Last Updated 02 Apr 2020

Principles of Catholic Social Thought

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The Catholic Social Thought's are a range of beliefs regarding situations around human dignity and the common good within a community. Addressing the ideas of the role of state, oppression, subsidiarily wealth distribution and study for social justice. Consisting of nine key principles coined by the Catholic Church that underpin the morals, values, ideals and contexts of the Church. Whilst incorporating values from Gospel's in order to provide guidelines as to how we as individuals should approach multiple issues arising in the world. (Figure 1 The Common Good Nicolas Bramke, 2017)

The common good:

The principle of the common good aims to ensure that individuals should be both sacred and social. Every individual's needs should be fulfilled regarding their social standing. Therefore encompassing all aspects of humanity, such as mental, physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Through shielding relationships within the wider society it will allow us to organise politics and economics. Through a lawful policy that directly affects human dignity.

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As well as an individuals growth within a wider community. To "love our neighbour" is a commitment and responsibility that has an single dimension. Yet requires a wider social commitment. In the long run that everyone has the accountability to bestow towards a society for the common good.

Working for the common good implies that we work to create the social and political conditions for many different people to strive within a common space. That may mean working for clean water and affordable health care; it may mean reciting unjust laws that create economic disadvantages for certain groups within society; it may also mean helping other groups to preserve their culture and identify. For example, respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People's claims as the traditional owners of this land.

With the common good concerning the life of all: It can apply to everyone by virtue of what we share in common with our humanity. It presupposes respect for all persons and each person. It concerns the flourishing of human life in all dimensions. The flourishing of individuals is linked closely to the well being of society (and the world) as a whole, the quality of a communal life together. Building strong, stable and cohesive societies aids in achieving the common good. (ACU, 2018, section 5.5.1)

The dignity of the human person

The foundation of all Catholic Social Thought is the dignity of the human person.The beginning point for a moral vision of society should be the dignity of the human person cherishing life. This principle is grounded on the ideas that an individual is made in the image of God. Not only does this encompass the thought that not only all human beings deserve to be treated with respect, but the fact that all human's have natural rights that need to be recognised and maintained. (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, 2016)

As Human beings it should be ensured that every person, especially the most disadvantaged and marginalised have reasonable access to more then just the basic needs. It promotes that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in activities and discussion.


In society everyone deserves the right to participate. Whether that be in political, cultural or economic environments. Participation is a requirement and fundamental demand of justice for human dignity. All people are and should be assured a level of inclusion and participation in the community. To exclude or unfairly mistreat someone is wrong on many accounts.

Through participation it allows not only individuals but the society to flourish. Therefore promoting the wider community, enforcing common good. Everyone should have equitable access to participate in educational and workplace environments. To be engaged politically. (The Catholic Church of New Zealand, 2010)

Global Solidarity

This concept recognises that hall humans belong to one large family. Therefore we must respect, and promote respect for nations of people. Having the responsibility to each other cross national, economic, racial and ideological differences. Suggesting that we work globally for the fulfilment of human development and justice. Aiming to maintain a standard, where balance and harmony are met rather then the extreme of underdevelopment on one hand, and super development on the other. Material goods, technology and resources will be unsatisfactory if there is no respect respect for the moral, cultural and spiritual dimensions of the person.

This principle gives people an awareness of what is going on in their world and encourages less on everyone's own individual needs and more on the needs and rights of those around them, especially those who are marginalised and in the greatest need. (ACU 3.1.1, 2017)

Interrelationship between self & community:

The principles of Catholic Social Teaching all have a common idea of promoting human success for each individual, which is only possible with collaboration on a personal and global scale. To link these principles they need to be put into action by tactical realties witch function as everyday expressions.

For the Catholic social thoughts to work a strong relationship must be between one's self and community. A strong community does not just happen, it is something that men and women must cease to work together to develop, create and maintain. The concept such as the Golden Rule can be best used to describe the relationship between self and community in terms of flourishing.
(Figure 2, The Golden Rule, Morris, 2015)

The golden rule

With the 'golden rule' being a familiar core principle that is derived from human feelings and experience. It requires people to think and respond about others as if they were in the exact situation and therefore try to imagine how they might think and feel. (Think Humanism, 2018).

The golden rule is found in numerous religions, cultures, ethical systems and philosophises. It transcends into an ethical cornerstone as the human family which works together to build a peaceful, just and sustainable society (ACU 2016, Section 1.3.2).

In todays society we have become distracted by the individual pursuit of happiness that other people can be neglected. By changing our own behaviours and attitudes towards marginalised individuals we will be able to take steps to actually support and provide for these people and also repeat their human dignity in the process. Though changing an individuals mindset and behaviour, other people will be influenced to the similar. Having a greater influence on the community at a whole.

For example In terms of subsidiarity, by utilising the idea that we should treat others how we would like to be treated, individuals can handle situations that closely affect themselves with justice. This would then overflow the wider community sense where strong moral and ethical values would drive the design making of individuals which, in turn, also promotes human growth, flourishing and the common good.

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