These public acts focus on abortion, which is appropriate. Abortion has been a tremendous threat to human dignity for the past three-and-a-half decades.
It's absolutely clear to me, though, that the same reasoning that underlies a defense of the unborn also underlies a defense of prisoners against torture. That is, the fundamental dignity of the human person.
What does human dignity mean?If every person has a basic dignity, regardless of any actions that person may take or any attributes that person many have, then there are certain implications.
- Every person shares something in common with every other person - namely, that foundational dignity, worth, and value
- That dignity is not subject to loss; no one can take away another's worth as a person, because that dignity is part of actually being a person
- That inalienable dignity requires a certain level of respect and honor, which I suggest minimally implies the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you
So, we ought not murder babies in the womb, because they are persons just as we are, and murder is a crime against their dignity just as much as it is against ours.
Likewise, we ought not torture prisoners, because they are persons just as we are, and torture is a crime against their dignity just as much as it is against ours.
Where does dignity come from?I expect most readers of this blog, at least at first, will be Catholics. With my fellow Christians, I hope there will be no argument that our dignity comes as a gift from God, first by creation, and second by the redemption wrought by our Savior, Jesus Christ. This gift is given to all humanity by God himself, who sends his rain on the just and the unjust alike.
But, for those non-Christians who are reading, I hope it is clear that - whatever source you ascribe human dignity to - this dignity is universally inherent in being human, or it is no basis for morality at all. If "rights" or "values" depend on the situation, or on the will of the people, or on the letter of the law, then there is no reason that you or I could not be subjected to any level of harm - and have no legitimate recourse.
Simply as a practical matter, ascribing dignity to any and every human being makes sense, and the golden rule becomes a basis for moral reasoning.
Therefore, I ask anyone who opposes abortion, anyone who defends human rights in any capacity, to see that we are on the same side: we defend the dignity of the human person against any threat. Any threat to one is a threat to all.