DOCAT contents for At-Home Lesson#7

DOCAT# 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, and 62 [1]

DOCAT#47 What do we mean when we speak about a person?

With the word “person” we express the fact that every human being has an inviolable dignity. Man was created in God’s image (imago dei) (Gen 1:27). So he is the one creature of God that represents the Creator himself in creation. He is “the only creature on earth that God willed for its own sake” (GS 24). As a person created by God, a human being is not something, but rather someone and hence uniquely valuable. As a person, a human being is capable of self-knowledge and reflection on himself, of making free decisions and entering into community with others. And he is called to respond to God in faith. The fact that he is made in God’s image and likeness therefore means also that a human being always remains related to God and can develop his full personal potential only in God.

DOCAT#48 Why is every person a social being?

A human person can survive and develop only with the help of other human beings. Being human entails not only living in a good relationship with God; one must also be very careful to live in good relationships with other people. This begins in the family; it affects one’s circle of friends and finally society as a whole. Fundamental for the social dimension of the human person is the fact that we are created as man and woman (Gen 2:23). From the very beginning, man and woman possess the same dignity. In mutual help and complementarity, they cope with their lives. God makes the loving union of man and woman fruitful when it results in a child. This is why the family is the primordial cell of every society.

DOCAT#49 What does it mean to live in society?

Social life is originally experienced in the family. The family thrives when its members regularly talk to one another, when it develops a culture of mutual consideration, and when individual interests are repeatedly subordinated to the community and welfare of all. The family is creative as God is creative not only because it brings forth children. As social beings in relation, we human beings have a share in God’s creative power. Hence we are also responsible for creation and for every other personal living being. Each one of these human persons is sacred and inviolable, always and everywhere. Our social responsibility pertains also to animals, which we should treat kindly. And it pertains also to nature, which must not be exploited but used sustainably and responsibly. Central to Catholic social teaching, however, is the human person. The human person is the real foundation of society; therefore, the person has priority in everything that is done socially.

DOCAT#50 What are the burdens on the human person?

The human person with his dignity is exposed to many sorts of harm and danger. The crucial element of disturbance and destruction we call sin. Adam, who in the “original sin” disobeyed God’s command, is, so to speak, the prototype of the human being, yields to the temptation to sin and harm others. We are all human beings, and we are all sinners. We harm others through our sinful way of living. Because this is so, the earth is no longer a paradise. Actually, we could say no to sin at every moment, but the power of sin reaches into our inmost being, to the place where freedom dwells. And so we deliberately do evil: in freedom we turn against God’s will and thus separate ourselves from the source of life, from God.

DOCAT#51 Does sin have a social dimension, too?

Sin is always the free, conscious act of a person, but it has its effects also in the realm of relationships, indeed in society as a whole. Hence every sin has at the same time a personal and a social dimension: sins are bad for the sinner himself, but at the same time they harm society, too, and injure others. “And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behavior” (John Paul II, SRS 36). Think, for example, of political systems that perform acts of violence or do not protect minorities. Sin is never destiny, and even sinful structures can be changed. To recognize and to name the sin is the first step in freeing oneself from it. Jesus Christ came in order to bring us out of our imprisonment in sin. Creation, which had become entangled in sin, is liberated by Christ for love and justice. The “civilization of love” begins with the conversion of the individual and his reconciliation with God.

DOCAT#52 Of what does the unity of the human person consist?

A human being has a body and a soul, but these are not separate realities. The human person always consists of a unity of body and soul. Materialism regards the soul as a mere function of the material body; spiritualism, in contrast, overvalues the soul at the expense of the body. The Church rejects both errors. Our body is not the prison of the soul, and the soul is an essential part of a living human being. Through his body, man is connected with the earth and is thus a part of nature. In his spiritual soul, a human being not only finds his personal identity (his “I”); his soul also contemplates God and is forever contemplated by him. The soul is immortal. But the body, too, must never be despised, because it is created by God as something good, and it is destined for the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. Jesus recognized the bodily sufferings of human beings and healed them. Man is at the same time a material and a spiritual being.

DOCAT#53 Why does man think of things beyond himself?

In all of material creation, only man is open to the infinite; he alone can have a concept of God and hunger for ultimate answers. Philosophy says that man is capable of TRANSCENDENCE, that he can surpass himself. He fully comes into his own only by recognizing and understanding what is other, greater, and more important than himself: God, the source of all life. Because man is open to God, he can also be open for other people and show them respect. Community, dialogue, and the recognition of the other lead him closer to himself.

