The Word from Lansing: The Infinite Dignity of Each Person Must Shape Our Public Policies

The Michigan State Capitol building on a clear day.

There is a common thread that links the advocacy work conducted by Michigan Catholic Conference: That every human person possesses an infinite dignity, a truth recently reiterated in the Vatican document Dignitas Infinita approved by Pope Francis this past spring.

The document reaffirms that each person holds infinite dignity simply because “he or she exists and is willed, created, and loved by God,” and that this dignity is “indelible and remains valid beyond any circumstances in which the person may find themselves.”

As we learn from the Holy Father that “human beings possess an intrinsic worth superior to that of material objects and contingent situations,” the result is a greater appreciation for our neighbor and how we treat one another. The principle of human dignity, then, has practical application in public policymaking, which is the focus of MCC’s legislative advocacy. Whether public policy promotes human dignity, or harms it, often determines whether MCC supports or opposes legislation at the Capitol.

This is why policies that intentionally end the lives of people must be opposed. Dignitas Infinita demonstrates these concerns when identifying such issues as war, abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty as “grave violations” of human dignity. The Church for millennia has held human dignity in such high regard that policies that threaten the sanctity of human life cannot be tolerated.

At the same time, human dignity extends beyond preserving the right for individuals to exist. The Vatican document states that human dignity also has a social dimension, which refers to the quality of a person’s living conditions. Dignitas Infinita declares “the drama of poverty” is a grave violation of human dignity, noting that extreme poverty “contributes significantly to denying the dignity of so many human beings.”

The Church proclaims that every person has the right to live in a dignified manner through the provision of basic needs. This is why MCC advocates for policies that assist in various forms: from critical social safety net programs in the state budget to policies that lessen the tax burden on low-income families and workers, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to more low-wage families.

Additional “grave violations” that impact the very dignity of human persons identified in Dignitas Infinita includes human trafficking, sex abuse, surrogacy, and the “travail of migrants,” among others. These issues span across ideological divides and demonstrate that upholding human dignity can and should be a universal principle. It is an invitation to all of us—and one that MCC presents to policymakers—to see these issues through the lens of promoting human dignity, rather than through partisan and ideological lenses.

Thus, it is the mission of Michigan Catholic Conference to advocate for public policy recognizing, as Dignitas Infinita puts it, that “every individual possesses an inalienable and intrinsic dignity from the beginning of his or her existence as an irrevocable gift.”