Human Dignity in Part 3 of the Catechism

In reading the Third Part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (especially Section I) the importance of the dignity of the human person in understanding moral instruction is made clear. We are focused in this course on individual morals for the most part, but of course, man is a social animal by nature. We are called to communion. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (the second part of the two great commandments). So we should reflect for a moment on the social aspect of human dignity.

 

Catholic social teaching believes that human beings, created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), have by their very existence an inherent value, worth, and distinction. This means that God is present in every person, regardless of his or her race, nation, sex, origin, orientation, culture, or economic standing. Catholic social teaching asserts that all human beings must see within every person both a reflection of God and a mirror of themselves, and must honor and respect this dignity as a divine gift. – Daniel Groody (Globalization, Spirituality and Justice).

The Catholic Church proclaims 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. You will see this if you open the Church’s Compendium on Social Doctrine. In fact, it is significant, therefore, that in the Church’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, more than half of the document addresses man as made in the image and likeness of God, and the fact that all temporal goods and actions are means towards the one end of all men, that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

 

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity. (CCC 1700)

 

Please see my earlier blog post here for a short reflection on right social teaching, which focuses on the dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God.

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