Rights and Responsibilities
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.
When someone is reduced to poverty, we have an obligation to help.
Boaz cares for Ruth, a widow and a foreigner, giving her far more than the law requires.
Give from what you have received and do not turn away from the poor.
Open your mouth to speak on behalf of those in need.
Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Jeremiah 22: 13-16
A legitimate government upholds the rights of the poor and vulnerable.
Seek the welfare of the city, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Matthew 25: 31-46
Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.
The rich man has a responsibility to care for Lazarus.
There was not a needy person among them.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
God’s gifts are given to be shared.
Faith without works is dead.
The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. On the Laity (Christifideles Laici), #38
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. Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), #11
In human society one man's natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognizing and respecting that right. Every basic human right draws its authoritative force from the natural law, which confers it and attaches to it its respective duty. Hence, to claim one's rights and ignore one's duties, or only half fulfill them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other. Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), #30
A link has often been noted between claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centers. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. Charity in Truth, (Caritas in Veritate)#43
As for the State . . . It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the workingman. Christianity and Social Progress (Mater et Magistra), #20