Catholic Social Teaching:
The Basis of Church Involvement in the Public Square
The Church's participation in public policy inititiaves is rooted in the principles of "Catholic social teaching." This body of teaching has been developed over centuries, but has become particularly defined over the last century. It represents the Church's perspective on applying the Gospel to the practical affairs of the public square.
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The U.S. Bishops have identified seven major themes of Catholic social teaching:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the fundamental human right on which all other rights are based. In our society, human life is under direct attack, most principally through abortion. However, human life is also under direct attrack through assisted suicide, euthanasia, human trafficking, and widespread violence. There are numerous other ways in which human life is under indirect attack as well (e.g., embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, pornography, unrestrained capitalism, etc.). All human lives must be protected by law and by individuals.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The human person is social by nature. All our public and economic policies have an effect on individual human persons, and their ability to live and grow in community. Marriage and the family are the foundation by which society grows and flourishes. The authentic definition of marriage must be supported and strengthened, not undermined or redefined. The family must also be upheld and revered as the building block of society.
Rights and Responsibilities
Human dignity can only be ensured if basic rights are protected, responsibilities are met, and people exercise respect for one another. Fundamental rights like the right to life and the right to religious freedom must always be recognized and defended.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
We have an obligation as a society to take special care of the poor and vulnerable among us. All our public policies must be evaluated by how they impact "the least among us" (Mt. 15:31-46). The interests of the poor and vulnerable must be given special priority.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
The human person should be the centerpiece of all economic policies. People are more important than money and other material commodities or objects. Labor and economic policies must focus on the development of all people. The right to work, the right to own and use property, and the right to organize into associations must all be respected.
The unity of the human family transcends national, ideological, or ethnic boundaries. We have an obligation to stand united with our brothers and sisters around the world, and to constantly strive for peace and justice. We must particularly work to establish a just order in society, where murder and violence are unthinkable.
Care for God's Creation
God has entrusted humanity to be stewards of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in harmony with all of God's creation. "The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole" (Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate 48).