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Today it is too easy to dismiss or ignore the message that every single person has been intentionally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). To give this truth permission to cut to our hearts (Acts 2:37), like those who listened to Peter’s speech after Pentecost, could change everything. 

To understand the esteemed dignity that each person has through their very existence means there are ‘rights’ each person holds that are due to them as an individual. Many can name the basic human rights of each individual – food, water, shelter and clothing. But, Jesus promises abundant life (John 10:10), which means more than the basics. What about healthcare, education, justice, work and pursuit of religious freedom? We can learn how the early Church approached this from the very beginning.

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would see their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” (Acts 2:42-45)

Then there are ‘responsibilities’ that each person has to contribute back to society or the common good of their family, community, school, region and world. “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” (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris], no. 30, emphasis added). 

This stark image reminds us that we do not belong only to ourselves but also to the broader community. One important piece to assist our community is through advocacy. One stepping stone towards being a good advocate is to grow in awareness of what is happening on a local and national level. Through advocacy we can continue to work towards ensuring the rights and responsibilities of each individual who has been created in the image and likeness of God.

Check out these resources below to learn more about the Catholic Social Teaching, Rights and Responsibilities.

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