It is often said that the Catholic Church’s social justice teaching is our best-kept secret. Why? The seven principles of Catholic social teaching take the Gospels off the pages of the Bible and put them into practice. They enable us to live the Gospel. They are hardly new. And had we all been practicing them, the two crises confronting our country and our world today might have been prevented.
These are the principles:
- Life and dignity of the human person.
- Call to family, community, and participation.
- Rights and responsibilities.
- Preferential option for the poor.
- The dignity of work and the rights of workers.
- Care for God’s creation.
We should not just take these principles at face value. It is important to find out what they mean. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have a very important webpage that explains them. Let me share just a few insights. The first principle teaches that all human life has dignity — from conception to natural death. It is precious and must be protected, certainly from abortion and euthanasia, but also from war, terrorism, famine, and capital punishment. This principle is foundational to all the others. For example, the second pillar teaches that the human person is not only sacred, but also social. Therefore, social institutions such as marriage and the family must be protected. It also means human beings have a duty to participate in society for the well-being of all. And so, all the other principles follow.
Let me give you two more. The teaching on rights and responsibilities reminds us that everyone’s human rights must be protected and that we have obligations to one other, to our families, and to society at large. Solidarity reminds we are all one family, our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers, if you will. Solidarity also calls us to pursue peace and justice.
Take a few minutes to read more about Catholic Social Teaching. Please share it with your family, especially your children, who learn of it in their parish religious education programs. And tell your friends. Don’t let it be a secret anymore.