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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Comiskey

Medicine for Motion Sickness: Dignitas Infinita, Part 1

‘We cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which is impossible to ignore. Only by acknowledging and accepting this difference in reciprocity can each person fully discover themselves, their dignity, and their identity.’ Dignitas Infinita (59)


We long to be reconciled to what is most authentic about our sexual humanity. Especially children. Kids just want to belong: to be confirmed and roused in their unique skin as boys powerful and tender, girls strong in beauty.


At a conference last week in California, a father blessed me profusely for ministering to his family back at Vineyard Anaheim in the nineties. He then had a son exhibiting dysphoric feminine behavior; I counseled him over the next couple of years. With more attuned fathering, the son grew naturally out of inordinate feminine identification and into whole reconciliation with his creative, centered masculinity. He is an artist today and a community leader, a married man with children.

Original dignity. I delight in my difference as man in relation to woman. Fragrant wisdom draws and balances me. Of course, radical wholeness competes with radical sin. Each of us can slalom between blessedness in our male or female selves to bruising then grasping for order in some disordered way.


As a person still subject to same-sex desires, my commitment to ‘center’ in original dignity has not been easy with Pope Francis. He started his pontificate 11 years ago with ‘who am I to judge?’ ‘gay’ persons and has struggled ever since to carve a clear path pastorally for people like me.


He has accompanied me to confusion. Sitting in the passenger seat behind him at the wheel has given me motion sickness. Fiducia Supplicans ratcheted up the nausea. (I love much about the man and his compassionate leadership but have had to look around and under him to stay grounded on the Church’s foundational teachings on sexuality.)


I am surprised to rejoice in the Pope’s new declaration, Dignitas Infinita, which was written (and refined by many) over a 5-year-period by himself and his doctrine guy, Victor Manuel Fernandez. This refreshing re-articulation of every human person’s dignity felt like Francis was driving straight. I am experiencing terra firma, truth as bedrock; Dignitas invites a world poised on shaky legs and eyes agitated by idolatry to walk a clear path.


I am most attuned to the latter portions of this 20-page document related to sexual clarity, but Dignitas doesn’t allow that (in the best of Catholic tradition). Human dignity spans a spectrum of needs: systemic injustices abound and build on each other. I felt proud to be Catholic and roused to read Francis’ call to prophetic courage in the face of a multi-headed culture of death: abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, war, slavery, genocide, torture, unjust punishment for LGBTQers, grotesque economic inequities, slavery, human trafficking, the death penalty itself, marginalization of the disabled, mistreatment of migrants, violence against women, digital violence, and sexual abuse, beginning with the Church cleansing herself of corruption.


I especially valued this. Building on a Catholic vision of empowering mother and child, Dignitas refuses surrogacy as it violates both. ‘The woman is detached from the child growing in her and becomes… subservient…to the arbitrary gain of others’ (50). Bedrock: protect justice for all at our foundations.       


Dignitas was written to commemorate 75 years of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to expand its scope to include a host of indignities that mask as human ‘liberties’. A postwar world reeling from Nazi atrocities, a nuclear meltdown, and growing concern over communism had evolved.


Francis employs his heavyweight predecessors—Paul VI (Humanae Vitae), John Paul II (Theology of the Body, Veritatis Splendor, et. al), and Benedict XVI (Caritas in Veritate, et. al)— to help him establish ‘human dignity’ on Jesus and His Rock, and the Church as dignity’s promoter and defender. In so doing, Francis challenges false ideas of human freedom that morphed since 1948.        


That is most evident in Francis’ decrying ‘gender theory’, the notion that our sexual selves exist on an expanding spectrum from which we can choose personal options in defiance of the intrinsic duality of male and female. Francis declares that our bodies speak a better word than our sexual identity manipulations (55-60). Who is this guy?!


He roots sexual difference in the Imago Dei, the core of our human nature designed by God, and insists we recognize and revel in that sexual complementarity. We alter that duality to our peril, ‘entering into competition with God Himself’ (57), especially in efforts to change sex (60).


Dignitas Infinita anchors human dignity in ‘the greatest possible difference between living beings, the sexual difference. This foundational difference is not only the greatest imaginable difference but is also the most beautiful and powerful of them. In the male-female couple, this difference achieves the most marvelous of reciprocities. It thus becomes the source of that miracle that never ceases to surprise us: the arrival of new human beings in the world’ (58).


Terra firma, east of Eden. Dignitas is as imperfect as its locale but I’m game. And grateful. The pastor waxed prophetic and gave me medicine for the low-grade nausea he helped to sustain. I’ll take it. And hold fast to Dignitas when he goes rogue and offroad once more. He will. Francis and friends delight in splitting truth from the care of souls, as I’ll describe next week in Part 2.   

Join Andrew on Desert Streaming each week as he dives deeper into his blog. Watch here or listen on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.


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