Written by Kathy Kuczka
In part two of our series, we continue with key themes of the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching.
Rights and Responsibilities
Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. Matthew 25:31-46
Because every human life has value, all persons, regardless of status, are entitled to basic human rights, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to work, the right to food, the right to shelter, the right to family, and the right to participate in society. Along with those rights comes the responsibility to ensure that others are afforded those same human rights.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed. Isaiah 58:5-7.
The Church’s love and concern for the most vulnerable is rooted in Jesus’ compassion for the poor. The commitment to the poor is not simply for the sake of charity, it is to help the poor become active participants in society so that they might contribute to the common good.
“The ‘option for the poor,’ therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves.” (USCCB, Economic Justice for All, no. 88)
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
All workers should be paid a just and living wage. Matthew 20:1-16
According to Catholic social teaching, having a job is more than simply making a living; it is a participation in God’s work. Therefore, the worker must be protected by rights such as the right to productive work, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to organize, the right to own property and the right to economic initiative.
If one member of Christ’s body suffers, all suffer. If one member is honored, all rejoice. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Despite our ethnic, economic, and political differences, we are one human family. In a world that is becoming more and more global it is critical to focus on what we have in common rather than what makes us different. As the pandemic has taught us, we depend on one another in ways never before imagined. At the heart of solidarity is the desire for and pursuit of peace and justice, not only for ourselves but for the entire human community.
Care for Creation
Humans are commanded to care for God’s creation. Genesis 2:15
Care for the environment is not just a popular trend or a political stance; it is a mandate of our faith. Human beings have been entrusted as the stewards of all creation. We are called to do our part to protect and preserve our common home, to temper consumption with moral considerations for the poor, for humanity as a whole and for future generations.
What is known as the Church’s best-kept secret, Catholic social teaching, has now been told once again in brief. For some this teaching brings comfort, for others, challenge. Reflect on which of the teachings noted above challenge your beliefs and which affirm your beliefs. Read documents such as Rerum Novarum, the Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et Spes, the U.S. Bishops’ document, Economic Justice for All, Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, Amoris Laetitia, and Laudato Si’. Discern how you might be called to act so that the Church’s social teaching is no longer a secret but a new way of being for the whole human race.