With each right comes responsibility. Through the act of being responsible, one is able to be a good steward of the given right. The Catholic Social Teaching Principle on Rights and Responsibilities helps us to understand human rights, as well as the corresponding duty to recognize, respect, and uphold those human rights for every person.
Every human person has particular rights. They are connected with their inalienable dignity and worth as a person made in the image and likeness of God. These particular rights include the right to life, bodily integrity, the right to the means necessary for proper development –clothing, food, shelter, medical care, and rest, among others. These rights are common to all men despite any seeming barriers.
With every right comes a responsibility. Through responsibility, man upholds his own rights, as well as those of others. St. John XXIII wrote,
“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.” (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris], no. 30).
Responsibilities are the duties attached to a right. When someone has their driver’s license and a car, they have a right to drive. However, with that right, there is a responsibility to drive safely, obey traffic laws, and take care of their car. The same is true with basic human rights. We are our brother’s keeper.
Living out rights and responsibilities in our daily life is a pre-requisite to much of caring for the poor. This principle requires us to get in the practice of recognizing our own dignity and that of those around us. This week make a list of your rights. Then reflect on the following questions. What are they? Do others have the same rights? Why? Who has responsibility over your rights? How can you take the responsibility to take care of others rights?
Thank you for creating us in Your image and likeness.
Thank you for giving us gifts, such as, life, health, shelter, and rest.
Please help us to better understand our rights as well as those of others, then respond with care and protection to our more vulnerable brothers and sisters.
We ask this in your name, Jesus.