Richard McCormick, S.J., a prominent moral theologian, asks: "What is the Church's proper mission in the sphere of the defense and promotion of human rights?"1 His answer is that we know "human dignity" in "the Christ-event and the Church's commission to spread the good news." Thus he argues that: "Unless the Church at all levels is an outstanding promoter of the rights of human beings in word and deed, her proclamation will be literally false."2

In the context of recent Roman Catholic social teaching, this answer should not be surprising. At least since the momentous encyclical, Pacem in Terris, human rights have been the heart of the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. In the words of John XXIII, the entire tradition "is always dominated by one basic theme—an unshakable affirmation and vigorous defense of the dignity and rights of the human person."3

In this chapter I will describe the development of the Roman Catholic human rights tradition. I will examine the central documents of Catholic doctrine. Then I will illustrate how these teachings are being reaffirmed around the globe in the Catholic Church.

Roots of the Tradition

While the roots of the Catholic human rights tradition extend back to Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, the Bible, and Aristotle, the modern teaching begins with the pontificate of Leo XIII (1878-1903): "It was with Leo XIII that the Church began to move from a stance of adamant resistance to modern Western developments in political and social life to a stance of critical participation in them."4 Thus, partially in response to liberal and socialist assertions Leo XIII affirmed in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum that "Man precedes the State."5 Human dignity is the standard for law.

Leo XIII was particularly concerned to clarify "the relative rights and mutual duties of the rich and of the poor, of capital and labor."6 The encyclical affirms as conditions of human dignity the right to a just wage, the right to use one's earned wages to purchase and own property, and the rights to adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Each of these rights has a corresponding duty:

Employers are under an obligation to recognize and protect each of these rights. The encyclical, however, is not content with leaving the recognition of these rights to the good will of employers. Workers have the further right to organize associations or unions to defend their just claims. This is a specific form of the more general right of association which belongs to all human persons as both self-determining and social beings.7

The state is obligated to protect the common good, "which consists in the mutual respect of rights and the fulfillment of duties by all citizens," and the state also "has a special obligation to defend the rights of the poor and the powerless."8

Pius XI (1922-1939) struggled with the implications of these teachings in the context of the great depression, the development of a communist regime in Russia, and the emergence of fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy. He developed the notion of social justice as a principle for determining the social conditions of human dignity. In Quadragesimo Anno (1931) Pius XI reaffirmed the rights articulated in Rerum Novarum, and in Divini Redemptoris (1937) he set forth a list of rights: "the right to life, to bodily integrity, to the necessary means of existence; the right to tend toward one's ultimate goal in the path marked out by God; the right of association and the right to possess and use property."9

In response to the horrors of World War II, repression in the Soviet Union, and the precarious position of the Roman Catholic Church in Eastern Europe after the war, Pius XII (1939-1958) moved human dignity "from the level of a basic but frequently implicit first principle of Roman Catholic social morality to the level of explicit and formal concern."10 In his Christmas address of 1942 he affirmed that human dignity requires "respect for and the practical realization of the following fundamental personal rights":

the right to maintain and develop one's corporal, intellectual and moral life and especially the right to religious formation and education; the right to worship God in private and public and to carry on religious works of charity; the right to marry and to achieve the aim of married life; the right to conjugal and domestic society; the right to work, as the indispensable means toward the maintenance of family life; the right to free choice of a state of life, and hence, too, of the priesthood or religious life; the right to the use of material goods, in keeping with his duties and social limitations.11

In that same address Pius XII also asserted that each person has a right to a government which will protect these rights, and in a later statement he specified that:

The right to existence, the right to one's good name, the right to one's own culture and national character, the right to develop oneself, the right to demand observance of international treaties, and other like rights, are demanded by the law of nations, dictated by nature itself.12

As social justice requires a legal system that protects these rights, the authority of the state "is both based on and limited by these fundamental human rights."13

Human dignity, as an expression of the common good, is deeply rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition. The concept of dignitas humanae substantiae appeared as early as the Christmas Oration containing the earliest collection of prayers in the Western church, namely those in the Sacramentarium Leonianum, and was included in the Oration in the Holy Mass to be spoken after the offering.14 This Oration begins with the words: "God, who has wondrously created (or established) the dignity of human nature (or existence) and has even more wonderfully transformed it. . .."15

As the separation of church and state developed in the Middle Ages, the belief that the state was a "sacred community" and each person merely a citizen of it was replaced with the conviction that the individual was a member of the kingdom of God as it was coming into being on earth.16 Alfred Verdross asserts that the implications of this shift are enormous, for as a member of the kingdom of God, one

is the owner of certain rights which no earthly community can take. . .. [Thus is] laid the roots of every theory which speaks of unalterable or irrevocable human rights, because such rights can only exist when the authority of the state is limited by a higher order.17

Thomas Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that the common good of the state took precedence over the private good of the individual, but affirmed that in matters involving spiritual values the state is without authority. As "the well-being of the soul is not subordinate to the political community entirely in his whole self and with all he possesses,"18 Aquinas clearly rejected the notion that the state alone determines the rights of its subjects.

