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Basics of Catholic Social Teaching

The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. There are many innovative efforts by Catholic educators to communicate the social doctrine of the church. However, many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic social teaching. Since many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith, it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel.

In these brief reflections, we wish to highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition and practical ways to live them.

Excerpts from "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching” U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998.

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.

  • Live daily in your family life and friendships aware of the dignity of all persons.
  • Volunteer at an adult day care center;  visit the elderly, lonely.
  • Pray regularly for the unborn, pregnant women, the poor, the sick and those who are dying.
  • Practice, (and teach your children), respect for the elderly, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, physically disabled.
  • Advocate for public policies that respect human life from conception through natural death.
  • Stop conversations that are prejudicial, (re: differences, diversity, racial, ethnic, religious.)

Call to Family, Community and Participation

No community is more central than the family; it is the basic cell of society. It is where we learn and act on our values. What happens in the family is at the basis of a truly human life. We have the right and responsibility to participate in and contribute to the broader communities in society. Catholic social teaching states that when basic human needs are not being met by private initiative, then people must work through their government, at appropriate levels, to meet those needs.
  • Keep in regular contact with an aging relative; take them to appointments, shopping and on outings.
  • Pray regularly as a family, or in a faith sharing community, with prayers for your community, state, nation and world.
  • Designate one evening a week or one day a weekend for family and friendship activities.
  • Attend municipal council meetings, township meeting or neighborhood meetings.
  • Be a volunteer in your community, a community organization; be a member of a decision-making group such as pastoral council, school board, or a non-profit board.

Rights and Responsibilities

The Church upholds both personal responsibility and social rights. 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 persons.
  • Practice Stewardship by sharing your time, talent and treasure.
  • Vote in every election, exercising your responsibility for participation in decisions that affect the quality of our life together.
  • Advocate for and support local education and training for good jobs; join with others who are working to insure a quality education in the local schools.
  • Pray for our legislators, our judges and court system as they deal with issues of rights and responsibilities.

Option for the Poor & Vulnerable

The Church does not pit one social group against another but instead follows the example of our Lord, who identified himself with the poor and the vulnerable. Giving priority concern to the poor and the vulnerable strengthens the health of the whole society. The poor have the first claim on our personal and social resources.
  • Support your parish CSA. Through the CSA donations, the Diocese of Gaylord makes large contributions to the Campaign for Human Development, Bishop’s Overseas Relief, Peter’s Pence, and Home Missions.
  • Donate your time, talents and money or other resources to a local food pantry, soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Become a member of a community-based, self-help project and work together with low-income people to break the cycle of poverty. (Habitat for Humanity)
  • Pay a “living wage” to employees working in traditionally low-paying jobs, but also respect the value of the job being performed and convey a sense of pride to the worker.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Human dignity finds special expression in the dignity of work and in the rights of workers. Workers have rights to decent work, just wages, safe working conditions, unionization, disability protection, retirement security, and economic initiative.
  • Help someone recognize and appreciate his or her gifts and talents; praise someone for a job well done.
  • Advocate for just wages and benefits at local, state and federal levels, and work for legislation that insists on safe working conditions.
  • Respect and show appreciation for all occupations.
  • Shop and buy at local businesses.
  • Share your job knowledge and skills with others.


We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. 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.
  • Participate in ecumenical gatherings; attend ethnic festivals, fiestas, celebrations, etc.
  • Encourage inner-city parish partnership.
  • Promote parish twinning with an overseas parish or project, or be a pen pal with someone overseas.
  • Seek out opportunities to know people of other races, cultures and religions.
  • Participate in the Diocesan Partnership with Nicaragua.

Care for God's Creation

Good stewardship of the earth and of all its creatures (including human beings) shows our respect for the Creator. 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.
  • Buy organically grown food; and/or plant a garden.
  • Do not purchase or use products that harm the environment.
  • Buy a fuel-efficient vehicle; walk more or ride a bike.
  • Participate in neighborhood beautification projects; plant a tree, clean up trash; organize a park clean up.
  • Practice the 3 R’s...REDUCE, RECYCLE, REUSE.