We can purchase and consume food in a conscientious way, true to our beliefs and concern for others.
For a Catholic who strives for unity of life, balanced care of the body is neither a whim nor a form of vanity, but an integral part of respect for oneself and one’s neighbor as temples of the Holy Spirit.
The dignity of the body in the Catholic worldview
Unlike some other currents of spirituality, we do not believe that the spirit is “attached” to the body, as if this were just a temporary container. Instead, we believe that we are a unity of body and spirit, to the point that resurrection is an essential pillar of our faith. Since the spiritual soul does not die, and therefore does not need to be resurrected, resurrection necessarily refers to the body.
It’s clear that, in time and space, the body is subject to the limitations of any organic matter, including deterioration and biological death. When we are resurrected for eternity, we will somehow regain our bodily form, but in an incorruptible way. A physical existence outside of this world is certainly one of the great paradoxes and mysteries of the Catholic faith, but according to Christian philosophy, the fact that we will conserve our own bodies in some glorious way derives precisely from our inseparable individual unity.
For a Catholic, the body partakes in the intrinsic dignity of the human person as a whole, and deserves loving and conscious care. This should not be confused with either the excesses of the cult of the body or with the negligence of its contempt. It is a question of balance and common sense.
Virtues and vices related to our view of the body
In this context, we can understand even more clearly the Christian virtues connected to respect for the body—both our own and those of others.
We all know the importance to a Christian of virtues such as purity and modesty. We understand the strength of Christian beliefs regarding the fact that human life must be protected with responsibility and love from conception to natural death. This same logic of respect for the body also applies to proper nutrition, which is one of the most obvious requirements of care the body presents. What we eat and drink has a significant impact on the way we value the treasure of life received from God, even in this transient phase of existence in the material world.
Beyond this, the way we feed ourselves has important implications that go far beyond ourselves as individuals. Our carelessness in the way we produce, consume, and discard food may contribute to the hunger that afflicts many people. Negative and irresponsible habits in the way we structure the processes of food production and distribution can exclude millions of people from access not only to healthy food, but also to practically any form of nutrition at all.
Faced with these premises and consequences, it should be clear why we have a duty to be thoughtful about our food choices and their implications, both for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters who might suffer the consequences of our choices. When thinking about what to eat, let’s keep in mind both our physical health and the health and needs of others. This means purchasing and eating food and drink in a way that is truly Catholic.