Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The reality of the human person

Each year the Holy Father delivers a Christmas speech to the Roman Curia. These addresses are always worth paying attention to because in them the pope addresses matters that are of the greatest concern to him and lays out a set of priorities. In his 2010 speech, for example, Pope Benedict gave a brilliant synthesis of Newman on conscience. In 2008 he spoke about humanity's relationship to the created order and of the necessity of recognizing the inherent connection we have to the world and to each other. He also spoke about the consequences of our failure to recognize this connection, which failure is nothing other than a recapitulation of original sin. Original sin basically consists of wanting to be god for ourselves, to be self-determining. In other words, Freud was right, except that we are not content with merely wanting to be our own father, we want to be our own gods and goddesses!

Pointing to the effects of this human tendency is what prompted Malcom Muggeridge to observe that original sin is the most empirically verifiable fact in the world. In his 2008 Christmas address, the Holy Father insisted that even in these fast-paced times when great efforts are being made to overturn man's relationship to reality in order to make humanity more self-determining, that now, more than ever, we have a duty to give witness to the truth, which is why he speaks about "the language of creation":


"Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Credo, the Church cannot and should not confine itself to passing on the message of salvation alone. It has a responsibility for the created order and ought to make this responsibility prevail, even in public. And in so doing, it ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself. What is necessary is a kind of ecology of man, understood in the correct sense. When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender', results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him. But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator. The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition. The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind. This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God. Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation."
This, again, is what makes the legal requirement to recognize and even endorse same sex relationships so problematic. Let's be clear, this is not about denigrating anyone, or disrespecting another, it is not even about failing to see a certain value in all affective human relationships, but an exercise in loving another by loving his/her destiny, which means inviting them into a way of seeing reality more clearly in order that they can live in the awareness of their own destiny. It is certainly our connection to the created order and our place within it that we are prompted to contemplate as we consider the Incarnation of the Son of God.

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