Catholic social teaching, sometimes referred to as the social doctrine of the Church, is a body of official Church teachings on the social order, composed of papal statements and conciliar or synodal documents. These social teachings originated with Pope Leo XIII and continue to the present.
The Catholic social tradition, however, is much older than this body of teachings, and is rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as well as in the patristic writings, which go back as far as the fifth century. This tradition provides a framework and an intellectual legacy from which the more recent (dating from the nineteenth century) social teachings draw. This tradition is a point of reference against which the social teachings are tested, even as the latter develop beyond the tradition by applying it to new issues and questions.
Catholic social teaching is rooted in the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God, and the human rights and duties that protect and enhance this dignity. Catholic social teaching is also concerned with the social nature of the human person, the concept of the common good, the relationship between society and the state, the theory of justice, an "option for the poor," and the concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity.
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