Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dignitatis Humanae

Dignitatis Humanae

True and False Notions of Human Dignity


By Robert J. Siscoe


On August 15, 1910, Pope St. Pius X issued the encyclical Notre Charge Apostolique, in which he condemned the errors of the Sillon.  The Sillon was a movement in France that promoted a form of social modernism (1), which sought to rebuild society on Masonic and Enlightenment principles incompatible with the Catholic Faith.


One of the fundamental errors of the Sillon was a false notion of human dignity, which flowed from an equally false notion of human liberty.  Pius X wrote: “The Sillon has a praise-worthy concern for human dignity, but it understands human dignity in the manner of some philosophers, of whom the Church does not at all feel proud. The first condition of that dignity is liberty, but viewed in the sense that, except in religious matters, each man is autonomous.”


The false notion of liberty and human dignity, which was advocated by the Sillon, was later expanded to include freedom of religion, in such a way that man’s dignity was said to bring with it the right to violate the First Commandment by professing any religion or none, as well as the right to express religious beliefs in the public forum, with no distinction being made between the true religion revealed by God, and “sects of perdition” (2 Peter 2:1) founded by men that St. Paul refers to as “lying teachers”.  We see this false notion of human dignity expressed in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which states:


“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”


Today, this false notion of human dignity has infected many within the Church, including high ranking prelates in Rome, who not only proclaim that men have a right to profess a false religion, but go further by encouraging them to do so.  Rather than preaching the saving truth in charity and warning them of the damnable errors they are entangled in, these misguided prelates encourage members of false religions to be faithful in carrying out their religious practices. This madness is due, in large part, to a false notion of human dignity. 


In order to sort out the confusion over this subject, we will distinguish between natural and supernatural dignity in the domain of being, and natural and supernatural dignity in the realm of acting.  We will then consider the false notion of human dignity, which proclaims for man the right to do that which God forbids.


The Realm of Being


On the ontological level – in the realm of being – man possesses the natural dignity of having been created in the image of God, that is, with a rational intellect and free will.  St. Augustine said: "Man's excellence consists in the fact that God made him to His own image by giving him an intellectual soul which raises him above the beasts of the field" (Gen. ad lit. vi, 12).


The rational intellect confers upon man natural liberty, or free will, (2) which is “the faculty of choosing means fitted for the end proposed.” (3)  Since only rational or intellectual creatures possess freedom of choice, man is the only material being that possesses the dignity of liberty.  “Liberty” wrote Leo XIII, “the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of intellectual or rational natures, confers on man this dignity - that he is ‘in the hand of his counsel’ (Ecclus.15:14) - and has power over his actions.” (4) 


Man’s intellect enables him to know God and His law, while his natural liberty enables him to freely obey God’s law.   But due to original sin, man’s natural dignity has been corrupted, and consequently “darkness has spread over the mind, and the will has been inclined to evil”. (5) The result is that man’s intellect, which was made for truth, often errs in its judgment of truth; while his will, which was made for the true good, often errs by desiring and choosing a false good.  As a result of original sin, men are born into this world separated from God and inclined to evil, “under the power of the devil and death,” (6) and are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).  Consequently, the man who dies with his natural dignity alone, even if such dignity has not been further corrupted by actual sin, will “immediately descend into hell.” (7)


Supernatural Dignity


In order for a man to obtain the supernatural end for which he was created - namely, the beatific vision of God in heaven - he must possess a dignity infinitely superior to that which he has by nature.   For man to enter into eternal life he must possess the supernatural dignity of sanctifying grace, which elevates his soul to the supernatural level through the infusion of Divine Life, thereby making him a “partaker of the Divine Nature,” (2 Peter 1:4) a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17) and an adopted child of God (Eph 1:5).  This supernatural dignity is absolutely necessary for salvation. 


For man to possess sanctifying grace, he must also possess, in the realm of being, the habit of supernatural faith, which is a divinely infused virtue that perfects the intellect and enables man to believe, by faith, the revealed truths necessary for salvation.  If a single revealed truth is knowingly rejected, the habit of faith is lost entirely (8) and since without the Catholic Faith it is impossible to please God (9), one who denies a single article of Faith cannot possess sanctifying grace – the supernatural dignity necessary for salvation. 


The false notion of human dignity, in the domain of being, denies that man has been corrupted by original sin and claims the man is essentially good by nature.  It claims that man possesses a divine principle as part of his nature, and is in the process of evolving into God.  Human life, as such, is said to be “sacred”; therefore whatever offends or harms Man is considered as an offense against God – at least what becoming a God.


