Guilt and Shame are complex and interrelated feelings. Our discussion here focuses on guilt and shame as affective, emotional responses in relation to specific objects or situations. Considered in themselves as psychological phenomena neither guilt nor shame is morally bad. But both are morally significant. In fact, when talking about morality, it is frequently feelings of guilt or shame that we associate with the belief that we have done something morally wrong. Such a belief manifests itself in a range of feelings. We feel that we are not worthy of love, respect and justice and that that other people do not think us worthy of love, respect and justice either. Shame and guilt, then, are emotions that reflect and shape the sort of person we are. Shame and guilt shape our character. Shame is the opposite of pride or of a healthy sense of self-worth. Shame is a feeling that can arise in a number of situations two of which are particularly important here. In the first place shame is the affective response or feeling when something we have done is deemed to be morally wrong in our own eyes or in the eyes of friends and others whose opinion impacts significantly upon our own sense of self worth. The same can be said about the impact of the disapproval of the wider society. Shame is the feeling that arises when supposed truths about ourselves, about which we are not proud, are brought to mind in our own reflection about ourselves and the consequences of our misdeeds being public either in fact or in our imagination. Second, shame can also be future-orientated as a response to possible actions that would contravene our deepest moral convictions. In that sense shame is the sentinel of our moral horizon. Third, shame is the emotional response or feeling that arises when we perceive ourselves to have been unjustly humiliated by someone else or treated as less worthy of decent treatment or respect by others. It is a feeling that can arise when we think that people have unjustifiably treated us as their inferiors. These forms of shame, arising from our own behaviour or from the behaviour of others, result in an affective sense of oneself or a feeling about oneself that is the opposite of a healthy sense of self-worth. To defend one's sense of self-worth and protect oneself from shame entails either trying to hide oneself and extract oneself from the shame-inducing situation or attempting to turn on the perceived cause of shame, seeking retribution against others. Self harm may also be a means of self-protection against a shame-inducing situation. Bullying, domestic violence, racism and sexism, are examples of the kinds of behaviour that can lead people to experience feelings of shame and provoke the desire to hide from or hurt those who seem to be causing the feelings of shame. Sometimes, when it is not possible to hide from or hurt the perceived cause, a person may redirect those negative energies to someone perceived to be inferior or to someone who is an easier target. In other words, feelings of shame can lead to a cycle of shame and violence against oneself or others. In such a context shame becomes corrosive. Affective maturity entails recognizing shame for what it is, namely, a morally relevant emotional cue to alert us to the possibility that something that we are doing, or something that someone else is doing might be morally wrong. The next step is to address the causes of these feelings in a constructive way that does not simply repeat the cycle of shame and violence. See the section on Anger above.
Men and Women are fundamentally equal. Man and woman are both human beings. Theologically speaking the creation of human beings precedes the creation of the sexes. Women and men are of equal worth or dignity in the eyes of God. Both male and female are made in God's image and both are called to share in the future God promises. Yet, this fundamental equality does not mean that being a man and being a woman is the same thing. Rather it is equally good to be man as it is to be a woman and neither sex should think of itself as superior in some fundamental or essential way to the other. Man and woman share the same humanity. They are both made in God's image sharing a basic mutuality. Both are called to live in a covenant of love (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1991). Consequently, sexism, that is, the unjust discrimination to the detriment of a person on the basis of his or her sex is not to be tolerated. Since all human beings, whether male or female, share the same dignity or moral worth each gender has an equal claim to the natural human rights that proceed from this worth. Similarly, each gender has a duty to work for the common good and to respect the dignity and rights of others. True, all human beings are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, para. 29).