Vatican document on human dignity condemns gender transition, surrogacy, abortion

CNA 5e4efd0e506fe 182260 1 Dome of St. Peter's basilica, Vatican City. | Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

The Vatican’s top doctrinal office issued a declaration on the theme of human dignity on Monday that addresses growing concerns such as gender theory, sex changes, surrogacy, and euthanasia in addition to abortion, poverty, human trafficking, and war.

“In the face of so many violations of human dignity that seriously threaten the future of the human family, the Church encourages the promotion of the dignity of every human person, regardless of their physical, mental, cultural, social, and religious characteristics,” reads the Vatican declaration issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

The declaration, titled Dignitas Infinita, which means “infinite dignity,” states that the Church highlights these concerns “with hope, confident of the power that flows from the risen Christ, who has fully revealed the integral dignity of every man and woman.”

Abortion, euthanasia, and surrogacy

In the declaration, the dicastery cautions against threats to human dignity that begin at the moment of conception, that exist in the process of procreation, and that threaten humanity toward the end of life.

The declaration cites St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae on abortion, noting that the pontiff taught that “procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.”

According to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, also cited in the declaration, preborn children are “the most defenseless and innocent among us” and in the present day, “efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.”

The declaration also warns that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are “swiftly gaining ground” in some parts of the world, which it says is “unique in how it utilizes a mistaken understanding of human dignity to turn the concept of dignity against life itself.”

“Even in its sorrowful state, human life carries a dignity that must always be upheld, that can never be lost, and that calls for unconditional respect,” the declaration states. “Indeed, there are no circumstances under which human life would cease from being dignified and could, as a result, be put to an end.”

The practice of surrogacy is another concern noted by the document, noting that “the immensely worthy child becomes a mere object” in the process.

“Because of this unalienable dignity, the child has the right to have a fully human (and not artificially induced) origin and to receive the gift of a life that manifests both the dignity of the giver and that of the receiver,” the declaration adds. 

“Moreover, acknowledging the dignity of the human person also entails recognizing every dimension of the dignity of the conjugal union and of human procreation. Considering this, the legitimate desire to have a child cannot be transformed into a ‘right to a child’ that fails to respect the dignity of that child as the recipient of the gift of life.” 

Gender theory and sex changes

As many Western nations continue to promote gender ideology and debate whether minors should be able to access transgender drugs and surgeries, the Vatican states that the ideology “intends to deny the greatest possible difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference.” 

The declaration emphasizes that “all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected” and that “only by acknowledging and accepting this difference in reciprocity can each person fully discover themselves, their dignity, and their identity.”

A human body, the Vatican notes, also shares in the dignity of the image of God, and people are called to accept and respect the body as it was created: “The body participates in that dignity as it is endowed with personal meanings, particularly in its sexed condition.” 

“Any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception,” the Vatican adds. 

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To respect human dignity, the declaration also condemns unjust discrimination, aggression, and violence directed toward individuals based on sexual orientation. 

“It should be denounced as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation,” the Vatican states.

War and poverty

As war rages on in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, and elsewhere in the world, the declaration confirms that self defense is permissible but that “war is always a ‘defeat of humanity,’” citing Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations in December.

“No war is worth the tears of a mother who has seen her child mutilated or killed; no war is worth the loss of the life of even one human being, a sacred being created in the image and likeness of the Creator; no war is worth the poisoning of our common home; and no war is worth the despair of those who are forced to leave their homeland and are deprived, from one moment to the next, of their home and all the family, friendship, social, and cultural ties that have been built up, sometimes over generations,” the declaration reads, quoting the current pontiff.

The declaration further discusses the problems of poverty, which it states are linked to the unequal distribution of wealth. 

“If some people are born into a country or family where they have fewer opportunities to develop, we should acknowledge that this is contrary to their dignity, which is the same dignity as that of those born into a wealthy family or country,” the declaration adds. “We are all responsible for this stark inequality, albeit to varying degrees.”

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Human trafficking, sexual abuse, and violence against women

The declaration states that human trafficking is “among the grave violations of human dignity.” It includes the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism, and organized crime.

“Confronted with these varied and brutal denials of human dignity, we need to be increasingly aware that human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” the dicastery adds.

Sexual abuse, as explained by the declaration, “leaves deep scars in the hearts of those who suffer it.” It adds that “those who suffer sexual abuse experience real wounds in their human dignity” and that the problem of such abuse plagues society and has also affected the Church. 

“From this stems the Church’s ceaseless efforts to put an end to all kinds of abuse, starting from within,” the dicastery states.

The dicastery notes that women specifically face threats to their human dignity through inequality and violence. It references unequal pay, a lack of protections for working mothers, the exploitation and sexualization of women, and coercive abortions.

“While the equal dignity of women may be recognized in words, the inequalities between women and men in some countries remain very serious,” the declaration reads. “Even in the most developed and democratic countries, the concrete social reality testifies to the fact that women are often not accorded the same dignity as men.”

Dignity of the marginalized 

The dignity of marginalized groups such as migrants and people with disabilities was also addressed in the declaration. 

“Migrants are among the first victims of multiple forms of poverty,” the Vatican says. “Not only is their dignity denied in their home countries, but also their lives are put at risk because they no longer have the means to start a family, to work, or to feed themselves.” 

The declaration quotes Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, in which he says: “No one will ever openly deny that [migrants] are human beings; yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human.” It adds, quoting from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, that “every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance.”

In the declaration, the dicastery condemns “throwaway culture” and urges society to respect the dignity of other marginalized groups such as those with disabilities. 

“Each human being, regardless of their vulnerabilities, receives his or her dignity from the sole fact of being willed and loved by God,” the declaration states. “Thus, every effort should be made to encourage the inclusion and active participation of those who are affected by frailty or disability in the life of society and of the Church.”

Human dignity is infinite 

In his introduction to the declaration, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith prefect Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández emphasizes that the list is not comprehensive, but the subjects were selected to “illuminate different facets of human dignity that might be obscured in many people’s consciousness.” 

“The Church sees the condemnation of these grave and current violations of human dignity as a necessary measure,” Fernández writes, “for she sustains the deep conviction that we cannot separate faith from the defense of human dignity, evangelization from the promotion of a dignified life, and spirituality from a commitment to the dignity of every human being.”

This article has been updated.

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