7.1.4 Response to Exercise


Here are some of the main ways in which previous units have brought in duties/responsibilities and rights:

Unit 2, sec. 2 on ‘Main principles of CST’  As just mentioned, Unit 2 summarised the way in which the language of duties and rights fits together – see 2.2.5).  For any claim that someone has a right to be valid, there must be someone else (or a group of others) who has the duty to ensure it is upheld.  And vice versa: if you really do have a duty towards someone, they have a right.

These two words are like two sides of a coin.  We shall come back to this on the next screen.

That initial outline on 2.2.5 also introduced the distinction between freedom rights and benefit rights which we’ve just explored more fully.

Unit 3: Ecological Responsibility  The whole subject of Unit 3 was the question of what responsibility humans have for the rest of nature.  In looking at what it means that men and women are made in the image of God, we saw that part of the answer is, astonishingly, that humans have been given a responsibility to represent God in exercising dominion on God’s behalf in his good creation.  This is a responsibility which the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect image of God, shows us how to exercise.  We can describe what this means as ‘ordered love’ – for God, for neighbour and for non-human nature, as is appropriate to each.

Unit 4: Working life  Discussion of responsibilities and rights was probably more prominent in Unit 4 than in any other unit, including as follows:

  • Rerum Novarum argued that there is a natural right to private property (4.2.3).  Moreover both workers and employers have several important duties (4.2.4).  Government has a duty to use law to ensure justice for workers (4.2.6).  Workers have a right to form workers’ unions (4.2.7).
  • Laborem Exercens sets out a list of the rights of workers (4.3.9).  It also introduced the concept of the ‘indirect employer’ who has responsibility for workers’ conditions, even though he/she can only influence the employer, rather than set those conditions directly.

Unit 5: Economics and business  In CST’s vision of a ‘solidary market economy’, the basic emphasis of the ‘universal destination of goods’ is that all have responsibility to use material goods in a way that contributes to the common good.  In this context, the Compendium speaks clearly of a ‘right to economic initiative’ (#336), as well as of the duties of business owners and management (#345).

The Compendium also argues that economic globalization presents a great challenge in terms of defence of human rights.  This is because of the pressure which global competition generates to worsen workers’ conditions (#365).

Unit 6: Family life  Familiaris Consortio gives a list of rights which can form a basis for “the preparation of a Charter of Rights of the Family” (#44).  Such a Charter was indeed drawn up and was published in 1983.  You can see the text of it here:

Charter of the Rights of the Family.

As the above shows, the theme of responsibilities and rights has run through all the topics we have been looking at, and you might well have recalled several other ways in which it has come up.



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