What is Catholic Social Teaching?
Catholic Social Teaching (also known as Catholic Social Doctrine) sums up the teachings of the Church on social justice issues. It promotes a vision of a just society that is grounded in the Bible and in the wisdom gathered from experience by the Christian community as it has responded to social justice issues through history.
The social teachings are made up of three different elements: principles for reflection; criteria for judgment; and guidelines for action.
The principles for reflection apply across many different times and places, but the guidelines for action can change for different societies or times. Uniform guidelines for action wouldn’t work because societies are so different from one another, and they are always changing over time creating new situations with different problems and possibilities.
The criteria for judgment may be thought of as ‘middle axioms’ mediating between the highly authoritative but necessarily general and abstract principles for reflection, and the details of the concrete social reality. They are less authoritative than the principles for reflection but more so than the guidelines for action.
Guidelines for action are always dependant on contingent judgments and the information available through human knowledge. There is frequently scope for legitimate differences of opinion among believers on a range of social justice issues.
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