The new law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits, since the proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ extends to the ends of the earth (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).
The human person was proclaimed by God the Creator in Sacred Scripture as having been “made in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26; cf 5:1-3; 9:6), so that s/he could live in communion with God the Holy Trinity and one another, while progressing on the path of deification (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer.) and becoming a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4; Pope Paul VI, 1965a; Saint Athanasius, De Inc.; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol.). The human person is considered to be “the only creature on earth which God willed for itself” (Pope Paul VI, 1965a) and who was given the divine commission to:
“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food” (Gn 1:28-30).
The human person is thus “not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God’s creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom He has always loved” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009a). S/he has been granted a dignity and rights that are inviolable by any system in and of the world, because “his sovereignty within the cosmos, his capacity for social existence, and his knowledge and love of the Creator – all are rooted in man’s being made in the image of God” (International Theological Commission, 2004).
The Dignity of the Human Person
Constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations (Pope Paul VI).
The inherent dignity of the human person has been described by Saint John Paul II (1988) as “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 Spirit had testified to this in the Old Testament through the psalmist who said, “You are gods, offspring of the Most High, all of you” (Ps 82:6) and “You have made man little less than the angels, you have crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:6). Jesus Christ witnessed to this in the New Testament with the words, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods?”’ (Jn 10:34). God, therefore,
“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). For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment . . . [and] love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor . . . because all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself (Pope Paul VI, 1965a).”
In consequence, “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” (Saint John Paul II, 1988). The saint continued,
“In virtue of a personal dignity, the human being is always a value as an individual, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never, on the contrary, considered and treated as an object to be used or as a means or as a thing.
“The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves . . . All forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable especially those forms which unfortunately continue to divide and degrade the human family: from those based on race or economics to those social and cultural, from political to geographic. Each discrimination constitutes an absolutely intolerable injustice, not so much for the tensions and the conflicts that can be generated in the social sphere, as much as for the dishonor inflicted on the dignity of the person: not only to the dignity of the individual who is the victim of the injustice, but still more to the one who commits the injustice” (ibid.). Continue reading “Chapter 8: Human persons in Christianity and Catholic Social Doctrine”