The Seven Themes of Social Justice

Catholic Social Teachings

Since at least time that the labor movement began to respond to the unbridled development of industry in the latter part of the 19th century, the Catholic Church has advised both governments and people in the building of social structures consistent with the teachings of the Gospel.

Having concluded that direct participation in politics is not an appropriate role for it, the Church has turned instead to educating the faithful in the relevance of the Gospel to issues the world faces to day.  The dozens of statements issued by the Church since Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum are frequently synthesized into seven general themes:

I.          The Life and Dignity of the Human Person

The basis of all teachings:  Human life is sacred.  It is a gift from God.  The dignity of the person is the foundation of our moral vision for society.

II.        The Call to Family and Community Participation

Our participation in our families, our communities, and in society is a reflection of our faith.  How we organize our society – in economics and politics, in law and policy – directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.

III.       Rights and Responsibilities

Every person has a right to life and to those things required for human decency.  With those rights, come responsibilities – to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

IV.       The Option for – and With – the Poor and Vulnerable

A basic moral test of any society is how its poorest and most vulnerable members fare.  We are reminded by Christ that at the end we will be judged on our response to the poor and vulnerable. (Mt. 25: 31-46.)

V.        The Dignity of Work, and Workers’ Rights

Human dignity is expressed in the dignity of work and the rights of workers:  work is a way of participating in God’s creation.  Workers must have a right to productive labor, to decent and fair wages,  to organize, to hold private property to take economic initiative.

VI.       Solidarity

“Loving our neighbor” has global dimensions, particularly in a shrinking world.

VII.     Care for God’s Creation

The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land which nourishes us are among the gifts God has entrusted to us, to return with increase when we are finished.  Christian responsibility for the environment begins with appreciation of the goodness of all God’s creation.


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