An introduction to Catholic social teaching


By Sr. Laura Goedken

Sr. Goedken

Catholic social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets and in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus came “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18-19).
Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.
Our commitment to Catholic social teaching must be rooted in and strengthened by our spiritual lives. In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love one another as God has loved us.
Catholic social teaching shapes how we vote, what we teach in our schools and religious education, where we invest our financial resources and how we live our daily lives.
The major themes of Catholic social teaching are: protection of human life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity with one another; and care for God’s creation.
We have an obligation to form a good conscience and then to follow it. We form a good conscience by studying Church teaching, reading and being in conversation with others. When we vote we look at all the candidates and follow our conscience in voting for the candidates who best exemplify Catholic social teaching. No candidate will be perfect!
When our teachers, catechists and parents teach in our schools, catechize in religious education classes and raise our children, they regularly focus on Catholic social teaching and its major themes. We want our young people to respect one another; we encourage them to give service; we sponsor programs to eliminate bullying.
When we invest in the stock market and live out Catholic social teaching, we are good shareholders and good stewards and, we can, at the same time, obtain a reasonable return on our investments. We can be a Catholic voice in the marketplace.
As we live our daily lives, we treat one another with respect. We are “our brother’s keeper.”
In future articles we will focus on how we live Catholic social teaching in our daily lives and, specifically, how we do so through socially responsible investing while receiving good market returns.
This is the first in a series of three articles.
(Sr. Goedken is director of development for the Diocese of Davenport.)

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