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How Choice Replaced Human Nature


The age of Jenner, Obergefell, and #BlackLivesMatter puts issues of identity at the center of public life. As Catholics and citizens we need to understand what that means.

Personal identity orients us in the world. As such, it has both individual and social functions. It enables us to order our lives by telling us what we are and how we fit into the world. And it greatly eases social functioning by telling people how they connect to institutions and what they owe them.

For a Catholic his identity includes Catholicism—his membership in the Church and orientation toward God and the world. It also includes his sex, state in life as married, ordained, or vowed, and basic family connections such as parentage. We can’t rightly abandon such things, they are fundamental to who we are, and they determine our most basic relationships and duties, thereby supporting the Church and the natural family as fundamental social institutions.

Other aspects of identity are less basic and more dependent on social conditions. More distant family relationships and the cultural networks into which we are born, for example, are less important today than in the past.

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