Article Two: The Human Person
The Dignity of the Human Person
39. In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Savior. This doctrine is likewise a source of unity and peace in dealing with the conflicts which inevitably arise in social and eco nomic life. Thus it is possible to meet these new situations without degrading the human person's transcendent dignity, either in oneself or in one's adversaries, and to direct those situations toward just solutions.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 5)
40. This is why the Church has something to say today, just as twenty years ago, and also in the future, about the nature, conditions, requirements and aims of authentic development, and also about the obstacles which stand in its way. In doing so the Church fulfills her mission to evangelize, for she offers her first contribution to the solution of the urgent problem of development when she proclaims the truth about Christ, about herself and about man, applying this truth to a concrete situation (cf. John Paul II, Address to Latin American Bishops, 1979). As her instrument for reaching this goal, the Church uses her social doctrine. In today's difficult situation, a more exact awareness and a wider diffusion of the set of principles for reflection, criteria for judgment and directives for action proposed by the Church's teaching (Libertatis Conscientia, n. 72; Octogesima Adveniens, n. 4) would be of great help in promoting both the correct definition of the problems being faced and the best solution to them. It will thus be seen at once that the questions facing us are above all moral questions; and that neither the analysis of the problem of development as such nor the means to overcome the present difficulties can ignore this essential dimension.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 41)
41. In the life of man, God's image shines forth anew and is again revealed in all its fullness at the coming of the Son of God in human flesh. Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15); he reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature (Heb 1:3). He is the perfect image of the Father.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 36)
42. The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person's origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a `child in the Son' and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for eternal life of blessed communion with God. For this very reason every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the Creator of the individual.
(Christifideles Laici, n. 37)
43. If we look upon the dignity of the human person in the light of divinely revealed truth, we cannot help but esteem it far more highly; for men are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, they are by grace the children and friends of God and heirs of eternal glory.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 10)
44. Thanks to this belief, the Church can anchor the dignity of human nature against all tides of opinion, for example, those that undervalue the human body or idolize it. By no human law can the personal dignity and liberty of man be so aptly safeguarded as by the Gospel of Christ that has been entrusted to the Church. For this Gospel announces and proclaims the freedom of the sons of God, and repudiates all the bondage that ultimately results from sin (cf. Rom 8:14 17). It has a sacred reverence for the dignity of conscience and its freedom of choice, constantly advises that all human talents be employed in God's service and men's, and, finally, commends all to the charity of all (cf. Mt 22:39). This agrees with the basic law of the Christian dispensation. For though the same God is Savior and Creator, Lord of human history as well as of salvation history, in the divine arrangement itself, the rightful autonomy of the creature, and particularly of man is not withdrawn, but is rather reestablished in its own dignity and strengthened. The Church, therefore, by virtue of the Gospel committed to her, proclaims the rights of man; she acknowledges and greatly esteems the dynamic movements of today by which these rights are everywhere fostered. Yet these movements must be penetrated by the spirit of the Gospel and protected against any kind of false autonomy. For we are tempted to think that our personal rights are fully ensured only when we are exempt from every requirement of divine law. But in this way lies not the mainte nance of the dignity of the human person but its annihilation.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 41)
45. At stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 47)
46. The dignity of the human person is a transcendent value, always recognized as such by those who sincerely search for the truth. Indeed, the whole of human history should be interpreted in the light of this certainty. Every person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:26 28), is therefore radically oriented towards the Creator, and is constantly in relationship with those possessed of the same dignity. To promote the good of the individual is thus to serve the common good, which is that point where rights and duties converge and reinforce one another.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1999, n. 2)
47. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). This revelation of freedom and hence of man's true dignity acquires a particular eloquence for Christians and for the Church in a state of persecution both in ancient times and in the present because the witnesses to divine Truth then become a living proof of the action of the Spirit of truth present in the hearts and minds of the faithful, and they often mark with their own death by martyrdom the supreme glorification of human dignity.
(Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 60)
Freedom and Truth
48. The question of morality, to which Christ provides the answer, cannot prescind from the issue of freedom. Indeed, it considers that issue central, for there can be no morality without freedom: It is only in freedom that man can turn to what is good (GS, n. 11). But what sort of freedom? The Council, considering our contemporaries who highly regard freedom and assiduously pursue it, but who often cultivate it in wrong ways as a license to do anything they please, even evil, speaks of `genuine' freedom: Genuine free dom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image in man. For God willed to leave man `in the power of his own counsel' (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God (GS, n. 17). Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known.
