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Embracing ‘Clarity’: US Bishops’ Pro-Life Chair Affirms ‘Dignitas Infinita’

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, hailing from Arlington, Virginia, and serving as the chair of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, delivered the homily at the commencement Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life on January 19, 2023, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. In a conversation with OSV News on April 9, 2024, Bishop Burbidge expressed his views on a recent Vatican publication concerning human dignity, emphasizing the document’s role in providing “clarity” within the realm of charity and reiterating the fundamental doctrines of the Church.

The newly unveiled Vatican document on human dignity, titled “Dignitas Infinita,” has been hailed by Bishop Burbidge as a significant reaffirmation of the Church’s teachings, particularly on immutable aspects such as the sanctity of life. This declaration, crafted by Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and endorsed by Pope Francis on March 25, delves into the scriptural and authoritative foundations underpinning the Catholic Church’s perspective on human dignity as intrinsic to individuals, emanating from their creation “in the image and likeness of God” and their redemption through Jesus Christ.

Addressing a spectrum of pressing issues, including poverty, warfare, migration challenges, human exploitation, gender-based violence, and ethical dilemmas surrounding topics like abortion and euthanasia, “Dignitas Infinita” serves as a comprehensive guide outlining the Church’s stance on these matters. Bishop Burbidge commended the document for its timely relevance in contemporary dialogues, emphasizing the importance of clarity in articulating the Church’s longstanding positions amidst societal debates.

In emphasizing the significance of precise language in conveying truths, Bishop Burbidge stressed the necessity of confronting prevailing misconceptions and distortions regarding human nature. By anchoring the discussion on human anthropology in divine creation, the document seeks to elucidate the essence of the human person as intricately linked to God’s design, transcending contemporary ambiguities and ideologies.

Moving forward, Bishop Burbidge highlighted the imperative of disseminating the principles outlined in “Dignitas Infinita” at a pastoral level, urging priests to integrate these teachings into their pastoral care and homilies. Emphasizing the inseparable connection between truth and love, Bishop Burbidge underscored the role of authentic communication in guiding individuals towards a deeper understanding of reality and fostering spiritual growth.

As the Church navigates through a landscape marked by uncertainty and moral challenges, Bishop Burbidge’s resolute commitment to upholding truth with compassion stands as a beacon of guidance and support for those grappling with complex ethical dilemmas.