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.
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
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.
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).