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Catholic Social Teaching

“Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or in other words, of the Church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” - Justice in the World

What is Catholic social teaching?

The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society.

Where did Catholic social teaching come from?

Catholic Social Teaching comes out of the rich history of papal encyclicals, bishops’ letters and other official documents that focus on the economic, political and social concerns of humanity. This teaching is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical entitled “Rerum Novarum”, On the Condition of Labor. In the more than 100 years since then, many other documents have spoken to issues of vital concern of the time. In fairly recent history, common themes have been identified in this body of work and church leaders began to organize these ideas around main ideas-thus, the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

“Clearly, the expression Catholic Social Teaching is elastic, sometimes designating an expansive body of material and at other times used in a more constricted sense to identify a limited number of papal and episcopal writings dating from the papacy of Leo XIII. Perhaps we can understand the term Catholic Social Teaching as an effort by the pastoral teachers of the church to articulate what the broader social tradition means in the era of modern economics, politics and culture.” 
-Kenneth R. Himes O.F.M.

What are the principles of Catholic social teaching?

The seven principles of Catholic social teaching are:

  1. Dignity of the Human Person
  2. Call to Family, Community and Participation
  3. Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Preferential Option for and with People who are Poor
  5. Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
  6. Solidarity
  7. Care for God’s Creation

To learn more about the principles, visit the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops themes of Catholic social teaching web page.

How is Catholic social teaching connected to social ministry?

Catholic Social Teaching is related to social ministry because it offers wisdom and guidance on dealing with the social issues of our day. It analyzes economic, political and societal influences and offers a synthesis of the issues with an eye towards creating a society that is more fair and equal. It calls us to build a society that most resembles God’s kingdom on earth.

Where can I learn more?

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions

In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium

Faithful Citizenship

In the Footsteps of Jesus (Video and Resource Manual)

Education for Justice

Busy Christian’s Guide to Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Social Teaching Workshops Provided by Catholic Charities Parish Social Ministry

  • The Spirituality and Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching: Using seven major themes, explore the ways we as a Church have applied our understanding of Scripture to the realities of life in our world today.
  • Following the Footsteps of Jesus: An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching for adults or teens; input, drawing on experience, practical application.
  • The Principles of Catholic Social Teaching for Catechists: Foundations and activities for children (adaptable for age level, group size and schedule).
  • “Where on earth did these documents come from?”: The development of Catholic Social Teaching through movements at the grassroots level reflecting on the social, historical, religious and philosophical factors of the time .

These are just some of the possibilities. We can often recommend specialists on specific topics, as well.