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Moral Obligation is Our Dignity


Moral obligation is not man's prison, from which he must liberate himself in order finally to be able to do what he wants.

angelsben It is moral obligation that constitutes his dignity, and he does not become more free if he discards it: on the contrary, he takes a step backward, to the level of a machine, or a mere thing. If there is no longer any obligation to which he can and must respond in freedom, then there is no longer any realm of freedom at all.

The recognition of morality is the real substance of human dignity; but one cannot recognize this without simultaneously experiencing it as an obligation of freedom. Morality is not man's prison but rather the divine element in him...

For nature is not — as is asserted by a totalitarian scientism — some assemblage built up by chance and its rules of play but is rather a creation. A creation in which the Creator Spiritus expresses himself. This is why there are not only natural laws in the sense of physical functions: the specific natural law itself is a moral law. Creation itself teaches us how we can be human in the right way.

The Christian faith, which helps us to recognize creation as creation, does not paralyze reason; it gives practical reason the life-sphere in which it can unfold. The morality that the Church teaches is not some special burden for Christians: it is the defence of man against the attempt to abolish him. If morality — as we have seen — is not the enslavement of man but his liberation, then the Christian faith is the advance post of human freedom.

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Benedict Pope Benedict XVI. "Moral Obligation is Our Dignity." from A Turning Point for Europe (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1994).

This excerpt appeared in Magnificat.  

The Author

Benedict73smBenedict72Pope Benedict XVI is the author of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est,The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Salt of the Earth: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church at the End of the Millennium, God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, The Spirit of the Liturgy, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Introduction to Christianity, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Behold the Pierced One, and God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life.

Copyright © 1994 Ignatius Press

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