Below are some of the themes of the social teaching of the Catholic Church. This list is by no means exhaustive and should be viewed as a starting point. For more information regarding Catholic social teaching, please explore the links to the right.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Every single human being is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore each and every human being has dignity and is worthy of respect. This respect entails respect for their rights. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that human life is sacred, from conception to natural death.1
Since every human being has dignity, every human being should have “everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one's own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom.” (Guarium et Spes
Dignity of Work, the Rights of the Worker and Economic Justice
There is dignity in work. Through work, human beings participate in creation and help realize God's plan on earth. Work honors the gifts and talents that God has given to each one of us. Work is ‘for the worker, and not the worker for work’. Likewise, the economy must serve people, and profit cannot be the ultimate goal or purpose of economic activity. No human being can be reduced to a means of profit, because to do so is to enslave that person, which goes against his or her inherent dignity as a human being.2 The Church teaches that workers have certain rights, including just wages which provide them the means to live a human life and care for their family3, the right to gainful employment, freedom from unjust discrimination, and to join unions and to strike when it is necessary4.
Rights and Responsibilities
We each have rights and responsibilities. Every human being has the right to life and to the means of proper development of life - food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical attention, necessary social services, security in case of sickness, inability to work, old age, or any other situation when through no fault of their own, a person is deprived of the means to provide for themselves.5 These natural rights are inseparable from responsibilities and we all have the responsibility to respect those rights.6
The right to private property is not an absolute or unconditional right and must never be exercised when it goes against the common good. No one has the right not to share what he or she does not need when there are people who lack the necessities to live a dignified life.7 In order to guarantee the common good, we must both protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities.8
Preferential Option for the Poor
The test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.9 Due to their special situation in society, the Church teaches us that the poor deserve preferential respect,10 because if a society is to provide justice for all, the poor, the powerless, the marginalized have the most urgent claim.11 The Church's option for the poor calls us to help those who are the most vulnerable, thereby strengthening the whole community, which is wounded when some of its members are marginalized and denied basic rights.12 When there is extreme disparity between individuals, there is scandal against social justice and human dignity.13 Such imbalance and scandal are also threaten lasting peace.14
Solidarity helps us see other people and nations as our neighbors.15 We are one, human family and we must go beyond our differences. We are called to overcome barriers of race, religion, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and economic status and work for global peace and justice.16 Solidarity is determination to commit oneself to the common good, because we are all one family and we are responsible for each other.17 Solidarity prevents rich nations from being indifferent to the poverty and lack of basic human rights experienced by people living in other nations.18
Stewardship of and Care for Creation
God gave humans dominion over the earth’s resources. However, the goods of creation are intended for the common good of all human beings and we are responsible for caring for the earth, using its resources wisely, and preserving these resources for future generations. We must respect the integrity of all creation.19 Humans should treat animals with kindness because they are God’s creatures and their existence glorifies him.20 Animals are entrusted the stewardship of human beings and it is morally permissible to domesticate them or use them for food and clothing. However, it goes against human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.21 We show respect for the Creator by caring for all of his creation.
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #22582. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2424-24353. Mater et Magistra, #714. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2433-24355. Pacem in Terris, #116. Pacem in Terris, #28-327. Populorum Progression, #238. Pacem in Terris, #609. Economic Justice for All, #12310. Octogesima Adveniens, #2311. Economic Justice for All, #8712. Economic Justice for All, #8813. Guardium et Spes, #2914. Mater et Magistra, #15715. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #3916. Communities of Salt and Light, p. 1017. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, #3818. Mater et Magistra, #15719. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #241520. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #241621. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2417-2418