Rights and responsibilities is the third of the seven key themes of Catholic social teaching. This theme says that every person has a fundamental right to life and to the necessities of life. In addition, every human has the right to what is required to live a full and decent life, things such as employment, health care, and education.[1] The right to exercise religious freedom publicly and privately by individuals and institutions along with freedom of conscience need to be constantly defended. In a fundamental way, the right to free expression of religious beliefs protects all other rights.

The Church supports private property and teaches that “every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own."[2] The right to private property is not absolute, however, and is limited by the concept of the social mortgage.[3] It is theoretically moral and just for its members to destroy property used in an evil way by others, or for the state to redistribute wealth from those who have unjustly hoarded it.[4]

Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. Rights should be understood and exercised in a moral framework rooted in the dignity of the human person.


  1. Rights and Responsibilities, Major themes from Catholic Social Teaching, Office for Social Justice, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
  2. Rerum Novarum § 6.
  3. Solicitudo Rei Socialis § 42.
  4. The Busy Christian's Guide to Social Teaching.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Catholic social teaching. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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