HeadlineHuman dignity, digital violence and media

Human dignity, digital violence and media

Mn Peio Sánchez

e propose this reflection based on the recent Declaration of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith dated April 2, 2024, which begins with these words: “an infinite dignity, which is inalienably grounded in his own being, belongs to every human person, beyond all circumstances and in whatever state or situation he may find himself” (DI,1). This proposal is especially appropriate for those of us who live in the task of the media. 

To fix the biblical source of human dignity we turn to the first pages of Genesis “let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26). This implies that “being created in the image of God means, therefore, that we possess a sacred value within us that transcends all sexual, social, political, cultural and religious distinctions” (DI, 11). God is the defender of human dignity, especially of the weak “he hears the cry of the poor, sees the misery of his people, cares for the least and the oppressed (cf. Ex 3:7; 22:20-26) … in particular for the threefold category of the orphan, the widow and the stranger (cf. Dt 24:17)” (DI, 11). Already in Jesus of Nazareth this dignity acquires a special value through the incarnation and redemption. “Throughout his ministry, Jesus affirmed the value and dignity of all who are bearers of the image of God, regardless of their social status and external circumstances. Jesus broke down cultural and cultic barriers, restoring dignity to the “discarded” or those considered on the margins of society: tax collectors (cf. Mt 9:10-11), women (cf. Jn 4:1-42), children (cf. Mk 10:14-15), lepers (cf. Mt 8:2-3), the sick (cf. Mk 1:29-34), foreigners (cf. Mt 25:35), widows (cf. Lk 7:11-15)” (DI,12).

Subsequent theological reflection brought the concept of “person” to deepen the foundations of dignity. And it is on this heritage that the consensus on human rights grew, as manifested in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of 1948 when it assumes “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. However, words are carried away by the wind and we live in the midst of concrete and serious violations of this dignity. For this reason, and in a specific way, we communicators are faced with “a jolt of responsibility and active commitment” (DI,33).

Communicators are especially concerned with denouncing these violations of human dignity. “One of the phenomena that most contributes to deny the dignity of so many human beings is extreme poverty, linked to the unequal distribution of wealth” (DI, 36). “Another tragedy that denies human dignity is that caused by war…With its trail of destruction and pain, war attacks human dignity in the short and long term.” (DI.38) Migrants are among the first victims of the multiple forms of poverty.”(DI,40) “Trafficking in persons must also be considered a grave violation of human dignity” (DI,41). “The profound dignity inherent in the human being in his totality of mind and body allows us to understand also why all sexual abuse leaves deep scars in the hearts of those who suffer it: they are, in fact, wounded in their human dignity” (DI,43). “Violence against women is a global scandal, increasingly recognized. Although the equal dignity of women is recognized in words, in some countries the inequalities between women and men are very serious, and even in the most developed and democratic countries the concrete social reality testifies that women are often not recognized as having the same dignity as men” (DI, 44). “The Church never ceases to recall that “the dignity of every human being is intrinsic and applies from the moment of conception until natural death. Precisely the affirmation of this dignity is the indispensable prerequisite for the protection of a personal and social existence, and also the necessary condition for the realization of fraternity and social friendship among all the peoples of the earth” (DI, 47). “The Church, too, takes a stand against the practice of surrogate motherhood, whereby the child, immensely worthy, becomes a mere object” (DI, 48). “A criterion to verify the real attention to the dignity of each individual is obviously the attention given to the most disadvantaged. Our time, unfortunately, is not distinguished by such attention: in fact, a culture of discarding is taking hold. To counteract this tendency, the condition of those who find themselves in a situation of physical or psychological deficit deserves special attention and solicitude” (DI, 53). “For this reason, it must be denounced as contrary to human dignity that in some places not a few people are imprisoned, tortured and even deprived of the good of life, solely because of their sexual orientation.” (DI,55).

Because of its special impact on social communication, “Dignitas infinita” also urges us to confront digital violence. For “the advance of digital technologies, while offering many possibilities for promoting human dignity, tends more and more to create a world in which exploitation, exclusion and violence are growing, which can end up attacking the dignity of the human person.” (DI, 61). Of particular concern is that “the digital media can expose people to the risk of dependence, isolation and progressive loss of contact with concrete reality, hindering the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.” (DI,61)

And I conclude with an appeal of Pope Francis in “Fratelli tutti”: “the media can help us to feel closer to one another, to perceive a renewed sense of unity in the human family, which will impel us to solidarity and to a serious commitment to a more dignified life for all” (FT, 205). This continues to be our mission, grace and commitment to carry it out.


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