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Elements of Serra

Blessed Junipero Serra


Being Human

A Reflection Paper commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Committee for Doctrine and Morals

Prepared by Gerald Gleeson

Being Human is a statement of "the understanding of our humanity that underpins Catholic ethical teachings". It is a clear and thorough paper on what we are, how we can orient ourselves towards the love of God and neighbour, and do good in our life.

Nobody can tell us exactly how to love, because love is personal. Love's ubiquitous characteristic is that the lover is aware of a personal God and the value of the person, and responds to situations in a good and personal way. Much of Being Human can be said to relate to the virtue of justice, towards God and neighbour. The connection is that justice often demands love, and he who loves will, ipso facto, be just towards the other person.

Being Human delivers on its claim to have a "positive emphasis". However the reader should note the author's statement in this context that "to affirm something is to exclude its opposite". There are five main chapters conforming to five "guiding affirmations":

"Each and every human being is a unique person created in the image of God."

"Human persons are at once both spiritual and material beings: we belong to the physical universe and yet we are destined for relationship with God, now and for all eternity. We are finite beings with the capacity for God who is infinite."

"We are moral beings commanded to love God and neighbour, and thereby to acknowledge and pursue the truth about what is good."

"We are social beings called to establish and maintain just and faithful relationships with all other members of the human family."

"We are sexual beings whose fulfilment lies in the gift of self to another. Genital sexuality finds its true expression in the commitment of marriage and the procreation of new human life."

Being Human is written in a philosophical style but it is developed from within the tradition of Catholic belief. It is only 62 pages in length, yet for most people it will require concentrated reading, and it will have to be read several times in order to completely absorb the rich statement that it constitutes.

Many people will recognise that this paper is much needed in our times. A materialistic disposition has developed in conjunction with the rapid advances in science, and this has led to a "crisis of truth". This paper is a Catholic response written since the turn of the century and at pains to give due recognition to the place of science and the existence of different beliefs.

If you know a person who is thoughtful and who is honestly seeking then give that person a copy of Being Human. It would be the best $5 present that you could buy.

John L Smith
Vice President - Communications
Serra Club of Canberra
November, 2004

© Serra Club of Canberra 2004