Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic Social Teaching is central to our faith. It is rooted in our commitment to the poor and vulnerable and is founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ. Catholic Social Teaching is about building a society based on justice and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of society.
NEW: Download or purchase the new "Catholic Social Teaching" brochure in the Strengthening Catholic Identity series, from ACCU and the Reid Group. Find practical ways that your campus can live its commitment to social justice.
Be sure to read Catholic Higher Education and Catholic Social Teaching: A Vision Statement, for guidance in incorporating CST across the curriculum on your campus.
The following major themes of Catholic Social Teaching are explained in more depth on the Catholic Social Teaching and Faithful Citizenship sections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, as well as on the Education for Justice page.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The first social teaching proclaims the respect for human life, one of the most fundamental needs in a world distorted by greed and selfishness. The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation for all the social teachings. This theme challenges the issues of abortion, assisted suicide, human cloning, and the death penalty. The Catholic Church holds the belief that every human life is precious and is a gift from God, and that every institution is measured by whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The second social teaching proclaims that the human person is not only sacred, but also social. It stresses that how we organize society in economics, politics, and law or policy directly affects human dignity and community. Society often proclaims the importance of individualism, but Catholic Social Teaching argues that human beings are fulfilled in community and family. The Catholic Church believes we have the responsibility to participate in society and to promote the common good, especially for the poor and vulnerable.
Rights and Responsibilities
Human dignity can only be protected if all human rights are protected and responsibilities of all human beings are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to the basic needs of life. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a duty and responsibility to help fulfill these rights for one another, for our families, and for the larger society. Public debate in our nation is often divided between those who focus on personal responsibilities and those who focus on social responsibilities, but the Catholic tradition insists that both are necessary to respond to the basic and fundamental rights of every human being.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
This world is shaped by the division between growing prosperity for some and poverty for others. The Catholic Church proclaims that the basic moral test of a society is how the most vulnerable members are faring. Our society is marred by a deepening division between rich and poor. From the Last Judgment reading (Mt 25:31-46), all people are instructed by God to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The Catholic Church teaches that the economy must serve the people. Too often the marketplace takes precedence over the rights of workers. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. The rights to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative are all part of protecting the dignity of work by protecting the rights of the workers. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights, and advances the well-being of all.
Our society often stresses individualism, indifference, and sometimes isolationism in the face of international responsibilities. The Catholic Church proclaims that every human being has a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Solidarity is about loving our neighbors locally, nationally, as well as internationally. This virtue was described by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38).
Care for God's Creation
The Catholic tradition insists that every human being show respect for the Creator by our stewardship of His creation. We are called to protect people and the planet by living our faith with respect for God’s creation. In a society with controversy over environmental issues, the Catholic Church believes it is a fundamental moral and ethical challenge that cannot be ignored.