Every man is a person with rights and duties.

We must devote Our attention first of all to that order which should prevail among men.


Any well-regulated and profitable association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual man is truly a person. He is a nature, that is, endowed with intelligence and freewill. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable. 7


When, furthermore, we consider man's personal dignity from the standpoint of divine revelation, inevitably our estimate of it is incomparably increased. Men have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace has made them sons and friends of God, and heirs to eternal glory.



The right to live and a worthy standard of living

But first 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 maintaining a decent standard of living. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill-health, overwork, widowhood, old age, enforced unemployment, or when through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood. 8

Rights pertaining to moral and cultural values

Moreover, man has a natural right to be respected. He has a right to his good name. He has a right to freedom in investigating the truth, and - provided no harm is done to the moral order or the common good - to freedom of speech and publication, and freedom to practise any profession. He has, too, the right to be accurately informed about public events.


He has the natural right to share in the benefits of culture, and hence to receive a good general education, and a technical or professional training consistent with the degree of educational development in his own country. Furthermore, a system must be devised for affording gifted members of society the opportunity of engaging in more advanced studies, with a view to their occupying, as far as possible, positions of responsibility in society adequate to their intelligence and acquired skill. 9

The right to worship God according to one's conscience

Also among man's rights is the right to be able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of his own conscience, and to profess his religion both in private and in public. According to the clear teaching of Lactantius, 'this is the very condition of our birth, that we render to the God who made us that just homage which is His due; that we acknowledge Him alone as God, and follow Him. It is from this ligature of piety, which binds us and joins us to God, that religion derives its name.' 10 Hence, too, Pope Leo XIII declared that 'true freedom, freedom worthy of the sons of God, is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear. It is the sort of freedom which the Apostles resolutely claimed for themselves. The Apologists defended it in their writings; thousands of Martyrs consecrated it with their blood.' l1

The right to choose freely one's state of life

Human beings have also the right to choose for themselves 15 the kind of life which appeals to them. They can either found a family - in the founding of which both the man and the woman enjoy equal rights and duties - or embrace the priesthood or the religious life. 12


The family, founded upon a marriage which is freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society. The interests of the family. therefore, must be the special concern of all economic, social, cultural and moral endeavour. It belongs to all such activity to see that the family is strengthened and assisted in the fulfilment of its mission.


The support and education of children is a right which belongs primarily to the parents. l3

Economic rights

In the economic sphere, it is evident that a man has not only the inherent right to be given the opportunity to work, but also to be allowed the exercise of personal initiative in the work he does. 14


The conditions in which a man works form a necessary corollary to these rights. They must not be such as to weaken his physical or moral fibre, or militate against his full development to manhood. Women must be accorded such conditions of work as are consistent with their needs and responsibilities as wives and mothers. 15


A further consequence of man's personal dignity is his right to engage in economic activities suited to his degree of responsibility . 16 The worker is likewise entitled to a wage that is determined in accordance with the precepts of justice. This needs stressing. The amount a worker receives will depend on available funds, but it must be sufficient to allow him and his family a standard of living consistent with human dignity. Pope Pius XII expressed it in these terms: 'Nature imposes work upon man as a duty, and man has the corresponding natural right to demand that the work he does shall provide him with the means of livelihood for himself and his children. Such is nature's categorical imperative for the preservation of man.' 17


As a further consequence of man's nature, he has the right to the private ownership of property, including that of productive goods. This, as We have said elsewhere, is 'a right which contributes so efficacious a means of asserting one's personality and exercising one's responsibility in every field, and an element of solidity and security for family life, and of greater peace and prosperity in the State.' 18


Finally, it is opportune to point out that the right to own private property entails a social obligation as well. 19

The right of meeting and association

Men are by nature social, and consequently they have the right to meet together and to form associations with their fellows. They have the right to confer on such associations the type of organisation which they consider best calculated to achieve their objectives. They have also the right to exercise their own initiative and act on their own responsibility within the framework of these associations for the attainment of the desired results. 20


As We insisted in Our Encyclical Mater et Magistra, the founding of a great many such intermediate groups or societies for the pursuit of aims which it is not within the competence of the individual to achieve, is a matter of great urgency. Such groups and societies must be considered absolutely essential for the safeguarding of man's personal freedom, dignity, and sense of responsibility. 21

The right to emigrate and immigrate

Again, every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own State. When there are just reasons in favour of it, he must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there. 22 The fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not debar him from membership of the human family, or from citizenship of that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.

