Reflection on Catholic Social Teaching

Reflection on Catholic Social Teaching & IMPACT

Janie Eckman

Church of the Incarnation

November, 2012

Catholic social teaching and why it is a central and essential element of our faith.

Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God’s special love for the poor and called God’s people to a covenant of love and justice. 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”(Lk 4:18-19), and who identified himself with “the least of these,” the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45).”

Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor and is inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.

The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. It offers moral principles and coherent values that are badly needed in our time. In this time of widespread violence and diminished respect for human life and dignity in our country and around the world, the Gospel of life and the biblical call to justice need to be proclaimed and shared with new clarity, urgency, and energy.

There are seven Major Themes in Catholic Social Teaching:

1.  Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.

2.  Call to Family, Community, and Participation

The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. While our society often exalts individualism, the Catholic tradition teaches that human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in community. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Our Church teaches that the role of government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good.

3.  Rights and Responsibilities

The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities, to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

4.  Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

In a world characterized by growing prosperity for some and pervasive poverty for others, Catholic teaching proclaims that a basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

5.  The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

We believe that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected, the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights, and advances the well-being of all.

6.  Solidarity

Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences.

7.  Care for God’s Creation

We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.

Catholic Social Teaching & IMPACT

Education is one of the most important forums for sharing and demonstrating our Church’s commitment to human dignity and social justice.  But the Catholic Church needs to integrate its social teachings more fully. I see one of the ways to do this is through our participation in IMPACT. Through IMPACT, we are being educated and we’re also given the opportunity to live our faith by working with other faith congregations to address problems related to issues of justice and fairness in our community.