'Deep within our hearts is a law which though we did not place it there, we know we must obey' - (GS, 16).
Catholics acknowledge seven bedrock principles of social justice as essential for forming conscience and putting faith into action. The following seven principles are found in many of the teachings of the Popes and Bishops especially since the Second Vatican Council. These principles are grounded in the sacred Scriptures, affirmed by the witness of the saints and martyrs, and explained in the documents of Catholic social teaching (papal, conciliar, and episcopal) throughout the centuries. Taken together they form a seamless garment of life. The Department of Pro-Life Activities, Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, Office of Parish Life and the Office for Outreach and Advocacy at Catholic Charities are united in their commitment to a consistent ethic of life guided by these principles:
Dignity of the Human Person
All people are sacred, made in the image and likeness of God. People do not lose dignity because of disability, poverty, age, lack of success or race. The emphasis is on people over things, being over having.
Call to Family, Community and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society - in economics and politics, in law and policy - directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. 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.
Rights and Responsibilities
People have fundamental rights to life, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, food, shelter, health care, education and employment. All people have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to respect the rights of others and to work for the common good.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent claim on the conscience of any community. We are called to look at public-policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Work is an expression of our dignity and a form of cooperating in God's creation. People have the right to decent and productive work, fair wages, private property, and economic initiative. Workers have the strong support of the Church in forming and joining union and worker associations. The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around.
We are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic, and ideological differences. We are called to work globally for justice. This commitment to wage peace and work for development along side of the poorest nations is a hallmark of Christian faith in action. Rev. Ron Sadjak is a founder of one expression of that global solidarity Reaching Out to Africa (ROTA) which while based in Buffalo, fosters human development across the ocean and bridges the worlds.
Care for God's Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. 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.
For more on the themes of Catholic social teaching review the USCCB publication Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions (No. 5-281) and other social teaching documents at USCCB Publications or call 800-235-8722. Consider these valuable resources for forming a Catholic conscience:
New York State Catholic Conference of Bishops
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Education for Peace and Justice - Center for Concern
Teacher's Toolbox - Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Message of Pope Francis on World Peace Day