The Catholic Charities Department of Social Concerns promotes Catholic social teaching which Catholic Charities is founded upon. The staff of the Social Concerns Department encourages the Catholic community at large to consider what it means to live the Gospel message of love. We challenge parishes and individuals to put faith into action by living Catholic social teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. It is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor and vulnerable. It calls us all to reach out and to build relationships of compassion and justice. It calls us all to defend the dignity of life and promote the common good.
In these brief reflections, we present the key themes that lie at the heart of our Catholic social tradition:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Our belief in the sanctity of human life is the foundation of Catholic social teaching. We believe that every person is created in the image of God and that life must be protected and supported from conception to natural death. We assert that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
Call to Family, Community, Participation
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. We are social beings. We realize our dignity and human potential in our families and communities. Since the family is the basic unit of society, it must be supported and strengthened. Government has the mission of protecting human life, promoting the common good of all persons, and defending the right and duty of all to participate in social life.
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. The Church upholds both personal responsibility and social rights. The right to life is fundamental and includes a right to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and essential social services. Every person has the right to raise a family and the duty to support them. Human dignity demands religious and political freedom as well as the duty to exercise these rights for the common good of all persons.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test of society is how its most vulnerable members are faring. The Church does not pit one social group against another but instead follows the example of our Lord, who identified himself with the poor and vulnerable (Matthew 25:31-46). Giving primary concern to the poor and the vulnerable strengthens the health of the whole society.
The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
We believe that the economy must serve people, not the other way around, and that work is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. To uphold the dignity of work, the rights of workers must be upheld. The rights to productive work, to fair and livable wages, to organize and join unions, and to economic initiative all contribute to full human development.
We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic or ideological differences. The Church speaks of a “universal” common good that reaches beyond our nation’s borders to the global community. Solidarity recognizes that the fates of the peoples of the earth are linked. Solidarity requires richer nations to aid poorer ones, commands respect for different cultures, demands justice in international relationships, and calls on all nations to live in peace with one another.
Care for God's Creation
The Catholic tradition insists that we show respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and our planet, living our faith in harmony with all of God's creation. Our commitment to the common good and our concern for neighbors and for future generations require responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
This information has been adapted from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions,” June 1999.
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