During the Christian Middle Ages there was never an all-powerful state, as divine authority was recognized for both the church and the state. However, at the beginning of the modern era Niccoló Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes denigrated the idea of human dignity and elevated the authority of the state. Hugo Grotius and John Locke were among the major humanist writers who sought to defend the dignity of the individual against the state. Samuel Pufendorf placed the concept of dignitas naturae humanae at the center of his theory of natural law, deriving from it "the human rights of freedom and equality."19 His writings, along with those of Locke and Montesquieu, greatly shaped the early development in America of the concept of separation of church and state, as well as the corresponding notion of the inalienable rights of persons.

The phrase dignitas humana first appeared in papal encyclicals in the nineteenth century,20 but it was not until Pacem in Terris that "human dignity" became the foundation for Roman Catholic social teaching. John Coleman, S.J., suggests that by itself human dignity may not be an adequate ground for Catholic teaching on human rights, because of its individualistic connotation in the West and also because it is rooted in traditional natural law theory that is under attack in contemporary society.21 Coleman notes Gregory Baum's similar concern, that a doctrine of human dignity built simply on the idea that the human person has value as created in God's image may not distinguish Catholic social teaching from the liberal political doctrine that only recognizes individual human rights.22

However, David Hollenbach, S.J., argues that the Catholic tradition offers two warrants for the principle of human dignity, as the foundation of all human rights. The first is accessible to all persons, whether they are religious or not: "The imperative arising from human dignity is based on the indicative of the person's transcendence over the world of things."23 The second is rooted in Christian faith: "The beliefs that all persons are created in the image of God, that they are redeemed by Jesus Christ, and that they are summoned by God to a destiny beyond history serve both to support and to interpret the fundamental significance of human existence."24 This foundation for human dignity, and thus for human rights, is assumed by the Catholic tradition and developed within it.


John XXIII (1958-1963), in his 1961 encyclical, Mater et Magistra, moved toward a notion of human dignity defined more in social and structural terms. Then in Pacem in Terris (1961) he affirmed that the protection of human rights was the basis for world peace.

Pacem in Terris begins with an affirmation of the central Catholic social teaching of the dignity of the person:

Any human society, if it is to be well ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights are universal and inviolable so they cannot in any way be surrendered.25

The encyclical reaffirms Pius XII's assertion that respect for human dignity is possible only within a "community of morally responsible citizens," and the emphasis in Mater et Magistra on human interdependence in the world:

The rights which protect human dignity, therefore, are the rights of persons in community. They are neither exclusively the rights of individuals against the community nor are they the rights of the community against the individual.26

Every right has a corresponding duty to protect that right. Thus both the individual and the state are responsible for the protection of all rights—the social and economic rights as well as the civil and political rights—which are necessary for human dignity.

Pacem in Terris systematically recapitulates all the rights claims made by the tradition since Leo XII, including rights asserted by both liberals and socialists. These include:

Rights related to life and an adequate standard of living are the rights to life, bodily integrity, food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, necessary social services, security in case of sickness, unemployment, widowhood, old age or unemployment.

As rights concerning moral and cultural values the encyclical lists the rights to respect for one's person, to one's good reputation, to freedom of communication, to the pursuit of art, to be informed truthfully; the rights to share in the benefits of culture, to a basic education and to higher education in keeping with the level of development of one's country.

Rights in the area of religious activity include the rights to honor God in accord with one's conscience, to practice religion publicly and privately.

In the area of family life are the rights to choose one's state of life, that is, to set up a family, with equal rights for men and women, or to choose not to found a family. Also included are the rights to the economic, social, cultural and moral conditions that are necessary for the support of family life, and the prior right of parents to educate their children.

Economic rights include the right to work, the rights to humane working conditions, to appropriate participation in the management of an economic enterprise, to a just wage, to own property within the limits established by social duties.

