7 themes of Catholic Social teaching

| February 12, 2014 | 4 Comments

Catholic social teaching is central to our faith, and is based on — and inseparable from — our understanding of human life and dignity. These teachings are derived from: the Gospels and the words of Christ; papal statements and encyclicals; and Catholic bishops’ statements and pastoral letters. Catholic social teaching calls us all to work for the common good, help build a just society, uphold the dignity of human life and lift up our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.

The following paragraphs describe the seven themes of Catholic social teaching.

Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, every person’s life and dignity must be respected and supported from conception through natural death. We believe that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

The human person is not only sacred, but social. How we organize our society — socially, economically, legally and politically — directly affects human dignity and the ability of every human person to grow in community. Marriage and family, the foundations for social life, should be strengthened and supported. Every person has a right to participate in society and a corresponding duty to work for the advancement of the common good and the well-being of all.

We are one human family. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Our love for all of our brothers and sisters calls us to seek a peaceful and just society where goods are distributed fairly, opportunity is promoted equally and the dignity of all is respected.

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. To uphold the dignity of work, the basic rights of workers must be respected — the right to productive work, to fair and livable wages, and to organize and join a union.

Every person has a fundamental right to life — the right that makes all other rights possible. Each person also has a right to the conditions for living a decent life — food, health care, housing, education and employment. We have a corresponding duty to secure and respect these rights for others and to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to each other and to our larger society.

Scripture teaches that God has a special concern for the poor and vulnerable. The church calls on all of us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. This preferential option for the poor and vulnerable should be reflected in both our daily lives and public policies. A fundamental measure of our society is how we care for and stand with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.

The world that God created has been entrusted to all of us. Our stewardship of the earth is a form of participation in God’s act of creating and sustaining the world. In our use of creation, we must be guided by a concern for generations to come. We show our respect for the Creator by our care for creation.


Source: Minnesota Catholic Conference. This information has been adapted from: “Catholic Teaching and Principles,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Category: Legislative Guide

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  • Charles C.

    Catholic social teaching calls on us to have soft hearts, shunning the demands of greed and selfishness. That is a good thing. I’m always pleased when someone tells me I have a soft heart.

    However, Catholic social teaching as expressed here also demands that we have soft brains, shunning the demands of logic and common sense. To the extent that we accept it for solely emotional reasons, the teaching ceases to become Catholic, moral, or even rational.

    The concept of “rights” described in Sections four and five, above, bear no relationship to the Rights described in the Constitution, or the traditional understanding of rights. Social teaching “rights” are a relatively new creation, stemming from political ideologies. “Freedom of Speech” means the government can’t stop you from speaking, but it doesn’t mean the government has to buy you a printing press and a broadcast studio.

    That is true of our other real rights. Freedom of religion? Yes. The government has to build a church for you? No. Right to bear arms? Yes. The government should give away revolvers and ammunition? No.

    And what are we to make of theme five’s ” Every person also has a right to . . . food health care, housing, education, and employment.” This is an honest statement if it is rephrased as “The government has a right to take money from you, by force if necessary, and spend it on things it believes people should have.” This is not only not Catholic, it is not moral.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a living wage calculator. It concludes that a single, childless adult living in Hennepin County, needs $22,900 a year to have a living wage. If they are working 30 hours a week, that means an hourly salary of $14.68.

    If that single adult has one child to take care of, the living wage becomes $48,880. That’s $23.50 an hour if they work 40 hours a week with no vacation. If they work 35 hours a week with two weeks of vacation, their hourly wage has to be $27.93 an hour.

    And if you happen to be one working adult with three children, your “livable” wage has to be $76,400 annually. Theme 5, above states that everyone is entitled to employment AND food, AND healthcare, AND housing, AND education. That all comes to well over $100,000 a year for a single parent with three kids. And all that is your “right” according to Catholic social teaching.

    If we want to have any respect for Catholic social teaching at all, themes 4 and 5 have to be tossed and rewritten taking reality into account.