The Realm of Acting


Man’s rational intellect and free will confer upon him moral obligations that do not apply to irrational creatures: man is morally bound to follow the Eternal Law, accept the truths God has revealed, and willingly obey them. 


Man’s liberty is not an end in itself, but rather a means to the rational attainment of an end.  The proper object of the will is “that good only which is in conformity with right reason” (Libertas). And since it is contrary to right reason for an intelligent being to turn away from the end for which it was created, man’s natural liberty (free will) must be exercised within the moral boundaries established by God, which are intended to direct man to the supernatural end for which he was created.  If man acts contrary to right reason, he is guilty of sin and thereby abuses his liberty.  Man’s moral liberty, which is the power to choose means that lead him to his proper end, is ordered to and limited by its object, and therefore subject to and restricted by the Revealed Law of God. 


When man uses his liberty within the boundaries of God’s law for the rational attainment of the end for which he was created, the greatest good can be achieved; but when he abuses his natural liberty by disobeying God’s law, he thereby turns away from his end, falls into sin, and the greatest evil results.   Hence in the realm of acting, by the use man makes of his inborn dignity, the highest good or the greatest evil can result, as Pope Leo XIII explains:


“But the manner in which such dignity is exercised is of the greatest moment, inasmuch as on the use that is made of liberty the highest good and the greatest evil alike depend. Man, indeed, is free to obey his reason, to seek moral good, and to strive unswervingly after his last end. Yet he is free also to turn aside to all other things; and, in pursuing the empty semblance of good, to disturb rightful order and to fall headlong into the destruction which he has voluntarily chosen” (Libertas).


The true dignity of man consist, not in doing what he pleases, but in doing what he ought; for only by doing what he ought will he attain the supernatural end for which he was created, and obtain the ultimate happiness for which he yearns.


Perfection of Our Dignity


The object of the intellect is truth, and the object of the will is the true good.  Therefore, the intellect is brought to perfection by adhering to the truth, and corrupted by adhering to error; while the will is perfected by choosing the true good, and corrupted by choosing a false and merely apparent good.


Now, just as the human intellect has the two-fold function of reasoning and understanding, so too the human will (man’s liberty) has the two-fold function of desiring and choosing. (10) But the will, which is the faculty of choice, is incapable of distinguishing a true good from a merely apparent good.  Therefore, the will must be directed in its choice by the intellect, which judges what is truly good, and directs the will thereto. (11)


As a result of the Fall, man’s will has been weakened and his intellect darkened.  The result is that the will tends to choose, not according to the judgment of reason, but according to the disordered desires of concupiscence; and the darkening of the intellect results in man’s reason often being mistaken in its judgment.  When this happens, even if the will follows the judgment of reason, rather than the desires of the lower nature, the false judgment will misdirect the will in its choice, and both will fall into corruption.  Pope Leo XIII said: “If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption” (Immortale Dei).  


To rectify this defect and provide man with the necessary knowledge to lead him to his supernatural end, God revealed the Divine Law, which perfects the intellect by filling it with truth (both natural and supernatural), so that it can direct the will to the true good. 


Intrinsic and Extrinsic Principles of Right Action


In addition to the revealed law of God, there are intrinsic and extrinsic principles that serve to perfect the intellect and will in their respective acts.  The intrinsic principles are virtuous habits, both natural and supernatural, which enlighten the mind to the truth (both speculative and practical) and direct the will to the good.  Natural virtues are habits acquired by man, while supernatural virtues are habits infused into the soul by God, and further developed by man.  These virtues perfect man by enlightening his mind to the truth and strengthening his will to choose the good. (12)


The extrinsic principles of right action are law and Divine Grace.  Law is a dictate of practical reason promulgated by one in a position of authority, the purpose of which is to guide man to his proper end by forbidding what God forbids and encouraging what God commands.  “Law is the guide of man’s actions”, wrote Leo XIII; “it turns him toward the good by its rewards, and deters him from evil by its punishments” (Libertas).    The written law rectifies the potential defect in the intellect by presenting it with the truth, while the sanctions attached to the law serves to impel the will to choose the true good.  Authority, which is a moral force impelling man to the good, also serves as an extrinsic help for right action. (Romans 13:1-5)  But the most excellent of the extrinsic helps is Divine Grace, which is a supernatural act of God that perfects the mind by enlightening it to the truth, and simultaneously moves the will to the true good.


These intrinsic and extrinsic principles help to rectify the potential defect in the intellect and will, and thereby safeguard the true dignity of man.


