What is Catholic Social Teaching?
Catholic social teaching stems from Sacred Scripture, papal encyclicals, Vatican II, and documents from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It is an extension of the Eucharistic liturgy; “The Eucharist, celebrated as a community, teaches us about human dignity, calls us to right relationship with God, ourselves and others, invites us to community and solidarity, and sends us on mission to help transform our communities, neighborhoods and world.” Catholic social teaching guides us in our attempt to share the Eucharistic celebration in a transformative manner. It is typically divided into seven major intertwining themes.
The links below provide more information and examples of how the themes guide our personal, political, and economic decisions on a daily basis.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Catholics believe in the right to live a life of dignity from conception to natural death. A life of dignity begins with the protection of the unborn, includes the right to basic needs, such as food, water, health care, and education, and ends with the right to die a natural death.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The Catholic tradition recognizes that people are sacred and social. How we organize our society, inlcuding our economic and political systems, directly impacts human dignity. As Catholics, we must actively participate in our society by, among other things, voting and advocating for policies and laws that protect human life and dignity and promote the common good.
Rights and Responsibilities
Protecting human dignity begins with protecting human rights. Every person has a right to those things required for a life of dignity, such as clean air and water, access to safe food, health care, and education. With those rights, we also carry responsibilities to each other, our families, our communities, and society at large.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Our Scriptural tradition instructs us to place the needs of the poor and vulnerable first and to judge our society (government, economy, social structures) by how we treat our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Workers’ basic rights to fair wages, productive work, organize and join unions, own property, and safe working conditions must be respected and protected.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all part of one family. As such, we are responsible for each other regardless of racial, national, ethnic, economic, or ideological differences. What we do in our neighborhood or country must not jeopardize our fellow family members in another community or country. We also provide charity to our poorer neighbors here and abroad and must actively work to end injustices that degrade human dignity.
Care for God’s Creation
Ensuring the health of the planet has substantial moral and ethical dimensions. God graced us with a world capable of sustaining human life and we are called to protect this gift for ourselves and future brothers and sisters.
Source: Archdiocese of Salt Lake City, Utah.