Service-Learning  
   

Catholic Social Teaching

 
1.) Life and Dignity of the Human Person 
The underpinning of all Catholic social teaching principles begins with the belief in the inherent dignity of the human person who is born in the image of God and whose life is sacred.  Rooted in the belief that the human person is the clearest reflection of God among us, the dignity of the person is the basis for a moral vision for society.
 
“At the center of all Catholic social teaching are the transcendence of God and the dignity of the human person. The human person is the clearest reflection of God's presence in the world; all of the Church's work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God's creative work and the meaning of Christ's redemptive ministry.” (The Challenge of Peace:  God's Promise and Our Response, #15, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1983)
 
2.) Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The human person is both sacred and social, and human fulfillment is achieved through relationships and achievements in society.  Society is enriched through the efforts of those who work for the common good, and through those, who in achieving their personal objectives, respect the rights and dignity of others.  How a society is structured will directly affect how well individuals will be able to grow and live in dignity.  To love your neighbor as yourself is an individual duty, but it also calls for a greater social commitment.  Social responsibility is achieved when all members of the community work toward the common good; everyone is responsible for the good of the whole society.
 
All people have a fundamental right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society.  The common good cannot be fully promoted without all people fully participating in society.  Human dignity requires such partaking and justice demands it.  It is wrong to unfairly deny someone this basic right.
 
“It is imperative that no one, out of indifference to the course of events or because of inertia, would indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one's obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good according to one's means and the needs of others, and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life.” (Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #30, Second Vatican Council, 1965)
 
3.) Rights and Responsibilities
Human dignity can only be promoted and respected in society through the protection and implementation of the fundamental rights of life, food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, and employment.  In order for these rights to be respected and granted universally, each individual has a responsibility to promote them on individual, familial, and societal levels.
 
“It is agreed that in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way everyone may more easily carry out their duties. For 'to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of each one's duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority.'” (Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth, #60, John XXIII, 1963)
 
4.) Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
It is society’s responsibility, and therefore the responsibility of its members, to care for the poor and marginalized.  How well it does this will be a reflection of its conscience as well as its commitment to the common good of all.  Social responsibility toward the poor should be seen on both individual and societal levels. Individual choices as well as public policy decisions should be made so that the poor are not negatively affected.  Preferential option for the poor will not harm society; rather it will increase its value.
 
"If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 Jn 3:17). It is well known how strong were the words used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess anything towards persons in need. To quote Saint Ambrose: "You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.” (Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples, #23, Paul VI, 1967)
 
5.) The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The economy should serve the people, not the other way around.  All workers have the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions.  Workers also have the right to organize and join unions.  While people have a right to economic initiative and private property, there are limits.  No one should have excess of either when others lack the basic necessities of life.
 
Catholic teaching is against collectivist and statist economic approaches.  It also disagrees that a free market by design produces justice.  It acknowledges that competition and free markets are useful elements of economic systems, but holds that markets should be kept within limits.  There exist many needs and goods that cannot be satisfied by the market system.  It is the responsibility of the state, or the government, and all society to get involved and make sure these needs are met.
 
"All work has a threefold moral significance. First, it is a principle way that people exercise the distinctive human capacity for self-expression and self-realization. Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their material needs. Finally, work enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. Work is not only for one's self. It is for one's family, for the nation, and indeed for the benefit of the entire human family." (Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, #97, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986)
 
6.) Solidarity
We are one human family and we are called to work globally for justice. Catholic teaching states that no matter our national, racial, ethnic, economic or ideological differences, we have a global commitment to love our neighbors and to bring about justice.  We are to strive toward full human development, which respects and promotes personal, social, economical, and political rights.  Such development must also promote the rights of all nations and their people, including the moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of each person.
 
"Catholic social teaching more than anything else insists that we are one family; it calls us to overcome barriers of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, economic status, and nationality. We are all one in Christ Jesus (cf Gal 3:28) - beyond our differences and boundaries." (Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish, p. 10, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1993)
 
7.) Care for God's Creation
The goods of the earth are gifts from God meant for everyone. It is the duty of all people to use these gifts responsibly and carefully as good stewards and trustees. Catholic tradition holds that everyone should show consideration for the environment out of respect for God.
 
“True stewardship requires changes in human actions - both in moral behavior and technical advancement. Our religious tradition has always urged restraint and moderation in the use of material goods, so we must not allow our desire to possess more material things to overtake our concern for the basic needs of people and the environment.” (Global Climate Change:  A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good, #18, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 2001)