Romans 12:9-10, 16, 18, 21 gives us an insight into how Christians are supposed to carry themselves and to live their lives:

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour… Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly… live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The principle philosophies and thoughts in Catholic Social Teaching are drawn from an amalgamation of teachings, writings, and papal and conciliar documents that span over a hundred years in Church History. These thematic teachings can be further classified under these categories:

  1. Promoting the Common Good
  2. The Life and Dignity of a Human Person
  3. The Interweaving and Co-relationships of Rights and Responsibilities
  4. The Preferential Option for the Poor and the Vulnerable
  5. Our Stewardship and Care for God’s Creation
  6. The Principle of Subsidiarity

“When interdependence becomes recognized …, the correlative response as a moral and social attitude, as a ‘virtue,’ is solidarity. This then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, para. 38)

At the heart of Catholic Social Teaching is the foundational principle of working towards the Common Good for all. This principle is in turn closely identified with the issues surrounding Human Dignity, the Sacredness of Life, and the recognition that we do not exist in silo, but have been created and made out of impeccable design by God our Father to live together in solidarity.

In order to promote the Common Good, Christians are required to participate in society by being and taking responsibility in their family and  professional lives, playing an active role in public life as they are able, and working to strengthen moral values in other individuals and within institutions.

Beyond a life of prayer and contemplation, beyond just a belief in Christ, our faith is an active faith that compels us to take an active stance and role in society as we are able to to live out the moral law and example of Christ. Simply put, our faith comes into fruition when we live out the words given by Jesus Himself: “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31) There is an understanding that we do not exist in isolation, and we become active stewards to take responsibility for ourselves and for the people around us – becoming vanguards who uphold the accountability and moral calibre of the world we live in (see CCC. 1912-1913, 2239) This moral obligation carries some weight:

“Whenever the Church speaks of situations of sin, or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world, and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order. The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals. A situation – or likewise an institution, a structure, society itself – is not in itself the subject of moral acts. Hence a situation cannot in itself be good or bad” (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 1984, p. 217)

It is easy to wash our hands off these responsibilities, but we must know that these moral obligations present themselves first in how we carry out our immediate responsibilities – by how we live, our personal behaviours, how we act when no one is watching us, our conscientious professional work, our care of the education and well-being of our families – the first level of social responsibility is fulfilled as a family is the basic building block of society (see CCC. 1914, 2207-2211).

This work then carries forward to our various circles of living – family, neighbourhood, social organisations, acquaintances, professional organisations, parishes, student organisations, fellow hobbyists and so forth. This work strives towards the continual conversion of society to conform more closely with the moral law, so that a climate of peace and justice triumphs and prevails. This Christian engagement with culture at all levels, extends to the civic and political realm – where we work to exercise our rights to vote responsibly, where we advocate for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, where we work for just wages and employment conditions, and where we transform society that all human beings may know their dignity as human persons (see CCC. 1915-1917).

The COVID-19 pandemic presents such an opportunity where even more so than ever, we Christians are called to uphold the dignity and the solidarity of the human person, and when our daily choices can go a long way in ensuring the Common Good – practising safe distancing, masking up properly, sanitising our hands and environment. Where people have lost their livelihoods and their sources of income, is where the Christian can step in to stand in the gap – to help within our means those who are in-between jobs, those who are scrapping the bottom of the barrel, those who are struggling to make ends meet, and those who have no access to opportunity to help them rise above their situation of poverty and inequity. Beyond our shores, our brothers and sisters are struggling even to obtain oxygen and medical supplies, and within our very land so many people are battling even to survive – materially and metaphorically. What missions can we contribute to? Where can our help be rendered?

As Scripture aptly puts it: “If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?”(1 John 3:17)

How we live our lives counts. How we give counts. How we love is paramount.


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.) Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Reconciliatio et Paenitentia. (1984) Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. (1987).  Libreria Editrice Vaticana.