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Human life & Dignity

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.  Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.

In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion, assisted suicide, and 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.



“Having received the gift of the Gospel of Life, we are the people of life and a people for life. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of Life to the world. To proclaim Jesus is to proclaim life itself. Gratitude and joy at the incomparable dignity of the human person impel us to bring the Gospel of life to the hearts of all people and make it penetrate every part of society.”


USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities

“The Gospel of Life: A Brief Summary” 

Prayer Group
A consistent ethic of life

A wide spectrum of issues touches on the protection of human life and the promotion of human dignity. As Pope John Paul II has reminded us: "Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good" (The Gospel of Life, no. 87).

Among important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice.

This focus and the Church's commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement one another. A consistent ethic of life, which explains the Church's teaching at the level of moral principle—far from diminishing concern for abortion and euthanasia or equating all issues touching on the dignity of human life—recognizes instead the distinctive character of each issue while giving each its proper place within a coherent moral vision. As bishops of the United States we have issued pastoral letters on war and peace, economic justice, and other social questions affecting the dignity of human life—and we have implemented programs for advancing the Church's witness in these areas through parishes, schools, and other Church institutions (e.g., Communities of Salt and Light [1994]; Sharing Catholic Social Teaching [1998]). Taken together, these diverse pastoral statements and practical programs constitute no mere assortment of unrelated initiatives but rather a consistent strategy in support of all human life in its various stages and circumstances.

To focus on the evil of deliberate killing in abortion and euthanasia is not to ignore the many other urgent conditions that demean human dignity and threaten human rights. Opposing abortion and euthanasia "does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 23). We pray that Catholics will be advocates for the weak and the marginalized in all these areas. "But being 'right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 23).

Excerpted from USCCB Pastoral Plan for Prolife Activities

Catholic Social teaching:
seven principles for life


Our Commissioning to Uphold Life in Thoughts, Decisions and Action Locally & Globally

"The fifth commandment, thou shall not kill has validity because God alone is Lord of life and death.  The respect owed to inviolability and integrity of physical life finds its climax in the positive commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself, by which Jesus enjoins the obligation to tend to the needs of one's neighbor."  Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 112


Life & Dignity of the Human Person

Our faith proclaims the sacredness of human life that manifests dignity in the human person by universal, inviolable and inalienable human rights. In all facets of life, from conception to natural death, dignity of the human person provides a basis for a moral vision of society.
“…These rights apply to every stage of life and to every political, social, economic and cultural situation…”
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 154


Call to Family, Community, & Participation

The sacredness and dignity of human life exists not in isolation, but affirmed through individuals growing in community and seeking together the well being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.  "How we organize our society in economics and politics, in law and policy directly affects the common good and the capacity of individuals to develop their full potential. . . "

Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship, 47


Rights & Responsibilities

Respecting life and dignity inherent in human rights flow rights and responsibilities to one another, our families and society.  “…The mutual complementarities between rights and duties—they are indissolubly linked…Those, therefore, who claim their own rights, yet altogether forget or neglect to carry out their respective duties are people who build with one hand and destroy with the other.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 156


Option for the Poor & Vulnerable

The common good can only be realized when the most vulnerable and marginalized in our midst, locally and globally, are active participants. When they lack the basic necessities of life, humanity denies their sacred dignity.
“Pope Benedict XVI has taught that love for widows, orphans, prisoners and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to the Church as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching the Gospel (Deus Caritas Est, no 22). This . . . includes unborn children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, terminally ill and victims of injustice and oppression and immigrants.”

Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship, 54


Dignity of Work & Rights of Workers

Through work, we continually participate in upholding life in God’s creation. By supporting a living wage and safe working conditions, economic justice aligns with the common good in respecting worker’s dignity by providing the necessities of life.
“By work and industriousness, man—who has a share in the divine art and wisdom—makes creation, the cosmos already ordered by the Father, more beautiful. He summons the social and community energies that increase the common good.”
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 266



In a world of social and economic strife, solidarity calls us to see other, locally and globally, as our brothers and sisters. People do not become someone to exploit or demean, but we affirm their life as part of the human family.
“…Never before has there been such widespread awareness of the bond on interdependence between individuals and peoples…In the presence of the phenomenon of interdependence…there persists in every part of the world stark inequalities…stoked by various forms of exploitation, oppression and corruption…we are all responsible for all…(Solidarity) is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good…in the Gospel sense to loose oneself for the other instead of exploiting him and to serve him instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage…These principles remind us…the interconnectedness of the freedom of all persons…contributing by means of their choices either to build up or to impoverish (society).”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 163,192, 193


Care for God's Creation

God's gift of creation sustains life. Protecting the air, land and water from environmental degradation, we affirmthe sacredness of life by our stewardship of creation.  Being conscientious consumers and advocates to live simply, we avoid exploitation of resources and reduce our carbon footprint for the sustainability of creation today and respect for the life of future generations.
“The Magisterium underscores human responsibility for the preservation of a sound and healthy environment for all…For the rights of today’s generations and those to come…There is a need to break with the logic of mere consumption and promote forms of agricultural and industrial production that respect the order of creation and satisfy the basic human needs of all.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 465 and 486

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