What Is Catholic Social Thought (CST)?

Catholic social thought includes an official body of church teaching as well as a broader social justice tradition inspired by the Gospel.  

The Compendium for the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004) states the aim of Catholic social teaching: 

“The immediate purpose of the Church's social doctrine is to propose the principles and values that can sustain a society worthy of the human person.” - Compendium (2004) no. 580. 

The same text identifies four core principles that constitute this vision of society:

Human Dignity 

The world exists for everyone, because all of us were born with the same dignity. Differences of color, religion, talent, place of birth or residence, and so many others, cannot be used to justify the privileges of some over the rights of all. As a community, we have an obligation to ensure that every person lives with dignity and has sufficient opportunities for his or her integral development.” - Pope Francis, “On Fraternity and Social Friendship,” Fratelli Tutti, (2020) no. 118.

Common Good  

"An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics. The common good is 'the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment'" - Pope Francis, “On the Care for our Common Home,” Laudato si (2015) no. 156, citing the Second Vatican Council’s “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” Gaudium et Spes (1965) no. 26. 


“The word “solidarity” is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.” - Pope Francis, “On the Proclamation of the Gospel In Today’s World,” Evangelii Gaudium (2013) no. 188.


"What are needed are new pathways of self-expression and participation in society. Education serves these by making it possible for each human being to shape his or her own future. Here too we see the importance of the principle of subsidiarity, which is inseparable from the principle of solidarity." - Pope Francis, “On Fraternity and Social Friendship,” Fratelli Tutti, (2020) no. 187.