To conclude this point, the true dignity of man, in the realm of acting, consists in embracing the truth revealed by God (which perfects the intellect) and obeying God’s law, which leads man to the end for which he was created.


Supernatural Dignity in the Realm of Acting


When man possesses the supernatural dignity of sanctifying grace in his soul, he also possesses supernatural charity in the will, for “the virtue of charity has its foundation in grace, as a property in an essence.” (13)  The virtue of Charity perfects the will and serves as a supernatural principle that enables man to love God above all things, his neighbor as himself for the love of God, and perform meritorious acts worthy of a supernatural reward.  Without supernatural Charity in the will, man’s good deeds are considered “dead works”, and therefore cannot merit an eternal reward. “All works that are generically good” wrote St. Thomas, “are said to be dead, if they be done without Charity, inasmuch as they fail to proceed from the principle of [supernatural] life.”  (14)


False Notion of Human Dignity


Now that we have covered the true notion of human dignity, we will consider the false notion as it pertains to the realm of acting.  The erroneous notion of human dignity that is so widespread today is base based on Naturalism, and flows from the Masonic notion of “liberty”, which is embraced and promoted by the adherents of Liberalism.  This error essentially maintains that, since man is by nature free (in the realm of being), he should be free to do as he pleases (in the realm of acting), as long as he does not physically harm another man. (15)  It considers human liberty as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end.  It denies the moral boundaries for our liberty, and ends by equating liberty with license.


The false notion of human dignity ignores the Divine Law (which perfects man’s intellect), and claims that human reason is the sole principle and judge of truth.  Human reason is considered absolutely sovereign and therefore subject to no external authority.  It is independent of its object (truth), and therefore has a right to create its own “truth”.  In his encyclical against the Sillon, Pope St. Pius X referred to this as “intellectual emancipation in the name of human dignity.”


Man’s “dignity” requires that he be faithful to his own “truth” and not degrade himself by adhering to the truth of another – including that which has been revealed by Almighty God “who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.  Any truth imposed on man by an external source is said to be “tyranny over the mind of men” (16) and therefore contrary to his dignity.  For a Liberal, the idea of Divine Revelation being imposed by an external authority is an absolute horror.  “To believe in a revealed Religion, imposed by an exterior authority over human reason”, wrote Fr. Roussel, “is without doubt very humiliating for the liberal, and therefore, profoundly immoral.  It is a crime of high treason and a sacrilege.” (17)   


Therefore, in order to preserve man’s “dignity”, the preaching of the Gospel must be replaced by dialogue, and all forms of proselytism rejected.


The adherents of the false notion of human dignity oppose, what they call, “indifferentism”, but they understand indifferentism in such a way that each man must remain faithful to his own “truth” (whatever that may be); and since religion itself is considered nothing but an external expression of each man’s “truth”, it follows that forbidding someone from freely practicing their peculiar religion is an affront to his dignity – an intolerable crime for anyone who respects the dignity of man.   


Toleration for error is, therefore, the cardinal virtue for a Liberal, since for him the intellect is not brought to perfection by adhering to the truth revealed by God, as from an external source, but by being faithful to his own “truth”, regardless of how far his “truth” has deviated from reality.  The one crime that will not be tolerated is the “intolerance” of the Catholic who maintains that his religion alone is true.  Such a person is said to be guilty of the high crime of triumphalism, since he considers “his” truth to be superior to that of another.   This attitude is simply unbearable for the Liberal and his false notion of “the dignity of man”.


In reality, as we have seen, man’s true dignity is brought about by adhering to the truth revealed by God and following unswervingly after his supernatural end, and is corrupted when he embraces the errors of a false religion, since, as we have seen, “if the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption.” (18)


The false notion of human dignity also considers the human will to be sovereign and independent, and therefore the source of its own law.  Accordingly, the will is brought to perfection, not by obeying God’s law and striving after its final end, but in obeying only itself.  Any law that does not proceed from the will of man is said to be a violation of his dignity, as an autonomous and independent being.   Commenting on this point, Pope St. Pius X said:


“Finally, at the root of all their fallacies… lie the false hopes of Sillonists on human dignity. According to them, Man will be a man truly worthy of the name only when he has acquired a strong, enlightened, and independent consciousness, able to do without a master, obeying only himself ... Such are the big words by which human pride is exalted, like a dream carrying Man away without light, without guidance, and without help into the realm of illusion in which he will be destroyed by his errors and passions whilst awaiting the glorious day of his full consciousness. And that great day, when will it come? Unless human nature can be changed, which is not within the power of the Sillonists, will that day ever come? Did the Saints who brought human dignity to its highest point, possess that kind of dignity?”


