Human Dignity, Human Rights, and the Image and Likeness of God

Nathaniel Wood is the associate director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, where he serves as managing editor of The Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies and the blog Public Orthodoxy.

The Vatican declaration Dignitas Infinita bears witness to the somewhat ambiguous relationship between human dignity and human rights. The text itself affirms what became the prevailing understanding in the latter part of the twentieth century, enshrined in seminal documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: namely, that rights “derive from the inherent dignity of the human person.” Although this treatment of dignity as the basis of rights bears Catholic influence through the contributions of figures like Jacques Maritain, the documents themselves tend to employ a minimalist concept of dignity. By strategically avoiding philosophical or religious specificity, the documents gain broad support from those who hold to various conceptions of dignity, allowing signatories to affirm human rights based on their own culturally specific conceptions.


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The Global Pretensions of the Russian Orthodox Church

Jerry G. Pankhurst is professor emeritus of sociology and of Russian and Central Eurasian studies at Wittenberg University.

In global affairs, Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church operate in several arenas of action, and their actions are carried out on interrelated moral, normative, canonical, legal, political, and economic dimensions. We might imagine a globe with the headquarters of the Moscow Patriarchate at the center of a worldwide system of converging vectors of action on all these dimensions. (Imagine a huge spider sitting in Moscow with its many legs stretching around the world in all directions.) The vectors originate at the point of convergence, which is His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus’, surrounded by his most faithful assistants in ROC leadership. The vectors stretch out to points around the globe where the ROC has significant interests and attempts to exert influence on others.

One might imagine such a global vectored arrangement for many global organizations from businesses to international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs), but the multiplicity of arenas of action in which the ROC acts is noteworthy; indeed, the ROC must worry about a large number of arenas of action that grow from its particular nature and global position.


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The Russian Orthodox Church Beyond Russia: Global Pretensions and Security Concerns

This series scrutinizes the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in three overlapping contexts: ROC pretensions to the leadership of the Orthodox world, the ROC as a global conservative force, and the ROC as a supporter and tool of Russian geopolitical ambitions.

Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine has significantly affected all three contexts. And it has deepened and intensified conflicts between the ROC and the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its allies as well as the split in global Orthodoxy generally.


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