What is the Church’s Social Teaching (CST)?
The Church’s social teaching recognises that we are not alone in this world and that we need to care for each other. Since the late 1800s the various Popes have written about different aspects of how we can build a more just world and this makes up the body of Catholic Social Teaching. They are not a set of rules and regulations but exhortations or guides as to how women and men can live and work together. They are derived from 14 primary Papal Documents: (see Appendix1)
And may be enunciated in 5 basic principles:
The dignity of the human person
The focal point of CST is the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, and so having fundamental freedom and dignity, the basis for human rights. Recognising this image in our neighbour, the teaching rejects any policy or system that reduces people to economic units or passive dependence. (See especially Pacem in Terris & Laborem Exercens).
The Common Good
The common good refers to what is good for all people. We exist as part of society. Every individual has a duty to share in promoting the welfare of the community and a right to benefit from that welfare. This applies at every level: local, national and international. Public authorities exist mainly to promote the common good and to ensure that no section of the population is excluded. (See Sollicitudo Rei Socialis).
Solidarity is standing with others. As members of the one human family, we have mutual obligations to promote the rights and development of peoples across communities and nations. Solidarity is the fundamental bond of unity with our fellow human beings and the resulting interdependence. All are responsible for all; and in particular the rich have responsibilities towards the poor. National and international structures must reflect this. (See Populorum Progressio, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis & Centesimus Annus)
All power and decision-making in society should be at the most local level compatible with the common good. Subsidiarity will mainly mean power passing downwards, but it could also mean passing appropriate powers upwards. The balance between the vertical (subsidiarity) and the horizontal (solidarity) is achieved through reference to the common good. (See Quadragesimo Anno)
Option for the poor
We should choose to put the poor at the forefront of decisions we make. Implicit in earlier CST, this has now been taken up with new urgency and far-reaching consequences for pastoral action. Fidelity to Christ means seeing him above all in the faces of suffering and wounded people. (See Sollicitudo Rei Socialis & Centesimus Annus)