“Catholic social teaching is one of the Church’s best-kept secrets.”
I’ve had people tell me this ever since I began working in Catholic communications nearly 30 years ago. Perhaps they’re right. We don’t always explain or teach it as well as we should. It’s often misunderstood. Case in point: those who draw a distinction between “pro-life” Catholics and “social justice” Catholics, as if they are rooted in the ideas of two opposing camps with nothing in common.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Protecting life in the womb, advocating on behalf of the poor, opposing assisted suicide, caring for the earth — all of it are branches sprouting from the common root of Catholic social teaching, which at its core focuses on the foundational principle of the God-given dignity inherent in every human person.
This teaching — CST for short — is rooted in Scripture. As the U.S. bishops state: “It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came ‘to bring glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives … recovery of sight to the blind’ (Luke 4:18-19), and who identified himself with ‘the least of these,’ the hungry and the stranger (cf. Matthew 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the Eucharist.”
This teaching has been articulated in numerous papal and other Church documents over the last 130 years, beginning with Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (“On the Condition of Labor”) in 1891, a foundational text of modern CST.
The key themes of Catholic social teaching are:
- The sacredness of life and dignity of the human person
- The call to family and community participation
- Human rights and responsibilities
- Preferential option for the poor and vulnerable
- The dignity of work and the rights of workers
- Care for God’s creation
When it comes to the duties of faithful citizenship, we would do well to let Catholic social teaching be our guide. With this in mind, The Central Minnesota Catholic is kicking off a seven-part series this month focused on CST. From now through September, each edition will include an informative article about one of the CST themes, a “lesson plan” to help you reflect on that theme and a story illustrating “CST in action.” In this edition, we feature the sacredness of life and dignity of the human person.
We hope you find this educational series valuable and will use it in your home and parish to reflect more deeply on how CST helps us to answer the call to discipleship and promote the common good.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out other valuable CST resources available from the Catholic Charities Office of Social Concerns (www.ccstcloud.org/services; click on “Social Concerns”) and the Minnesota Catholic Conference (www.mncatholic.org).
Joe Towalski is the editor and the director of communications for the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Photo: A doctor checks a malnourished child during an event organized by the Catholic aid agency Caritas at a church in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Aug. 10, 2019. “The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” the U.S. bishops state. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)