The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Distributive Justice

The Catholic social teaching principle of Distributive Justice - te tika ka tohaina - reminds us that God intended all people to share in the world's resources. All should have necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and access to what is needed for full development.

So That All Can Flourish

Distributive justice requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated in light of its effects on those whose basic material needs are unmet.

God intended all people to share in the world’s resources so that everyone can access what they need for their full development.

Distributive justice, also known as the universal destination of goods, requires that the allocation of income, wealth, and power in society be evaluated ensuring that everyone’s basic material needs are met. Resources should not be exploited now at the expense of future generations.


Searching the Scriptures...

Social Justice teaching is founded on firm scriptural foundations.

  • God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth. Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth and every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was.
    Genesis 1:28-30
  • The company of those who believed were of the one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.
    Acts 4:32

...And in the light of Catholic social teaching.

  • ‘Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone.’
    Laudato Si’, #93, 2015
  • ‘The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all.’
    Laudato Si’, #95, 2015
  • 'The earth, by reason of its fruitfulness and its capacity to satisfy human needs, is God’s first gift for the sustenance of human life.’
    Centesimus Annus, #31, 1991
  • ‘We all have a valid claim to share in the goods of the earth, since these are a result of God’s gifts to us.’
    New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Statement on Fairness, 2019
  • ‘The principle of the universal destination of goods is an invitation to develop an economic vision inspired by moral values that permit people not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity, in which the creation of wealth can take on a positive function.’
    Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (#174)


Great Examples: Monte Cecilia Housing Trust

‘Monte Cecilia Housing Trust delivers a wide range of housing related services which either address immediate housing and associated needs or raise public awareness and influence government policy on housing justice issues.’

Throughout New Zealand, there are many different agencies who are working to ensure that resources are accessible to all. Monte Cecilia Housing Trust is one of those agencies which is reaching out and helping those in need. The Trust was founded in 1982 by four groups whose charism is based on helping others: St Vincent de Paul Society, Liston Foundation, the Sisters of Mercy and the Marist Brothers.

The Monte Cecilia Housing Trust was established with a mission to provide emergency housing, practical assistance to whanau with a housing need, and to find a way to provide affordable and secure housing for all New Zealanders through housing action and political advocacy.

  • Over 250 Community housing options
  • Over 100 different Emergency/Transitional housing options
  • Currently managing 319 properties with over 1300 whānau members in them, of which 914 are children

Monte Cecilia staff spend their time working with a range of people in different situations who need assistance through their services. They are actively living out the principle of Distributive Justice. Below are real stories of families who Monte Cecilia have worked alongside to make positive changes in their lives. Names have been changed in these stories and before you share these with your students, read each case study as some stories may not be suitable for all ages or may be too close to their own circumstances.

Unsuitable Housing

Read about an
overcrowded household
that was able to be
transformed to reach their housing goals.

Lasting Impact

Read about a young man who
was housed by Monte Cecilia and the
impression it left on him.

Whānau safe and settled

Monte Cecilia were able to
help a family move into a new
home to provide a feeling of
being safe and stable.

Rozeena’s Story

Watch Rozeena and her
story about turning to Monte
Cecilia for help after she
lost her housing due to a fire.

Other Stories

Read more success stories
from the work of the Monte
Cecilia Housing Trust.

Bernie Smith and Monte
Cecilia Housing Trust

Watch an interview with Monte Cecilia’s
Chief Executive about their
most recent acknowledgement
for the work they do.


Living out CST: Ideas for putting faith into action

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • How do the stories from Monte Cecilia demonstrate the principle of Distributive Justice being actively carried out?
  • What can we learn from those who have been helped by Monte Cecilia and those who work for the trust?
  • Where in our daily lives do we see the principle of distributive justice being upheld? Or not upheld?
  • What do I have in excess that I can offer to someone else?

Acting in Faith

  • Read and reflect on the case studies and questions above.
  • Reflect on this quote from St. Ambrose: “It is not from your own possessions that you are bestowing aims on the poor, you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right. For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. Thus, far from giving lavishly, you are but paying part of your debt.”
  • Make a sacrifice and give up a luxury item of yours for a week. Make an extra effort to reflect and pray for those who may not be able to afford that luxury.
  • Delve into an encyclical or two and learn more about distributive justice. Maybe start with Laudato Si’.
  • Have a koha box and encourage your family members to put a gold coin in every week. Donate the money to an organisation that works to ensure that resources are accessible to all.
  • Have a discussion around this statement: ‘Some of what you have belongs to others, give them their due!’
  • Go through your belongings and donate anything that you no longer use or need.
  • Pack your lunch for school/work for a week. Any money that you save, use that to buy food that you can offer to the local soup kitchen.
  • Hold a free café once a month in your parish where anyone is welcome to come in and have some coffee or tea and some biscuits.
  • Find out if there are any new migrants or refugees in your community who might need some household items and offer your resources if you can.
  • Offer to sponsor young people in your parish to participate in events.
  • Choose a prayer from the Social Justice Week 2020 resources and use it in your parish liturgy – during Prayer of the Faithful or at the end of Communion.


Closing Prayers

E te Atua, may we strive to live in a world where everyone receives the resources they are entitled to.
Leader: E te Ariki...     All: whakarongo mai rā ki a mātou.

E te Atua, may we show others that the poor and underprivileged should never be discriminated against, by words or actions.
Leader: E te Ariki...     All: whakarongo mai rā ki a mātou.

E te Atua, may each and every one of us remember that Earth’s goods should always be distributed fairly among all people, so that each person is able to have their basic daily needs met.
Leader: E te Ariki...     All: whakarongo mai rā ki a mātou.


The richness of your harvest
Thank you for the smile of the child:
eyes bright, belly full, licking the last caked crumbs from his spoon.
Thank you for the pride of the woman:
arms sperad, palms stretched, heavy with her first year’s harvest.
Thank you for the joy of the man:
coming home to his family’s future with fair payment for his crops.
Thank you for the love of the neighbour:
seeing another’s need, sharing from the little she owns.
Thank you for the hope that we share:
determination that all should enjoy the richness of your harvest.

(Written by Amy Fox/CAFOD)

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust