Rights and Responsibilities
Rooted in the foundational principle of human dignity, a consistent theme in Catholic social teaching is our responsibility to be responsive to the needs of all people. A healthy community is only possible if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities, which are lived out in the context of our relationships. Tied to issues of economic, social and racial justice, this theme asserts that inequality is a problem because it erodes the trust necessary for a sustainable civil society. The goods of the earth are intended for the benefit of all, not just a few privileged members. Ignoring the needs of the poor, either because we are selfish or ignorant, goes against God’s purpose in creating the material world we share. Instead, we are invited to make room at the table for everyone, especially those who have been excluded from the feast of full human life.
As a Catholic institution, USD encourages our community to learn, pray and reflect about our shared responsibility to protect the fundamental rights of each person. There are many reasons to celebrate the impressive work already being done by students, faculty, staff and administrators in a variety of campus initiatives and projects. But we must also acknowledge the words of Blessed Oscar Romero “that we can accomplish only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.” Together, we must continue to make a commitment to ensuring everyone has a place at the table.
“When one of your kindred is reduced to poverty and becomes indebted to you, you shall support that person like a resident alien; let your kindred live with you.”
“Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”
Matthew 25: 35-36, 40
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
“We are living in a global age with problems and conflicts on a global scale. Either we shall learn to resolve these problems together, or we shall destroy one another. Mutual security and survival require a new vision of the world as one interdependent planet. We have rights and duties not only within our diverse national communities but within the larger world community.”
U.S. Catholic Bishops
“Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people’s integral development. Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere license.”
Pope Benedict XVI
“Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used…In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it. There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself”…as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well” because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”