Shortly after his episcopal ordination in 1988, the newly named Bishop of Sioux City, IA found himself in Rome for an ad limina visit. At the end of the audience with Pope John Paul II, Cardinal DiNardo recalls, “He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Remember bishop, it’s all about the human person.’”
While it is understandable that Cardinal DiNardo would recall this encounter with the Holy Father fondly, I’ll be very honest; reading this made me cringe.
Being a Christian (never mind a Successor to the Apostles) isn’t really “all about the human person;” it’s about Jesus Christ!
Yea, sure, the Holy Father was engaging in a little hyperbole, I get it. After all, it was only one sentence uttered to a newly consecrated bishop by a Roman Pontiff who reigned for nearly 27 years. Surely, he never intended for anyone to treat it as an ecclesiastical manifesto for the ages, but that said, it sure seems like the Church has been doing just that for quite some time now.
Anyone paying attention cannot help but notice how frequently our clerics proclaim “the rights of the human person” and how utterly infrequently (if ever) they speak about the rights of Christ the King – the Sovereign and Ruler to whom every human person is beholden.
Think I’m engaging in a little hyperbole of my own? Try this:
Do a site specific Google search on www.vatican.va for the terms “rights of the human person” and “Christ the King” and here’s what you’ll find:
“Christ the King” returns 256 results on the website of the Holy See, while “rights of the human person” returns no less than 2,900!
It’s a sign of the times. Our perspective is skewed. We behave as though we really do think it’s all about us.
Consider the way in which we speak about “religious freedom” here in the U.S. We wail and cry as though the freedom to practice the religion of one’s own choosing is a fundamental human right granted by God.
Guess what? It’s not!
One of the reasons the overwhelming majority of Catholics mistakenly believe that that’s the case is that our clergy rarely or never (at least in my experience) talk about the Lord’s right to be worshiped in truth, in the way that He Himself established, and our duty to render said worship to God as the first demand of justice.
Long story short, it’s no more “all about the human person” than it’s all about the hokey pokey. It’s about Jesus Christ.