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Understanding of human person is focus of pro-life conference

In Psalm 8:4, King David proposes a profound question to God: "Who is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" As response to some form of this same question (Who is man?), various visions of the human person have been proposed by history’s greatest thinkers.

This question is not reserved for saints and scholars, but an inquiry that we must confront during our earthly pilgrimage. This anthropological question, which attempts to understand what it means to be a human person, provokes each one of us to a search for meaning.

Award-winning novelist Walker Percy believed it was impossible to not answer the question about the nature of the human person: "I suspect that most of us, whether we consciously profess it or not, are already equipped with a theory of man. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how one can live one’s life and work with other people day in and day out unless one has already made certain assumptions about one’s own nature as well as other people’s."

As Christians, we are well equipped with – as Saint John Paul II coined it – an "adequate anthropology." This "adequate anthropology" provides us an "understanding and interpretation of man in what is essentially human."

At its core, to be human is to be one who is created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26-27). As the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" so beautifully states:
"[B]eing in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. Further, he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead" (CCC, 357).

But this sure and certain vision of the human person offered to us by Scripture and developed by the tradition of the church has been lost in our own day. In a technocratic age, bombarded by information, misleading theories of man have been proposed to us that undermine our intelligent, moral and social capacities.

This year’s pro-life conference (Sept. 22-24) in Omaha – "Made in His Image: Human Dignity in a Secular World" – seeks to restore and re-articulate the "adequate anthropology" Christ and his church have established for us.

An array of national and local speakers will cover topics such as a general overview of the human person created in the image and likeness of God; how to effectively communicate the message of human dignity; how biological science supports the theology of the body; moral problems surrounding reproductive technologies and embryo research; the issues surrounding legal coercion and human dignity; formation of the intellect and the influence of technology; and reverencing the whole human person in psychology.

The pro-life banquet, set for Friday, Sept. 23, will feature keynote speaker Vicki Thorn of Project Rachel, who will help us identify the post-abortive woman so we can assist the Lord in the healing and restoration of her human dignity.

The banquet – a 5 p.m. social hour with Nebraska bishops and dinner at 6 p.m. – also will include a celebration of gratitude as we present our annual "Gospel of Life" award to Greg Schleppenbach for the 25 years of service he offered in Nebraska to defend the dignity of the human person, especially unborn children and their families.

This year’s pro-life conference and banquet will be held at the Creighton University Harper Center in Omaha. For more information and to register for the conference and/or the dinner, visit

As we seek to lead souls to the truth, way, and life of Jesus Christ, it is imperative we understand the splendor of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God. We are beautiful – we are dignified. We look forward to seeing you at the conference and banquet!


Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at

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