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Catholic Social Doctrine

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death.   USCCB

One of the great treasures of the Catholic Church is her long history of social teaching which speaks to us regarding how we are to live our faith in the world and society.  This doctrine is built on essential moral principles.  The wording of the list is not the same throughout sources but the ideas are generally consistent.

This is a list of the common themes or pillars of our social teaching.

  • The Dignity of the Human Person
  • The Common Good
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation
  • Rights and Responsibilities
  • The Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  • Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
  • Subsidiarity
  • Solidarity
  • Religious Liberty
  • Care for God's Creation

See also:


The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church page on our website with index and links to external sources
Works of Mercy

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
Go to Vatican page English

Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica 

Compendio de la Doctrina Social de la Iglesia Católica 

Issues and Action

USCCB pages dedicated to issues
USCCB General Mission Goals
USCCB - Catholic Campaign for Human Development 
USSCCB - Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

Faithful Citizenship
USCCB Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 

The Evil of Racism

A Summary of Catholic Social Teaching, by Robert J. Spitzer, SJ, PhD. October 2007
Read here

Moral Principles
EWTN Catholic 

General Moral Priniciples
The Permanent Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine

Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix
Phoenix - Catholic Campaign for Human Development 
Themes of Catholic Social Teaching 
Racism is a Sin - Statement by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

Catholic Charities Twin Cities MN

Quotes from Catholic Social Teaching

An authentic faith . . . always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, it hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed "the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics," the Church, "cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice."
– Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 183

The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation "in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good."  The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility. Even if the specific expressions of ecclesial charity can never be confused with the activity of the State, it still remains true that charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as "social charity".
-- Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no. 29

For the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise "all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good." It will be especially necessary "to nurture the growing awareness in society of the dignity of every person and, therefore, to promote in the community a sense of the duty to participate in political life in harmony with the Gospel."
-- Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, no. 27

It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility towards the common good.
-- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, no. 4.

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. "People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens" (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 220).  The obligation to participate in political life is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "it is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (nos. 1913-1915).
-- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship, no. 13

This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching.
-- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship, Introduction

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