"The center of the Church's social teaching is the life, dignity, and rights of the human person. We are called in a special way to serve the poor and vulnerable; to build bridges of solidarity among peoples of differing races and nations, language and ability, gender and culture. Family life and work have special places in Catholic social teaching; the rights of the unborn, families, workers, immigrants, and the poor deserve special protection. Our tradition also calls us to show our respect for the Creator by our care for creation and our commitment to work for environmental justice. This vital tradition is an essential resource for parish life. It offers a framework and direction for our social ministry, calling us to concrete works of charity, justice, and peacemaking."
U.S. Catholic Bishops, Communities of Salt and Light
7 PRINCIPLES OF
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHINGS
The human person is central, the clearest reflection of God among us. Each person possesses a basic dignity that comes from God, not from race or gender, age or economic status. We believe people are sacred and deserving of life from conception until natural death. In a materialistic world and declining respect for human life, we must proclaim the dignity of the human person. We believe this is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society human life is under attack from abortion to the death penalty to assisted suicide. Every human person is precious, people are more valuable than things. The test of every institution or policy is whether it enhances or threatens human life and human dignity.
Call to Family, Community and Participation
The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and the rights in relationship with others in our community. "We are one body; when one suffers we all suffer." Our participation in the up-building of society is both a right and an obligation. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. We believe that the role of government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good.
Rights and Responsibilities
People have a fundamental right to life, food, shelter, health care, education, and employment. All people have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to respect the rights of others in the wider society and to work for the common good. Any denial of these rights harms the persons and the society. In a world where some speak mostly of "rights" and others mostly of "responsibilities," we believe that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
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 overarching Gospel principle is the obligation to attend to the poor - "what you did for the least of these is what you did for me."
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
People have the right to decent and productive work, fair wages, to form and join unions, private property, and economic initiative. The economy exists to serve the people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a vocation, a participation in creation. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God's creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights, and advances the well-being of all.
We are one human family and are interdependent. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic, and ideological differences. We are called to work globally for justice. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in an interdependent world. Solidarity calls us to stand united with the poor and the powerless as our own brothers and sisters. We believe that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they live. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that "loving our neighbor" has global dimensions. This virtue is described by John Paul II as "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no 38).
Care for God's Creation
On a planet struggling over environmental issues, we believe that we show our respect for our 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.
Excerpts taken from the:
Office of Social Development & World Peace
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference
October 20, 1999 © United States Catholic Conference
These principles build on the foundation of Catholic social teaching; 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.
For further study on the Catholic Social Teachings:
Social Justice Websites
OFFICE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE - ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. PAUL & MINNEAPOLIS -
Comprehensive treatment of Catholic Social Teaching including church documents, reading list, Q&As, teaching tools, explanation of social justice issues and legislative advocacy, links to other CST resources. Excellent website!
UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS - OFFICE OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT & WORLD PEACE -
Extensive information on broad range of specific social justice issues and Catholic Social Teaching.
[Click on Social Justice Issues on left side of page]
CATHOLIC CHARITIES - PARISH SOCIAL MINISTRY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM -
Series of courses designed to provide parish-based social ministers with the knowledge and skills required to identify and respond to the needs of their communities. Includes the theology of social ministry, understanding the modern family, counseling and case management, organizing and administering pastoral programs, multicultural ministries, and community organizing. Open to all qualified and interested people; you need not be Catholic to attend.
NETWORK A NATIONAL CATHOLIC SOCIAL JUSTICE LOBBY -
A Catholic leader in the global movement for justice and peace—educates, organizes and lobbies for economic and social transformation. Congressional locater by zip code; voting records of elected officials; analysis of issues as to whether they comport with Catholic Social Teaching or not; educational resources.
CENTER OF CONCERN -
Analyzes global issues and social structures – hunger, poverty, environmental decline, injustice etc. - from an ethical perspective based on Catholic Social Teaching. Develops strategies and projects that promote the good of the entire global community and the integrity of every individual. Goal is to provide individuals and organizations with basic tools to address these universal questions: What are the root causes of human suffering in the world today? How can we change the system to increase social justice and offer hope?
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES -
Official Catholic international relief organization. Education, advocacy, and great projects for parishes to remove causes of poverty and promote social justice. Has an on-line “Project Catalog”. Fair Trade and Work of Human Hands programs would be great projects for parish groups. http://www.crs.org/
CO-OP AMERICA'S RESPONSIBLE PLAYER -
Provides information on hundreds of companies regarding issues such as Sweatshops, Pollution, Ethics, Discrimination etc. Can search their database by company name, brand, or type of product.
CO-OP AMERICA -
The stated mission of Coop America is to harness economic power – the strength of consumers, investors, and businesses – to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.