing ANY sin - and I am quite serious.  I was educated for 12 years in Catholic Schools.  I was educated by priests, nuns, sisters and brothers and lay people who were very loyal to the magisterium.  I was never told God was out to get me, would strike me down, would hit me with fire bombs or other wise hurt me.

I was taught, however, that there is a certain dignity inherent in being a human.  This dignity, as outlined in the CCC, requires me to treat myself and my surroundings in a very special manner.  I should not abuse myself sexually - that is, treat myself as though that was my only worth.  I was not taught (ever) that sex was bad, in and of itself.  I was taught, however, that sexual activity outside of the Sacrament of Marriage was a breech of my own dignity.  I did not believe that for a long time.  In fact, I did not behave in a dignified manner for a long, long time.  It took being debased and shamed, treated like scum by people who had urged me to 'be free - be yourself' for me to realize why the Church teaches what She does - that sexual love is beautiful, dignified, fabulous, fun and meant to be within the bonds of a Sacrament.

I never expect anyone to agree with me.  My decision to live as a Catholic comes from my experience in the world.  I have not found any reason to change that decision.  Priest scandals, idiots in the parish front office (of which there are a few - sometimes, I am one of them) or the politicians who claim to share my Faith and then act like total buttheads in their dealings with their families or friends or constituents has not shaken my Faith.  Reading Holy Scripture and seeing how many times the ancient writers called on God to kill their enemies or that St Paul thought women should not speak in Church does not poke any holes in my foundation.  First of all, I am not a Sola Scriptura Heretic.  Secondly, I understand the difference in Holy Scripture between historic, hyperbole, parable and typology.

I won't engage in fights or debates with people about being a Catholic.  I am very ready to die in the defense of The Eucharist and Holy Mother Church.  I do not expect anyone else to be ready to do that and it is just find with me if I end up being the winner of the game show Last Catholic Standing.

What I will state though, and I am quite serious about this, is that any person who loses their Faith in God because a) God didn't make them happy  b) The Church teaches something they don't Like or b) there are BAD people in the Church did not have a Faith to lose.

What they had was an expectation -  and when that expectation went unfulfilled they lost the ability to surrender and accept.

I am grateful that I learned the difference and I am grateful to be a Catholic Out Loud.


R.L. G said...


Dignity is a hot topic in the bioethics world. Essays and papers on patient autonomy, informed consent, voluntary consent (Nuremberg trials?), the UN Declaration of Human Rights, all use this word. One of the debates seems to be which taxonomy is valid: Dignity is a species of the genus Autonomy, or Autonomy is a species of the genus Dignity. It’s an important distinction, because it determines whether dignity is an intrinsic quality in man, or if it is a result of our capacity to function at some minimum level, guided by reason. There are many levels of autonomy, and these are used in medical ethics to determine how a patient is to be treated (paternalism). I don’t hear a lot about different levels of dignity, unless it is the “dignity” that describes how we act, and not the intrinsic quality.

As a Catholic, I believe we are “Image and likeness of God” and believe that dignity is an intrinsic quality that is a result of our relationship with the Creator. I do not subscribe to the idea that man’s dignity may be “downgraded” according to his condition. That would seem to place a limit on who is worth saving, assigning different value to people in order to guide my decision on what kind of help a person gets. If that were the case, my life may have turned out very different. Rights of autonomy that are granted by man may be revoked or changed at man’s convenience. I am not aware of a case of God reducing man’s dignity by using the type of convenience-algebra that I use when I want to get my way.

Years ago, a man said to me (after listening to me whine about some perceived injustice) that expectations are premeditated resentments. As always, you posts are interesting and inciting. ;-)


Leslie Klinger said...

I believe as you do - we have an intrinsic dignity simply by reason of being created in the image of our Creator. I also agree with you that people who start to determine a person's worth based on our ability to function in a certain way are falling right into the lies of Satan. If my dignity depended upon my ability to throw a football twenty yards with accuracy, I am toast. If Colin Kapaernick's dignity is determined by his ability to bake a fabulous Torte di Rizo a la Famiglia di Crocco, then I win.

I would like your take on the exchange on the other post. I am still mildly amused by the fact that the gentleman in question is focused on genitals, masturbation and the Church's teaching and how that relates to children. It just seemed odd to me but maybe I am missing something. Fresh eyes would be appreciated.

R.L. G said...


The focus on genitals and masturbation sounds like a defender of the “anything goes” position of William Masters. The “roast them in hell” part is a typical rant, usually coming from an ex-evangelical Protestant bent. I don’t think you missed any type of nuanced message here. If you did, it was obscured by the heavy handed approach of the gentleman in question.

I can only speak from my own experience, so be warned. My brief forays into nature religions and atheism taught me a couple of things. That I could control the nature of my higher power by picking any one I chose, or my environment by use of reason and will alone. My feelings of powerlessness were alleviated for a brief time by trying each of these, only to return in force later. I don’t tend to run from my pain any longer. You and I have both “looked into the void”, as Richard H. Niebuhr put it in his book “Radical Monotheism and Western Culture” Essay III - Faith in Gods and in God:

“What is it that is responsible for this passing, that dooms our human faith to frustration? We may call it the nature of things, we may call it fate, we may call it reality. But by whatever name we call it, this law of things, this reality, this way things are, is something with which we all must reckon. We may not be able to give a name to it, calling it only the "void" out of which everything comes and to which everything returns, though that is also a name. But it is there -- the last shadowy and vague reality, the secret of existence by virtue of which things come into being, are what they are, and pass away. Against it there is no defense. This reality, this nature of things, abides when all else passes. It is the source of all things and the end of all. It surrounds our life as the great abyss into which all things plunge and as the great source whence they all come. What it is we do not know save that it is and that it is the supreme reality with which we must reckon”

A lot of people don’t care to look there, for the consequences of such knowledge are non-trivial. No, I don’t think you missed anything except another person who is in great pain. The web is like the Wild West in a lot of ways. I have had some exchanges that were very disturbing; threat of physical violence, name calling, pile on by supporters. Personal attacks are common over disagreements. When I wander into one of those echo chambers, I make sure the door is partially open to let some of the noise out. Keep writing Leslie, you have something to say.