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Guiding Principles

CLINIC reflects the Church’s own tradition of exile, flight and migration. Catholic social teaching identifies the Holy Family, in their flight to Egypt, as the “archetype of every refugee family.” Jesus identified with newcomers (“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”), so that in the Catholic tradition, newcomers “image” God. It identifies the Church itself as a “pilgrim” Church. Catholic teaching views migration not as a divisive phenomenon, but as an occasion to build the human family. It recognizes a range of human rights for newcomers, based on their God-given dignity that extends far beyond those recognized by individual nations or international bodies. Finally, it teaches that civil authority draws its legitimacy from protecting and defending human rights and the “common good of the entire human family.” In this context, service to newcomers constitutes an obligation to persons of faith, not an option.

Catholic social teaching’s emphasis on the rights and dignity of all persons explains, in part, why CLINIC and its diocesan partners represent needy newcomers from all countries, religions, social groups, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds. CLINIC and its partners serve non-Catholics precisely because of their Catholic identity.

CLINIC constitutes one expression of the Catholic Church’s commitment to welcome and defend newcomers in the United States. CLINIC draws upon a rich tradition of Scripture and Catholic social teaching, which serve as the foundation for its Guiding Principles

Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Created in the image of God, all human life is sacred and possesses a dignity that comes directly from our creation and not from any action of our own.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society–in economics and politics, in law and policy–directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. People have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.

Rights and Responsibilities

Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.

The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.


We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means learning that “loving our neighbor” has global dimensions in an interdependent world.


There is inherent integrity to all of creation and it requires careful stewardship of all our resources, ensuring that we use and distribute them justly and equitably — as well as planning for future generations.


Additional background information, including short podcasts on major themes, on Catholic social teaching can be found on USCCB’s website.



Strangers No Longer Together on the Journey of Hope

On January 22, 2003 the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States issued a historic pastoral statement on immigration. The bishops’ letter provides a Catholic framework for responding to the ongoing migration phenomenon in the United States and Mexico. Catholics are involved in all aspects of the phenomenon—as pastors, parish staff, and social service providers who give support to migrants; as public officials and law enforcement personnel who enforce the civil law; and as migrants themselves. The Church, the bishops say, must bring these parties together to help reform immigration laws in both the United States and Mexico. 




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