Some Catholic Social Teaching Themes
Integrating Principles, Criteria & Guidelines for Action
Catholic Social Teaching themes bring together principles for reflection, criteria for judgement and guidelines for action. Often they address issues or particular areas of concern, such as work or the rights of indigenous peoples. They may also develop from the Church’s reflection on key concepts in the light of experience over time. For example, Catholic Social Teaching’s understanding of the role of structures in injustice or of the role of the state.
Find out about:
– A Preferential Option for the Poor
– Civil Society & the State
– The Death Penalty
– Integral Ecology
– Integral Human Development
– People on the Move
– Social Sin – Structures of Sin, Structures of Grace
– The Rights of Indigenous Peoples
A Preferential Option for the Poor
Making a preferential option for the poor is a way of following the example of Jesus. It is an option in the sense of being a conscious choice to be in solidarity with those who are poor, marginalized or disrespected, and to work for structural change to transform the causes of poverty and marginalization. Our preferential option for the poor is a core commitment – it is not optional! It is preferential because through this option we give preference or priority in our love to those who are poor. Find out more…
Civil Society & the State
Catholic Social Teaching holds that the state exists to serve the human person by organizing and promoting the common good. As far back as Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) the church taught that the state has a duty to intervene in economic and social life to defend the interests of those who cannot defend themselves. Political authority exists to serve people and communities. Find out more …
The Death Penalty
The death penalty is an extreme measure. In modern times Catholic Social Teaching has upheld the right of the State to use it only in very limited circumstances. Conditions for its acceptable use have been progressively tightened by recent Popes. Pope Francis now says that the death penalty is in itself contrary to the Gospel because it involves the wilful suppression of a human life. He has called for the content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this topic to be revised. Find out more …
The Catholic Social Teaching theme of integral ecology is becoming more urgent and important. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, stresses that everything is connected. This means that our approach to ecology must be holistic. Ecology goes beyond care for the natural environment. It embraces the vast network of relationships between all that is. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Find out more …
Integral Human Development
Economic development alone is not enough to create a just society. People and communities have material needs, but human flourishing and wellbeing have spiritual, social, cultural and political dimensions too. Catholic Social Teaching takes a holistic or integral approach to development. It places people, rather than the economy, at the centre of development. Development is for people. We are made by God out of love and called to develop our God-given gifts, to grow as persons, and to seek our fulfilment. That is why we describe our thinking about development as integral and human. Find out more …
People on the Move – Migrants, Refugees & Asylum Seekers
Catholic Social Teaching approaches questions of human mobility from the point of view of human dignity rather than legal status or national interest. It’s key questions are not about legal obligations or defending sovereign territory, but rather how right relationships with self, God, others and creation, would call us – as individuals, communities, nations and international bodies – to respond to people on the move.
Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on refugees here.
Find out more about Catholic Social Teaching on migration here.
Social Sin – Structures of Sin & Structures of Grace
Things, such as structures, can’t really sin. People sin, but our freedom to choose what is good can be influenced or conditioned by social structures, processes and institutions. Structures or situations can be described as sinful when they reflect, reinforce or even encourage personal sins. They make it harder to do what is right and good and easier to choose another path.
Read a reflection by Sandie Cornish here
Read a reflection by Bishop Peter Cullinane here.
Consider the link between sexual abuse and structures of sin here.
The Rights of Indigenous Peoples
What does Catholic Social Teaching have to say about the rights of Indigenous peoples? In the Catholic human rights tradition, human rights and the duties that go with them are grounded in the dignity of the human person. They apply to all persons and all peoples in every kind of situation or type of activity. The rights of Indigenous peoples are human rights. Find out more …