According to this notion of human dignity, man should be guided exclusively by his own reason and will, with no reference to the saving truth revealed by God and His Divine Will.  He is subject to no truth, law, or authority, that does not proceed from himself.  The true notion of authority is an insult to those who adhere to this false notion of the “dignity of man”, since it proceeds from an external source and seeks to impose moral obligations on an “independent and sovereign being”.   Authority, therefore, must come from man; it must flow, not from the top down, but from the bottom up, lest man’s dignity be offended by obeying a command he himself did not willingly enact.  Regarding this point, Pius X wrote:


“The Sillon does not wish to abolish political authority; on the contrary, it considers it necessary; but it wishes to divide it, or rather to multiply it in such a way that each citizen will become a kind of king. Authority, so they concede, comes from God, but it resides primarily in the people and expresses itself by means of elections or, better still, by selection. However, it still remains in the hands of the people; it does not escape their control. It will be an external authority, yet only in appearance; in fact, it will be internal because it will be an authority assented to…. But Leo XIII absolutely condemned this doctrine in his Encyclical ‘Diuturnum Illud’....”


The practical consequence of the false notion of human dignity is that man is his own god, “autonomous and independent”: human reason must be free to think for itself, without reference to God’s revealed truth; liberty is the faculty of doing what he pleases, irrespective of God’s law; external authority is tyranny, and obedience is servitude.  Man must be free to do as he pleases, and any higher law that seeks to hinder his “liberty” is considered to be contrary to his “dignity”.  As Fr. Roussel explains, the false notion of human dignity “manifests an anarchical and deregulated liberty in every domain.  Absolute autonomy of the individual, of his reason and will, the liberty of thought, of conscience and undefined progress even unto the deification of man… all this is plainly ridiculous and absurd.  It merits only disdain from any healthy and realistic mind.” (19)


The only acceptable law is one that protects his precious “liberty”, and the “right” to do what he pleases.  His motto is that of Lucifer ‘Non-Serviam’ – I will not serve, and his justification for this crime is his “dignity”. 


Fr. Roussell explains that this sin of Liberalism and its false notion of human dignity is “incomparably greater than the sins of the flesh because it destroys the most important and most excellent of all faculties, the intelligence.  It is a truly Satanic sin because it is the only one that he, Satan, could commit and is therefore inspired directly by him.  [It is] a radical and nearly incurable sin.” (20)




Since the close of Vatican II, the Liberal spirit of the Sillon and their false notion of human dignity have invaded the Church from top to bottom, resulting in the great apostasy that has spread throughout the world.  The false notion of human dignity is the underlying error of false ecumenism and the Assisi style “prayer meetings”, and is serving as the impetus for the establishment of a One World Church.  With this in mind, we will close with the following prophetic words of Pope St. Pius X:


 “We ask Ourselves, Venerable Brethren, what has become of the Catholicism of the Sillon? Alas! this organization … has been harnessed in its course by the modern enemies of the Church, and is now no more than a miserable affluent of the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could ever come) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer.” (21)


1 Fr. Loisy, who was excommunicated by Pius X for promoting Modernism, admitted that the Sillon was a form of social modernism.  He wrote: “Pope Pius X, who pursued all genres of modernism, condemned social modernism by striking against the Sillon.”  In Ubi Arcano Dei , Pius XI condemned social modernism “no less decidedly than…theological modernism.” (#61)

2 Summa, Pt 1, q 83, A 1: “And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will.”

3 Libertas

4 Ibid.

5 Singulari Quaden, Pius IX, Denz. 1643

6 Council of Trent, Denz. 793

7 Council of Florence: “the souls of those who depart [this life] in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell….” Denz. 693

8 Summa. Pt II-II, Q. 5, A. 2; Satis Cognitum #9 by Leo XIII

9 Council of Trent, Denz 787; Heb. 11:16

10 Summa, Pt 1, Q 83, A 4

11 See Libertas #5

12 Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, Fr. Fahey. Pg. 154

13 Ibid, Pg. 44

14 Summa, Pt III, Q 89, A 6

15 The Declaration of the Rights of Man states: “Liberty is the power of doing what we will, so long as it does not injure another.”

16 Referring to the imposition of Christian doctrine on men, the Liberal Thomas Jefferson said: “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

17 Liberalism and Catholicism Pg. 31

18 Immortale Dei

19 Liberalism and Catholicism, Pg 19

20 Ibid. pg 45

21 Notre Charge Apostolique

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