The human person is created out of love, for love and is destined to flourish. God, who is perfect love, has created each person in the image and likeness of God. Each person is unique and equal in dignity to all others. Persons are rational and free beings having both a body and a soul. Human beings are in relationship to all of God's creation. God has made each person in the Divine image and likeness as an inseparable unity of body, mind and spirit. God gifts each individual with absolute and enduring dignity and the unconditional love of God. Through God the human person has the possibility of life lived to the full.
Anger, considered in itself, is neither morally good nor morally bad. But anger is morally significant. Like all emotions anger helps us to perceive situations about which we may have to make moral choices about what to do. What we choose to do or not to do can be called morally right or morally wrong. Put another way, anger, in itself, is a good thing. As with all emotions anger is given by God to help us to work out how best to bring about true human flourishing through participating in the happiness or beatitude that God promises all human beings. We feel angry because we want to resist something or some situation that we perceive as bad or evil, something that frustrates human flourishing. Most frequently, this frustration arises in situations where we believe something to be rightfully due to ourselves or to someone else and a person, institution, or circumstance interferes with a person receiving what is due to them. When this happens we become angry. We are angered by murder because the murderer has denied the value of the life of the person murdered. We are angered when someone insults us or someone we love, because we feel personal dignity has been disrespected. We are angered by extreme poverty because we see the ways in which unjust economic and political systems create situations that make it impossible for people to flourish. The appropriate response to anger is to find ways to change that situation and restore justice. Usually, though not always, impulsive responses in which anger takes over as rage or a desire for revenge are not the best kinds of response. Indeed, the Catholic tradition holds such feelings to be morally bad because they can lead to actions that in their turn ultimately deny the dignity of all human beings and diminish the happiness that God wills for all human beings. If our anger leads us to actions that entail denigrating others in the mistaken belief that such behaviour will somehow restore justice then those actions and that anger becomes morally bad. Affective maturity requires learning how to manage anger so that it can serve the good of human flourishing and not turn into the vice of wrath.
We can find clues to our spiritual nature in the experience of transcendence. We are open to experiences in which we seem to transcend the limitations of our physical bodies and our individual egos. We have all had the experience of losing the awareness of ourselves as we become immersed in the sheer beauty of a sunset, the tragedy of young life cut short, the creation of the perfect meal or the exhilaration of being on the winning team. These and other experiences are places where we touch transcendence and where the Transcendent One, God, touches us. The ticking of time that characterizes so much of our daily lives gives way to experiences that are timeless, that seem to stand outside of time and space, that seem eternal. Often these experiences just happen to us. We do not seek them out and sometimes we can harden ourselves against them. We can teach ourselves, or allow ourselves to be taught not to experience wonder and awe, or peace and stillness, or beauty and the sublime. We are taught to be practical and serious, busy and productive, functional and realistic. But preoccupation with pragmatic, earthly concerns risk denying the spiritual dimension of our being as physical, spiritual and psychological unities. Given that this spiritual dimension is part of our being in the image of God, part of our dignity as human beings, the realization of the fullness of this dignity requires the exercise of our spiritual capacities. In other words, human flourishing presupposes a healthy spiritual life.
The Catholic perspective promotes human dignity, the essential worth or dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God. Each human being is unique and unrepeatable and loved and called by God. This means that every human being, in every circumstance, is good. This is not to say that they are morally good. Our moral goodness or moral badness is based on the moral decisions we make. Rather, to affirm the worth or dignity of the human person is to affirm that it is a good thing that he or she exists, that his or her existence is desired by God and that his or her existence is worthwhile. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2013). Catholic thinking about sexuality and relationships is based on this basic affirmation of the equal worth of all human beings.
The sanctity of life is one way of giving expression to this basic affirmation of the worth or dignity of all human beings. When the Catholic Church affirms the sanctity of life it affirms that it is good that a particular human being exists rather than the reverse. the existence of each human person is willed by God and human beings have no right to destroy that existence. To say that life is sacred is to say, no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter what you will do, the simple fact that you exist as a specific human being is enough for you to be considered worthy of life, worthy of respect and worthy of those things that will help you to flourish rather than perish.