The encyclical also affirms the rights of assembly and association, the right to organize societies according to the aim of the members, and the right to organize groups for the purpose of securing goods which the individual cannot attain alone. All persons have the rights of freedom of movement and residence, and to internal and external migration when there is just reason for it. Political rights include the rights to participate in public affairs and to juridical protection of all one's human rights.27 All these human rights are affirmed by the tradition of Catholic social teaching as the necessary social conditions for human dignity.

Among the various "signs of the times" recognized by John XXIII in this encyclical are the advent of the United Nations and wide-spread approval of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While acknowledging some reservations about the Universal Declaration, John XXIII embraces it "as an important step" on the path toward a world community subject to the rule of law:

For in it, in most solemn form, the dignity of a human person is acknowledged in all men. And as a consequence there is proclaimed, as a fundamental right, the right of free movement in the search for truth and in the attainment of moral good and of justice, and also the right to a dignified life, while other rights connected with those mentioned are likewise proclaimed.28

So, John XXIII prayed for the United Nations and for the day "when every human being will find therein an effective safeguard for the rights which derive directly from his dignity as a person, and which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable rights."29

The Second Vatican Council

In 1965 during its last session, the Second Vatican Council approved two significant statements that advance the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on human rights. The Declaration on Religious Liberty(Dignitatis Humanae Personae), which is subtitled "On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious," asserts that religious freedom is fundamental to human dignity:

This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. . .. The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself.30

Furthermore, because people cannot discharge their obligation to seek and do the truth without immunity from coercion, "the right to religious freedom has its foundation, not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature."31

The common welfare of the society requires the social conditions necessary for people to live out their sense of the truth. This welfare consists chiefly

in the protection of the right, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person. Therefore, the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the people as a whole, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each.32

Government bears a special responsibility to protect human dignity and to promote "the inviolable rights of man."33

Hollenbach argues that Dignitatis Humanae provides "an important key to the problem of the foundation, interrelation and institutionalization of human rights."

Responsible use of freedom defines the very nature of social morality. The definition of the content of this responsibility must occur within the context of changing cultural and social structures. Thus human rights are rights within society.34

The state may not regulate and order all human interaction but must allow the freedom of persons to act in society. Furthermore, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) reaffirms that human rights are the necessary conditions for human dignity:

there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one's own conscience, to protection of privacy and to rightful freedom in matters religious too.35

As God intends that the goods of the earth be used for the common good of all, "The right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one's family belongs to everyone."36

The Roman Catholic doctrine of human rights differs from the liberal political view "in its distrust of individualism and its emphasis on community."37 In addition, it is distinct from Protestant affirmations of human rights in that it is presented more philosophically than in biblical or confessional categories. John Langan concludes:

Catholic human-rights doctrine emerges as a comprehensive and generous structure within which religious believers can both share and address the moral dilemmas of a religiously pluralistic and increasingly secular world and which, while not without some internal points of tension and incompleteness, is able to offer shelter to those who are repelled both by the neglect of social and economic rights for the disadvantaged in liberal societies and by the repressiveness of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.38

However, it is not clear in the tradition what forms of government are best suited to realize the conditions of human dignity. Hollenbach suggests that this ambiguity in part reflects recognition by the Council that human dignity is only realized in particular historical and social circumstances:

Gaudium et Spesthus suggests a fruitful way to combine the traditional view of human rights as rooted in human nature with modern historical consciousness. There are domains of human existence which cannot be suppressed without oppressing human beings. These include respect for the bodily, interpersonal, social-political, economic and cultural dimensions of human existence. Because of the increasing interdependence of persons the means to this respect must be more and more through the organized action of communities and of society as a whole.39

Therefore, "social, economic and cultural rights, defined in relation to historical conditions, assume a new place of importance in the Catholic human rights tradition."40

Paul VI

The encyclicals of Paul VI (1963-1978) on social morality, Populorum Progressio (1967) and Octogesima Adveniens (1971), have few direct references to human rights as they wrestle with the complex questions of economic development in the modern world. Andrew Greeley suggests that this represents a step back from the human rights doctrine of Pacem in Terris, but Hollenbach argues it is rather a shift of emphasis reflecting the immediate concerns of the Third World.41 Furthermore, François Refoulé asserts, anyone who reviews the writings of Paul VI "cannot but be impressed by the place occupied by the defense of the dignity and rights of man."42

In 1972 Paul VI wrote the Secretary-General of the UN: "The Church feels wounded in her own person whenever a man's rights are disregarded or violated, whoever he is and whatever it is about."43 Moreover, his last words at the Synod of Bishops in 1974 were: "We declare our determination to promote the rights of man and reconciliation among men, in the Church and in the world today."44

