Social Justice & Catholic Social Teachings

Social Justice & Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Social Teaching includes a body of papal documents developed in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, however, it is much more than that. The tradition of social justice begins in the Old Testament with, for example, the story of liberation from slavery in Exodus, the jubilee laws in Leviticus to prevent the exploitation of workers and the abuse of creation. The prophets such as Isaiah who spoke against the oppression of the weak; Amos who denounced the hypocrisy of the powerful and Micah who denounced the corruption of the religious and political leaders.

Jesus’ Mission

Jesus proclaimed the fulfilment of the kingdom of God in himself, that is, God reigning or governing in every part of our lives and our world. In the gospel of Luke Jesus proclaimed his mission by drawing upon the prophetic tradition of justice in the prophet Isaiah:


“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for the Lord has anointed me.

the Lord has sent me to

bring good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”  

Luke 4:18-19

Our Mission

Through baptism, we participate in Jesus’ mission of preaching, serving and witnessing to the reign of God. Mission carried out in the light of the reign of God proclaimed by Jesus, is always about the transformation so evident in Jesus’ parables about God’s extravagant love, mercy and forgiveness.

There has been Social Justice from very beginning of Church. The more recent development of papal social encyclicals continues an ancient tradition of social justice.


Catholic Social Teaching (CST) promotes a vision of a just society that is grounded in the Scriptural revelation of a merciful and loving God. It draws upon the collective wisdom gathered by the Christian community as it has responded to the signs of the times throughout its history.


CST is also a living tradition of spirituality and ethics that continues to evolve through dialogue with human experience and reflection for pastoral action.

CST brings the light of the Gospel to bear on the social dimensions of life.


CST includes a formal body of papal teaching developed in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, sometimes written in times of social crisis or at great turning points in history.



‘The Creator can say to each of us: “ Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:5). We were conceived in the heart of God….’  Laudato Si 65

Every person is made in the image of God and has an inalienable dignity that gives rise to human rights. All people, all races and all human cultures are equal in dignity.

common goodTHE COMMON GOOD

‘It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those area and aspects of life “related to the social order and pursuit of the common good.” Evangelii Gaudium 182

We are all responsible for the rights, aspirations and well-being of each other. We are called to work for social conditions that enable every person and every group to meet their needs and realise their full potential.

solidarity 2SOLIDARITY

‘ Solidarity in its deepest and most challenging sense, thus becomes a way of making history in a life setting where conflicts, tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity.’ Evangelii Gaudium 228

We are social beings in our very nature; we reflect the relationships within the life of our Trinitarian God. We grow, flourish and reach our potential in relationship with each other.


‘Solidarity is always combined with subsidiarity which is its completion, so that everyone is allowed to offer their contribution to the common good.’ Pope Francis Audience with Workers September 2018

Responsibility for decision-making should be kept as close as possible to the people or groups who will be most directly affected by the decision or policy.


Following Vatican II, the Cardijin methodology of See, Judge, Act  was commonly followed for planning for social justice action. During the 1980s, Peter Henriot SJ from the Jesuit Centre for Concern, developeda process known as the Pastoral Circle.

pastoral circle    The steps in the process are usually:

1.    Experience: What is happening? Who is affected? How are they affected?

2.    Analysis: What are the causes? What are the consequences? Who is involved?

3.    Theological Reflection: What do the Scriptures say about this? How do the key principles of CST inform the situation? Where is God in this?

4.    Discernment: Prayerful sifting through all of the above to plan a response.

5.    Action: Planning for putting the response into action and evaluation of effectiveness.