Themes of Catholic Social Thought

The Dignity of the Human Person

The Catholic Church believes that every human life — whether young or old, guilty or innocent, born or unborn — is both precious and sacred, thus making the preservation of human dignity of the utmost importance.

The Common Good and Community

Human beings can only reach their full individual potential if they work to promote and protect the good of society as a whole. Our obligation to love our neighbor is not only an individual commitment; it requires a broader social responsibility.

The Preferential Option for the Poor

Society is only as strong as its weakest members. The only way to move forward, then, and foster the common good, is to work together to radically better the situation of society’s poor and most vulnerable members. We are called to base both our individual choices and public policy decision on how they affect the poor.

Rights and Responsibilities

Every human has a fundamental right to food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, and employment. We must not only be responsible for ourselves or for our families. We must also promote a society where the right to life and to material well being in accordance with human decency is made available and attainable to all.

Role of Government and Subsidiarity

Government, or the state, is at its core an instrument to promote human dignity, human rights, and the common good. Its mission is to work for the benefit of all people. Therefore, all people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions. Government functions should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately.

Economic Justice

The economy should serve the people, not the other way around. All workers have the right to organize and join unions. We also have the right to fair wages, safe working environments, and access to productive work. And while people have a basic right to economic initiative and private property, this right has its limits. No person should amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.

Stewardship of God’s Creation

Protection of the planet is a requirement of our faith. The goods of the earth are a gift from God, and are for the benefit of everyone. Catholic tradition insists that we show respect for the Creator through our stewardship of creation.

Promotion of Peace and Disarmament

The promotion of peace is a requirement of our faith. The fruit of justice, peace depends upon right order among human beings. The challenge of peace calls us to oppose war, nuclear conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and the arms race. It also calls us to oppose economic injustice and corruption, known to often be the seeds of resentment, unrest, and civil strife.


All people have a right and a duty to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society, and should be assured of that right. Human dignity requires it; justice demands it. The common good cannot be promoted or achieved without that participation, making it fundamentally wrong to exclude any person or group from participating, at least minimally, in society.

Global Solidarity and Development

Above all else, we are one human family. Catholic teaching proclaims that no matter our national, racial, ethnic, economic, or ideological differences, we have a commitment to work towards a just, even, and fair development of our world, where no one society is exalted materially above the rest, and no other society is left in the dust. Development must respect the rights of all nations and their people, always promoting the moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of each person.

©Office for Social Justice, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.