In 1971 the Synod of Bishops created by the Second Vatican Council turned its attention to the problem of justice and human rights in the Third World. The statement of the Synod, Justice in the World, explicitly recognizes the right to development as a basic right of participation necessary for human dignity in the modern world: "The right to development must be seen as a dynamic interpenetration of all those fundamental human rights upon which the aspirations of individuals and nations are based."45

John Paul II

During the pontificate of John Paul II, human rights have continued to be central to Roman Catholic social teaching. Hollenbach writes:

The central place which human rights have come to hold in Catholic social thought is evident from even a cursory reading of the numerous addresses of Pope John Paul II during his world travels. Whether in Poland or Brazil, the United States or the Philippines, Mexico or Africa, the most consistent and forceful theme of the pope's message has been the appeal for the protection of human rights and the denunciation of patterns of human rights violations.46

Similarly, the "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation'" asserts: "The fight for the rights of man, which the Church does not cease to reaffirm, constitutes the authentic fight for justice."47 And the 1986 "Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation" affirms that the contemporary "formulation of human rights implies a clearer awareness of the dignity of all human beings."48

Also in 1986 the final report of the extraordinary synod celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council proclaimed

. . . a missionary opening-up for the integral salvation of the world. Through this all truly human values are not only accepted, but fiercely defended: the dignity of the human person; the fundamental rights of man; peace; freedom from oppressions, misery and injustice.49

However, the Pope's writings also make clear that "Integral salvation . . . is obtained only if these human realities are purified and further raised by grace and familiarity with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit."50

John Paul II has not only spoken out forcefully against human rights violations, but explicitly identified human rights with the mission of the church.51 In Singapore in 1986, John Paul II reminded sixty-three thousand people gathered at the national stadium that peace is "possible only where there is a just order than ensures the rights of everyone."52 He described justice as an "attitude which recognizes the dignity and equality of all men and women and a firm commitment to strive to secure and protect the basic human rights of all."53 And during his visit to Australia John Paul II "defended the rights" of the aborigines.54

When asked on his trip to Chile if he expected to help bring democracy to that country, he replied:

Yes, yes, [although] I am not the evangelizer of democracy, [for] I am the evangelizer of the Gospel. To the Gospel message, of course, belongs all the problems of human rights, and if democracy means human rights it also belongs to the message of the church.55

Moreover, he affirmed that the church's support for human rights is not political: "This is what we are."56

In the encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, John Paul II identifies the first positive sign of our time as "the full awareness among large numbers of men and women of their own dignity and that of every human being" which is expressed "in the more lively concern that human rights should be respected, and in the more vigorous rejection of their violation."57 Moreover, during his trip to the United States in 1987, John Paul II singled out "the concern for human rights" and praised the UN for recognizing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the human covenants which seek to implement it, "the basic human rights," including "the inalienable rights of individuals and of the communities of peoples."58

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, reaffirms church statements on human rights and asserts: "In the past twenty years Catholic teaching has become increasingly specific about the content of these international rights and duties."59 And in a pastoral letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, the bishops extend

a personal invitation to Catholics to use the resources of our faith, the strength of our economy, and the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society that better protects the dignity and basic rights of our sisters and brothers, both in this land and around the world.60

They affirm that economic rights are among the human rights that constitute "the minimum conditions for life in community" and assert that: "A renewal of economic life depends on the conscious choices and commitments of individual believers who practice their faith in the world."61

In responding to criticism of this pastoral letter, Milwaukee's Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who chaired the drafting committee, reminded readers that "all people have a right to participate in the economic life of a society" and that the society has "a moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights for all.62 Ted Zuern, S.J., urged readers of the Newsletter of the Bureau of Catholic-Indian Missions to write to Congress to protest the "human rights violations" of "hunger, poor housing, serious unemployment, the denial of equal opportunities for education and health care in this nation of remarkable wealth."63

This same concern for social and economic rights is reiterated frequently in the publications of Catholic Charities, U.S.A.64 In summarizing Catholic social teaching for the California Catholic Conference, William J. Wood argues for "a theory of justice that is both biblical and spelled out in systematic terms of rights and duties," and which asserts "a preferential option for the poor" and "democratic participation in decision-making."65 Moreover, this Catholic social teaching appeared even in local publications like the occasional newsletter of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission in Colorado.66

Other articles in Catholic publications take up the right to life,67 issues concerning human rights and liberation theology,68 and the rights of members of the Roman Catholic Church.69 Popular Catholic author Henri Nouwen reminds us that the struggle for human dignity "to which the God of the Bible calls His people is much larger than a struggle for political or economic rights . . . [for it] is a struggle for life in the fullest sense."70

Human rights concerns are also included in the prayers of Catholics in North America:

Help us never to forget those whom you keep under your
special care—the poor, the sick, the oppressed.
We pray for the life of the world:
that every nation may seek the way that leads to peace;
that human rights and freedom may everywhere be respected,
and that the world's resources may be ungrudgingly shared.

