This week a group of MEPs in the European Parliament – often in the news for its strong secularist agenda – organised a hearing on the topic The Political, Legal and Scientific Aspects of Human Dignity.
Branislav Skripek MEP (ECR, Slovakia) told the meeting: “Human dignity is the basis for human rights. It is based on the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore life should be protected from conception to natural death.”
Skripek continued: “It is sad that there are attempts to create new rights – for example the right to abortion and the right to death – which go against the key principles of human dignity. Human dignity should be the basis of the protection of human rights, not the other way around.”
Members of the cross-party Working Group on Human Dignity in the European Parliament, moderated by Slovenian MEP Alojz Peterle (EPP), heard an historical perspective of the development of the concept of human dignity from antiquity onwards.
British bioethics expert David Fieldsend recalled the consequences of denying recognition of the inherent dignity of every single human person. During WWII, he reminded the gathered participants, millions of people were “considered inferior and without rights or protection on various racial, medical or social grounds, allowing them to be harmed or killed at will.”
Fieldsend, who also serves as the president of Sallux, discussed the trend of using human dignity as justification for death, for example the push for recognition of death with dignity and assisted suicide “even though the Council of Europe clearly pronounced against this in 2002 – recognising that a terminally ill or dying person’s wish to die cannot in itself constitute a legal justification to carry out actions intended to bring about death – such initiatives continue.”
Marijana Petir MEP (EPP, Croatia) cited Benedict XVI’s Address to the German Parliament: “The fact is that ‘the culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem and Israel’s monotheism, between Athens and the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Rome and the shape of Roman law.'” The Croatian MEP then added: “This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. It is written in the European DNA to respect the inviolable dignity of every single human person, and as such we are called to defend it at this and every moment in our history.”
Founded by Speaker of the European Parliament Prof. Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP in 2009, the cross-party Working Group on Human Dignity brings together MEPs from six different political groups to discuss issues falling within the scope of an imago Dei based understanding of human dignity.
The Universal Declaration of Human Dignity (which takes into account the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union) remains the foundation of the Working Group. The Working Group’s purpose is to serve as a catalyst to change the way policy makers perceive human dignity and to emphasise that the universal recognition of human dignity above all differences is essential to the development of the human being and the prosperity of society.