What faith teaches about the dignity of the human person and about the sacredness of every human life helps us see more clearly the same truths that also come to us through the gift of human reason. At the center of these truths is respect for the dignity of every person. This is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching. [FCFC 10]
Each one of us has the immense privilege of being called a “child of God.” The Maker of All Things loves us so much, he calls us his children, and he wants us to be heirs to his heavenly kingdom.
As Pope Benedict XVI has explained, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Scripture tells us we are made in the image and likeness of God. (Gen 1:27).
As far as the right to life is concerned, every innocent human being is absolutely equal to all others. [The Gospel of Life, 57]
Such absolute equality is foreign to human societies. People of power, successful entrepreneurs, unselfishly giving people, all seem to have earned a special dignity all their own through talent or hard work.
Not so. In God’s eyes, they all have the same inherent dignity, i.e., the dignity that comes from being made in the image of God. It is the same for all.
The “most important person in the world” is not worth more than the unborn child, the autistic toddler, the beggar in Calcutta or the farmer in Africa. We can offend against our dignity and we can try to rob others of theirs. We can be great saints or great sinners. We can accomplish much with our God-given talents or we can fall short of our potential. But because all are equal, God grants all the opportunity for mercy and redemption.
The Church deeply respects the life and the dignity of each person. We hold up the importance of family, for instance, the value of work and the duty to participate in community life because they pay honor to the dignity God has given each of us.
Every human being has a right to life – from the moment of conception to natural death – and the things that are needed to live a dignified life: food, shelter, education, employment, health care, housing, freedom of religion and family life.
For the Church, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person.
The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.” (Caritas in Veritate, 15).
While the common good embraces all, as Catholics, we believe that those who are weak, vulnerable and most in need deserve a preferential concern just as Jesus showed special concern for those in need.
The inherent dignity of the human person deserves no less.
from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
108. Sacred Scripture proclaims that the human person is a creature of God (cf. Ps 139:14-18), and sees in his being in the image of God the element that characterizes and distinguishes him: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
God places the human creature at the center and summit of the created order. Therefore, “being 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”.
144. “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; cf. Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9), since all people have the same dignity as creatures made in his image and likeness. The Incarnation of the Son of God shows the equality of all people with regard to dignity: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28; cf. Rom 10:12; 1 Cor 12:13, Col 3:11).
145. Only the recognition of human dignity can make possible the common and personal growth of everyone (cf. Jas 2:1-9). To stimulate this kind of growth it is necessary in particular to help the least, effectively ensuring conditions of equal opportunity for men and women and guaranteeing an objective equality between the different social classes before the law.”