Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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To any vigilant person who can detect deepening flaws in the fabric of the ambient culture, the fundamental concept of human dignity is under assault throughout society. A person is no longer seen as unique, precious and unrepeatable. On the contrary, he or she is too often nothing more than a statistic. Moreover, “dignity” is readily predicated as a reason for refusal of medical treatments, as well as for euthanasia and so-called “physician assisted suicide.”

What, really, then, is human dignity? As Professor William E. May has argued, the concept of dignity is profound and complex. Three “types” can be identified: (1) inherent dignity, reflecting the image of God the Creator; (2) the dignity achieved through making moral choices; and (3) the dignity acquired by virtue of becoming God’s sons and daughters. (Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Life, 2nd ed., OSV 2008)

The first – that dignity possessed by all “members of the human race” – simply means being fashioned in God’s very image. This concept of human dignity belongs inherently to all (in Dr. May’s words) “living members of the human species” precisely because of humanity’s reflecting the image of God (Ibid.). Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that the “fundamental reason for dignity is that every person is called “to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life.” (Nos. 356, 7) This primary concept of human dignity entails responsibility, of course, because it reminds all humans to safeguard their status by defending their right to make free and informed decisions.

The second type of human dignity, in Dr. May’s view, is that which persons are called to embrace by “freely choosing to shape [their] choices and actions in accord with the truth.” (Catholic Bioethics) It is one thing to claim this kind of dignity by virtue of being made in the image of God; however, it is another thing to fulfill this by doing the right thing. Vatican Council II strongly reasserted this in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. (No. 17) This kind of dignity clearly requires the exercise of freedom; informed freedom. Hence, the need for the free consent of a patient for medical treatment.

The third and last kind of dignity is that by means of which the gift of divine life is bestowed upon those cared for or treated as manifestations of Christ himself, the divine Healer.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.