Universität Wien
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010109 SE Human Dignity as a Foundation for Ethics, Church structures and Society (2020S)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 1 - Katholische Theologie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Monday 25.05. 08:45 - 13:00 Seminarraum 1 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Monday 25.05. 15:00 - 17:30 Seminarraum 5 (Kath) Schenkenstraße 1.OG
Tuesday 26.05. 08:45 - 14:45 Seminarraum 1 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Wednesday 27.05. 08:45 - 11:15 Seminarraum 1 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Wednesday 27.05. 13:15 - 18:15 Seminarraum 1 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Thursday 28.05. 08:00 - 13:00 Prominentenzimmer Hauptgebäude, Tiefparterre Hof 4
Thursday 28.05. 15:00 - 18:15 Prominentenzimmer Hauptgebäude, Tiefparterre Hof 4
Friday 29.05. 08:00 - 13:00 Prominentenzimmer Hauptgebäude, Tiefparterre Hof 4


Aims, contents and method of the course

The concept of human dignity belongs to that group of concepts that are easily and widely acknowledged and accepted, but rarely specified and discussed in detail. Within the context of the Church and theology, one might harbour an impression that the concept was always there and that human dignity has been upheld as not only a but the foundation of ethics, church structures, and society for centuries or even millennia. This is, sadly, not the case; at least not in any straight-forward sense. For example, when it comes to the Church teaching, the concept of (human) dignity was introduced only at the end of the 19th century by Leo XIII in his famous encyclical Rerum novarum. Although the concept made further scattered appearances in subsequent social encyclicals, it was certainly not treated as “foundational” in any way, but only as an element of the wider natural law approach. The paradigm change, in that regard, will happen only at the end of the Second Vatican Council with the promulgation of the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes and the declaration Dignitas humanae.
By making human dignity foundational for what they had to say about the Church in the modern world and about religious freedom, these two documents initiated a paradigm shift in how Catholics understand and live faith. Although the implications of that shift were far from clear at the time of the Council, it is undeniable that its importance translates into a mandate for the Church as a community to reflect further on and make human dignity truly foundational for the life of the Church, including its ethics, structures, and what it has to say to society.
This course/summer school will, therefore, first investigate how the Church and theology understand human dignity and to which extent is this understanding compatible with other accounts of human dignity. It will then proceed with an exploration of the status of the concept of human dignity in theological ethics, including bioethics, and the extent to which human dignity has been implemented in church structures. Finally, the issue of the role of human dignity in society at large will be addressed, while keeping in mind that the witness of the Church in that regard depends largely on how successful it was in reforming itself in accordance with the demands of human dignity.

Assessment and permitted materials

contributions to discussions, seminar paper(s), final paper

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

The course assessment comprises of three items: class participation and contribution to discussions (30%); presentation (30%); final paper (40%).

Examination topics

Reading list

will be recommended in due course

Association in the course directory

für 011 (15W) FTH 17 oder FTH 26, 198 418 BA UF RK 16, 199 518 MA UF RK 02 oder RK 05, 033 195 (17W) BRP 18krp, BRP 18ktb, auslaufende Studienpläne: für 011 (11W) D31 oder DAM, 033 195 (15W) BAM 13

Last modified: We 15.12.2021 00:14