Kirchhoffer, D. (2016). The Roman Catholic church on the secularization of the concept of human dignity [accepted manuscript]. Louvain Studies,39(3), 240-260. Belgium: Peeters. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2143/LS.39.3.3170048
Human dignity is a contested concept in contemporary moral discourse. One of the causes of this is the varying claims concerning the ground of human dignity, including religious and non-religious grounds. Consequently, some scholars have called for the dismissal of the concept of human dignity. Others, however, seem to be attempting to resacralize the concept of human dignity by arguing that the only legitimate ground is a religious one. This article argues that the reason that the concept of human dignity has been so successful in expanding the moral circle is because of a conscious attempt to secularize the concept in the drafting of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This secularized conceptualization has found support in post-war developments in Roman Catholic Social Teaching. The resacralization is, therefore, contrary to both the secular and Roman Catholic understandings that have developed in the second half of the twentieth century. Furthermore, it does not present an adequate solution to the problem of dignity talk because it ignores the reason the drafters of the Universal Declaration opted for a secularized understanding of human dignity in the first place.
School of Theology
Open Access Journal Article