WHO ARE YOU? REAFFIRMING HUMAN DIGNITY
– (CRFI) Cardus Religious Freedom Institute
– October 28, 2019
– October 28, 2019
Every element of Catholic Social teaching, from justice for the disadvantaged and care of creation to teaching on family, life, and sexuality, finds its foundation in Catholic anthropology which teaches us what it means to be human. In this very important document, by Rev. Dr. Andrew Bennet of the Cardus Institute, explores the issue of “being human” from the Judeo-Christian perspective. (Dr. Bennet is a Deacon in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ottawa and former Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom). Please take the time to consider this document as it impacts not only the truths we hold as foundational, but the current cultural milieu that is heading in a very different direction.
Cardus is a non-partisan, faith-based think tank and registered charity dedicated to promoting a flourishing society through independent research, robust public dialogue, and thought-provoking commentary.
ABOUT THE CARDUS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM INSTITUTE
The CRFI educates Canadians about the importance of religious freedom to a deeply pluralist society. Through its work, the CRFI asserts that it is the fundamental right of all people, and their communities and institutions, to freely live out their most deeply held beliefs as they inhabit the public square.
Part 1: The Meaning of Human Dignity
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?
How do we know who we are? What is at the core of our personhood?
Unlike humans, animals make decisions solely from biological instinct. Let us consider a black bear. It’s late autumn, and your average black bear is starting to forage around for the winter that is storming toward him. His den is cold and empty, the walls bare of art, the floor is without a carpet. This is a bear who is thinking only about one thing, and that is his stomach: insects, berries, roots, fish, or maybe even decaying fellow animals are what capture his attention. The bear is not inventing new ways to make this ancient process go more smoothly. He’s not seeking to beautify his den by painting frescoes on the den walls. He’s not reflecting, as he shambles through the woods, about why everything is so unfair or how he could streamline this process for maximum efficiency. He’s a bear, and glorious in his way because of that, but he’s not you and he’s not me. He’s not human.
Aristotle described human beings as rational animals. Like other animals, humans pursue survival, reproduction, and material welfare. However, human beings
also have qualities that separate them from animals, including the capacity to contemplate why they act in certain ways, to evolve how they act, and to desire understanding of what exists beyond themselves and within themselves. According to Aristotle, humans have “rational souls.” In other words, we are rational by nature. In the ancient understanding, reason is not simply the ability to score high on an IQ test or solve a math problem. The Greeks understood reason more broadly as the capacity for self-control, self-reflection, and self-awareness even at a young age. Only people can direct their own behaviour by reflecting on the life they
want to live.