What makes being Catholic, well, “Catholic”? Things like the Mass, the Rosary and the Seven Sacraments come to mind.

But there is also an element of Church teaching that’s often overlooked and sometimes misunderstood — Catholic Social Teaching.

Catholic Social Teaching guides Catholics on how to apply the faith to all aspects of life, and lays the framework for the Church’s teachings on the dignity and sacredness of human life.

Catholic Social Teaching can be explained with 10 key points. These 10 principles demonstrate the depth of the Church’s teaching on social justice, and they call Catholics to take an active role in shaping the world in which we live. Catholic Social Teaching, when taken to heart, can become the catalyst that causes positive change in a world that desperately needs it. Consider these principles and strive to apply them in your own life.

Human Dignity

Human dignity is the fundamental principle within the Church’s teaching on social justice. A firm understanding of this principle is required so that the rest of Catholic Social Teaching can be viewed from the appropriate perspective. God created us in His image and likeness, so we all are worthy of respect.

Respect for Human Life

Whether unborn or seconds away from death, no life deserves to be prematurely ended. The Church sees this principle as crucial to the health of any society.

Association

Association holds that social relationships must be developed so that all people may reach their fullest potential. The Church teaches that the family is the basic unit upon which all other elements of society rest. We must uphold the sacredness of the family, and foster the growth of other societal organizations that preserve the well-being of all people.

Participation

All people deserve the right to work and to participate in God’s creation. The joy of accomplishing a task and performing honest labor should be made available to all people.

Protection for the Poor and Vulnerable

Society exists in a balance between those with power, and those without it. The vulnerable — those with disabilities — and the poor must be protected from those with power who choose to wield it in an unjust manner.

Solidarity

“Love your neighbor as yourself” — this commandment extends beyond the boundaries of any town, state or country. The principle of solidarity encourages all people to reach out to their brothers and sisters in need and to help them, even if they live halfway around the world.

Stewardship

Everything we have — even our own lives — is a gift from God. Our talents, our time and our financial resources are not our own, but God’s. The same goes for the natural resources we so often take for granted.

Responsibilities and Limits of Government

Governments, while created for the common good, sometimes overstep their boundaries. The Church teaches that all governments should seek to operate at the lowest level of organization possible — striving to solve problems at the source, with those who understand them best, and not through oppressive force.

Human Equality

God made all humans equal, including those of different ethnicity and race, and in different stages of life. No one person is of more value than another.

Common Good

It is especially important in our society to promote the common good — the social well-being and development of the “human group.” If we consider the entire human race as one family, the common good urges us to support our brothers and sisters so that they may reach their full potential.

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