Simply put, Catholic social teaching might be thought of as lens through which the world can be viewed. Certainly this is an oversimplification, as the teachings are comprised of documents that do not provide clear solutions to issues-areas. Rather, Catholic social teaching may be viewed as guidelines that provide a Christian perspective on contemporary social, economic and cultural events and issues confronting our country and the world.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates the following:
- The Church’s social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ. This teaching can be more easily accepted by men of good will, the more the faithful let themselves be guided by it. #244
The word view offered by this doctrine offers a moral vision that places the life and dignity of the human person at its very foundation. This core theme of Catholic social teaching places the value and dignity of the person above and independent of their ability to contribute to society. With this underpinning, the many papal encyclicals and pastoral statements and letters of the bishops have evolved into a body of work that has touched upon a variety of social phenomena, illuminated by the gospel and based on natural law. These documents offer opportunities for study, discernment and spiritual growth as reflections against backdrops of social, economic and political movements and activities.