The Fundamentalism of the Dignity of the Human Being in the Church’s teaching on the Moral Life

The Fundamentalism of the Dignity of the Human Being in the Church’s teaching on the Moral Life


By Fr Habib Jajou





Christianity believes that every human being has dignity. Why does the Church’s teaching on Moral life consider dignity so foundational? How do we explain this to the faithful? I will try to enlighten this by basing it on the Scripture, Church’s teaching on the Moral life, the Vatican documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


What does Moral life mean? 

Man/woman is responsible for his actions. He has freedom to choose what is well and right which are the goal of the Christian morals and makes him a moral subject. He should have morality because man can use his conscience for judgment. This judgment depends on the object, the intention, and the circumstances. All are the sources of the morality. (CCC1750) 


The goal of any human action should be morally good, but how much people do evil actions, causing disorder or corruption for others? Racism, for example, leads to mistreating the others on bases of race, color, nationality; it divides people, families, and societies.  Pope Benedict said: “Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that ‘becomes concern and care for the other.”[1] 

Man has a passion, which is an emotion or an appetite that entice him/her to act. This act may be good or evil. Despite passions being a natural components, man should have morality to connect between it and his mind. When human reason and will engage, the action will be either good or evil. As long as, passions are morally good, also the human goal will be good. ‘Our Lord called man’s heart the source from which the passions spring.’ (CCC 1764) (Mat 15: 18) However, the fundamental passion is love, which becomes charity in the Christians life. 


Jesus Christ Teaching


Jesus Christ considered the dignity of the human being as the heart of his preaching on the moral life (Mt 5-7 especially 5: 3-15; Mk 12:28-34). He said: ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mt 22: 35-40) Being poor in spirit, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker, and persecuted for righteousness, all, are result of practicing Christian moral life.  This moral desires righteousness, peace, and happiness for all human being. 

The dignity of human being and Church Documents


Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). Every person may reflect God in his/her life, and should honor this dignity as a divine Grace apart from every reason: race, nation, sex, origin, orientation, culture, or economic standing,[2] the human being should be honoured. 

The Gaudium Et Spes 


The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in The Modern World (GAUDIUM ET SPES) declares clearly the dignity of human being. ‘There must be made available to all people everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one’s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious.’ (Paragraph 26)[3] 

The Evangelium Vitae 


In his encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae’, Pope John Paul II confirms that ‘inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7, 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 103:14; 104:29), is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory (cf. Gen 1:26-27; Ps 8:6). He remind the Faithful, words of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons who emphasized that when he said: ‘Man, living man, is the glory of God’ [4] 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church


Faith and Reason 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms thatThe dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God’ (CCC1700) Human beings have a vocation to divine beatitude. The Faithful has a reason and a free will. So he/she can do what is true and good. He has a virtue to join an intellect and strives for that goal, to direct to this fulfillment by the good will and deeds by the help of God. By his reason he can listen to God’s voice (the conscious) to avoid what is evil. Man may abuse like a sinner, by temptation, the dignity of the other when acting against morality. So, it is fundamental to listen to the Church teaching on the Moral life. Church is like a mirror of God’s teaching through Jesus Christ. She tries to read signs of times and make the Teaching of our Lord’s life today. ‘Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.’ (CCC1709)

Freedom, Love, and Truth 

A Christian can act voluntary to protect the dignity of the other. The Catechism confirms on the morality of freedom, when freely engages with any relationship with the other. (CCC1738) This freedom, which is in the economy of salvation, is limited, and man sins when he refuses the plan of God. Man is allowed to do every thing with love. Love of justice, of righteousness, and of peace. This should cover all conditions of human life.  Disregarding that, may will lead to the disruption of moral law, which is against the divine truth. Living the truth is when dealing with the reality of the human condition. This reality will make us free. ‘You will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (Jn 8: 32) ‘The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man.’(CCC1747)

Today, Church teaches on the moral life through following the Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, and the apostolic catechesis. This is to help Christians and all humans to have joy and come to the Kingdom of God with the dignity of sons of God.


[1]Caritas in Veritate – Charity in Truth, paragraph 11, 2009’, [online]. Rome: Holy See. available World – Wide – Web:[25 August 2011]

[2]The Dignity of The Human Person’, [online]. Rome: Holy See. available World – Wide – Web:[17 August 2011]

[3] (Gaudium Et Spes, Pope Paul VI, 1965), [online]. Rome: Holy See. available World – Wide – Web: [19 August 2011]

[4] (Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II, 1995), [online]. Rome: Holy See. available World – Wide – Web: [21 August 2011]

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