The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the person is at the core of a moral vision for society. The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of Catholic social teaching.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Solidarity means that “loving our neighbor” has global dimensions in an interdependent world.
Rights and Responsibilities
Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity is protected and a healthy community achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to material needs for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities — to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
In a marketplace where too often the quarterly bottom line takes precedence over the rights of workers, the Church teaches that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected — the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property and to economic initiative.
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. Conversely, it is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate in society.
Community and the Common Good
In a global culture driven by excessive individualism, Church tradition proclaims that the person is not only sacred but also social. 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 Church teaches that the role of the government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good.
The principle of subsidiarity holds that “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” (Centesimus annus, 48; Pope John Paul II, May 1, 1991)
Stewardship of Creation
Catholic tradition insists that we show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.