CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
The Catholic Church's social teaching is based on Christian Scripture, that God has a desire for his kingdom of peace, love and justice to exist in all creation, in which humanity - each one of us - have a unique role. This calls us to regard each person with love and for our actions to be for the common good. The Catholic Social Teaching (CST) of the Church has relevances to all aspects of our faith and daily life, from our family relationships to international development, and are based on practical reflections on these realities, from how we shop, how fair are the wages for workers, the dignity of work, the care for the vulnerable, and how these challenge us to reflect God's mercy and justice in our dealings and actions. Information from these pages are drawn from various approved Catholic sources, and the links are provided alongside.
THEMES IN CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
"We must recognise we are all brothers and sisters which requires us to respect, value and uphold a common dignity for ourselves and each other. As human beings we are created in the image and likeness of God so therefore we have an inherent worth and distinction."
Community and Participation
"As humans, we were are not created to live alone, community is clearly linked in the history of humankind. One way for Catholics to practise solidarity is to participate in pursuing the common good for a community. Every member of society has a duty to develop this common good and every member has a right to enjoy the benefits brought about by it."
Care for Creation
"Respect for human life means respecting all of God’s creation. We must re-engage with our environment and take responsibility for it; live sustainably, live so that there are enough resources for everyone. Our environment influences almost all of our lives, and Catholic Social Teaching recognises that undervaluing makes us all poorer."
Dignity in Work
"This theme looks at the importance of work, the dignity of work and the value of balance in our home and work lives. Catholic Social Teaching holds that work is not to be drudgery, but creative, positive and an intrinsic good. It is not however, all for yourself, ways to accumulate power and influence, but is rather to play our part in being co-creators in God’s loving act of creation."
Peace & Reconciliation
"The Church teaches us that peace is central to the gospel and represents a challenge to many contemporary attitudes and assumptions. Pope Benedict XVI has challenged Christians to be true peacemakers bringing forgiveness and non-violent solutions to situations of hurt and violence."
"Solidarity is an important concept for Christians and is one of the most mystical and deeply human founding concepts of the social teaching of the Church. It is based on the belief that together we can make a difference and together we are much stronger. When we value fellow human beings we respect each other as unique individuals and we can stand up for what is right for one another."
Additional Links to Key Documents
1891 Rerum Novarum – “Of New Things” – Leo XIIIThe Condition of Labour examines working conditions in industrialised countries and insists on workers’ rights. The Church, employers & workers should work together to build a just society.
1931 Quadragesimo Anno – “On the Fortieth Year” – Pius XThe Reconstruction of the Social Order at the time of major economic depression, QA criticises abuses of capitalism & communism. Unity between capital & labour. Ownership brings social responsibilities. Subsidiarity.
1961 Mater et Magistra – “Mother & Teacher” – John XXIIIChristianity & Social Progress Updates earlier teaching and applies to agriculture and aid to developing countries, thus ‘internationalising’ CST. Role of laity in applying social teaching as an integral part of Christian life.
1963 Pacem in Terris – “Peace on Earth” – John XXIIIPeace on Earth With the immanent threat of nuclear war, this is a plea for peace based on the social order from a framework of rights and duties applying to individuals, public authorities and the world community.
1965 Gaudium et Spes – “The Joys and Hopes” Vatican IIThe Church in the Modern World Church’s duty is discernment of the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. Principles of cultural development and justice, enhancing human dignity and the common good. Work for peace.
1967 Populorum Progressio – “The Development of Peoples” Paul VIThe Development of Peoples Charter for development – ‘the new name for peace’. Deals with structural poverty, aid and trade. Limits put on profit motive and the right to private property. Christians to strive for international justice.
1971 Octogesima Adveniens – “On the Eightieth Year” – Paul VIA Call to Action Rome doesn’t necessarily have the answer: need for local church to respond to specific situations. Urbanisation has brought new injustices. We are called to political action.
1971 Justicia in Mundo – “Justice in the World” – Synod‘Justice is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel…’ The Church must examine its conscience about its lifestyle and so witness to the Gospel. Importance of Education for Justice.
1975 Evangelii Nuntiandi – “Evangelisation in the Modern World”- Paul VIProfound links between evangelisation and development and liberation. Only the kingdom is absolute; everything else is relative. All levels of society are to be transformed by the power of the good news.
1981 Laborem Exercens – “On Human Work” – John Paul IIOn Human Work For JPII work is the central social issue. Work increases human dignity. Priority of labour over capital. Rights of workers (especially women) and unions. Critique of capitalism as well as Marxism.
1987 Sollicitudo Rei Socialis – “The Social Concern of the Church” – John Paul IISocial Concern Updates Populorum Progressio with analysis of global development: North/South divide blamed on confrontation between capitalism and Marxism. Conversion from ‘Structures of sin’ towards solidarity and option for the poor.
1991 Centesimus Annus – “The One Hundredth Year” – John Paul IIOne Hundred Years Review of CST and major events of the last century, constantly affirming human dignity and human rights, justice and peace. The fall of Marxism does not signify a victory for capitalism.
1996 – The Common Good In 1996 the catholic Bishops of England & Wales produced The Common Good in preparation for a General Election. Strongly critical of dominant market values it also serves as a readable introduction to CST and its application to some of the issues facing our society.
2009 Caritas in Veritate – “Charity in Truth” – BenedictXVICharity in Truth Updates Populorum Progressio with a comprehensive review of development and some reflection on the economic crisis and business ethics. Provides a theological framework for CST.
Some other documents of John Paul II contain important sections for CST:
Redemptor Hominis (1979): human dignity & human rights; modern technology; war & arms race.
Dives in Misericordia (1980): growing disparity in wealth; justice is shaped by the power of love.
Redemptoris Missio (1990): pro inculturation & economic liberation; but true liberation is in Christ.
Tertio Millennio Adveniente (1994): J&P a necessary condition for celebrating Jubilee of year 2000.
Evangelium Vitae (1995): brings together CST and teaching on sex & the family as ‘Gospel of life’.
Novo Millennio Ineunte (2000): challenges of ecology, peace and human rights; all to work for J&P.
2010 – Choosing the Common GoodIn March 2010 our bishops produced another document, Choosing the Common Good, in order to reach a shared vision about the sort of society we want to live in. “Given our recent past we need to restore trust in our society between individuals, citizens & the state, and in our institutions (especially in MPs, Bankers and the Church itself)“. Hence they sought agreement on the principles & values for a just and civil society. These core principles are the Common Good, integral human development and the pursuit of virtue. (These are key themes of CST and apply to all of us).
2013 Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel – Pope FrancisWhile not a papal encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium gives particular attention to the ‘social dimension of Evangelisation’.
2015 Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home – Pope FrancisLaudato Si’ is a passionate call to all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action”, particularly in relation to the destruction of the environment.
We are still developing the site and will be enhancing this page with additional references and documents soon!