By protecting human dignity, moral norms preserve the social fabric

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993):

In this way, moral norms, and primarily the negative ones, those prohibiting evil, manifest their meaning and force, both personal and social. By protecting the inviolable personal dignity of every human being they help to preserve the human social fabric and its proper and fruitful development. The commandments of the second table of the Decalogue in particular — those which Jesus quoted to the young man of the Gospel (cf. Mt 19:19) — constitute the indispensable rules of all social life.

These commandments are formulated in general terms. But the very fact that “the origin, the subject and the purpose of all social institutions is and should be the human person”153 allows for them to be specified and made more explicit in a detailed code of behaviour. The fundamental moral rules of social life thus entail specific demands to which both public authorities and citizens are required to pay heed. Even though intentions may sometimes be good, and circumstances frequently difficult, civil authorities and particular individuals never have authority to violate the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. In the end, only a morality which acknowledges certain norms as valid always and for everyone, with no exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence, both on the national and international levels.

153 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 25.

Veritatis Splendor 97

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