by Linda Powell, Ph.D.
There are two fundamental principles that make up Part One. However, we will be developing only one in this review.
- “The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.” (n.4) (Emphasis added.)
We know that medical science has made significant strides when it comes to understanding human life in its earliest stages of development. Human biological structures and the process of human generation are better known. These are certainly positive when they are used to overcome or correct pathologies or to restore the normal functioning of human procreation. They are negative and cannot and must not be utilized when they involve the destruction of human beings or “contradict the dignity of the person or when they are used for purposes contrary to the integral good of man.” (n.4)
We must never allow the body of a human being from the very first stages of existence to be reduced to a mere group of cells. There is a fundamental ethical criterion to evaluate all moral questions which relate to procedures involving the human embryo. Donum vitae states, and Dignitas personae reiterates, “thus the fruit of human generation from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality.” This ethical principle should be the basis for any legislation in this area, also.
“. . .the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo give ‘a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of human life.’ ” The question is “how could a human individual not be a human person?” During the entire life span of a human being both before and after birth, there cannot be posited either a change in nature or a gradation of moral value. The human embryo has from the very beginning the dignity proper to a person; full anthropological and ethical status.
Beginning with n.7, there is a beautiful description of the Church’s conviction that what is human is not only received and respected by faith, but also purified, elevated and perfected. What follows, then, is an awesome explanation of Imago Dei.
Let me end with another wonderful quote from this part. “At every stage of his existence, man, created in the image and likeness of God, reflects “the face of His Only-begotten Son. . .This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration-intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is always a good, for it ‘is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of His presence, a trace of His glory.”
To read the whole instruction: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/CDF-Dignitas-Personae.pdf