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 34)
49. Freedom in its essence is within man, is connatural to the human person and is the distinctive sign of man's nature. The free dom of the individual finds its basis in man's transcendent dignity: a dignity given to him by God, his Creator, and which directs him to ward God. Because he has been created in God's image (cf. Gn 1:27), man is inseparable from freedom, that freedom which no external force or constraint can ever take away, and which constitutes his fundamental right, both as an individual and as a member of society. Man is free because he possesses the faculty of self determination with regard to what is true and what is good.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1981, n. 5)
50. Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: You will know the truth and the truth will make you free (Jn 8:32). These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relation ship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the truth about man and the whole world.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 12)
51. But freedom is not merely a right that one claims for one self. It is also a duty that one undertakes with regard to others. If it is really to serve peace, the freedom of each human individual and each community must respect the freedoms and rights of other individuals and communities. This respect sets a limit to freedom, but it also gives it its logic and dignity, since we are by nature social beings.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1981, n. 7)
52. The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or to do everything. It is false to maintain that man, the subject of this freedom, is an individual who is fully self sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods (Libertatis Conscientia,n. 13). Moreover, the economic, social, political, and cultural conditions that are needed for a just exercise of freedom are too often disregarded or violated. Such situations of blindness and injustice injure the moral life and involve the strong as well as the weak in the temptation to sin against charity. By deviating from the moral law, man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.
(CCC, n. 1740)
53. But the Creator of the world has imprinted in man's heart an order that his conscience reveals to him and enjoins him to obey: This shows that the obligations of the law are written in their hearts; their conscience utters its own testimony (Rm 2:15). And how could it be otherwise? For whatever God has made shows forth His infinite wisdom, and it is manifested more clearly in the things that have greater perfection (cf. Ps 18:8 11).
(Pacem in Terris, n. 5)
54. In the design of God, every man is called upon to develop and fulfill himself, for every life is a vocation. At birth, everyone is granted, in germ, a set of aptitudes and qualities for him to bring to fruition. Their coming to maturity, which will be the result of education received from the environment and personal efforts, will allow each man to direct himself toward the destiny intended for him by the Creator. Endowed with intelligence and freedom, he is responsible for his fulfillment as he is for his salvation. He is aided, or sometimes impeded, by those who educate him and those with whom he lives, but each one remains, whatever these influences affecting him might be, the principal agent of his own success or failure. By the unaided effort of his own intelligence and his will, each man can grow in humanity, can enhance his personal worth, can become more a person.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 15)
55. In the end, when He completed on the cross the work of redemption whereby He achieved salvation and true freedom for men, He also brought his revelation to completion. He bore witness to the truth, but He refused to impose the truth by force on those who spoke against it. Not by force of blows does his rule assert its claims. Rather, it is established by witnessing to the truth and by hearing the truth, and it extends its dominion by the love whereby Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws all men to Himself (cf. Jn 12:32).
(Dignitatis Humanae, n. 11)
56. Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever, and which, in the name of freedom, proclaims a kind of general amo rality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1981, n. 7)
57. Nor does the Church close her eyes to the danger of fanaticism or fundamentalism among those who, in the name of an ideology which purports to be scientific or religious, claim the right to impose on others their own concept of what is true and good. Christian truth is not of this kind. Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing socio political realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect. Furthermore, in constantly affirming the transcendent dignity of the person, the Church's method is always that of respect for freedom.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 46)
58. Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and the human community. The basic question before a democratic society is: How ought we live together? In seeking an answer to this question, can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning?.... Every generation ... needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Christ asks us to guard the truth because, as he promised us: You will know the truth and the truth will make you free. Depositum custodi! We must guard the truth that is the authentic condition of freedom, the truth that allows freedom to be fulfilled in goodness. We must guard the deposit of divine truth handed down to us in the Church, especially in view of the challenges posed by a materialistic culture and by a permissive society that reduces free dom to license.
(John Paul II, Homily in Baltimore, 1995)
59. While these [conditions] certainly have an influence on free dom, they do not determine it; they make the exercise of freedom more difficult or less difficult, but they cannot destroy it. Not only is it wrong from the ethical point of view to disregard human nature, which is made for freedom, but in practice it is impossible to do so. Where society is so organized as to reduce arbitrarily or even suppress the sphere in which freedom is legitimately exercised, the result is that the life of society becomes progressively disorganized and goes into decline.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 25)
The Social Nature of Man
60. God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, Who from one man has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth (Acts 17:26), all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself. For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment. Sacred Scripture, however, teaches us that the love of God cannot be separated from the love of neighbor: If there is any other command ment, it is summed up in this saying: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.... Love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13:9 10; cf. 1 Jn 4:20). To men growing daily more dependent on one another, and to a world becoming more unified every day, this truth proves to be of paramount importance. Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, that all may be one as we are one (Jn 17:21 22), opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. Man's social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another. For the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions is and must be the human person that for its part and by its very nature stands completely in need of social life. Since this social life is not something added on to man, through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue he develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny.
