The Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The more we know about Catholic social teaching, the more equipped we are to express our Catholic faith in powerful ways. Over the next few months, the Service & Justice Commission is hopes to empower parishioners with knowledge of the seven themes of Catholic Social teaching.
Theme 1: The Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
What is the Church’s official teaching on the life and dignity of the human person?
According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Church teaches that “As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads Catholics to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace.”
This teaching has far-reaching implications beyond the abortion and birth control issues we hear so much about. The Catholic Church believes that “human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”
Basically, this teaching reflects our understanding from Scripture that human beings are created “in the image and likeness of God” and seeks to preserve the dignity of every human person regardless of their age or circumstances in life. Catholic social teaching concerning the dignity of the human person leads to involvement in a broad range of issues including:
- preventing abortion and euthanasia
- ending the death penalty
- fair treatment for those with disabilities
- promoting civil rights and equality for those of different races, genders, ages, quality of health and income level
- ending the cycle of poverty
- working to avoid war by preventing conflicts or resolving them by peaceful means
- preventing cloning and embryonic stem cell research
Some saints who have worked tirelessly to fight for the life and dignity of the human person include:
- St. Peter Claver, who was a Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary. He is the patron saint of slaves, due to his heroic work ministering to and affirming the inherent worth and dignity of African slaves in Columbia.
- St. Teresa of Calcutta, who we all know worked tirelessly affirming the dignity of life in the poorest and most destitute people living in the slums of India.
Some local organizations you can get involved in, which advocate for the life and dignity of the human person are:
- The Women’s Choice Center
- King’s Harvest
- Café on Vine
- Catholic Worker House
Pope John Paul the II said “Human persons are willed by God; they are imprinted with God's image. Their dignity does not come from the work they do, but from the persons they are.” Do you realize your own worth and dignity lies in who you are as a child of God, regardless of what you do or how much money you have? We encourage you to you to affirm that same dignity in others, as a way of practicing your faith.