Rights and Responsibilities

The more we know about Catholic Social teaching, the more equipped we are to express our Catholic faith in powerful ways. Over the next few months, the Service & Justice Commission is going to empower parishioners with knowledge of the seven themes of Catholic Social Justice teaching.


Theme 3: Rights and Responsibilities


What is the Church’s official teaching on Rights and Responsibilities?


According to the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), “The Catholic tradition teaches that 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.”


As Catholics, it’s essential for us to be aware of the basic rights of each human being. St. John XXIII summed it up well in Peace on Earth, when he wrote “We must speak of man's rights. Man has the right to live.  He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work;  widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his  own he is deprived of the means of livelihood.”


We also have a Catholic responsibility to go beyond awareness into action to seek justice for all, which includes holding the state accountable to uphold the rights of all people. St. John XXIII wrote “One man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right.”


Some saints, who have worked tirelessly to fight for the rights of others include:

  • St. Roque Gonzalez, was a Jesuit priest, who cared so much about others that he gave up a life of privilege in order to do missionary work with the Indians of Paraguay.
  • St. Thomas More was a father, writer and theologian, whose integrity prevented him from supporting a corrupt government, even though it cost him his life.


Some organizations you can get involved in, which fights for the rights of others include:

  •    The Catholic Campaign for Human Development
  •    Davenport Diocese Justice and Peace Advocacy Team
  •    USCCB Campaign to End Death Penalty
  •    Quad City Interfaith


Jeremiah 29:4-7 counsels,

“Seek the welfare of the city,

for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”



We encourage you to reflect on ways you can stand up for the rights of those, who are less fortunate than you as a way of practicing your Catholic faith!  There is no greater joy than truly living the Gospel. Thank you and God bless.


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