(Gaudium et Spes, nn. 24 25)
61. The cardinal point of this teaching is that individual men are necessarily the foundation, cause, and end of all social institutions. We are referring to human beings, insofar as they are naturally social, and raised to an order of existence that transcends and subdues nature.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 219)
62. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to him. To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions must be encouraged on both national and international levels, which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recreational activities, to sport, to various professions, and to political affairs (MM, n. 60). This `socialization' also expresses the natural tendency for human beings to associate with one another for the sake of attaining objectives that exceed individual capacities. It develops the qualities of the person, especially the sense of initiative and responsibility, and helps guarantee his rights (GS, n. 25; CA, n. 12).
(CCC, n. 1882)
63. But each man is a member of society. He is part of the whole of mankind. It is not just certain individuals, but all men who are called to this fullness of development. Civilizations are born, deve lop, and die. But humanity is advancing along the path of history like the waves of a rising tide encroaching gradually on the shore. We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries: for this reason we have obligations toward all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us to enlarge the human family. The reality of human solidarity, which is a benefit for us, also imposes a duty.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 17)
64. Apart from the family, other intermediate communities exercise primary functions and give life to specific networks of solidarity. These develop as real communities of persons and strengthen the social fabric, preventing society from becoming an anonymous and impersonal mass, as unfortunately often happens today. It is in interrelationships on many levels that a person lives, and that society be comes more `personalized.' The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the State and the marketplace. At times it seems as though he exists only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of state administration. People lose sight of the fact that life in society has neither the market nor the State as its final purpose, since life itself has a unique value that the State and the market must serve. Man remains above all a being who seeks the truth and strives to live in that truth, deepening his understanding of it through a dialogue involving past and future generations.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 49)
65. In contrast, from the Christian vision of the human person there necessarily follows a correct picture of society. According to Rerum Novarum and the whole social doctrine of the Church, the social nature of man is not completely fulfilled in the State, but is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good. This is what I have called the sub jectivity of society which, together with the subjectivity of the individual, was cancelled out by Real Socialism (SRS, nn. 15, 28).
(Centesimus Annus, n. 13)
66. Beginning our discussion of the rights of man, we see that every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and, finally, the necessary social services. Therefore, a human being also has the right to security in cases of sickness, inability to work, widowhood, old age, unemploy ment, or in any other case in which he is deprived of the means of subsistence through no fault of his own.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 11)
67. Following the collapse of Communist totalitarianism and of many other totalitarian and `national security' regimes, today we are witnessing a predominance, not without signs of opposition, of the democratic ideal, together with lively attention to and concern for human rights. But for this very reason it is necessary for peoples in the process of reforming their systems to give democracy an authentic and solid foundation through the explicit recognition of those rights (cf. Redemptor Hominis , n. 17).
(Centesimus Annus, n. 47)
68. Any human society, if it is to be well ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person, he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights and obligations are universal and inviolable, so they cannot in any way be surrendered.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 9)
69. After all, peace comes down to respect for man's inviolable rights ... while war springs from the violation of these rights and brings with it still graver violations of them. If human rights are vio lated in a time of peace, this is particularly painful and, from the point of view of progress, it represents an incomprehensible manifestation of activity directed against man, which can in no way be reconciled with any program that describes itself as humanistic.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 17)
70. The human person is also entitled to a juridical protection of his rights, a protection that should be efficacious, impartial, and in spired by the true norms of justice. As Our Predecessor Pius XII teaches: That perpetual privilege proper to man, by which every individual has a claim to the protection of his rights, and by which there is assigned to each a definite and particular sphere of rights immune from all arbitrary attacks, is the logical consequence of the order of justice willed by God (Pius XII, Christmas Eve Radio Message, 1942).
(Pacem in Terris, n. 27)
71. Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recog nize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy (cf. PT, n. 65). If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
(CCC, n. 1930)
72. When the relations of human society are expressed in terms of rights and duties, men become conscious of spiritual values, un derstand the meaning and significance of truth, justice, charity, free dom, and become deeply aware that they belong to this world of values. Moreover, when moved by such concerns, they are brought to a better knowledge of the true God Who is personal and transcendent, and thus they make the ties that bind them to God the solid foundation and supreme criterion of their lives, both of that life which they live interiorly in the depths of their own souls and of that in which they are united to other men in society.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 45)
73. Although private societies exist within the State and are, as it were, so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the State universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the State, on the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself because both the State itself and private associations are begotten of one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to associate.
