- Prayer and Worship
- Beliefs and Teachings
- Issues and Action
- Catholic Giving
- About 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.
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.
Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society. Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si'], no. 157)
Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. . . . Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si'], no. 25)
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. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth, [Caritas in Veritate], no. 43)
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. (St. John Paul II, On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful [Christifideles Laici], no. 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. (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris], no. 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. (St. John XXIII, Peace on Earth [Pacem in Terris], no. 30)
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. (St. John XXIII, Christianity and Social Progress (Mater et Magistra), no. 20)
By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided
solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for,
nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or