Catholic Social Teaching

The church's rich tradition of teaching on social justice is a valuable tool to help reflect on what it means to be a Christian in the contemporary world. The core of this teaching is a set of moral principles that can help us evaluate our actions at both the individual and societal levels.

The six core principles are:

1. Human Dignity: The human person is the clearest reflection of God among us. Each person has a special dignity as a son or daughter of God, and, therefore, must be respected. The test of every institution or policy is whether it enhances or threatens human life.

2. Rights & Responsibilities: Because every person is a child of God, he/she has a fundamental right to life and to those things which make life truly human -food, housing, health care, education, work, etc. Persons also have complementary duties and responsibilities to work for the common good.

3. The Call to Community: Every person is not only sacred, but also social. Human dignity can only be realized and protected in community, True community is found only where human dignity is respected. Therefore, everyone has the obligation to contribute to the good of the whole community.

4. Dignity of Work: Work is a way to make a living, but it also is an expression of our dignity and a form of ongoing participation in God's creation. It is the way people contribute to the common good. Workers must do their jobs conscientiously and justly, but they in turn have the right to decent and productive work and to fair wages.

5. Option for the Poor: As Christians we are called to respond to the needs of all our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response from each individual and society as a whole. We strengthen the whole community by empowering the poor to become active participants in the life of society.

6. Solidarity: We are one human family, no matter our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Solidarity calls us to see the poor and powerless as our own sisters and brothers. This principle has global dimensions in an interdependent world.



As followers of Jesus Christ and participants in a powerful economy, Catholics in the United States are called to work for greater economic justice in the face of persistent poverty, growing income gaps, and increasing discussion of economic issues in the U.S. and around the world. We urge Catholics to use the following ethical framework for economic life as principles for reflection, criteria for judgement and directions for action. These principles are drawn directly from Catholic teaching on economic life:

1. The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.

2. All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family, and serve the common good.

3. A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.

4. All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, and economic security).

5. All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.

6. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide for the needs of their families, and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.

7. In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.

8. Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.

9. Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life, and social justice.

10. The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.

According to Pope John Paul II, the Catholic tradition calls for a "society of work, enterprise and participation" which "is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the state to assure that the basic needs of the whole society are satisfied." (Centesimus Annus, 35) All of economic life should recognize the fact that we are all God's children and members of one human family, called to exercise a clear priority for "the least among us."

The sources for this framework include the Catechism of the Catholic Church, recent papal encyclicals, the pastoral letter Economic Justice for All, and other statements of the U.S.Catholic Bishops. They reflect the Church's teaching on the dignity, rights and duties of the human person; the option for the poor; the common good; subsidiary and solidarity.

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