(Rerum Novarum, n. 51)
74. In human society, to one man's right, there corresponds a duty in all other persons: the duty, namely, of acknowledging and respecting the right in question. For every fundamental human right draws its indestructible moral force from the natural law, which, in granting it, imposes a corresponding obligation. Those, therefore, who claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their respective duties, are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 30)
75. On the contrary, the conviction that all men are equal by reason of their natural dignity has been generally accepted. Hence, racial discrimination can in no way be justified, at least doctrinally or in theory. And this is of fundamental importance and significance for the formation of human society according to those principles that we have outlined above. For, if a man becomes conscious of his rights, he must become equally aware of his duties. Thus, he who possesses certain rights has likewise the duty to claim those rights as marks of his dignity, while all others have the obligation to acknowledge those rights and respect them.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 44)
76. Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God's likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been re deemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition. True, all men are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent. For in truth it must be regretted that fundamental personal rights are still not being universally honored. Such is the case of a woman who is denied the right to choose a husband freely, to embrace a state of life, or to acquire an education or cultural benefits equal to those recognized for men. Therefore, although rightful differences exist between men, the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace. Human institutions, both private and public, must labor to minister to the dignity and purpose of man. At the same time, let them put up a stubborn fight against any kind of slavery, whether social or political, and safeguard the basic rights of man under every political system. Indeed, human institutions themselves must be accommo dated by degrees to the highest of all realities, spiritual ones, even though meanwhile, a long enough time will be required before they arrive at the desired goal.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 29)
77. The necessity of ensuring fundamental human rights cannot be separated from this just liberation which is bound up with evangelization and which endeavors to secure structures safeguarding human freedoms. Among these fundamental human rights, religious liberty occupies a place of primary importance.
(Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 39)
78. This Vatican synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
(Dignitatis Humanae, n. 2)
79. Certainly the curtailment of religious freedom of individu als and communities is not only a painful experience, but it is above all an attack on man's very dignity, independently of the religion professed or the concept of the world which these individuals and communities have. The curtailment and violation of religious free dom are in contrast with man's dignity and his objective rights.... In this case we are undoubtedly confronted with a radical injustice with regard to what is particularly deep within man, what is authentically human.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 17)
80. No human authority has the right to interfere with a person's conscience. Conscience bears witness to the transcendence of the person, also in regard to society at large, and, as such, is inviolable. Conscience, however, is not an absolute placed above truth and error. Rather, by its very nature, it implies a relation to objective truth, a truth which is universal, the same for all, which all can and must seek. It is in relation to objective truth that freedom of conscience finds its justification, inasmuch as it is a necessary condition for seek ing truth worthy of man, and for adhering to that truth once it is sufficiently known.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1991, n. 1)
81. Hence, although the truth we have to proclaim is certain and the salvation necessary, we dare not entertain any thoughts of external coercion. Instead we will use the legitimate means of human friendliness, interior persuasion, and ordinary conversation. We will offer the gift of salvation while respecting the personal and civic rights of the individual.
(Ecclesiam Suam, n. 75)
82. In the first place, religious freedom, an essential require ment of the dignity of every person, is a cornerstone of the structure of human rights, and for this reason an irreplaceable factor in the good of individuals and of the whole society, as well as the personal fulfillment of each individual. It follows that the freedom of individuals and communities to profess and practice their religion is an essential element for peaceful human coexistence. Peace, which is built up and consolidated at all levels of human association, puts down its roots in the freedom and openness of conscience to truth.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1988, n. 1)
83. The human issues most frequently debated and differently resolved in contemporary moral reflection are all closely related, al beit in various ways, to a crucial issue: human freedom. Certainly, people today have a particularly strong sense of free dom. As the Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae had already observed, the dignity of the human person is a concern of which people of our time are becoming increasingly more aware (Dignitatis Humanae, n. 1). Hence, the insistent de mand that people be permitted to enjoy the use of their own responsible judgment and freedom, and decide on their actions on grounds of duty and conscience, without external pressure or coercion (Dignitatis Humanae, n. 1). In particular, the right to religious free dom and to respect for conscience on its journey towards the truth is increasingly perceived as the foundation of the cumulative rights of the person (cf. Redemptor Hominis , n. 17; Libertatis Conscientia , n. 19).
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 31)
Table of Contents - English
- Article One: The Nature of Catholic Social Teaching
- Article Two: The Human Person
- Article Three: The Family
- Article Four: The Social Order
- Article Five: The Role of State
- Article Six: The Economy
- Article Seven: Work and Wages
- Article Eight: Poverty and Charity
- Article Nine: The Environment
- Article Ten: The International Community
- Article Eleven: Conclusion