Catholic Social Teaching principles

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2020 - 12:00am

This is the final column in a series of columns focusing on Pope Francis’s latest book, LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better World. After the initial two columns I decided to write two columns on Catholic Social Teaching based on what the pope wrote in his book: “…the Church has developed a series of principles for reflection together with the criteria for judgment that also offers directives for action. It is known as Catholic Social Teaching (CST).”

I wrote about the papal encyclicals that have become the basis for the principles of CST. I included a short summary of each encyclical that has become the basis for the Church’s teachings.

Let me repeat that CST is the body of social principles and moral teachings that is articulated in the papal, conciliar and other official documents issued since the late 19th century dealing with the late economic, political and social order. CST began with the first encyclical on the social order. This was Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labor) written by Pope Leo Xlll and issued to the public in 1891.

It was this and selected succeeding encyclicals that have become the basis for what Pope Francis wrote as “…a series of principles for reflection…that also offers directives for action.” In his book, the pope chose to highlight four principles. In my research, I have found that there is no official list of CST principles. However, most known Catholic groups include at least seven principles whenever they discuss the basic principles of CST.

I have chosen the principles of CST as articulated by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops for this column because their list of seven principles seems to be the most comprehensive. Here is their list, including the explanations articulated by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Life and dignity of the human person

The first social teaching program is the respect for human life, one of the most fundamental needs in a world distorted by greed and selfishness. The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and that the human person is the foundation for all the social teachings. This theme challenges the issues of abortion, assisted suicide, human cloning and the death penalty. The Catholic Church holds the belief that every human life is precious and is a gift from God.

Call to family, community and participation:

The second social teaching proclaims that the human person is not only sacred but also social. It stresses that how we organize society in economics, politics and law or policy directly affects human dignity and community. Society proclaims the importance of individualism but CST argues that human beings are fulfilled in community and family. The Catholic Church believes we have the responsibility to participate in society and to promote the common good, especially for the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and responsibilities

Human dignity can only be protected if all human rights are protected and responsibilities of all human beings are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to the basic needs of life. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a duty and responsibility to help fulfill those rights for one another, for our families and for the larger society.

Option for the poor and vulnerable

The world is shaped by the division between growing prosperity for some and poverty for others. The Catholic Church proclaims that the basic moral test of a society is how the most vulnerable members are faring. Our society is marred by a deepening division between the rich and poor. From the Last Judgment reading (Mt 25:31-36), all people are instructed by God to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The dignity of work and the rights of workers

The Catholic Church teaches that the economy must serve the people. Too often the marketplace takes precedence over the rights of workers. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. The rights to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization of unions, to private property and economic initiative are all part of protecting the dignity of work and are all part of protecting the rights of the workers. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights and advances the wellbeing of all.


Our society often stresses individualism, indifference and sometimes isolationism in the face of international responsibilities. The Catholic Church proclaims that every human being has a responsibility to our brothers and sisters wherever they live. We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Solidarity is about loving our neighbors locally, nationally and internationally.

Care for God’s creation

The Catholic tradition insists that every human being show respect for the Creator by our stewardship of His creation. We are called to protect people and the planet by living our faith with respect for God’s creation. In a society with controversy over environmental issues, the Catholic Church believes it is a fundamental moral and ethical challenge that cannot be ignored.

I consider this the most appropriate reading during this season of sharing and giving. I highly recommend that Catholic Social Teaching be included in the curriculum of all Catholic schools.

*      *      *

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with