Political rights

Finally, man's personal dignity involves his right to take an active part in public life, and to make his own contribution to the common welfare of his fellow citizens. As Pope Pius XII said, 'man as such, far from being the objective, passive element in society, is rather its subject, its basis and its purpose; and so must he be esteemed.' 23


27 As a human person he is entitled to the legal protection of his rights, and such protection must be effective, unbiased, and strictly just. To quote again Pope Pius XII: 'In consequence of that juridical order willed by God. man has his own inalienable right to juridical security. To him is assigned a certain. well-defined sphere of law, immune from arbitrary attack.' 24



Rights and duties necessarily linked in the one person

The natural rights of which We have so far been speaking are inextricably bound up with as many duties. and these apply to the same subject. They derive their origin, their sustenance, and their indestructibility from the natural law. which in conferring rights also imposes duties.


Thus, for example, the right to live involves the duty to preserve one's life; the right to a decent standard of living. the duty to live in a becoming fashion; the right to be free to seek out the truth, the duty to devote oneself to an ever deeper and wider study of it.


Reciprocity of rights and duties between persons

Once this is admitted, it follows that 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 fulfil them, is like building a house with one hand and tearing it down with the other.

Mutual collaboration

Since men are social by nature, they must live together and consult each other's interests. That men should recognize and perform their respective rights and duties is imperative to a well ordered society. 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 scupulously and more effectively observed.


For example, it is no use admitting that a man has aright to the necessities of life, unless we also do all in our power to supply him with means sufficient for his livelihood.


Hence society has not only to be organized, it must also provide men with abundant resources. This postulates not only the mutual recognition and fulfilment of rights and duties, but also the involvement and collaboration of all men in the many enterprises which our present civilization makes possible, encourages, and indeed demands.

An attitude of responsibility

Man's personal dignity lays claim, moreover, to the enjoyment of spontaneity and freedom of action. In his association, therefore, with his fellows, there is every reason why his recognition of rights, observance of duties, and many-sided collaboration with other men, should be primarily a matter of his own personal decision. Each man should act on his own initiative, conviction, and sense of responsibility, not under the constant pressure of external compulsion. There is nothing human about a society that is welded together by force. Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of man's progress and perfection, it is merely an obstacle to his freedom.


Social life in truth, justice, charity and freedom Hence, for a society to be considered well-ordered, creative, and consonant with human dignity, it must be based on truth. St Paul expressed this as follows: 'Putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.' 25 And so will it be, if each man acknowledges sincerely his own rights and his own duties towards others. Human society, as We here envisage it, demands the willingness on men's part to be guided by justice, to respect the rights of others and to do their duty. It demands, too, that they be animated by such love as will make them feel the needs of others as their own, induce them to share their goods with others, and strive in the world to make all men alike heirs to the noblest of intellectual and spiritual values. Nor is this enough, for human society thrives on freedom; on the use, that is, of means which are consistent with the dignity of its individual members, who, being naturally endowed with reason, assume responsibility for their own actions.


And so, dearest sons and brothers, we must think of human society as being primarily a spiritual reality. By its means enlightened men can share their knowledge of the truth, can claim their rights and fulfil their duties, receive encouragement in their aspirations for moral goodness, share their enjoyment of all the wholesome pleasures of the world, strive continually to pass on to others all that is best in themselves, and make their own the spiritual riches of others. These are the values which exert a guiding influence on culture, economics, social institutions, political movements and forms, laws, and all the other components which go to make up the external community of men and its continual evolution.

God and the moral order

Now the order which prevails in human society is wholly incorporeal in nature. Its foundation is truth, and it must be brought into effect by justice. It needs to be animated and perfected by men's love for one another, and, while preserving freedom intact, it must make for an equilibrium in society which is increasingly more human in character .


But such an order - universal, absolute and immutable in its principles - finds its source in the true, personal and transcendent God. He is the first truth, the sovereign good, and as such the deepest source from which human society can draw its genuine vitality, if it has been properly constituted, and is creative and worthy of man's dignity. 26 This is what St Thomas means when he says: 'Human reason is the standard which measures the degree of goodness of the human will, and as such it derives from the eternal law, which is divine reason. ...Hence it is clear that the goodness of the human will depends much more on the eternal law than on human reason.' 27

Characteristics of the present day

There are three things which characterize our modern age.


