Jesus Christ teaches that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart… and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).
The principles of Catholic Social Teaching instruct us on how to care for our neighbors in a complex world, and at Catholic Charities of Dallas, they motivate us to serve, advocate for, and empower people in need regardless of race, religion, age, gender or national origin.
These Seven Themes provide an overview of the Church’s Social Doctrine:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Every human life is sacred because every person is made in God’s image. This truth is the foundation of the entire body of Catholic Social Teaching. Social institutions exist first and foremost to support and defend the dignity of every person, and should never exploit the human person as a means to an end.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The human person is social in nature, and participation in community life supports an individual’s development and reinforces their dignity. Society should be organized to give support to the family, which is the smallest cell of society, and all individuals should be allowed to participate in society.
Rights and Responsibilities
Humans have a right to life and those things which are basic to life including food, water, shelter, clothing, and medical care. From an individual’s right to these essentials comes the responsibility of his neighbor, and of the State, to recognize and protect those rights.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
We are all called to be a voice for the voiceless living on the margins of society who are unable to advocate for themselves, and to place their needs above society’s wants. The health of a society can be measured by the way it treats its poor and vulnerable.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Work is much more than a means to a financial end. Work is imbued with dignity because through it, an individual participates fully in society, contributes to the common good, and expresses his or her creative capacity. Therefore, individuals have the right to work, and to do so in a safe environment with appropriate compensation.
We are one human family, and what happens to one member of our family affects us all. We truly are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. More than developing an awareness of the plights of others, solidarity asks us to bear our neighbors’ burdens as though they were our own and commit ourselves to the betterment of the lives of those around us.
Care for God’s Creation
All of creation has been entrusted to humanity, and with this gift comes the human responsibility to care for it. Our use of environmental resources must always be ordered towards the common good, not a maximization of profits.
Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
A Guide for Living: Applying Catholic Social Teaching
The Seven Themes are only an introduction to Catholic Social Teaching- the Church has so much more to say about our responsibility to participate in society and effect change in our world.
“In your contact with the complex issues of social and political life, I urge you to make habitual use of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a thorough and precious instrument.” –From the message of Pope Francis to participants in a conference sponsored by the Vicariate of Rome entitled “The Lay Christian’s Mission in the City.”
The following are excellent resources for continued learning:
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Catholic Social Teaching
- The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004
- Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XII, 1891
- Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis, 2013
Be an advocate for the poor and vulnerable in the public sphere:
- Texas Catholic Advocacy Day: March 24, 2015
- Anti-Poverty Coalition of Greater Dallas
- Texas Catholic Conference: The Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Bishops of Texas
- Catholic Charities USA
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Bring Catholic Social Teaching to your Parish or Organization
The Office of Mission and Social Awareness is available to present on Catholic Social Teaching to your parish or organization, or to help strengthen your parish’s social justice ministry. Please contact Michelle Gagne or 214-520-6590 ext. 1007 for more information or to schedule a presentation.