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Ten Principles Catholic Social Teaching Cheat Sheet by

Major themes from Catholic Social Teaching
principles     social     catholic     teachings

Introd­uction

The following Ten Principles highlight major themes from Catholic social teaching

1. Dignity of the Human Person

Belief in the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching. Human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society. This principle is grounded in the idea that the person is made in the image of God. The person is the clearest reflection of God among us.

2. Common Good and Community

The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and rights in relati­onship with others, in community. Human beings grow and achieve fulfil­lment in community. Human dignity can only be realized and protected in the context of relati­onships with the wider society.

How we organize our society -- in economics and politics, in law and policy -- directly affects human dignity and the capacity of indivi­duals to grow in community. The obligation to "love our neighb­or" has an individual dimension, but it also requires a broader social commit­ment. Everyone has a respon­sib­ility to contribute to the good of the whole society, to the common good.

3. Option for the Poor

The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor. The "­option for the poor," is not an advers­arial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the depriv­ation and powerl­essness of the poor wounds the whole community.

The option for the poor is an essential part of society's effort to achieve the common good. A healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society.

4. Rights and Respon­sib­ilities

Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and respon­sib­ilities are met. Every person has a fundam­ental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency – starting with food, shelter and clothing, employ­ment, health care, and education. Corres­ponding to these rights are duties and respon­sib­ilities -- to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
 

5. Role of Government and Subsid­iarity

The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a respon­sib­ility to partic­ipate in political instit­utions so that government can achieve its proper goals.

The principle of subsid­iarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequa­tely. When the needs in question cannot adequately be met at the lower level, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that higher levels of government intervene.

6. Economic Justice

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working condit­ions. They also have a fundam­ental right to organize and join unions. People have a right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necess­ities of life.

Catholic teaching opposes collec­tivist and statist economic approa­ches. But it also rejects the notion that a free market automa­tically produces justice. Distri­butive justice, for example, cannot be achieved by relying entirely on free market forces. Compet­ition and free markets are useful elements of economic systems. However, markets must be kept within limits, because there are many needs and goods that cannot be satisfied by the market system. It is the task of the state and of all society to intervene and ensure that these needs are met.

7. Stewar­dship of God's Creation

The goods of the earth are gifts from God, and they are intended by God for the benefit of everyone. There is a "­social mortga­ge" that guides our use of the world's goods, and we have a respon­sib­ility to care for these goods as stewards and trustees, not as mere consumers and users. How we treat the enviro­nment is a measure of our stewar­dship, a sign of our respect for the Creator.

8. Promotion of Peace and Disarm­ament

Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action­-or­iented concept. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "­Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collab­oration and binding agreem­ents.” There is a close relati­onship in Catholic teaching between peace and justice. Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.

9. Partic­ipation

All people have a right to partic­ipate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. It is a fundam­ental demand of justice and a requir­ement for human dignity that all people be assured a minimum level of partic­ipation in the community. It is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to partic­ipate in society.

10. Global Solidarity and Develo­pment

We are one human family. Our respon­sib­ilities to each other cross national, racial, economic and ideolo­gical differ­ences. We are called to work globally for justice. Authentic develo­pment must be full human develo­pment. It must respect and promote personal, social, economic, and political rights, including the rights of nations and of peoples It must avoid the extremists of underd­eve­lopment on the one hand, and "­sup­erd­eve­lop­men­t" on the other. Accumu­lating material goods, and technical resources will be unsati­sfa­ctory and debasing if there is no respect for the moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of the person.

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