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College Campus Ministry panel discussion explores human dignity

| Thursday, February 1, 2018

Saint Mary’s Campus Ministry explored the relationship of human dignity on issues such as racism, disabilities and autism during a panel discussion Wednesday.

Assistant director of Campus Ministry Emily Sipos-Butler said this panel discussion was intended to explore the inherent human dignity of each and every human person. She said the panel served to reinforce the idea that humans are all created in God’s image and likeness, and it means something for each of person in the Saint Mary’s community, as well as the community as a whole.

“When we talk about this notion in Catholic social teaching of life and dignity of the human person, we often start with life and the right to life — the right to be born — and the next thing that gets added on is natural death,” Sipos-Butler said.

The panel discussion came about as a way to help students and members of the Saint Mary’s community explore a whole variety of issues that relate to the life and dignity of the human person, Sipos-Butler said.

“There is a lot that happens in between the right to life and natural death that relates to life and dignity of the human person, and its impacts on the community as well,” she said. “Ultimately we’re created as social beings. We’re not just individual hermits scattered across the Earth, so we need to look and reflect deeply on each of these issues that affect us and the world around us.”

Michael Waddell, associate professor of philosophy and the McMahon Aquinas Chair in philosophy, said the sanctity of human life is not only a matter for reflection and consideration for Christians but ought to be for all people in society.

The way in which people can foster the flourishing of different types of human goods, Waddell said, is by defending every human being’s right not only to life, but also to education, to healthcare, to work and to living and participating in the world.

“We are not merely beings, we’re human beings — which is to say that we’re rational animals, and as animals we have bodies, and bodies are prone to illness, injury and disability,” he said. “Therefore, we need healthcare to preserve the bodily life. But we’re not just animals either, we’re rational animals, which means we are capable of knowledge, and so we need education to foster the good of knowing truth. As rational beings, it turns out that we are also social beings, and so we need access to the community.”

Andrew Pierce, professor of philosophy and the coordinator of justice studies, discussed racism in contemporary American society as a form of discrimination that violates the principle of solidarity and dignity of all human persons.

“One of the principles that tend to fall out of our broader understanding of human dignity is the principle of solidarity,” he said. “This notion enforces that we are one human family, equal in dignity regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, etc.”

Although our society as a whole still has work to do in becoming truly inclusive and respecting of all types of people, Sipos-Butler said this event is one way of engaging the Saint Mary’s community to talk about and highlight the various issues facing the community today.

“And particularly at a time when I hear from students that some of them are trying to find their place, they’re not sure where they fit in and there is a lot of negative talk in the political arena that heightens anxiety and it erodes not only civil discourse, but also how we understand other human persons,” she said. “This is a way to engage as Christians and members of society to contribute anything that we can to uphold this notion of the life and dignity of the human person as being really foundational for not only our society but here on our campus as well.”

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