Rights and responsibilities

Rights arise from what everyone need to live in dignity, as God intends. Rights are inseparable from our responsibility to care for others; to ensure their rights; and to not take more than is needed to fulfill our rights at the expense of others’ rights.

Rights and responsibilities

That men should recognize and perform their respective rights and duties is imperative to a well ordered society. But the result will be that each individual will make his whole-hearted contribution to the creation of a civic order in which rights and duties are ever more diligently and more effectively observed.

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. An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties.

Example in action:

In Canada, we are used to thinking in terms of rights, like those to free speech or peaceful assembly. People also have rights to things like land, work and housing, all needed to flourish and be healthy. But rights are more than individual. Communities, nations and peoples, too, have rights to things like self-determination and peaceful coexistence. Wherever these rights are denied, we are called to defend them.

Cultures in the Global North are often loud about individual rights and quiet about collective rights. An emphasis on individual rights can cause us to ignore our obligations to others. We are called to not only assert our own rights, but also to be open and present to others, recognizing that no right can exclude or override the needs of others, in particular the poor.

Rights and responsibilities are rooted in dignity and should not be tied to access to markets or privileges. Together, Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada and our partners are working to overturn systemic barriers to equal rights and responsibilities.

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