It is true that we find the best examples of real human dignity in the canonized saints. The most striking feature of the human dignity of the saints is the fact that it is conspicuous by its absence! Think of the gross insult to all human dignity embraced by Saint Peter – our first Pope – in being – by his own request – crucified upside down – because he was unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Our Lord and Master – Jesus Christ. Or the desire of St. Ignatius of Antioch to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts into a perfect wheat for Christ! This is human dignity reduced to the lowest form of life in the hierarchy of being. Or the perfect joy of St. Francis. This is the time in history when the Franciscan mode of spirituality is given free rein! The Franciscans control EWTN, - the one and only worldwide television network that can be called Catholic. But I have not yet heard of the perfect joy in St. Francis. That episode, though fictional, is a true representation of the real spirituality of St. Francis – and it is a truly shameful picture of human dignity on the fact of both the doorkeeper who refused hospitality to the begging wayfarers, and the true followers of Christ, who had nowhere to lay their heads, even in the midst of the snows of the Alpine winter!
Well, it’s hard to know for sure just what they mean by this human dignity in practice – because in practice it turns out to be a disguise for pride. This, at least, is the constant teaching of asceticism – which is but the flip side of truly Catholic mysticism. The nada and toda of St. John of the Cross are but the total death – even annihilation (anneantisement) of the prideful self inherited from Adam as the consequence of his Original Sin. Baptism removes the guilt, but not the wounds – the consequences in our disordered nature, of that Original Sin inherited with the physical body from our biological parents. All talk of human dignity should be based solely, on the “image and likeness” of Genesis One: 26-27, and securely caged in by the subsequent Fall and its consequences. This leaves the souls of men and women and children pretty much stripped – especially in these our corrupt times – of all but that saving disposition – theologically termed the potential obedientialis or potency- that is – disposition for the obedience required by divine Catholic Faith, Hope and Charity.
It is extremely distressing to find in a nursing home - such as the one in which I am living, so many Catholics who, to all appearances – have lost all hope of heaven. Of course, only God knows what is going on in the depths of the soul. I speak only as one adult Catholic seeking Catholic “fellowship” with another Catholic. I can attest to this: at least two Catholics have followed my example in making the Sign of the Cross at meals. And one of these says the Rosary every day, although cancer is taking her down physically – very visibly. There is a great field – white for the harvest here – but I see no Tradtionalist priests taking it up. The Catholics here, except myself, all of whom are Novus Ordo, do, indeed, receive the ministrations of some sweet old ladies who bring Holy Communion about once or twice a month on weekdays.