The Core Principles of Catholic Social Teaching
It must be asked how many Christians really know and put into practice the principles of the church’s social doctrine. – John Paul II, Tertio Millennia Adveniente
Catholic Social Teaching centers around 7 interrelated principles:
Dignity of the Human Person
All people are a reflection of the image of God, and thus all human life, at all stages from conception through death, is sacred. The basic dignity that each person possesses comes from God, and therefore all discrimination is wrong. People take precedence over things and structures. Systems are meant to serve people, not vice versa.
- Dt 30:15-20 Choose life.
- Ps 103:6-10 The Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.
- Lk 24:49 Christ empowers us to continue his work
- Eph 4:23-24 Put on a new self, created in God’s way.
Community and the Common Good
The Mystery of the Trinity involves the relationship of complete love among the three divine Persons in One God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Since human persons are made in God’s image, we must model God’s self-giving love. Hence the human person is both sacred and fundamentally social. In community we realize the fulfillment of our dignity and rights in relationship with and to others.
- Lv 19:9-15 Treat your neighbor with justice and mercy.
- Micah 6:8 Central to the moral life is acting justly and walking humbly with God.
- Jn 13:34-35 Love one another.
- Acts 4:32-35 Learn how to live true Christian community.
Rights and Responsibilities
People have basic rights and responsibilities because of their human dignity which reflects the fact that they have been created in God’s image. Catholic teaching emphasizes that people have a right to life and to the basic necessities that provide quality to life: food, shelter, health care, education, religious liberty, and the dignity of labor. At the same time, each of us has the responsibility to respect the rights of others and to seek the common good rather than the good of one individual.
- Jer 22:16 To know the Lord is to act justly.
- Amos 5:21-24 God does not want empty religious exercises, but true conversion.
- Mt 23:11 Each of us must serve our neighbor.
- Lk 6:46-49 Prayer must be combined with action.
Option for the Poor
The Gospel calls Christians to put the needs of the poor first. A common moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable people: those who have little economic value. Wherever there is structural injustice, Christians are called to oppose it. Those with the greatest need especially require the greatest response.
- Ps 4 1:1-3 Show regard for the lowly and the poor.
- Jer 22:3 Rescue the victim from the oppressor.
- Rom 12:10-18 Exercise hospitality; make friends with the poor.
- Lk 4:16-30 Jesus announces his mission to liberate people.
Dignity of Work
Work is an expression of our dignity and an expression of our involvement in God’s creation. People have a right to decent work, fair wages, and private property. The economy exists to serve people, not vice versa. In particular, work is to provide security for one’s family, rather than to amass excess profits.
- Is 3:13-15 Do not grind the face of the poor.
- Am 2:6-7 The unjust trample on the heads of ordinary people
- Lk 3:10-18 Justice in the workplace is an example of showing the Christian way.
- James 5:1-6 Riches obtained unjustly bring misery.
We are all one human family in the world. Because we realize the dignity, rights and responsibilities of each person, in relationship with others, we need to continue to build a human community that enables each person to be fulfilled. This fulfills the Gospel mandate to build up the Body of Christ.
- Prov 21: 13 Listen to the poor.
- Is 32:16-17 Justice will bring peace.
- Mt 25:31-46 Christ is identified with all people.
- 1 Cor 12:24-26 If one suffers, all suffer.
Care for God’s Creation
We show respect for our Creator by our stewardship of creation. Humans are part of creation itself, and whatever we do to the earth,. we do to ourselves. We must live in harmony with the rest of creation and preserve it for future generations.
- Gen 2: 15 Stewardship of earth.
- Dan 3:74-81 All the earth is called to praise the Lord.
- Mt 6:25-34 Learn to trust in God as does nature.
- Rom 8:18-25 All creation awaits redemption.
Since we know each other as individuals, the best decisions are those made by smaller groups, rather than entrusting decisions to larger bodies or national governments. We are entrusted to serve each other and to take responsibility ourselves for the service and care of those around us.