Chapter 31. Seventh Commandment: Do Not Steal—Act Justly • 423
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 and assisted suicide.
The value of human life is being threatened by increasing use of
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.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred, but also social. How we organize
our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—
directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to
grow in community. The family is the central social institution
that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We
believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society,
seeking together the common good and well-being of all, espe-
cially the poor and vulnerable.
Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be pro-
tected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human
rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore,
every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those
things required for human decency. Corresponding to these
rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our
families, and to the larger society.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are far-
ing. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich
and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment
(Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around.
Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of con-
tinuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work