Vol 22 No 3 2015

The Sacredness of the Person in Secular Societies

Robert Gascoigne


This essay considers the concept of the sacredness of the human person, informed by an understanding of secularization as differentiation. It discusses the use of this concept in the language of human rights, contrasting the perspectives of Michael Ignatieff and Hans Joas, and examining some recent Vatican and Papal documents in this regard. It concludes by arguing that the use of the concept of the sacred in human rights discourse, by both the Church and other actors, rightly resists a strict differentiation between the ethical and the religious, while emphasizing the proper role of natural law and rational argument in ethics.