Catholic Social Thought

Catholic social thought is a major body of work spanning over 120 years, informed by Gospel values and underpinned by biblical theology. It is informed by the lived experience of Christian reflection and draws from across the Christian traditions as well as from different historical, political and social contexts.

Also known as Catholic Social Teaching (CST), it is often said to be the Church's 'best kept secret'. In fact, it is intended as a 'gift to all people of goodwill', not only for those within the Catholic Church.

CST is underpinned by a set of principles. It is not intended to constitute an ideology, a political third way or a model. The principles are non partisan, and meant to be used as tools for reflection, criteria for good judgment and guidelines for action. The principles are helpful in the process of discerning what is 'the common good' in any given context - see below.

The principles of Catholic social thought include:

human dignity • respect for life • participation  care for creation • dignity in work • peace and reconciliation • solidarity • subsidiarity              ...and the preferential option for the poor

Explore further 

  • Together for the Common Good has adapted these principles for all people of goodwill in 'Common Good Thinking'

How is 'the common good' related to Catholic social thought?

Please see our page: 'Common Good Thinking' plus you may find the following links helpful:

  • The Common Good This seminal document was published in 1996 just before the 1997 election, by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

  • The Common Good, (Clifford Longley, May 2012) Clifford Longley gives his articulation of the principles here.

  • What is meant by the Common Good? And how can the Church best apply it to society today? Jesuit Father William Rehg reflected on these questions at a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome December 14th 2010.

Putting it into practice

  • Learn the basics with friends at your church in a Common Good Thinking workshop - find out more here.

  • Introduce young people to the principles through the Common Good Schools programme, find out more here. 

  • Gain inspiration from our blogs and opinion pieces for examples of the principles at work different contexts.

Go deeper

Two of the most recent encyclicals from Pope Francis:

Laudato si' (Sulla cura della casa comune) (Praise Be to You: On the care for our common home). The papal encyclical by Pope Francis on creation and the environment, published on June 18, 2015. This perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years, since it is addressed not just to Catholics, or Christians, but to everyone on Earth. The environment, in the Pope’s use of the word, is not something 'out there' - nature as opposed to the human world. Rather, the term describes the relationship between nature and humans, who are inextricably linked and part of each other.

Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) (Pope Francis, 26 November 2013) An 84-page document, written in his own words, was the first major work since his election. It is known as an apostolic exhortation and amounts to an official platform for his papacy. In it he calls unfettered capitalism "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality. He criticises the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

There are many more - to find out, visit: