Catholic Social Teaching
Catholic Social Teachings are universal teachings calling us to live in relationship with humanity and all of creation. While these teachings come from the Catholic Church, we believe that they apply to people of any and all faith traditions, and we therefore attempt to live by and teach by them at the Farm. Typically, these social teachings are laid out in principles so that they can be better understood, as with the Ten Commandments, eight beatitudes, seven sacraments, etc. Catholic Social Teaching calls us to learn, reflect upon and internalize these principles so we may act on them in every decision of our daily lives. Here at the Farm we focus on seven principles:
- Human Dignity
- Care for Creation
- The Call to Family, Community & Participation
- Rights & Responsibilities
- Preferential Option for the Poor & Vulnerable
- Dignity of Work & the Rights of Workers
Below is some information on what each of these principles and how they call us to act. You can also watch videos on each of these principles from the excellent CST 101 Video Series produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services.
- Just as children are like their parents, all people are made in the image of God and are children of God. We all have human dignity because we are all made in God’s image.
- Every person has a purpose, a mission, and is part of God’s plan. We must create opportunities for everyone to live their lives fully.
- God’s commandment “thou shalt not kill” means that we must protect all people from harm and violence. No society can live in peace without a full awareness of the worth and dignity of every human person.
- When we see people treated as lesser because of something that makes them human—the color of their skin, where they live, their disability, their stage of life, their social or economic status—we know that radical equality of all people taught by the Gospel is being violated.
- Everyone is worthy of reverence and protection, but especially the poorest and most marginalized people, because we know that they are most vulnerable to harm.
Care for Creation
- Creation is God’s beautiful gift to all people. The Book of Genesis calls us to “cultivate and care for the earth,” just as farmers cultivate and care for their fields.
- The bounty of God’s creation is given to all of us to provide for our needs. It is the support system of life—it produces food, air to breathe, rain to water our crops. We must protect it if it is to continue to serve us and all of the rest of creation.
- When creation suffers, it hurts poor and marginalized people most. They often depend on the water, climate, land, animal life, or vegetable life to make their living. They also may have less ability to resist or move away from environmental dangers. By caring for creation, we care for our poorest sisters and brothers.
- Caring for creation should take the form of action. It can be as simple as using less and recycling more. Or it can be something bigger, such as working to change the institutions that we are a part of so that they are more environmentally responsible.
Call to Family, Community, & Participation
- God created us as social beings called to love and live together in community and care for one another.
- Family is the school for our communications with each other. It is where we learn to love and be loved. Family prepares us to go out into the community and live among others. Family bonds, like the bond of marriage and the bond between parents and children, are especially important in our growth as human beings in relationship with each other.
- People are called to engage in their local community. We’re not supposed to be just bystanders or observers. We must live together with, listen to, walk with, and love all of the people that God has placed around us.
- All people have the right to participate fully and equally in their community. Everyone has the basic right to be truly free and empowered to be part of making the decisions that affect their lives.
Rights & Responsibilities
- People can only live with dignity when human rights are protected. We all have a right to the necessities we need to live our lives fully, such as food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, rest, companionship, and necessary social services.
- We also have many moral and cultural rights. These include freedom of speech, freedom to worship according to your conscience, the right to a good education, the right to immigrate and emigrate, the right to participate fully in our own government, and the right to justice without discrimination.
- With our rights come responsibilities. To claim your rights and ignore the rights of others is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other. Think of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- We have a responsibility to defend and speak out for the rights of all people, especially the rights of the most powerless people.
Preferential Option for the Poor & Vulnerable
- The suffering faces of the poor are suffering faces of Christ. He told us, “Whatever you did for one of these least sisters and brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Jesus Himself lived as a poor person.
- We should have a sisterly and brotherly attitude towards the poor. We grow in our humanity when we are close to the poor and encounter them in our lives. We must walk with the poor as they work to change and transform their own situation.
- We are called to listen to the poor and speak out for justice in the face of intolerable social and economic inequalities. We should create conditions for the economic prosperity of all people.
- We live out a preferential option when we devote time to the poor, provide them kind attention, listen to them with interest, stand by them in the most difficult moments, choosing to spend hours, weeks, or years of our life with them.
- We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We must stand up for all of our sisters and brothers, whomever they may be.
- Solidarity is not a vague feeling of compassion or distress at the misfortunes of so many people. It is a firm and determined commitment to the common good, to the good of every person.
- Just as the early Christian communities shared what they had, society today must distribute goods fairly and in the spirit of sharing. The natural resources that God gave everyone are meant for all. The products of our work and industry also must serve the good of all.
- We must be careful about how our lifestyle choices affect others. For example, buying things is always a moral act. The buyer has a responsibility to treat everyone involved in the creation of that product fairly, and so do companies. Think about our fair-trade products and why we buy them at Nazareth Farm. We should educate ourselves about our lifestyle choices and their contribution to society.
Dignity of Work & the Rights of Workers
- Work adds meaning to our lives. Through our work we can learn much about ourselves and have an impact on our world. Work helps us to grow as person.
- A clear Gospel message of the importance of work is the life of Jesus, who was a carpenter doing physical labor for most of his life.
- Any job and profession can have dignity. The dignity of the work comes from our human dignity that we as the workers bring to it. Even if we work in a job that society traditionally does not value as highly, our human dignity gives it true value.
- All workers have the right to do productive work, to fair wages and benefits, to decent working conditions, to opportunities for advancement, as well as to organize and join unions or other workers’ associations.
- The economy and markets should serve people, not the other way around.
General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America & the Caribbean. (2007). Concluding Document: Aparecida, 13-31 May 2007. Retrieved from http://www.aecrc.org/documents/Aparecida-Concluding%20Document.pdf.
Massaro, Thomas. (2012) Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace. (2004). Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html.
Pope Francis. (2014). The Church of Mercy. Chicago: Loyola Press.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops & Catholic Relief Services. CST 101 Video Series. (2015-2016). CST Video Series. Retrieved from http://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101.