“Life and Dignity of the Human Person” is a foundational theme of Catholic Social Teaching. It emerges from the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the very first chapter of Genesis, God created the universe and everything in it: light, the dome of the sky, dry land, vegetation, the lights in the sky, living creatures. At last God created human beings, “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness” (GN 1:26). In each instance, “God saw that it was good.”
Fred Kammer, Jesuit priest, scholar, lawyer, and activist, reflects on the early chapters of Genesis in the first chapter of his book Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought (Paulist, 2004). He calls our attention to “God’s triple revelation” and “Our Triple Truth.” Through creation, he explains, God shares God’s goodness, which is suffused throughout creation; God shares God’s dominion and so we have the responsibility of stewardship over the earth’s resources; and “God reveals divine kinship with us by freely choosing to dwell with the human community.” As a result, we are “one interdependent family with the Lord Yaheweh” (18).
Our society seems to overlook these insights. According to Kammer,
Contemporary American society’s persistent quest for new means and measures of self-esteem betrays its profound doubt in even the fundamental worth of human persons; and too much economic development occurs with rank disregard for the basic values of the natural universe around us (16).
Indeed, it seems, the the size of one’s house is the criterion of success and is seen to be not only a symbol of but even a font of future economic prosperity. All too frequently, we do not consider how our commercial enterprise impacts the poor.
The theological insight of Genesis, communicated through Catholic Social Teaching, suggests that our value rests in our being rather than our doing or our having.
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies