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Catholic Social Teaching: Twelve Primary Themes

Relatedness of the Religious and Social Dimensions of Life

The "social" the human construction of the world is not "secular" in the sense of being outside of God's plan, but is intimately involved with the dynamic of the Reign of God. Therefore faith and justice are necessarily linked together.


Dignity of the Human Person

Made in the image of God, all human persons are sacred. Every person possesses an inalienable dignity regardless of gender, race, class, or other human categorizations. Human dignity can be recognized and protected only in community with others. One of the most fundamental questions to ask about social development is: What is happening to people?


Option for the Poor

A preferential love should be shown to poor people, whose needs and rights are given special attention in God's eyes. "Poor" is understood to refer to the economically disadvantaged who, as a consequence of their status, suffer oppression and powerlessness.


Political and Economic Rights

All human persons enjoy inalienable rights, which are political/legal [e.g. food, shelter, work education]. These are realized in community. Essential for the promotion of justice and solidarity, these rights are to be respected and protected by all the institutions of society.


Link of Love and Justice

Love of neighbor demands justice; charity must manifest itself in actions and structures which respect human dignity, protect human rights, and facilitate human development. To promote justice is to transform structures which block love.


Promotion of the Common Good

The common good is the sum total of all those conditions of social living economic, political, and cultural which make it possible for women and men to readily and fully achieve the perfection of their humanity. Individual rights are always experienced within the context of promotion of the common good.  



Responsibilities and decisions should be attended to as close as possible to the level of individual initiative in local communities and institutions. Mediating structures of families, neighborhoods, community groups, small businesses, and local governments should be participated in and promoted. But larger government structures do have a role when greater social coordination and regulation are necessary for the common good.


Political Participation

Democratic participation in decision-making is the best way to respect the dignity and liberty of people. The government is the instrument by which people cooperate together in order to achieve the common good. The international common good requires participation in international organizations.


Economic Justice

The economy is for the people and the resources of the earth are to be shared. Labor takes precedence over both capital and technology in the production process. Just wages and the rights of workers to organize are to be respected.


The Dignity of Creation and Ecological Responsibility

Creation is also the image of God and is thus inherently sacred. People are part of the community of creation and must respect, use carefully, and share the resources of the earth. Our work makes us co-creators in the continuing development of the universe.


Global Solidarity

We belong to one human family and as such have mutual obligations to promote the rights and development of all people across the world, irrespective of national boundaries. In particular, the rich nations have responsibilities toward the poor nations and the structures of the international order must reflect justice.


Promotion of Peace

Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right relationship among humans, among nations and between humans and the earth community. Progressive disarmament take place if the future is to be secure. In order to promote peace and the conditions of peace, an effective international authority is necessary.

Adapted from Catholic Social Teaching: Our Best Kept Secret, by Michael J. Schultheis, Ed P. DeBerri, and Peter J. Henriot, Center of Concern/Orbis Books, 1988).








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