Social Teachings

News Animators Training at Rockwood

Definition and Sources of Social Teachings of the Church

The Social Teachings of the Church are a growing body of social wisdom in society, about the structures, cultures, systems and processes of society that enable all human beings to grow to their fullness. The body of social wisdom which touches what we think and how we feel comes from Scripture, writings of theologians, documents of the Church, witnesses of just persons and communities and Church tradition.


Historical Background of Social Teachings of the Church (STCs)

The Social Teachings of the Church (STCs) were put in place in 1891 and these have been improved and refined until today. In 1967, His Holiness Pope Paul VI issued this challenge to all Christians: If you want peace, work for justice.  To emphasize this call, he established the Pontifical Commission Justitia et Pax in the Vatican and called on Episcopal Conferences throughout the world to do the same.


The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe was formed by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference in March 1972. The broader aim of this Commission is to promote human dignity in accordance with the Catholic Social Teaching.  Internationally this is manifested through active concern for human rights, peace and development issues.


Purpose of the Church’s Social Seachings

The purpose of the Social Teaching of the Church works at different levels, namely;


  1. Personal Level: To guide individual consciousness in making just decisions e.g. about wages to pay, treatment of men, women, children, respect for the environment

  2. The Church/Ecclesial: To shape the responses of the church to social issues e.g. about racial attitudes, tribal attitudes, political involvement, care for those in poverty.

  3. The Public Sector: To influence the activities of the public sector e.g. about economic policies, political organisation, technological and cultural developments, international relations, peace and war decisions

We use the following which are more relevant to our lives today. All STCs are equally important and therefore require the same emphasis.


  1. Dignity of the Human Person: There is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1: 26-27) each person has an innate human dignity, given to us, not by secular authorities, but by the creator Himself. As a gift from God, every human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The life and dignity of every person must be respected and protected at every stage and in every condition.

  2. Respect of Human Life: Human life at every stage of development and decline is precious and therefore worthy of protection and respect. The right to life is the first and most fundamental principle of human rights that leads CCJPZ to actively work for a world of greater respect for human life and commitment to justice and peace.

  3. Participation: As their rights and duties as citizens, STCs encourage people to participate in all activities of the society that promote common good and the well-being of everyone especially the poor and the marginalised.

  4. Association: CCJPZ believes that people achieve their potential by associating with others. By association with others in families and in other social institutions that foster growth, protect dignity and promote the common good, human persons achieve their fulfilment. Family, community or even the nation’s stability must be protected and never be undermined

  5. Subsidiarity: This principle guides the complex social relationships by defining responsibilities and limits of government, voluntary associations, civil society, families and individuals.  It is not advisable for higher levels of social organisations or government to do for individuals and groups what they can do for themselves.

  6. Promotion of Common Good: The common good is the sum total of all living conditions – social, political, economic, cultural, technological and environmental – that makes it possible for all humans to fully achieve their potentials for growth.  The absence of sensitivity to the common good is a sure sign of decay in a society. Examples of common goods are roads, natural resources, schools etc.

  7. Universal Destination of Earth’s Goods: The goods of this earth are meant for the benefit of everyone. They should be shared justly and or equally

  8. Option for the Poor: This principle intends to correct the moral mistakes where the poor and the marginalised have largely left out to benefit from the common good. The book of Leviticus through the proclamations of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus emphasize the vocation of bringing good news to the poor and proclaiming the year of God’s favour (Luke4: 16-19) Isaiah 58:5-7 reminds us to share our bread with the hungry

  9. Solidarity: To be in solidarity with others is to be moved by their suffering. STCs teach us that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper and we must love our neighbours as we love ourselves.  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 Jesus Christ as well.  Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts (Vatican 11, Gaudium et Spes, 7 Bec 1965)

  10. Stewardship of Creation: God created the earth for us all and instructed us to be its stewards.  A steward is a manager, not an owner. STCs call us to respect, conserve and share the resources of the earth as part of God’s creation.

Animators Identifying community issues reflecting the opinions and interest of local communities for lobbying and advocacy with relevant stakeholders during a workshop on Social Teachings

Catholic social teaching emerges from the truth of what God has revealed to us about himself. We believe in God whose very nature is communal and social. God the Father sends his only Son Jesus Christ and shares the Holy Spirit as his gift of love. God reveals himself to us as one who is not alone, but rather as one who is relational, one who is Trinity. Therefore, we who are made in God's image share this communal, social nature. We are called to reach out and to build relationships of love and justice.

Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.

Our commitment to the Catholic social mission must be rooted in and strengthened by our spiritual lives. In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love one another as God has loved us.

  • Education - Read and have good, precise knowledge of the Church's social teachings, to be able to expand them with assurance and clarity, and make sure that what we teach in the name of the Church is effectively what the Church teaches, and not our own personal opinions.

  • Humility - So as not to have to jump from general principles to definitive concrete judgments, especially when expressed in a categorical and absolute manner. We should not go beyond the limitations of our own knowledge and specific competence.

  • Realism - in assessing the human condition, acknowledging sin but leaving room for the action of God's grace. In the midst of our commitment to human development, never lose sight that man's vocation is above all to be a saint and enjoy God for eternity.

  • Caution - So as to avoid the temptation of using the Church's social doctrine as a weapon for judging "others" (entrepreneurs, politicians, multinational companies, etc.). We should instead concentrate first on our own lives and our personal, social, economic and political responsibilities.

Cooperation - Know how to closely cooperate with lay people, forming them and sending them out as evangelizers of the world. They are the true experts in their fields of competence and have the specific vocation of transforming temporal realities according to the Gospel.