Catholic Social Teaching and the Structures of Society

Culture is Paramount

Serve the Common Good


The Economy

Developed and Developing

Three Structures Identified by the Catholic Church

  • Pope St. John Paul II established the need to maintain vibrant and critical interaction among economics, culture, and politics; emphasizing that of these three – culture is the most important. (Centesimus Annus)
  • We must form our consciences with the principles of Catholic social teaching – Human Dignity, Solidarity and ​Subsidiarity​ – to be informed on how we are to interact with and impact the framework of society.
  • While the Church fully realizes that society must be structured appropriately, she is just as clear that this is NOT ​the job​ of the Church to make this happen in civil life. (Pope Benedict XVI, 28 & 29) It is up to us. (Pope Francis)
The floor of the New York Stock Exchange symbolizes our economic structure, one of the three society structures

Their Purpose

Structures must serve the common good. As Pope Francis advised, “situations and living conditions [must be] examined in terms of the human person and human dignity…the human person and human dignity are not simply catchwords, but pillars for creating shared rules and structures”. (Pope Francis)

He also warned that “Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 189)

Culture is the Most Important

We will come back, again and again, to Pope St. John Paul II’s great emphasis on culture, the most important structure of society. At the heart of culture lay morality and at the heart morality lay religion. In his three-part proposition of a free culture, free markets, and free polities that create a free society, the key is a culture that promotes the dignity of human life.

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“When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 28) Pope Benedict XVI also adds that “Adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development” (Caritas in Veritate, 4)
A crowd at a California beach symbolizes modern culture, the most important of the three society structures

The Structure of Economics

Catholic social teaching also recognizes the dignity of work as well as why the economy must serve people; not vice versa. Work is therefore more than a means to an end; it is participating in God’s creation.

The Structure of Politics

Participation in politics is a Christian obligation. (Pope Francis) “The Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 28)




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