Key Principles of Catholic Social Teaching


The key principles of Catholic Social Teaching have been identified from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church), and the Congregation for Catholic Education (in its Guidelines for the Study and Teaching of Catholic Social Doctrine in the Formation of Priests). These four principles are deemed valid always and everywhere. They include:

Human Dignity

"Created in the image and likeness of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all persons have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.1934)

The Common Good

"It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all ...because we are all really responsible for all." (Pope John Paul II, On Social Concern, 1987)


"On the basis of this principle, all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help ("subsidium") – therefore of support, promotion, development – with respect to lower-order societies. In this way, intermediate social entities can properly perform the functions that fall to them without being required to hand them over unjustly to other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and substituted, in the end seeing themselves denied their dignity and essential place." (Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n.186)


"Solidarity helps us to see the 'other' - whether a person, people, or nation - not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our neighbour, a helper (cf Gn 2:18-20), to be a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God." (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n.39)

These four principles, often referred to as the permanent or perennial principles, are foundational for Catholic Social Teaching. They are born of "the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands summarised in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbour in justice with the problems emanating from the life of society." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church par.160)

The Australian Jesuits offer a rich resource to start exploring Catholic Social Teaching. It outlines the four principles, and offers examination and reflection on each of these key principles.

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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