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Catholic social teaching: life and dignity of the human person

Posted by | Catholic Charities Communications

In honor of Catholic Charities’ 90th anniversary of providing help and hope to those who need it most, we are doing a 7 part series on the principles of Catholic social teaching.

The Catholic Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amid the challenges of modern society. Here is number one of the seven principles of the tradition.


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 Catholic social teaching. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. The value of human life also is threatened by abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty.  We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.


In his encyclical On Fraternity and Social Friendship, Pope Francis wrote: “The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of color, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.”


 In Oregon, one way to further and protect human dignity is to promote more affordable housing. Families with adequate housing will be more open to the gift of life. Furthermore, homelessness and inadequate housing constitute an affront to human dignity. Crime and violence erupt where housing and services are substandard.