Catholic Social Teaching
How does the Catholic faith express itself in the context of society? The foundations of social teaching are found in the Gospel itself, when Jesus teaches his followers about compassion and love expressed in deeds as exhibited in The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), Love of One’s Enemies (Matthew 5), and the Last Judgment (Matthew 25).
In addition to foundations in scripture, the Catholic Church has developed a body of documents since the late 19th century that is commonly referred to as “Catholic Social Teaching.” Beginning in 1891 when Pope Leo XIII wrote about labor and workers in “Rerum Novarum,” there have been many documents written by popes, national or regional councils of bishops, and international synods of bishops, that take up key topics and together comprise this body of thought. Topics include poverty, war and peace, just wage, violence of all forms, human rights, and many others.
There are different ways to organize the principles into understandable themes. The Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, Office of Social Justice
, offered one of the most accessible sites on Catholic Social Teaching, presenting ten principles that highlight these.
These ten principles include the following:
- Human Dignity – human life is sacred, and each person holds an inherent dignity.
- Community and the Common Good – the way society is organized, and the policies of governments, should protect human life and promote the common good.
- Rights and Responsibilities – human rights and human decency must be protected.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – the needs of the poor and vulnerable must come first.
- Participation – all people have a right to participate in the life of society
- Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers – workers are entitled to livable wages, and to organize on their own behalf
- Stewardship of Creation – God’s creation, the environment, must be protected.
- Solidarity – we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers, regardless of race, religion or nationality.
- Role of Government – the state has a positive moral function to promote the common good.
- Promotion of Peace – peace is a moral imperative, and war is only undertaken as an absolute last resort, under very strict conditions.