What is “Catholic Social Teaching?” [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops]
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.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind.” (Lk 4:18). . . 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 [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops].
There are many innovative efforts by Catholic educators to communicate the social doctrine of the Church. At the same time, however, it is clear that in some educational programs Catholic social teaching is not really shared or not sufficiently integral and explicit. As a result, far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic social teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. This poses a serious challenge for all Catholics, since it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops].
The Church has the God-given mission and the unique capacity to call people to live with integrity, compassion, responsibility, and concern for others. Our seminaries, colleges, schools, and catechetical programs are called to share not just abstract principles but a moral framework for everyday action. The Church’s social teaching offers a guide for choices as parents, workers, consumers, and citizens.
Therefore, we emphasize that the values of the Church’s social teaching must not be treated as tangential or optional. They must be a core part of teaching and formation. Without our social teaching, schools, catechetical programs, and other formation programs would be offering an incomplete presentation of our Catholic tradition. This would fall short of our mission and would be a serious loss for those in our educational and catechetical programs.
This is not a new mission. More than two thousand years ago, Jesus in his hometown synagogue read the words from Isaiah that outlined his work on earth, as well as the Church’s mission through the centuries and the special tasks of Catholic educators and catechists today:
- Catholic Social Teaching: Major Themes
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care for God’s Creation
Principles like “subsidiarity” and the “common good” outline the advantages and limitations of markets, the responsibilities and limits of government, and the essential roles of voluntary associations
The dignity of human life, this central Catholic principle, requires that we measure every policy, every institution, and every action by whether it protects human life and enhances human dignity, especially for the poor and vulnerable.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
(Provided by St. Charles Boremo Church, Mississippi)
Contact: Joseph Burns at his email address, JosephBurns@yahoo.com