Benedict XVI, Human Dignity, and Absolute
Moral Norms

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Abstract

Pope Benedict XVI often uses the concept of the dignity of the human person in his discourse. This article firstly attempts to present a synthesis of Benedict XVI's understanding of human dignity. The result is a multidimensional understanding of human dignity based on the belief that the human person is created in the image of God. Human dignity is constituted by the given-ness of human existence, the capacities inherent in being human—freedom, reason, love and community—and the telos of human existence, namely, spiritual union with God and the practical realisation of a peaceful and mutually edifying human coexistence. Based on this understanding of human dignity, Benedict XVI develops a normative morality. The second part of this article asks whether interpretations of this normative morality that would claim that some of these norms are absolute moral norms are in fact correct. Particular attention is paid to the apparent equation or reduction of human dignity to the dignity of life. The conclusion is, though it is possible to read Benedict XVI's normative morality as advocating absolute moral norms, such an interpretation would be usually incorrect in light of Benedict XVI's more comprehensive understanding of human dignity.

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