The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching
Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Each of us images and reflects God, and as God’s children, each human being has basic dignity. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society in economics and politics, in law and policy directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined.
We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. Throughout Church documents, the following rights are to be defended and protected: Economic rights: the right to life (food, shelter, clothing, medical care), the right to work, the right to a just wage, the right to property. Political and Social rights: the right to vote and participate in government, the right to judicial protection, the right to assembly. Religious and Cultural rights: the right to worship, the right to freedom of speech, the right to a basic education.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Pope John Paul II reminds us of the importance of love for the poor:
“Justice will never be fully attainable unless people see in the poor person, who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment. It is not enough to draw on the surplus good which in fact our world abundantly produces; it requires above all a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies.” (The One Hundredth Year, #58).
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
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. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are all created by God as members of the human family. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. We must hear the call of others, especially the weak and oppressed in our midst and in our world. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world.
At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict. This love also extends to issues such as global development, environmental issues, and international human rights.
Care for God’s Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan; it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
Catholic Social Teaching – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium
Economic Justice for All
Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy
On Embryonic Stem Cell Research:
A Statement of the USCCB
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a new statement concerning embryonic stem cell research.
Click here to read the statement, issued June 13, 2008.