CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
The social teaching of the Catholic Church reflects the mission of the Church to forward the work of Christ. Largely promoted by Pope John Paul II, Catholic Social Teaching seeks to provide a framework of social awareness as it is related to and required by our faith. The following 7 themes outline the basic teachings.
1. Life and Dignity of the Human Person: The dignity of the human person and the sanctity of every human life, from conception until natural death, is the foundation of Catholic Social Teaching. As we are called to love the Lord our God, we are called to love our neighbor and care for our neighbor through charity and justice. This love is carried out in defense for all life, promotion of all aspects of human development, and care of the dignity and rights of each person. Protection of life, from abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and war, is a vital responsibility of our faith. We are all created in the image and likeness of God; we are all truly sacred beings.
2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation: Catholic Social Teaching not only recognizes the full dignity of every individual, but also recognizes that we are social and relational beings. It is critical that the most basic and fundamental institutions of marriage and family be protected. We are called to grow in community and as such to contribute and participate in society for the common good of all people. Each person has the right and duty to be involved in the social structuring, development and government of local, national, and global communities.
3. Rights and Responsibilities
As mentioned, the dignity of every human person is the foundation of Catholic Social Teaching. It is upon this base that each person (and the common good of peoples) has rights and responsibilities that must be protected. Every person has the right to life. Every person has a right to those things necessary to live decently, develop and contribute to the common good. And each person (especially, but not limited, to those in government) has a share in the responsibility to see that all rights are protected and justice is upheld. Subsidiarity is the principle that promotes ‘bottom-up’ decision making so that all people have a say in social development.
4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: Our Biblical Tradition emphasizes care and priority of the poor and vulnerable. It is the duty of the more fortunate to care for the less fortunate and promote that all are given not only what each needs to survive, but also what is needed so that the person can grow and give back; it is not enough to provide equal opportunity. Christ is present in all persons, especially the least among us.
5. The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers: Work is not merely a means to survive, but work allows each person to contribute to larger society and participate in God’s creation with dignity. Work is not separated from faith, but a part of our duty to community and promotion of the common good. Care must be taken to protect the priority of the person over profit. The economy is for the people; the people are not for the economy. All workers have the right to productive work, to a fair wage, to join unions, to own property, and to be involved in his/her work conditions.
6. Solidarity: “…we, who are many, are one body in Christ…” (Rm 12:5). Though we should celebrate and promote the individual gifts and blessings of each person, we are one family of created beings, brothers and sisters created in the image and likeness of God. There is a unity of all people in which we are our neighbor’s keeper. We promote peace for all mankind with non-violence and dedication to justice for all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
7. Care for God’s Creation: One of the ways we can show respect and thanksgiving to our Creator, is to be stewards of His creation. We have been given dominion over the earth and are always in relationship with creation called to care for the earth and its creatures, as co-creators. Just as the earth provides for our continual survival, we must ensure the survival of the earth. Further, we protect the earth and its resources with prudence and temperance so that others may continue to enjoy the fruits of the earth.
Reflections of US Catholic Conference of Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/projects/socialteaching/excerpt.shtml