God has called us to flourish. God wants us to flourish. In a sense, flourishing is our human vocation. Human beings don't simply exist. Human beings can exist badly in circumstances that don't seem to be in tune with the idea that their existence is a good thing and that they are willed and loved by God. Such circumstances can lead to the death or perishing of human beings in both the literal and the figurative sense. Perishing in the figurative sense mean that spiritual life, mental well-being and physical health begin to wither and die. On the other hand human beings can exist well, living their lives in circumstances and ways through which they flourish. When we think about what it means to talk about human flourishing, we focus on the achievement of the fullness of our potential as human beings in all dimensions: physical, mental, spiritual and relational. The Catholic perspective promotes human flourishing in all its dimensions together with the making of moral choices in ways that contribute to, rather than threaten or undermine, this flourishing of the whole human person.
Now, when we talk about what is truly good and what 'freedom for' means in the Catholic sense, we are referring to the freedom to choose to direct one's actions towards the fostering of one's relationship with God and towards the flourishing of the community as a whole. This outwardly focused, altruistic understanding of freedom does not preclude one's own flourishing. Rather, it affirms that as beings made in the image of God, and hence as social and relational creatures, human beings flourish with others. Our flourishing is intimately tied up with the flourishing of others. When we use our freedom in this way, we respect not only the dignity of all human beings, but come closer to realizing the kind of just, peaceful and joyful community that God wants for humanity. What is truly good, in Catholic terms, is that which God wills. How do we know what God wills? Through revelation and through the use of our human reason to understand the order of the universe the way God has made it so that we can cooperate with God in making judgements and choices. Using these two sources of revelation and reason, we have already seen how we can affirm the good of every human being, their human dignity. We have seen how we can affirm the good of the body and the positive value of human sexuality expressed through procreation and conjugal love. We have seen how we can affirm the good of love, of intimacy, of being free of shame and of living whole-heartedly in a community of love, peace and justice with others. Thus, when it comes to moral reasoning about human sexuality and relationships, being able to answer basic questions about what is truly good means that our consciences are already well-informed about the starting point of our moral reflection. We come to understand such questions have answers both on the authority of God and the evidence of our own critical thought, reflection and feelings. What is said above constitutes the focus for what we should ultimately wish to achieve in all our moral decisions and use our freedom to work towards through our moral-decision making. What is discussed here provides a framework for helping us to think through what the right thing to do is in any given moral situation, especially in the context of human sexuality and relationships.
The Catholic perspective on relational and sexual health is situated within a larger framework of human flourishing. Because human beings are created male and female in the image of God, God wills the flourishing of all human beings. We know this not only through the Genesis narrative, but also through the accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus talks about the reign of God at a time when the weakest, the oppressed, the marginalized in society will finally be treated with the respect and just love that they deserve. In chapter 6 of Luke's Gospel, Jesus says: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. These are strong words if we take them seriously. What they are saying is that what God wants, what God desires for us, is a society of justice, peace and joy for everyone (Romans 14:17). God desires a society in which people truly flourish. But such flourishing can never occur in isolation. Human beings flourish precisely in and through their relationships with other people, with the world around them and above all with God. The flourishing of the individual, in other words, is always associated with the flourishing of the community. Where we seemingly flourish whilst others perish because of our actions, such flourishing is false. I cannot claim to be realizing the fullness of my human dignity if doing so requires me to trample on yours. It is on the basis of this understanding that the Catholic perspective develops the idea of the common good, particularly through Catholic Social Teaching. In 1965, in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World—Gaudium et Spes the Second Vatican Council defined the common good as follows: Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result, the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family. The common good is therefore crucially different from the greater good. It does not permit the destruction of some for the maximization of pleasure for others. Rather, it encourages us to see that our own flourishing requires certain basic conditions to be met. One of those basic conditions is a duty to make sure that basic conditions are also met for others. It is a fancy way of saying, 'Do unto others as you would have them do to you.