Instances of prejudice and discrimination are on the rise in our society. Sometimes biases are masked and subtle, other times overt and violent. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has inherent dignity as a child of God, and is uniquely loved and valued. Any other characteristics a person might have are secondary with respect to this God-given dignity. All people are equal members of the human family, not categories to be singled out for attack or protection. At Home in the Web of Life states, "Because of God's image within us, every human person has the right to all that is needed to guarantee human dignity."
Prejudice is damaging both to its perpetrators and its victims. The church and other religious and social institutions have a responsibility to instruct citizens with regard to human dignity and respect for all persons. The motives and attitudes behind prejudice and violence must be addressed, or criminal acts based on them will continue. The question must be asked, "Why do so many in our society feel no compunction when it comes to hateful speech and actions against others?" Such attitudes are learned, and religious and community groups must spare no effort to educate members, and particularly children, on these vital issues if we hope to counter successfully the propaganda of bias-based organizations.
Principles For Action
Churches and religious bodies should take the lead in setting an example of complete and loving respect in their treatment of all persons. This critical challenge of our time must ultimately be met through conversion of people's minds and hearts. We are skeptical of the ability of legislation to address the inward attitudes that motivate people to commit crimes based on prejudice and bigotry, and therefore, we take no position on related legislative proposals.
It is our belief that all men, women, and children, whatever their differences, whatever their characteristics, merit fairness, equality of opportunity, public safety, and bodily integrity. Respect for the dignity of each person and the sanctity of life demands no less. In the words of Pope John Paul II: "Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation. It is an indivisible good. We need then to show care for all life and for the life of everyone. Indeed, at an even deeper level, we need to go to the very roots of life and love."
Suggested Policy Directions
We support policies that will -