His Teachings on Social Justice, Law, Life and Family
The two basic principles of the Church’s doctrine on social justice are the God-given innate dignity of the human person and the common good. The principle of the dignity of the human person provides the foundation for human rights. Each individual person is created in the image and likeness of God and God raised that dignity by His incarnation as a human being. Each human person has an inalienable dignity and must therefore always be treated as an end and not only as a means.
Saint John Paul II wrote in The Church in America:
It is appropriate to recall that the foundation on which all human rights rest is the dignity of the person. “God’s masterpiece, man, is made in the divine image and likeness. Jesus took on our human nature, except for sin; he advanced and defended the dignity of every human person, without exception; he died that all might be free. The Gospel shows us how Christ insisted on the centrality of the human person in the natural order (see Lk. 12:22-29) and in the social and religious orders, even against the claims of the Law (see. Mk 2:27): defending men, women (see. Jn. 8:11) and even children (see. Mt 19:13-15), who in his time and culture occupied an inferior place in society. The human be. For this reason, “every offense against the dignity of man is an offense against God himself, in whose image man is made.”(No. 57).
The second classical principle of the Church’s doctrine on social justice is the principle of the common good. The common good is more than just a simple sum of individual goods in society. It is the total of conditions that allow people to reach their fulfillment more fully and easily. (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 164).
Law is an ordinance of the state based upon right reason for the common good to serve the human person, the family and all of their rights. All law must respect all of God’s creation, the dignity of the human person, the inviolability of his life, his inalienable fundamental rights, freedom and justice, the sense of solidarity and the rejection of discrimination.
Lawmakers must promulgate laws for the common good. A law contrary to God’s law such as legalized abortion is no law. It is void and of no force or effect. It is not for the common good but only an abuse of authority and a raw exercise of power.
Saint John Paul II wrote in The Church in America:
There can be no rule of law, however, unless citizens and especially leaders are convinced that there is no freedom without truth. In effect, the grave problems which threaten the dignity of the human person, the family, marriage, education, the economy and working conditions, the quality of life and life itself, raise the question of the rule of law. (Nos. 51, 53). The Synod Fathers rightly stressed that “the fundamental rights of the human person are inscribed in human nature itself, they are willed by God and therefore call for universal observance and acceptance. No human authority can infringe upon them by appealing to majority opinion or political consensus, on the pretext of respect for pluralism and democracy. (No.19).
These truths of social justice and law apply to all peoples – not just Catholics. These are universal objective truths binding upon the conscience of all peoples for all times, including lawmakers. They are subject to the universal unwritten law of conscience whether they are believers or not. This is the foundation and universal guarantee of human dignity and of life in society.
Civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience. Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person.
However, Relativists interpret the Constitution according to what they want as an end, they make it say what they want it to say: it’s evolutionary; it’s whatever the judges say it is; it’s unprincipled and not absolute and depends on who the judges are. They don’t believe in the truth that the Constitution is fixed with a foundational intent and needs only to be interpreted; it’s amended by its own procedures and not by judges and that laws are made by legislators and not by judges with their own personal policy beliefs.
Justice Benjamin Curtis dissented in the Dred Scott decision that legalized slavery. He said, “When a strict interpretation of the Constitution, according to the fixed rules which govern the interpretation of laws, is abandoned, and the theoretical opinions of individuals are allowed to control its meaning, we have no longer a Constitution; we are under the government individual men, who for the time being have power to decree what the Constitution is according to their own views of what it ought to mean.”
Relativist and activist Supreme Court judges justified and legalized slavery, segregation, abortion and sodomy. The Constitution should be interpreted as the Founding Fathers intended from their text and their tradition – the clear or implicit meaning and, if ambiguous, from the meaning of the times when it was written. This is an aid to judicial restraint and prevents judicial activism based upon personal beliefs and not constitutional principles. Courts shouldn’t create rights, they should protect them. Only the legislatures should create rights.
Since humans are made in the image of God and dignified, the state must acknowledge this inherent dignity and their rights which precede the state. Life is a gift from God, the Creator of life to whom we must give an account of how we use it either for good or for evil. The right to life is the first of all rights. If there is no right to life, there are no other rights because all other rights are an expression of the right to life.
All the rights of freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc., depend on and derive from the right to life of the human person from conception to natural death. This right is the foundation of democratic liberties and the keystone of civil society. If there is no right to life, there is no other right and no right to family. If there is no right to life, any other right may also be taken away.
The human person and the family precede the state. The stability of the family is the basis of the state and therefore the state must support the intellectual and moral teaching of children all of which will result in a culture of life and a civilization of love. The state must help humans to realize their potential and help the poor, marginalized and weak, to protect life, marriage and the family.
Marriage and the family were designed by God. The law should respect His design of marriage of one male and one female united in a permanent, monogamous, indissoluble union of love with openness for new life. The family is the basic social unit of the state. The family is God’s place for the protection and development of the human person. The family has the right and the duty to educate its children, not the state. The state is at the service of the human person and the family and must protect their rights.
Democracy cannot stand unless the state promotes these objective truths about social justice, life, marriage and the family. There is no true freedom without truth. If the state does not promote these objective truths, it becomes vulnerable to Relativism and the ideologies of special interest groups and an instrument of their power over the human person, the family and especially the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized. This applies to conservative or liberal political extremes. We have witnessed this with the modern totalitarian states of Nazism (conservative) and Communism (liberal) which promoted ideologies of special interest groups who ignored the objective truth about human beings and killed them as an instrument of state policy.
Saint John Paul II said on his visit to New York in October 1996:
Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Democracy serves what is true and right when it safeguards the dignity of every human person, when it respects inviolable and inalienable human rights, when it makes the common good the end and criterion regulating all public and social life. But these values themselves must have an objective content. Otherwise they correspond only to the power of the majority, or the wishes of the most vocal. If an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in calling into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations.
His message to the Fiftieth National Prayer Breakfast on February 3, 20000 stated:
Democracy [must be saved] from self-destruction. Democracy is our best opportunity to promote the values that will make the world a better place for everyone, but a society which exalts individual choice as the ultimate source of truth undermines the very foundations of democracy. If there is no objective moral order which everyone must respect, and if each individual is expected to supply his or her own truth and ethic of life, there remains only the path of contractual mechanisms as the way of organizing our living together in society. In such a society the strong will prevail and the weak will be swept aside. If there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political action, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reason of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.