Dignitatis Humanae Institute

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The Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), also known as the Institute for Human Dignity and L’Istituto Dignitatis Humanae, is a Catholic-inspired NGO based in Rome. Its mission is to "protect and promote human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is born in the image and likeness of God."[1] The primary aim of the DHI is "to promote this vision of authentic human dignity mainly by supporting Christians in public life, assisting them in presenting effective and coherent responses to increasing efforts to silence the Christian voice in the public square."[1] The DHI coordinates several parliamentary working groups on human dignity based in various legislatures throughout the world and also hosts the annual invitation-only International Conference on Human Dignity, in Rome, which was held at the Vatican in 2013.[2]


According to founder Benjamin Harnwell, the motivation to create the DHI derived from a celebrated case in 2004 when Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione was vetoed for the position of the European Commission's Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security apparently because of his Catholic beliefs.[3] In 2008, as a response, a collection of Christian personalities formed the DHI to oversee the creation of several parliamentary human dignity working groups across a diverse number of legislatures.[3]

Universal Declaration of Human Dignity[edit]

The Universal Declaration of Human Dignity was launched on 8 December 2008 by the International Committee on Human Dignity and aims to codify what is meant by human dignity:

that man is made in the image and likeness of God; that this image and likeness proceeds in every single human being without exception from conception until natural death; and that the most effective means of safeguarding this recognition is through the active participation of the Christian faith in the public square.[4]

The Universal Declaration is the basis of the parliamentary working groups that have been established to promote it.


The Institute has operated from Rome since 2011, moving from its office in the European Parliament where it had operated since its founding in 2008.[5] Since July 2010, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, former President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has held the position of Honorary President.[6]

In February 2013, Cardinal Martino confirmed the appointment of Luca Volontè as Chairman of the Institute.[7] Formerly a member of the Italian Parliament from 1996 to 2013 and President of the European People's Party in the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Volonté succeeded Lord Nicholas Windsor, who had served as chairman since 2011, himself taking over that role from DHI founder Benjamin Harnwell.[8]

Parliamentary working groups[edit]

In 2009, European Parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering officially launched the European Parliament's Working Group on Human Dignity, and together with twenty-five other MEP’s, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Dignity as the Working Group’s foundational document. Currently, there have been launched other parallel working groups within the national parliaments of Lithuania, Romania, and the United Kingdom, all based on the same document.

The aim of these groups is to provide a network of support for politicians who promote the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Dignity and to create a space where politicians can work together to uphold their Christian beliefs. As MEP Gay Mitchell explained, at the core of the European Parliament’s Working Group on Human Dignity is the belief in the human dignity of life from conception to natural death, and it is this belief that drives it.[9][10]

Annual International Conference on Human Dignity[edit]

Since 2012, the DHI has held an annual, invitation-only international conference on topics relating to human dignity. The first, which took place on 29–30 June 2012, was held at the European Parliament offices in Rome. The conference theme was "The Role of Christians in the Public Square", and the event featured a number of different speakers who spoke on topics concerning Christians in the public square, human dignity, the development of parliamentary working groups, and new evangelization.[9][11]

The Second Annual International Conference on Human Dignity was held at the home of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the historic Casina Pio IV, inside the Vatican City State from 27–29 June 2013. The theme of the conference was "Squeezed between European and national legal orders: Is there room for Christianity?", and legislators, academics, and clergy from around the globe presented on the topics relating to national constitutions; family policies; protection of life and human dignity; and freedom of religion, expression, and conscience.[2]

To mark the close of the conference was the annual dinner, with the guest of honour Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, who delivered the keynote address. When addressing the conference attendees, Burke applauded the work of the DHI, exclaiming that he energetically endorsed "what the British Parliamentarian Lord Alton of Liverpool said about the Institute: It is indeed the most important organization promoting human dignity in the world today."[12] Lord David Alton originally made this remark in an EWTN video featuring the Institute when he explained, "The Institute for Human Dignity is, I think, one of the most important initiatives probably in the world today."[13]


The DHI – which has been labelled by its opponents as a "secretive Catholic lay-organisation"[14] and “an influential if publicity-shy grouping that works within the European Parliament."[15] – found itself in the spotlight during the 2011 Irish presidential election, when two of the leading candidates in that race (Gay Mitchell and Dana Rosemary Scallon) were linked to it.

The group has ties to some of the most conservative factions inside the Catholic Church. In 2014 the Institute invited Steve Bannon as one of its key note speakers at a conference to discuss poverty, during which he praised European far-right parties. [16]


  1. ^ a b About the Institute. Dignitatis Humanae Institute. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Squeezed between European and national legal orders: Is there room for Christianity?". Dignitatis Humanae Institute, June 2013. Retrieved on 1 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b Pentin, Edward. "Institute Supports Catholic Politicians in the Trenches: Promotes Human Dignity, Christian Voice in Public Square" Archived 2011-04-02 at the Wayback Machine., Zenit.org, Rome, 31 March 2011. Retrieved on 6 July 2013.
  4. ^ Pentin, Edward. "Promoting Human Dignity: Rocco Buttiglione Decries an Emerging Post-Christian Europe", National Catholic Register, Rome, 17 October 2011. Retrieved on 10 July 2013.
  5. ^ European Christian Political Movement. "Official launch Institute for Human Dignity in Rome", European Christian Political Movement, 29 June 2012. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  6. ^ In Caelo et in Terra. "Cardinal watch: Cardinal Martino turns 80”, In Caelo et in Terra, Rome, 23 November 2012. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  7. ^ Profesionales por la ética. "Luca Volonté nombrado nuevo presidente del Dignitatis Humanae Institute" Archived September 13, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., Profesionaels por la ética, 14 February 2013. Retrieved on 12 July 2013.
  8. ^ Barker, Alyx. "A Royal Welcome for the Institute for Human Dignity”, The Italian Insider, Rome, 9 October 2011. Retrieved on 6 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b European Christian Political Movement. "The role of Christians in the Public Square”, European Christian Political Movement, 19 June 2012. Retrieved on 6 July 2013.
  10. ^ Radio Vaticana. "Cristiani nello spazio pubblico: dibattito a Roma promosso dall'Istituto Dignitatis Humanae”, NEWS.VA, 30 June 2012. Retrieved on 5 July 2013.
  11. ^ "2012 Conference Program”, Dignitatis Humanae Institute, 2012. Retrieved on 6 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke’s Speech at Second Annual International Conference on Human Dignity", EWTN News, Vatican City, 4 June 2013. Retrieved on 13 July 2013.
  13. ^ "An EWTN Feature on the Dignitatis Humanae Institute". Firstpost. Retrieved on 20 June 2013.
  14. ^ Ó Sionnaigh, Séamas. "The Fall Of Western Civilization – We Blame The Gays!”, An Sionnach Fionn, 5 August 2011, Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  15. ^ Ó Sionnaigh, Séamas. "It’s All A Wee Bit Dan Brown”, An Sionnach Fionn, 5 June 2013, Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  16. ^ https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world

External links[edit]