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4.45 Is Catholic social teaching about caring for the poor?

Society and community

Every human being is created by God and deserves our care and love. The basis for much of the social work of the Church throughout the ages has been Jesus’ special attention to poor, vulnerable, ill and lonely people and others who needed help.

Jesus also calls us to care for our neighbour. This principle is the foundation of Catholic social teaching, which can be traced to Jesus himself. In every age, the same principles of charity had to be applied in a different way. Again and again, attention to human dignity and a fair distribution of wealth and work is needed.

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Brotherly love becomes concrete through the Church’s social teaching. It is founded on human dignity, solidarity, and subsidiarity.

The Wisdom of the Church

What is the content of the social doctrine of the Church?

The social doctrine of the Church is an organic development of the truth of the Gospel about the dignity of the human person and his social dimension offering principles for reflection, criteria for judgment, and norms and guidelines for action. [CCCC 509]

Why does the Catholic Church have her own social teaching?

Because all men, as children of God, possess a unique dignity, the Church with her social teaching is committed to defending and promoting this human dignity for all men in the social sphere. She is not trying to preempt the legitimate freedom of politics or of the economy. When human dignity is violated in politics or economic practices, however, the Church must intervene.

“The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Second Vatican Council, GS). In her social teaching, the Church makes this statement specific. And she asks: How can we take responsibility for the well-being and the just treatment of all, even of non-Christians? What is a just organization of human society, of political, economic, and social institutions supposed to look like? In her commitment to justice, the Church is guided by a love that emulates Christ’s love for mankind. [Youcat 438]

This is what the Popes say

Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything. [Pope Benedict, Deus caritas est, n. 2]