The True Meaning of Dignity

By: PaxCare Staff


The word “dignity” is thrown around in many circles of our society today. Employed for a variety of reasons and circumstances, the meaning of the word can get lost or watered-down.  The good news is that Catholics do, indeed mean something specific when we use the word “dignity” and it does, indeed, differ from the way many people use it.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1700 says, “The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves, as did the prodigal son1, to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.”

So there you have it.  To break it down, an authentic, Catholic sense of dignity recognizes that…

1.  We are made in the image and likeness of God.  Therefore all human life is sacred regardless of the diseases or limitations under which he suffers.

2.  A person is behaving in a manner consistent with his dignity when he strives to live according to the gospel and pursues both his heavenly destiny and his obligation to bring the face of God to the world in all of his works and relationships.

3. A person is behaving in a manner consistent with his dignity if he works to protects his life and health, works to preserve his spiritual, physical, moral, and psychological integrity, and strives to support others in their pursuit of the same.

4.  Above all, the person is true to his dignity to the degree that he renounces sin and embraces a life of virtue.

Incidentally, you can also find these points enumerated in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

So, anytime you hear the word “dignity” you now know what it is supposed to mean.  Any definition that falls short of the above is simply… not worth dignifying.

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