DOCAT#54 What makes every human being unique?

Every human being is unique because he or she was willed by God as an unrepeatable person, created out of love, and redeemed with even greater love. This shows us what dignity the human person has and how important it is to take everyone quite seriously as a person and to treat him with the greatest respect. This requirement applies also to political systems and institutions. They must not only respect the freedom and dignity of the human person. They should contribute to the comprehensive development of every person. A community cannot exclude individuals or entire groups from development.

DOCAT#55 What does society owe the individual person?

A just society must respect and promote the dignity of the human person. The social order exists for the sake of human beings and must be guided by what a human being needs for a dignified life. This rules out all forms of exploitation and instrumentalization for economic, political, or social ends. A human being should never be merely a means of reaching certain goals; he is, rather, an end in himself.

DOCAT#56 How much freedom does a human being need?

Freedom is a fundamental value. To be free and to act freely is a primordial right of human beings. Only when I decide freely do I also bear the full responsibility for my action. Only a free human being can turn to God in love and respond to him. Only in freedom can people shape their social and personal lives. Human freedom is restricted again and again by political, social, financial, legal, or even cultural circumstances. It is a great injustice to deprive a human being of freedom or to restrict that freedom unjustly; this injures his dignity and impedes him from developing personally.

DOCAT#57 How free is man?

Man is free, but his freedom has a goal. Ultimately freedom exists so that we might do what is truly good with understanding and free will. In this regard, freedom takes its orientation from the natural law and the order of creation (= the way in which God meaningfully designed the world). We can know the truth about good and evil through our conscience. Conscience is rather like the voice of truth in a human being, the natural law that is written on the hearts of all men (Rom 2:15). Through our reason we perceive in our conscience the values that are good at all times. It can never be right to deceive, to steal, to murder. Yet conscience can be wrong. Freedom is not always inclined toward what is truly good, but often selfishly wants what is only apparently good. That is why we must always train our conscience and allow ourselves to be instructed about true values. Freedom, too, needs to be liberated by Christ, so as to be able to accomplish what is truly good.

DOCAT#58 Are there fundamental differences between human beings?

No. God created all human persons in his image, and consequently all are endowed with the same inalienable dignity, regardless of sex, nationality, religion, or skin color. Because this is true, injustices between the sexes or between entire peoples must be overcome, in order to assure the personal growth, equal opportunity, and thus the dignity of everyone.

DOCAT#59 How are man and woman the same, and how are they different?

Man and woman are the same in God’s sight in their dignity as persons. God creates a human being, not in the abstract, but as either a man or a woman. And he creates human beings in such a way that men and women are fundamentally meant for each other and need one another, without one sex dominating or marginalizing the other (machismo, radical feminism). Therefore, to be a man or a woman means more than to assume a particular role. From the Christian perspective, man and woman in a loving relationship manifest the communion of persons in God.

DOCAT#60 What does the Church say about discrimination against handicapped persons?

As Catholic social doctrine understands it, social justice is achieved when all people in society can participate in the central social, economic, political, and cultural activities in life. Forms of discrimination that exclude people from such participation are an injustice. It is therefore the task of the State and society to create the conditions for ensuring the participation of handicapped persons, also. Ultimately the dignity of the human person does not depend on bodily and intellectual abilities, and the respect due to a person cannot be defined in terms of achievements or efficiency.

DOCAT#61 What does it mean for the human person to belong to a community?

Animals flock together; they form packs or stay in herds—human beings, in contrast, enter into communion. God, who in the depths of his inner life is communion and relationship itself, created them as a special kind of beings-in-relation: deliberately, by free choice, human beings form communities, take responsibility in them, and leave their distinctive mark on them. Human beings rely on all sorts of relationships; they are embedded in a network of other human beings and recognize the necessity of collaboration. In all communities, human beings are united by a principle of unity (family, nation, sports league, church, etc.); in them, they cultivate their history and shape their future.

DOCAT#62 Why do people often act in ways that undermine community?

Although a human being is social, he often acts a-socially: driven by selfishness, greed, or egotism, he leads other people astray, exploits and oppresses them, or else leaves them defenseless. True community, however, is a free association of human beings who want what is good for themselves and for others. An individual cannot bring about this COMMON GOOD; it can be attained only through combined efforts. It may be, for example, a sports stadium that can only be financed jointly or an orchestra that performs music only when many people contribute their talents.