Catholic Social Teaching

Resurrected Jesus Christ reaching out with open arms in the sky, heaven and cross, love and salvation concept

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) offers a way of thinking, being, and seeing the world. It provides a vision for a just society in which the dignity of all people is recognised, and those who are vulnerable are cared for. It consists of an interrelated body of Catholic social thought and principles which can be used to reflect on and guide how we relate to one another in our local and global communities.

The perspective and principles of Catholic Social Teaching are a rich heritage, developed as the Church has engaged with key social issues throughout history. Catholic Social Teaching includes insight from the Scriptures, as well as understanding from the thinking, reflections, and lived experience of people throughout the life of the Church.

“An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”

(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium)

See, Judge, Act

The tradition of Catholic Social Teaching encourages a process of:


Looking at the social justice issues as they affect society


Understanding what is happening and why it is happening


Discerning the actions needed to respond

There are a number of key principles (below) which inform this process of reflection.

Catholic Social Teachings and CSSA

Catholic Social Services Australia’s vision, mission, and day-to-day work are informed by Catholic Social Teaching. The key principles of Catholic Social Teaching shape our policy and advocacy work in responding to key social justice and social service issues. We advocate with and on behalf of our member agencies network which provides services to thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged people through ongoing social programs every day. We also collaborate with the Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace, an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Major Church Providers on social justice issues.

Key Principles

There are four foundational principles of Catholic Social Teaching:

Human Dignity

We recognise the sacredness of life and that every person has inherent dignity and worth. Our human rights and responsibilities are founded on this essential, shared human dignity.

The Common Good

We have responsibility for one another in our life together and are called to work for the common good of all. We must advocate for a just society in which all people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised, are able to flourish and meet their needs.


The capacity and capabilities of people and communities ought to be respected, with decisions made at the lowest local level possible. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to decision processes that closely affect them.


Humans are social by nature and depend on one another. We seek to stand in unity with each other, particularly those who are powerless or disadvantaged, and recognise each person’s rights regardless of our differences.

Preferential Option for the Poor

The needs of the socially disadvantaged and vulnerable are prioritised.

Stewardship of Creation

Care for the earth, recognising that all of creation is interconnected and we are part of and dependent on the environment. Pope Francis has recently referred to this as integral ecology.

Papal Encyclicals

The following Papal Encyclicals are just some of the key Church documents which have contributed to the development and application of Catholic Social Teachings. Other relevant Papal documents are:

Further Information

Further information and resources on the core principles and application of Catholic Social Teachings are available at the Office of Justice, Ecology and Peace, Catholic Mission, and Caritas Australia websites.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

Subscribe to our newsletter