The Roman Catholic Church, a “family of families,” according to Pope Francis, has since the beginning of Christianity proposed to the world a model for a healthy human society. These suggestions to the world at large on what makes for a good and flourishing society are based on biblical principles and derived from Caritas, or charity (Matthew 22:36-40). This is the most important point about Catholic social doctrine. Without it being rooted in the scriptures and in biblical faith, it collapses to sociological concepts.
Briefly, the Catholic Church’s social teaching can be encapsulated thus: All human beings are created by God in his image and therefore intrinsically have dignity, rights, and responsibilities. Out of this first principle comes the second—the common good—which teaches that as a society we have a responsibility to all strive toward the good of all people and of the whole person (morally, socially, and physically). Tied to the first two principles is the third, subsidiarity, that teaches the importance of intermediate social entities—the family, churches, and a variety of groups and associations. The first three principles lead us to solidarity—given our created and social nature, God calls us to the moral virtue of unity.
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