Social Justice





Social Justice is not a religious thing, a secular thing, a race thing, a national thing, an international thing; it is not limited to these, it is an every one thing.  Mankind has grappled with the attempt to understand the essence and purpose for our existence.  In this effort, early Greek philosophers; Parmenides, Plato and Aristotle; have described forms, or virtues, that are part of, or transcend, all things in existence.   The forms or transcendentals are Truth, Beauty and Goodness.  Wikipedia: “Transcendentals are the properties of being.  Each transcends the limitations of place and time, and is rooted in being. The transcendentals are not contingent upon cultural diversity, religious doctrine, or personal ideologies, but are the objective features of all that is. In Christian theology the transcendentals are treated in relation to Theology Proper, the doctrine of God. The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form through the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God is Himself Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.”   The recognition of these virtues in ourselves and our neighbor is the foundation of Social Justice.

The term Social Justice, coined in the 1840’s, is in essence respecting the transcendent dignity of man. With the call for the right relationship between all members of God’s creation,  Social Justice publicity began around the time of the Industrial Revolution with the emergence of unfair treatment of workers. For centuries there have been many voices from several nations, religions and creeds calling for the respect of our inherent human dignity.   Protestants Social Gospel and Judaism call for respect of human life; Hinduism and Islam are based on equality.  Rights related to the basic necessities of living a dignified life take center stage.  Catholic Social Teaching (CST) evolved from all social justice proponents over time, in union, to help promote the building of a just society and living lives of holiness in our modern times. CST stands on the belief in the dignity of the human person and the belief that life is sacred. CST is rooted to the Beatitudes and directs us all to defend the defenseless, protect the poor and vulnerable, take stewardship of our environment, and be a voice for the oppressed.   According to Pope John Paul II its foundation “rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity.”  1999 Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, 55.

Subsidiarity is a principle of social doctrine that all social bodies exist for the sake of the individual so that what individuals are able to do, society should not take over, and what small societies can do, larger societies should not take over

Solidarity is a union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group or between classes, peoples

Solidarity is a deep personal involvement and commitment to serving others in friendship or social charity by giving of spiritual goods more than physical goods.  Subsidiarity is best practiced by the individual in meeting human needs at their level rather than by a bureaucratic entity

U.S. Bishops declare that every person has the fundamental right to life, the right that makes all other rights possible.  Everyone has the right to conditions for living a decent life – faith and family,  food and shelter, education and employment, health care.  We have a duty to secure and respect these rights for ourselves and others, fulfill our responsibility to our families, each other and society.  Environmental justice is stewardship and care for creation.  We can not proclaim a Gospel we do not live, it must be shown by deeds of love and justice, serving the poor and vulnerable, building bridges of solidarity among people of different nations, races, languages, ability, gender, culture.

Those who have are responsible to help others in need, those in need have the responsibility to do all they can to better their situation.  Helping is not to enable one in need to remain in need, but rather to help create the opportunity for the needy to lift themselves up.  When the help is not met with a positive response and met with dependence then it is time to discern what a more effective solution is.

“The obligation to earn one’s bread, presumes the right to do so.” Pope John Paul II 1991

The theories and practices of socialism and capitalism are examples of opposition to Social Justice.  Modern day societal progress is not true progress if it denigrates the value of the human person.

“From salvation history we learn that power is responsibility: it is service, not privilege. It’s exercise is morally justifiable when it is used for the good of all, when it is sensitive to the needs of the poor and defenseless.”  Pope John Paul II, St.Louis, Missouri, January 1999



Faith based

Mother Theresa

Compassion International


Catholic Worker

Knights of Columbus

Respect Life – protection of human life from conception to natural death

Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition – OntarioCanada, large organization, faith

based approach to public policy reform

United Methodist Church – leaders in prison reform and abolition of slavery




Global Justice Movement – concepts, moving toward a socially just world

Surfrider Foundation

Nobel Peace Prize

Fauja Singh Indian marathon runner 101 years old, raising awareness and promoting

women’s rights in India

Green Peace

Peace Corps

Green Party –   part of platform based on subsidiarity and social justice



Initiatives supported by all

Dr. Martin Luther King  —  civil rights for African-Americans

Those fighting the Holocaust openly and underground

Gandhi  —  peaceful resistance to British occupation of India, equality, unity

Ending of Apartheid in South Africa

Stopping worldwide Human Trafficking

Disaster relief efforts –  Hurricane Katrina, oil spills, Sri Lanka tsunami, Mexico City earthquakes

Local food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters

Habitat for Humanity




7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching

From:  United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops

 The Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amidst the challenges of modern society. Modern Catholic social teaching has been articulated through a tradition of papal, conciliar, and episcopal documents. The depth and richness of this tradition can be understood best through a direct reading of these documents. In these brief reflections, we highlight several of the key themes that are at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and Responsibilities

The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in Gods creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.


We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that if you want peace, work for justice.1 The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.

Care for God’s Creation

We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of Gods creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.