Major Themes of Catholic Social Teaching
1. Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Every person is created in the image of God. Every person is precious. All social laws, practices, and institutions must protect, not undermine, human life and human dignity—from conception through natural death.
2. Call To Family, Community, and Participation
We realize the dignity of human potential in our families and communities. The family is the basic cell of society; it must be supported. Government has the mission of protecting human life, promoting the common good of all persons, and defending the right and duty of all to participate in social life.
3. Rights and Responsibilities
The right to life is fundamental and includes a right to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and essential social services. Every person has the right to raise a family and the duty to support them. Human dignity demands religious and political freedom and the duty to exercise these rights for the common good of all.
4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The Church follows the example of Jesus, who identified himself with the poor and vulnerable. Giving priority concern to the poor and vulnerable strengthens the health of the whole society. The human life and dignity of the poor are most at risk. The poor have the first claim on our personal and social resources.
5. The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Workers have rights to decent work, just wages, safe working conditions, unionization, disability protection, retirement security, and economic initiative. The economy exists for the human person; the human person does not exist for the economy. Labor has priority over capital.
There is a “universal common good” that reaches beyond our nation’s borders to the global community. Solidarity recognizes that the fates of the people of the earth are linked. Solidarity requires richer nations to aid poorer ones, commands respect for different cultures, demands justice in international relationships, and calls on all nations to live in peace with one another.
7. Care for God’s Creation
We show respect for the Creator by caring for God’s creation. Good stewardship of the earth is a complex challenge. Humans are part of creation itself, and whatever we do to the earth we ultimately do to ourselves. We must live in harmony with the rest of creation and preserve it for future generations.
The summary of these themes draws from statements of the US Catholic bishops on A Century of Social Teaching (1991) and Political Responsibility: Proclaiming the Gospel of Life, Protecting the Least Among Us, and Pursing the Common Good (1995), as well as from other church documents.