Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. 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. We believe that every person is previous, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Community and the Common Good

The mystery of the trinity involves, the relationship of complete love among the three divine persons-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-in one God. As persons made in God’s image, we must model divine self-giving love. 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. In community we realize the fulfillment of our dignity and rights in relationship with and to others.

Rights and Responsibilities

People have basic rights and responsibilities because of their human dignity that reflects the fact that they have been created in God’s image. Catholic teaching emphasizes that people have a right to life and to the basic necessities that provide quality to life: food, shelter, health care, education, and employment. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities – to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. We are called to respect the rights of others and to seek the common good.

Option for the Poor

The Gospel calls Christians to put the needs of the poor first. A common moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable people. Wherever there is structural injustice, Christians are called to oppose it. Those with the greatest need require the greatest response.

Dignity of Work

Work is an expression of our dignity and of our involvement in God’s creation. People have a right to decent work, fair wages, and private property. 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. The economy exists to serve people, not vice versa.


We are all one human family in the world. Because we realize our dignity, rights, and responsibilities, in relationship with others, we needs to continue to build a community that empowers people to attain their full human potential. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that “loving our neighbor’ has global dimensions in an interdependent world. By working for justice, we fulfill our mandate to build the body of Christ.1

Care for God’s Creation

We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is a requirement for our faith; which calls us to protect people and the planet and live our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. The fundamental moral and ethical dimensions of this challenge cannot be ignored.

1 Copyright 1999, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. Washington , D.C. All rights reserved.