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. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. . . 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.
— Life and Dignity of the Human Person, USCCB, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/life-and-dignity-of-the-human-person.cfm
When we think of this tenet of Catholic social teaching, we tend to gravitate to the beginning and end-of-life issues–abortion, cloning, euthanasia, and the death penalty.
What about the middle of life?
In the political arena, the issue of sexual assault, sexual battery, and rape have taken center stage. None of the behavior we have seen and heard can be condoned, regardless of whether it is words or actions. All of it is objectionable because it destroys the dignity of those who are victims. It also is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ own words and actions, and if we are disciples, his is the model we are called to follow.
We have come a long way as a nation in our ability to listen to the stories of victims of violence and abuse — domestic abuse, war, sexual assault. Our colleges and universities are taking steps to make their campuses safer for both men and women so that they do not become victims. The Bureau of Justice in a recent study on college campuses noted that 1 of every 5 college students (over 20%) have been victims of sexual assault or battery or rape.
Why as leaders should we care?
Because like Jesus, there are many stories we must be willing to listen to with compassion and love, not accusations and denials, and offer a welcoming hand that leads victims from the margins into the shelter of our communities of faith.
If we are to have a moral vision for society that is founded on values such as dignity of the human person, then we are called to light the way. Especially at a time such this when the path can seem so dark and ugly.