Catholic Social Teaching
The following information is taken from the U.S. Catholic bishops’ statements Sharing Catholic Teaching (1998), A Century of Social Teachings (1991), and Political Responsibility, Protecting the Least Among Us, and Pursuing the Common Good (1995).
Life and dignity of the human person
“The church’s belief in the sanctity of human life and inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of Catholic social teaching.” Every person is created in the image of God. Every person is precious. All laws, practices, and institutions must protect, not undermine, human life and human dignity, from conception through natural death.
Call to family, community and participation
“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 basic cell of society; it must be supported. Government has the mission of protecting human life, promoting the common good of all persons, and defending the right and duty of all to participate in social life.
Human 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.” The church upholds both personal responsibility and social rights. Every person has a right to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and essential social services. Every person has a right to raise a family and the duty to support them. Human dignity demands religious and political freedom and the duty to exercise these rights for the common good of all persons.
Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable
“Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.” Giving priority concern to the poor and vulnerable strengthens the health of the whole society. The human life and dignity of the poor are most at risk. The poor have the first claim on our personal and social resources.
Dignity of work and the rights of workers
“Work is more than a means to a wage; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.” Workers have rights to decent work, just wages, safe working conditions, unionization, disability protection, retirement security and economic initiative. The economy exists for the human person; the human person does not exist for the economy. Labor has priority over capital.
“We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences.” Solidarity recognizes that the fates of the people of the earth are linked. Solidarity requires richer nations to aid poorer ones, commands respect for different cultures, demands justice in international relationships, and calls on all nations to live in peace with one another.
Care for God’s creation
“We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation.” Good stewardship of the earth and of all its creatures, including human beings, is a complex challenge. Humans are part of creation itself, and whatever we do to the earth we ultimately do to ourselves. We must live in harmony with the rest of creation and preserve it for future generations.