7 themes of Catholic Social teaching

| February 12, 2014 | 12 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

  • Joshserro7

    cool story

  • Jaira

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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.

    • Charles

      Please realize that in my lengthy comment above, you can find a request for help. I am not a Biblical scholar. It simply seems to me that we are calling for “rights” which can never be obtained. They would require more and more government money until everything is taken from everybody and handed out again, equally.

      This sounds extreme, but I see no alternative. Please, someone explain to me how this is financially possible while avoiding the injunction against theft.

      I have to be wrong, I can’t possibly be right. Can the Social Justice theory, as expressed today, be fundamentally wrong?

      • Kristine Johnson-Krekelberg

        It is the right for every child of God to live in dignity and peace and have what they need to sustain life That is what it means to me.

        • Charles C.

          Dear Kristine Johnson-Krekelberg,

          Thanks for responding, I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

          The idea you expressed is very different from what I’m used to thinking, so I’d appreciate some clarification. I’m thinking first of the word “right.” There are “positive” rights and “negative” rights. Negative rights basically say to the government “You can’t do this to a citizen.” Examples include preventing the government from interfering with freedom of speech or religion, not allowing for unreasonable search and seizure, etc., etc. “Positive” rights are claims that the government must do something at the expense of the citizens.

          In this country, we find our rights listed in the Constitution. Up through the 1930’s, our rights were all negative rights. Any positive rights came about through contracts or deals made between the government and a citizen or state. A positive right, in the end, means taking something from someone and giving it to someone else. And, of course, when the government takes something it is by force or the threat of force.

          I understand you to be saying that the government should insure that everyone has dignity, peace, and the means to sustain life. I interpret that to mean that the government must provide, at a minimum, food and water, sanitation, shelter, clothing, medical care, freedom from crime, and a meaningful job at a livable wage. I don’t know your position, but many add transportation, phones, education, voting rights, and others to the list of positive rights.

          It seems to me that this is impossible. Apparently the rest of the world believes it is impossible, as no society has ever been able to accomplish it, not even the frequently cited Scandinavian countries, which are famous for small populations of one ethnicity and culture sitting on fantastic natural resources.

          Even attempting to do so is tremendously costly, even ruinous. No country which has tried it has gone from poverty to wealth, and many have gone from wealth to terrible poverty and death. For examples of those countries, look to the Socialists. Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. Are all massive failures which resulted in poverty and the death of 100 million people in the last century.

          So what, in practical terms, do we do?

  • John

    I can appreciate this as a whole, but the union talk is not a Catholic teaching. That destroyed the entirety of it for me.

    • Charles C.

      Dear John,

      I share your concern with the wording here, how it is presented to the faithful, and how some misuse it to push for worldly solutions to spiritual problems.

      I’m reluctant to just toss the whole thing, however. May I ask you to look for what good there is in it, and find for yourself what an authentic interpretation might be?

      It’s going to be tough to maintain that there should be no social teaching whatever. Would you be so kind as to tell me what parts you can agree with, if any?

      Yes, each of those points have been, in my opinion, misused, but we should be able to work out something that is both Catholic and reasonable. Of course, the possibilty exists that those words have been so poorly defined and distorted that we need to start from scratch, or at least clearly explain what they are and aren’t saying.

      It’s a sensitive area and can lead to name calling among Catholics. Is there some way to avoid that?

    • Becky Goff

      If you would please see the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo anno and the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching, I believe you will find that indeed “the union talk” IS Catholic teaching.

  • Melissa Wolbrette

    Now all the church needs to do is apply its own teachings on social justice to its lay employees.

  • Anonymous Person

    It seems to me that you have copied most of this information from another website.