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Catholic Social Teaching

The principles of Catholic Social Teaching, as expressed in "Excerpts from Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions," Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops are:

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and assisted suicide. The value of human life is being threatened by increasing use of the death penalty. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life an dignity of the human person.

The Call to Family, Community and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society--in economics and politics, in law and policy--directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. 

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that "loving our neighbor" has global dimensions in an interdependent world.

Care for God's Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth in not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

In addition to these key precepts, the U. S. Catholic Bishops summary of Catholic social teaching on the common good, a fundamental principle of Beyond the Boundaries, follows:

"The Common Good"
The common good is understood as the social conditions that allow people to reach their full human potential and to realize their human dignity. The common good has three essential elements:

  • Respect for the person, reflected in social structures that promote each person's opportunity to realize his or her human dignity.
  • The social well-being and development of the group, reflected in social structures that promote development and make accessible what is necessary for a truly human life, including food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, a safe environment, and the right to establish a family.
  • Peace and security, protected by the public authority to ensure a just order.

In an age of global interdependence, the Church recognizes a universal common good and affirms the need for international structures that can promote the just development of the human family across regional and national lines.? (Pages 23-25, U.S. Catholic Bishops, U.S. Catholic Conference; Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, 1998.)

Other links for Catholic Social Teaching

U.S. Catholic Bishops, Office of Social Development & World Peace - Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions Reflections of the US Catholic Bishops Table of Contents.... 

Office of Social Justice, St. Paul, Minnesota - a comprehensive source for exploring the rich traditions of Catholic Social teachings.