Catholic Social Teaching
I’ve spent the past year researching Catholic social teaching (CST), a rich collection of Church documents that represent a wonderful living tradition on what the Catholic Church teaches on social issues in our world. They call CST the Church’s “best kept secret” mainly because most Catholics (and non-Catholics) do not actually know what the Church teaches on various social issues. What I’ve found is that many Catholics have a basic understanding of some of the principles of CST like preferential option for the poor, protection of life, or solidarity. But if asked to articulate these concepts or explain how they apply in our world today, that is where I see a mix of responses. For example, does pro-life just include abortion? What about death row inmates, people killed by war, families dying in famine or drought stricken countries? Are their lives not deserving of protection? I am not advocating for abortion by any means, but I am saying that if we are to be truly “pro-life” we must think of the sacredness of life in many different ways. Everyone bears the face of Christ. Everyone has human dignity.
I think it’s important to understand the social teachings of the Church. It’s our responsibility as Catholics to not only know it but to live it out. Where does the U.S. Church stand on issues such as immigration/migration, healthcare, environment, the death penalty, etc? Below, I’ve listed five recent statements put out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to give an example of what the Catholic Church actually does teach about social concerns of our day.
5 Bishops’ Statements You Need to Read on Immigration/Migration, Healthcare, Death Penalty, and the Environment:
The Gospel Message
Our Catholic identity is integrally tied to working for a more just world, to serving the poor and marginalized. As the USCCB states
“We cannot be called truly ‘Catholic’ unless we hear and heed the Church’s call to serve those in need and work for justice and peace. We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus unless we take up his mission of bringing ‘good news to the poor, liberty to captives, and new sight to the blind’ (cf. Lk 4:18).” (USCCB, Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish)
Catholic social teaching should be challenging at times. We continuously live in a tension between looking out for ourselves and our own well-being, and helping others who are in need. But we are called, as Catholics, to respect the dignity of all people in this world, people who bear the image of God. We are challenged by Jesus to live out the Gospel teachings, to “feed the hungry and welcome the stranger.” We are invited by God to love others as God loves.
God urges us to love in a more challenging and difficult way. How will we respond?
a girl who dreams