12 December 2008

Dignitatis Personae Released Today

Today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the CDF is issuing the Instruction Dignitatis Personae, concerning many important issues relevant to life sciences.  Fittingly, it bears a date of 8 September 2008, the Feast of the Birth of Our Lady.  

The link to the document (English translation) is here.  

Until then, here is a link to an article at the Washington Times.  

And below is from the summary at the Vatican website:

Regarding the Instruction Dignitas Personae


In recent years, biomedical research has made great strides, opening new possibilities for the treatment of disease, but also giving rise to serious questions which had not been directly treated in the Instruction Donum vitae (22 February 1987).  A new Instruction, which is dated 8 September 2008, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, seeks to provide some responses to these new bioethical questions, as these have been the focus of expectations and concerns in large sectors of society.  In this way, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith seeks both to contribute “to the formation of conscience” (n. 10) and to encourage biomedical research respectful of the dignity of every human being and of procreation.


The Instruction opens with the words Dignitas personae – the dignity of  a person, which must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death.  This fundamental principle expresses “a great ‘yes’ to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research” (n. 1).


The document is an Instruction of a doctrinal nature, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and expressly approved by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  The Instruction therefore falls within the category of documents that “participate in the ordinary Magisterium of the successor of Peter” (Instruction Donum veritatis, n.18), and is to be received by Catholics “with the religious assent of their spirit” (Dignitas personae, n. 37). 


For several years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been studying new biomedical questions with a view to updating the Instruction Donum vitae.  In undertaking the examination of such new questions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “has benefited from the analysis of the Pontifical Academy for Life and has consulted numerous experts with regard to the scientific aspects of these questions, in order to address them with the principles of Christian anthropology.  The EncyclicalsVeritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae of John Paul II, as well as other interventions of the Magisterium, offer clear indications with regard to both the method and the content of the examination of the problems under consideration” (n. 2). 

Intended recipients of the document 

The Instruction is meant for “all who seek the truth” (n. 3). Indeed, in presenting principles and moral evaluations regarding biomedical research on human life, the Catholic Church “draws upon the light both of reason and of faith and seeks to set forth an integral vision of man and his vocation, capable of incorporating everything that is good in human activity, as well as in various cultural and religious traditions which not infrequently demonstrate a great reverence for life” (n. 3). 


The Instruction has three parts: “the first recalls some anthropological, theological and ethical elements of fundamental importance; the second addresses new problems regarding procreation; the third examines new procedures involving the manipulation of embryos and the human genetic patrimony” (n. 3).


Anonymous said...


Does this new document actually say anything new?

I think many of these Vatican officials just keep putting out new "important" documents in order to justify their cushy jobs, or to impress people. It really isn't for any genuine pastoral need. I've heard other knowledgeable people state this same judgment.

Meanwhile, Vatican official remain silent on things that really matter like the annulment travesty, veils at mass, the fact that Catholics have abortions at a higher rate that most other groups, the lack of belief in the Real Presence. Many official in Rome are just playing games and doing busywork, just government bureaucrats in other contexts, I believe.

Tom the Malcontent

thetimman said...

Due to work obligations I have not been able to read the document yet, but when I do I hope to post some commentary.

Anonymous said...


I haven't read this new document on bio-ethics either.

But, in light of fact that we all know and the bishops know and survey after survey shows that there is virtually no observance of the Church's teaching on birth control, what can yet another document mean or do?

Bishops are not called to be like college professors, just publishing one thing after another.

Birth control is a bio-ethics issue, and it is the one that plays a role in nearly everyone's life.

So if Catholics are allowed to freely ignore the Church's teaching on birth control, why would they pay any attention to what the Church teaches on other bio-ethics matters?

Tom the Malcontent ("Libera nos...)

Anonymous said...

1. While I absolutely think more still needs to be done by bishops to address public denials of Catholic teaching on birth-control by self-identified Catholics, it should also be kept in mind that no one ultimately "is allowed to" or "gets away with" contradicting the wisdom of the Church. Just because it may seem certain teachings aren't canonically "enforced" to the extent they could be, doesn't mean Catholics of good will don't need to be taught the truth so that they can live it.

2. Although the new document repeats a great deal that has been said before (and frankly I think that is worth doing), it also contains new material. It addresses directly a number of new technologies that were not addressed in Donum Vitae. It also gives what I would consider a clear (though somewhat tentative) no on embryo adoption; and warns that there are unresolved doubts about what is being done in the ANT/OAR procedure supported by some prominent Catholic ethicists; and discusses I believe to a greater extent than any previous document on this level problems such as the effectively abortifacient nature of certain "contraceptives," and the use of illicitly obtained biological materials for medical research and treatment. Among other things.

Anonymous said...

I have read the document, and I plan to send it to all my friends and discuss it with them. Life goes on, irrespective of any unhappiness or discontent in any particular individual. In the same way, the Church will keep on teaching even if it seems that nobody is listening. And in fact, there are many people, especially young people listening. The conflicts and crises of recent times have shown that human beings need God, and that 'progress' is mythical without a deep respect for the human person.