To live responsibly and to help establish a more just society, the Catholic Church has a long tradition of social teaching. Based on Scripture and written texts, modern Catholic social teaching evolved over time in response to today’s concerns. These core beliefs and mission statements are built on this foundation. The social teaching of the Catholic Church has a wealth of knowledge on how to create a just society and live holy lives in the face of modern society’s difficulties. Throughout the centuries, papal, conciliar, and episcopal texts have been used to articulate modern Catholic social teachings. The only way to appreciate the breadth and complexity of this tradition is to read the original sources themselves. In these brief thoughts, we want to draw attention to a few of the most important ideas that have shaped our social tradition as Catholics.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
There are several reasons why the Catholic Church believes in a moral vision for society based on human dignity and sacredness of life. It is on this foundation that our social teachings are built. In our society, abortion and euthanasia pose serious challenges to human life. Death sentence, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of cloning threaten the value of human life. Military or terrorist attacks should never be used as an excuse to purposefully kill civilians. We should endeavor to avoid conflict as well, as per Catholic teachings. To protect the right to life, nations must establish more effective conflict prevention and nonviolent conflict resolution systems. People are more essential than objects, and institutions are judged on whether or not they harm or enrich the human person’s existence and dignity.
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
We must all take into account the well-being of others and the well-being of the entire human family when constructing our society—economically, politically, and legally. Until we have a healthy relationship with the rest of society, it is impossible to fully appreciate and safeguard human dignity. For the sake of humanity, we must put the welfare of our fellow human beings ahead of our own business interests.
The structure of our society has a direct bearing on people’s sense of dignity and belonging, including economics, politics, law, and policy. In order to maintain the stability of our society, we must protect and strengthen the institution of marriage and the family as a whole.
Even the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society have a right and an obligation to participate in society. God created the Earth and everything on it to be used by all peoples and all nations. As a result, created products should be plentiful for everybody to enjoy in like manner under the leadership of justice and charity.
Rights and Responsibilities
Human Dignity demands certain things of us, and we all have the right to those things as well. Rights are derived from the things we require in order to live the life that God intended for us to live. The responsibility to protect the rights of others is inextricably linked to the principle that we should never take more than is required to satisfy our own rights at the expense of those of others. According to Catholic teaching, only through safeguarding human dignity and upholding human rights and obligations can a healthy community be built.
A fundamental right to life and basic human decency are therefore guaranteed to everyone. These rights come with corresponding duties and responsibilities—to each other, to our families, and to society as a whole. People must acknowledge and observe their reciprocal rights and duties in order for human society to be well-ordered. A civic order in which rights and duties are more fully recognised and successfully realized also requires that each person contribute generously to the building of this new order.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
It is possible to judge a society’s moral integrity by observing how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Since God’s love is universal, we are required to prioritize those who are most in need of our Solidarity. However, this principle does not suggest that we should just help the underprivileged at the expense of others. It is fitting that in a time when wealth disparities are widening, our tradition reminds us of Jesus’ Last Judgment parable (Mt 25:31-46) and urges us to give priority to those in need. People’s needs come first; workers’ rights take precedence over profit maximization; the preservation of the environment takes precedence over industrial expansion; and social needs are prioritized above military demands.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
There should be a “people-first” economy. Work is more than just a means of earning a livelihood; it is a way for us to remain active participants in the world around us. As long as employees’ fundamental rights to productive work, union organization and membership, reasonable and fair compensation, economic initiative and private property are honored, the dignity of work will be preserved.
Because we are all part of the same human family, we are all interdependent and related. Loving our neighbor extends to the world at large. In order for us to find solutions, we must see ourselves in others and work together. The concept of “all in this together” and a dedication to strengthening communities and promoting a just society are the foundations of solidarity.
The term “solidarity” encompasses much more than a few random acts of giving. In other words, it means putting the well-being of all people ahead of the hegemony of a select few over the acquisition of material wealth. Also, it’s important to fight against the structural causes of poverty and inequality, as well as the denial of social and labor rights. Forcible displacements, painful emigration, the trafficking of people, drugs, war, violence and all those realities that many of you have experienced and that we are asked to reform are only a few of the harmful impacts of the empire of money.
Care for God’s Creation
The Earth is precious and should be treated with respect and reverence. The value of creation cannot be discounted. Earth’s natural beauty, biological diversity, and ability to sustain life are all responsibilities that we have as human beings. For future generations, we must keep it in trust. In order for the family to thrive, it must have a place to call home. God has given us the world as a place to call home, and we are responsible for making the most of it. Men and women have been given responsibility to safeguard and cultivate the environment, with the welfare of all in mind, as entrusted to them by God.
As stewards of creation, we express our reverence for God. Earth Day isn’t just a marketing ploy; it’s a commandment of our faith. To live out our religion in harmony with all of God’s creation, we are tasked with safeguarding both people and the world. This environmental problem has moral and ethical elements that cannot be disregarded.
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