In the first place we notice a progressive improvement in the economic and social condition of working men. They began by claiming their rights principally in the economic and social spheres, and then proceeded to lay claim to their political rights as well. Finally, they have turned their attention to acquiring the more cultural benefits of society. Today. therefore, working men all over the world are loud in their demands that they shall in no circumstances be subjected to arbitrary treatment, as though devoid of intelligence and freedom. They insist on being treated as human beings; and that, in every department of human society, whether economic, social, cultural or political.


Secondly, the part that women are now playing in political life is everywhere evident. This is a development that is perhaps of swifter growth among Christian nations, but it is also happening extensively, if more slowly, among nations that are heirs to different traditions and imbued with a different culture. Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role, or allowing themselves to be exploited, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons.


Finally, we are confronted in this modern age with a form of society which is evolving on entirely new social and political lines. Since all peoples have either attained political independence or are on the point of attaining it, imperialism is rapidly becoming an anacronism, and soon no nation- ' will be under the domination of any other.


Thus all over the world men are either the citizens of an independent State, or are shortly to become so; nor is any nation nowadays content to submit to foreign domination. The long-standing inferiority complex of certain classes because of their economic and social status, sex, or position in the State, and the corresponding superiority complex of other classes, is rapidly becoming ~ thing of the past.


Today, on.the contrary, there is a widespread conviction that all men are equal in natural dignity ; and so, on the doctrinal and theoretical level anyhow, no form of approval is given to racial discrimination. All this is of supreme significance for the emergence of a human society animated by the principles We have mentioned above. For man's awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man's personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by other people.


When society is organized on a basis of rights and duties men have an immediate grasp of spiritual and intellectual values, and have no difficulty in understanding what is meant by truth, justice, charity and freedom. They are moreover conscious of being members of such a society. And that is not all. Inspired by such principles, they attain to abetter knowledge of the true God, as personal and transcending human nature. They recognize that their relationship with God forms the very foundation of their life - the interior life of the spirit, and the life which they live in the society of their fellows.


7 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, pp. 9-24; and JOHN XXIII Sermon, Jan. 4, 1963, A.A.S. LV, 1963, pp. 89-91.
8 Cf. PIUS XI Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, A.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 78; and PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Pentecost, June 1, 1941, A.A.S., XXXIII, 1941, pp. 195-205.
9 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, pp.9-24.
10 Divinae Institutiones, lib. IV, c.28.2; PL. 6, 535.
11 Encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, ACTA LEONIS XIII, viii, 1888, pp. 237-238.
12 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, pp. 9-24.
13 Cf. PIUS XI Encyclical Casti connubii, A.A.S. XXII, 1930, pp. 539-592; and PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, pp. 9-24.
14 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Pentecost, June 1, 1941, A.A.S., xxxiii, 1941, p. 201.
15 Cf. LEO XIII Encyclical Rerum novarum, ACTA LEONIS XIII, XI, 1891, pp. 128-129.
16 Cf. JOHN XXIII Encyclical Mater et Magistra, A.A.S. LII, 1961, p. 422.
17 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Pentecost, June 1, 1941, A.A.S. XXXIII, 1941, p. 201.
18 JOHN XXIII Encyclical Mater et Magistra, A.A.S. LIII, 1961, p. 428; C.T.S. translation para. 112.
19 Cf. lbid., p. 430; C.T.S. translation para. 19.
20 Cf. LEO XIII Encyclical Rerum novarum, ACTA LEONIS XIII, XI, 1891, pp. 134-142; PIUS XI Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, A.A.S. XXIII, 1931, pp. 199-200; and PIUS XII Encyclical Sertum laetitiae, A.A.S. XXXI, 1939, pp. 635-644.
21 Cf. A.A.S. LIII, 1961, p. 430.
22 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1952, A.A.S. XLV, 1953, pp. 33-46.
23 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1944, A.A.S. xxxvii, 1945, p.12.
24 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, p.21.
25 Eph. 4 : 25.
26 Cf. PIUS XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. xxxv, 1943, p.14.
27 Summa Theol. lla-llae, q.19, a.4; cf. a.9.
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