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Catholic social teaching: rights and responsibilities

Posted by | Catholic Charities Communications

The Catholic Church’s social teaching is a rich treasure of wisdom about building a just society and living lives of holiness amid the challenges of modern society. Here is number three of the seven principles of the tradition.


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.


In his encyclical On Fraternity and Social Friendship, Pope Francis wrote: “When the dignity of the human person is respected, and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the creativity of the human personality is released through actions that further the common good. … [But] while one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated. What does this tell us about the equality of rights grounded in innate human dignity?”


In Oregon, housing and healthcare costs have increased the gulf between the rich and the poor. That’s why Catholic Charities launched the Healthy Housing Initiative, which rightly treats the problems as connected. Our agency, along with Providence Health and the Archdiocese of Portland, are finding ways to create stable homes with health care access, two basic rights.