Catholic Social Teaching

The principle of the dignity of the human person

A just society can become a reality only when it is based on the respect of the transcendent dignity of the human person. ‘…the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person, …and not the other way around.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 132

Pope Francis calls young people today to form “a different kind of economy: one that brings life, not death, one that is inclusive and not exclusive, humane and not dehumanizing, one that cares for the environment and does not despoil it”. (The Economy of Francesco event, 2019)

It is time for the dignity of the human person and the health of our common home to be front and centre. The push for profit and economic growth at all costs has meant life and death decisions are made far away from the people on the ground. With climate change, growing disparities of wealth and health and neo-colonial ideas, we see: “some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence.” (Fratelli Tutti, 18).

In the same way colonialism disconnected many peoples from their land, history, and rights, today it continues at an international scale so corporations can benefit. The colonial attitude that continues to treat vulnerable groups as subordinates and less-than still exists today. So that the innate dignity of each individual created in the likeness of God is properly protected by the law, we must secure the human and environmental rights of all peoples as we strive to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s be inspired by, and learn from, leaders around the world who are putting people and planet first! The communities that our partners work with represent some of these leaders.

Notably, the Development Council of Andohatapenaka (CDA) has worked with a Madagascan community deeply affected by impacts of climate change and poverty. Through this project, the community transformed itself into a thriving ecological village developed by and for the villagers. This work embodies Catholic Social Teaching principles:

  • In bringing people together to improve their life conditions, it reflects the principle of Solidarity.
  • Individuals participating in decisions that concern their environment and the surrounding nature that they depend on illustrates the principle of Participation.
  • Solar panels and vegetable gardens involve each family in the Stewardship of Creation.
  • Economic Justice means the villagers selling the produce from their gardens.
Village resident Solotina Voahangy Aimé in her garden

In Canada, Development and Peace members are:

Let’s show our solidarity by refusing to regard our common home solely as a resource to be exploited.

Reflection questions
  • Where in my neighbourhood do I see people exploiting the goodness of nature without limit? Is such overexploitation like or different from what is occurring in the Global South?
  • How do we see nature? As a source of belonging, a gift, a challenge or as an asset?
  • How will I take part in an economy of life, inclusion, and care for our common home? How do I take part in co-creating with God?

Take time to meditate on the inherent relationship between God, the environment and its peoples with this selection of prayers.


Prayer compilation

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Faith reflection, PDF format

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