7.3.1 Summary of CST on rights and duties

Back to 7.2.5

Unit 7 Contents

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As we have seen, Catholic teaching in relation to rights moved on a long way in the twentieth century, whether this should be described as ‘development’ or ‘change’.

The Compendium includes just five pages on the topic of rights as such, although there are many references in other chapters to the duties and rights that people have in specific areas of living – such as we have looked at in earlier units.

Those pages form a good way to consolidate and review your learning about CST on duties and rights.  With the last screen especially in mind, notice in the next reading the reference in #155 to “the paramount value of the right to religious freedom”.  This reflects an emphasis in the ministry of Pope John Paul II, who affirmed the central importance of the human right to religious freedom many times during his papacy – no doubt with clear recollection of ways in which it was denied under the Communist government in Poland.

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Reading (5pp)

Compendium, ##152-159 (chapter 3, sec. IV)

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The last section in this reading, #158-9, emphasises the great need, not just to recognize human rights in theory, but to work to ensure they are upheld in practice.  We shall look further at what this means in a moment.

First, here is an Exercise to test and consolidate your understanding of material studied so far in this unit on how CST affirms human rights.

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EXERCISE

Write a series of bullet points that together summarize the argument we find in CST for affirming human rights.

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE: Click here

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In the last reading, #159 says: “The Church [is] aware that her essentially religious mission includes the defence and promotion of human rights”.  We now look at what this has meant in practice in one part of the world, Latin America, and in particular in Peru.  Writing 40 years after Pacem in Terris was issued, Mateo Garr reflects on the way in which it inspired difficult and often dangerous work for human rights during a period when several Latin American countries had highly authoritarian regimes and other serious problems of violence.  He gives some vivid details of these difficulties and he shows how, in that context, work for human rights was “the backbone of all of our social ministry” (p. 91).

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Reading (10pp)

Mateo Garr, Pacem in Terris, 40 Years After: Human Rights and Practical Action’,

From Journal of Catholic Social Thought, 1.1 (2004), pp. 83-92

Note

The link takes you to a pdf of the article.  We are most grateful to the Journal of Catholic Social Thought for permission to make this available.  See information on the Journal here and here.

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Reflection

Near the end of the article, when arguing that practical human rights work is “essential” in all social ministry (p. 91), Garr says:

[This] does not mean that every parish team must affirm in their mission statement that they are doing the work of human rights. But what is required is that those teams examine their own activities to ask if they are being motivated by the basic principle of the dignity of each and every human being; if they are striving to develop a consistent ethic in favor of the defense of life in all its forms; and if they are working so that their people can move from less human to more human conditions…

It is very likely that your local context is very different from those that Garr is describing in Peru in the decades before 2000.  But how does this statement relate to your experience in your local context?  Can you identify an active commitment to dignity and rights there?

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End of 7.3.1

Go to 7.3.2 Objections to human rights discourse, 1: It’s selfish

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