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The Principle of Human

Dignity
What does the Church say about Human Dignity?

Human dignity originates from God and is of God because we are


made in Gods own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27)
Human beings have transcendent worth and value that comes
from God; this dignity is not based on any human quality, legal
mandate, or individual merit or accomplishment.
Belief in the dignity of the human person is the foundation of
morality. The principle of human dignity is the foundation of all the
Catholic social teaching principles
Where does this teaching on Human Dignity
come from?

Biblical source:
Scripture rooted in scripture
Moral source:
Tradition the use of reason and reflection based in the Catholic
tradition.
Ecclesial source:
Church teaching expressed in the Popes Encyclical letters, Apostolic
letters, Synod documents, Apostolic exhortations, and the bishops
Pastoral letters, which respond to the issues of the day.
Foundational concepts for the vision
of Human Dignity

Foundation of Catholic Foundation of


Social Teaching Vision: Political Vision:

Biblical vision of the human person Political vision of the human person
Theological vision of the human
person
Catholic Social Teaching Vision

Biblical vision of the human person Theological vision of the human person

The biblical vision of the human person is The principle of human dignity rests on a
grounded on revelation. (Gn 1:26-27) foundation of faith which affirms that God is the
The human person is made in the image and source and creator of all life.
likeness of God. In faith and through faith, the human person is
Human dignity is understood as flowing from fulfilled. The concept of human dignity is based
ones relationship with God and is not on revelation and is essentially theological in
earned or merited. It is inherent. nature.
Human dignity is grounded in human The human person is capable of knowing and
freedom. The human person is free to accept loving God, unlike any other creature.
or reject the ongoing self-communication of The human person is to be morally responsible
God. for the concrete protection of human dignity,
Human dignity is realized and protected in and to do good and avoid evil.
community with others. The human person is free. Only one who is free
can be morally responsible.
Political Vision

Political vision of the human person


(based on Enlightenment ideals)
The person is an independent individual who has rights and responsibilities
that are bounded by legal limits.
Equality is a foundation of the political vision.
The role of the political state is active but limited the state must protect
rights, promote the general welfare of its citizens and insure public order,
but should not interfere in matters of faith.
Development of Teaching

Book of Genesis (Gn 1: 26-27)

Human beings were made in the image and likeness of God.

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in drawing on the Genesis

human person is an intelligent being endowed with free will and self-
movement.

Era of the Enlightenment

Reason and the rational nature of the human person


Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of
another, always as an end and never as a means only (Immanuel Kant (1724-
1804)
Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)

The Enlightenment notion of human rights was


accepted and reflected in the social teaching

Pacem in Terris in 1963

By appealing to rights, dignity could be defended and


protected.

Vatican II

Natural Law ethic shifted to scriptural revelation and built


upon a theological foundation of the human person.
Dignitatis Humanae 1965

The human person has a right to religious


freedom
Churchs reflection on human dignity shed light
on the nature of human freedom being a
political as well as a moral necessity

John Paul II

Human life is not only made in Gods image, but


has intrinsic worth and is therefore inviolable
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The inhumane treatment of The Condition of Labor Human dignity became the
workers as a result of the (Rerum Novarum) norm and standard by
Industrial Revolution moved Leo XIII which the political, social,
the Church to advocate for 1891 and economic structures
the rights of workers were to be judged. The
though labor unions, and human person should never
support for the right to be seen or used as a means
private property. to an end. Human dignity
demands minimum working
conditions be met.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
Severe economic The Reconstruction of the An awareness of the
depression worldwide and Social Order common good, the need
growing social injustice (Quadragesimo Anno) for appropriate structures of
were making it clear that Pius XI government, a sense of
threats to human dignity 1931 social justice and a just
could not be contained wage were presented in this
within political borders. document. A vision of the
Both capitalism and common good and
communism were protection of human dignity
threatening the dignity of could demand structural
humans. changes.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
Severe gaps between the Christianity and Social The power to participate in
rich and the Progress political
poor in the world were (Mater et Magistra) processes was seen and
becoming John XXIII presented as
evident and problematic for 1961 essential to the preservation
the and
realization of human dignity. development of human
The use dignity.
or misuse of power was a
significant
reality.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The growing threat of Peace on Earth Asserted a need for social
nuclear war (Pacem in Terris) and economic
was extremely problematic. John XXIII rights, not just political and
The 1963 legal rights.
world was beginning to Life in community is the
realize its context in which
capacity to destroy itself human dignity can be
and that protected and
threat was choking off the expanded.
development of peoples,
particularly
the poor
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The Second Vatican Council The Pastoral Constitution on Human dignity can be
was the Church in the defended only if
wrestling with articulating a Modern World we recognize that human
modern understanding of (Gaudium et Spes) institutions and
the role 1965 human persons are not
of the Church in the world. static, but develop
Ideological divisions in the and change in history.
world Human dignity is
were a threat to human presented positively as the
unity. right to share
in the decisions that
structure political,
social, and economic life.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
Extreme poverty and global The Development of The concept of integral
hunger Peoples development
were becoming more (Populorum Progressio) was presented as the notion
widespread. Paul VI that human
Rapid communication and 1967 dignity is only protected by
increased promoting the
ability to travel were development of the whole
generating human being
unprecedented global in every area of life
awareness. political, social, and
economic.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The dehumanizing effects of A Call to Action A more theological vision of
urbanization were (Octogesima Adveniens) human
becoming Paul VI dignity is presented here.
widespread. Growing 1971 Christian faith
numbers of poor, was in a unique position to
especially women and reconcile
children, the the claims of the absolute
elderly and handicapped truth and
were subjective claims in the
increasingly vulnerable to quest for
being ignored practical means of
or exploited. promoting human
dignity.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The treatment of workers as On Human Work Reasserted the priority of
exploitable (Laborem Exercens) labor
factors of production, was John Paul II (people) over capital. The
posing a 1981 letter deals
threat to human dignity. The specifically with human
rise of dignity as
technology and its present in and enhanced by
displacement of the work. The
worker was also cause for human being is the
growing subject of work
concern. and must always be
respected
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The question of On Social Concerns The significant contribution
development has Sollicitudo Rei Socialis to the
become more pressing. The John Paul II reflection on human dignity
problem 1987 lies in the
of development exists not development here of the
only in concept of
economically solidarity.
underdeveloped countries
but in rich or economically
developed
ones as well.
Encyclicals and Human Dignity

What were the signs Document & Year What was proposed?
of the times?
The rise of atheism, the One Hundred Years A rise of violence, atheism,
collapse of (Centesimus Annus) and
Communism in Eastern John Paul II instability pose clear threats
Europe (1989), 1991 to human
and global uncertainty and dignity. Here the call is
instability renewed to
are creating great change take seriously the
and shifts of transcendent and
political and economic social nature of the human
power. person in
order to protect human
dignity.
What Does the Catechism of the Catholic
Church Say about Human Dignity?
#356
Of all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator. He is the only creature
on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and
love, in Gods own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason
for his dignity:
#357
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. And 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.
Human persons are willed by God; they are imprinted with
Gods image. Their dignity does not come from the work they
do, but from the persons they are.
The Hundredth Year #11
Thank you!

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