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Social Justice - Call to Family, Community, and Participation

Terry Griep

Background: In a global society driven by individualism, this principle of Catholic Social Teaching proclaims that the person is sacred and social. How
society is organized -- economically, politically, legally and legislatively -- affects the human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.

Our church teaches that the role of the government and other institutions is to protect human life and dignity, and promote the common good.
Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the good of the whole society, to the common good.

This principle further proclaims -- and justice demands -- that all people have a right to participate in the economic, political and cultural life
of society. Therefore, it is wrong for a person or a group to be actively excluded unfairly or passively abandoned from society.

Ramifications of this principle as outlined in encyclicals:

Today, the universal common good poses problems of worldwide dimensions, which cannot be adequately solved except by the efforts of public authority which is in a position to operate in an effective manner on a world-wide basis. #137.

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

John XXIII, 1963

If we carefully consider the essential nature of the common good on the one hand, and the nature and function of public authority on the other, we see that there is an intrinsic connection between the two. Just as the moral order needs public authority to promote the common good in civil society, it demands that public authority actually be able to attain it. #136.

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

John XXIII, 1963

It is also demanded by the common good that civil authorities should make earnest efforts to bring about a situation in which individual citizens can easily exercise their rights and fulfill their duties as well.  Experience has taught us that, unless these authorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political and cultural matters, inequalities between the citizens tend to become more and more widespread. As a result human rights are rendered totally ineffective and the fulfillment of duties is compromised. #63

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

John XXIII, 1963

The nature of the common good requires that all members of the state be entitled to share in it, although in different ways according to each one's tasks, merits and circumstances. Every civil authority must take pains to promote the common good of all, without preference for any single citizen or civic group. As Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII, has said: "The civil power must not serve the advantage of any one individual, or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all." Considerations of justice and equity, however, can at times demand that those involved in civil government give more attention to the less fortunate members of the community, since they are less able to defend their rights and to assert their legitimate claims. #56

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

John XXIII, 1963

The reason for the existence of civil authorities is the realization of the common good. . .Individuals and intermediate groups are obliged to make
their specific contributions to the common welfare. One of the chief consequences of this is that they must bring their own interests into harmony with the needs of the community, and must contribute their goods and their services as civil authorities have prescribed, in accord with the norms of justice and within the limits of their competence. . . . .  #54 and #53.

Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth)

John XXIII, 1963

It is necessary that public authorities have a correct understanding of the common good. The common good embraces the sum total of all those
conditions of social life which enable individuals,families, and organizations to achieve complete an effective fulfillment. #65 and #74.

Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher)

John XXIII, 1961

Political power, which is the natural and necessary link for ensuring the cohesion of the social body, must have as its aim the achievement of the
common good. While respecting the legitimate liberties of individuals, families and subsidiary groups, it acts in such a way as to create, effectively and for the well-being of all, the conditions required for attaining humanity's true and complete good, including spiritual ends.  #46.

Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action)

Paul VI, 1971

Christians must be conscious of their specific and proper role in the political community; they should be a shining example by their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the common good; they should show in practice how authority can be reconciled with freedom, personal initiative with solidarity and the needs of the social framework as a whole, and the advantages of unity with the benefits of diversity. #75

Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

Second Vatican Council, 1965

Every day, human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and involves rights and duties for the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family. #26.

Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

Second Vatican Council, 1965

The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. #38.

Justice in the World

World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971

Citizens should remember that it is their right and duty, which is also to be recognized by the civil authority, to contribute to the true progress of
their own community according to their ability. Especially in underdeveloped areas, where all resources must urgently be employed, those who hold back their unproductive resources or who deprive their community of the material or spiritual aid that it needs -- saving the personal right of migration -- gravely endanger the common good. #65.

Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

Second Vatican Council, 1965

The ultimate injustice is for a person or group to be treated actively or abandoned passively as if they were nonmembers of the human race. To treat people this way is effectively to say they simply do not count as human beings. #77.

Economic Justice for All (Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy) U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986

A Pastoral Message

John XXIII gave a reminder of the urgency of giving everyone who works his proper dignity by making him a true sharer in the work he does with
others: " every effort should be made that the enterprise become a community of persons in the dealings, activities and standing of all its members". #28.

Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples)

Paul VI, 1967

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