Pillar: The Human Person

The Human Person

The first pillar of a decent society is respect for the human person, which recognizes that all individual human beings have dignity simply because of the kind of being they are: animals whose rational faculties allow them to know, love, reason, and communicate. It also recognizes that human beings are persons, members of the human family who flourish in a community that respects their fundamental rights and who long to discover transcendent truths about the nature of reality.

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Anthropological Fallacies

Body-self dualism, and its social manifestation in expressive individualism, underlie the rejection of our given human natures. Rather than seeing ourselves as somehow inhabiting bodies that are used as mere instruments, we should see ourselves as incarnate, bodily beings embedded in communities and bound by natural and supernatural laws.


Brain Tumors, Lethal Drugs, and the Art of Dying

The growing movement to legalize physician-assisted suicide raises fundamental questions about how to die well. The late medieval Ars moriendi text, which argues that preparation for death should be directed toward the goal of union with God, provides a valuable framework for more successfully incorporating the art of dying into a contemporary context.


The Right to a Dead Baby? Abortion, Ableism, and the Question of Autonomy

How we treat imperiled newborns—not only after a failed abortion attempt, but also in a more traditional NICU setting—is essential for fully grasping the current understanding of the right to abortion. When we examine the central role ableism plays in both sets of issues, thinking about them together provides an anti-ableist critique that has important implications for both prenatal and neonatal justice.


A Post-Roe Legislative Agenda for Congress

In the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer, pro-life legislators must act to protect human life in the womb. They should introduce legislation to recognize the personhood of the unborn, strip the ability of federal courts to hear challenges to this recognition, create a private right of action to help enforce anti-abortion policy, and use the taxing power to cripple the abortion industry.


Abortion Laws across the Globe and at Home

Given the ongoing evolution of abortion law in the United States, it makes sense to engage and evaluate the constitutions and laws of other jurisdictions. Although these sources and materials do not determine the meaning of our Constitution, they can illuminate our scientific, medical, and ethical debates. A particularly valuable resource, which explores abortion jurisprudence across a variety of legal contexts, is Unborn Human Life and Fundamental Rights: Leading Constitutional Cases under Scrutiny, edited by William L. Saunders and Pilar Zambrano.


School Choice: Protecting Parental Rights, Resolving Curriculum Wars, and Reducing Inequality

In Part I of this essay, I outlined the key tenets of critical race theory and showed how popularized versions of this controversial theory have made their way into many public schools across the nation. Today, in Part II, I explain why the teaching of CRT-inspired ideas in public schools is contrary to parental rights; I propose school choice measures as a crucial part of the solution.


Technology and the Soul: The Spiritual Lessons of Digital Distraction

The age of digital media has unleashed a profoundly threatening human experiment. By drawing us to waste not only our time, but our attention, social media seduces us to waste our souls. Our brightest engineers have trained our most powerful technology to act with the psychological craftiness of demons. Neuroscience helps us understand how digital media is changing us, but we need a more classical language about the soul to understand, and protect ourselves from, the most ominous of these changes.


Conscience, Virtue, and Moral Concerns about COVID Vaccines

Many Catholics have found their consciences rattled by COVID vaccine mandates and are seeking conscience protections and exemptions. But to champion conscience for its own sake, without appreciating what forms and informs it, is to err on a fundamental level. Any consideration of conscience must be aided by the virtues, those firm dispositions of the soul that enable us to act well in every circumstance—no matter how complex or challenging.


Catholic Bishops Fail in Defending Conscience

Several Catholic dioceses have conflated the teaching of the Church with scientific or prudential judgment about the common good during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led many bishops to dismiss legitimate concerns about COVID vaccines felt by individuals with sensitive consciences. In so doing, these bishops ignore the Church’s teachings about the grave duty to obey one’s conscience.


Our Plastic World—And Plastic Selves

The collapse of traditional, external anchors of identity—perhaps most obviously those of religion, nation, and family—explains the attraction of the turn inward. The rise of technology feeds the notion that we can bend nature to our will, that the world is just so much raw, plastic material from which we can make whatever meaning or reality we choose. We no longer think of ourselves as subject to the world’s fixed nature, or of it as having an objective authority or meaning. We are the ones with power, and we are the ones who give the world significance.


The End of the Pandemic

Perhaps the end of the pandemic is not a matter of eliminating COVID-19 but rather coming to terms with our own mortality. We need to learn how to survive and thrive in the pandemic, even as we try to mitigate the effects of the virus. For guidance, we can turn to Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich, who was delivered from his anxious, tormented bondage by conquering his fear of death and adopting selfless concern for others.


On Tech and Dignity: How We Can Stay Human (Part II)

The only way to avoid a posthuman future is by affirming the goodness of being human in both our personal choices and social and legal institutions. Most importantly, we should recommit to the virtue of religion: giving God His due. Religion teaches us to value the ontological goodness of our creatureliness, exhorts us to take steps to preserve it, and gives us the confidence to do so. When we’re steeped in a religious mode of being, we’re content just to be human; we have no need or desire to grasp for more.


On Tech and Dignity: The Posthuman Technology That Threatens Us All (Part I)

Part I addresses the threat that technology poses to human dignity because of the threat it poses to humanity itself—both elites and non-elites. Transgenderism is the first step on the road to a miserable posthuman future. Part II argues that we must recommit to the virtue of religion if we’re to resist this technologized, posthuman threat.


Can You Have Human Dignity without Christianity?

When Christianity enters a society, it provides an understanding of inherent and equal human dignity that lifts up those whom that society has considered unworthy. But what happens when Christianity recedes? Christian human dignity is not founded on maximizing fairness or autonomy, but on the fact that all human beings are made free and in the image of God. If it becomes detached from that principle, then human dignity no longer makes sense.


Recovering the Soul of Psychiatry: A Conversation with Johns Hopkins’s Dr. Margaret Chisolm

“I want to give people hope, people living with mental illness as well as family members of people living with mental illness, that not only can they survive their illness, but they can also reach their greatest potential. Sometimes, in fact, they reach their greatest potential not despite the illness, but because of the illness.”

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