Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew
prophets who announced God’s special love for the poor and called God’s people to a covenant of love
and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came “to bring glad
tidings to the poor . . . liberty to captives . . . recovery of sight to the blind”(Lk 4:18-19), and who
identified himself with “the least of these,” the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45). Catholic social
teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ
in the eucharist.
“Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith.”
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ
given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren” (no. 1397).
Catholic social teaching emerges from the truth of what God has revealed to us about himself. We
believe in the triune God whose very nature is communal and social. God the Father sends his only Son
Jesus Christ and shares the Holy Spirit as his gift of love. God reveals himself to us as one who is not
alone, but rather as one who is relational, one who is Trinity. Therefore, we who are made in God’s
image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love
Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human
dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore
is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment
of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity.
Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.
Our commitment to the Catholic social mission must be rooted in and strengthened by our spiritual
lives. In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love
one another as God has loved us.
—from “Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions”
7 Major Themes From Catholic Social Teaching
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
“See what love the Father has for us, that we should be called Children of God.” 1 John 3: 1-2
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. 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. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. 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.
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.
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 Gods 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 our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. 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.
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 Gods creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral
and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
For videos and many other resources on the Church’s Social Teaching, click on the link below.
Jesuit Social Research Institute
Loyola University, New Orleans
Fred Kammer, S.J.