Protestant and Orthodox Christians, too, can join in this prayer, for it reflects a faith common to Christians around the globe.

Catholic Terrorists?

Are there Roman Catholics, who reject the teaching of the Catholic Church in support of human rights by engaging in terrorist acts of violence? At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the only place where we might expect to find such Catholics is Northern Ireland. As recently as 1998 a bomb in Omagh, Northern Ireland, which killed 28 persons and wounded more than 200, was justified by Catholic members of the (Real) Irish Republican Army as part of its "legitimate struggle" for Irish Catholic independence from British rule.72

Leaders of Sinn Féin, such as Gerry Adams and Tom Hartley, have repudiated such violence, although they were long associated with the IRA. Moreover, they assert that the Republican struggle has nothing to do with religion, although its members are all at least nominally Catholic.73 However, Hartley has acknowledged that the cultural differences between Protestants and Catholics affect their political struggle with each other. The Protestants, he says, are divided and democratic, whereas the Catholics are used to "hierarchical" authority. Catholics feel part of a single community, and the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church has conditioned them to accept their leaders without dissent. Hartley claims this is why Catholics supported Gerry Adams, while in 1998 he was secretly negotiating a peace agreement. Adams was acting "like an archbishop" in representing for interests of the Catholic community of Northern Ireland.74

It must be emphasized that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has publicly repudiated the Irish Republican movement, and Catholic clergy in Northern Ireland openly supporting the Republican struggle have been reassigned. Yet, there are priests who justify IRA violence.75 Moreover, the writer Conor Cruise O'Brien has described IRA terrorism as "a kind of Holy War" involving "a major convergence of religion and nationalism."76

Northern Ireland, however, is a special case for Catholics. Elsewhere in Europe, when Catholics have suffered under repressive regimes, the response has generally been nonviolent resistance. If the Catholic hierarchy was ambiguous, priests and nuns were often among the leaders of the dissenting movements. For instance, Fr. Dominique Duka, who was imprisoned by the Czech government for violating restrictions on religious activities, found himself in a cell with Vaclav Havel. Fr. Duka joined the "chartists" resistance movement, which struggled for human rights and democracy and finally brought down the Soviet sponsored government in Czechoslovakia.77

Gilles Kepel argues that Catholics have to support human rights, because of the historical development of democracy within Western Christian culture. Catholics "have to speak the language of democracy if they want to be heard by the citizens of present-day Europe or America."78 Although the Church resisted democratic movements before the twentieth century, this is no longer a viable option. Therefore, contemporary Catholic movements resisting secularism champion human rights and the freedom to assert Christian values within a democratic society.79


David Hollenbach notes that in the Catholic rights tradition human dignity is an indicative rather than an imperative:

Human persons have dignity. They are sacred and precious. In this sense, dignity is not granted to persons by the ethical activity of others. Dignity is not bestowed on persons by other persons, by the family or society or the state. Rather the reality of human dignity makes claims on others that it be recognized and respected. The moral imperatives set forth as human rights express the more specific content of these claims. Human dignity, however, is more fundamental than any specific human right.80

As "a transcendental characteristic of persons" human dignity is the source of all moral principles, and thus is "the foundation of human rights."81

"As the cause of human rights is inescapable and compelling," Stephan Pfürtner argues, human rights are "a call to reform and a chance for the further development of Christian ethics."82 Hollenbach carries forward this development by asserting that Christian love requires in "an affluent society especially," that "claims based on need deserve to be granted priority status in a human rights policy."83 Thus, Christian love requires the primacy of social rights, which Hollenbach suggests can be formulated in "three strategic moral priorities":

1) The needs of the poor take priority over the wants of the rich.
2) The freedom of the dominated takes priority over the liberty of the powerful.
3) The participation of marginalized groups takes priority over the preservation of an orderwhich excludes them.84

He concludes that the "strategic morality expressed in these three principles is both an expression and a renewal of the Catholic human rights tradition" and, when manifested in action, is "an expression of Christian love."85

In the Roman Catholic tradition today human rights are the cornerstone of ethics, because human rights are perceived as necessary social conditions for human dignity.

Revision of material in Faith in Human Rights: Support in Religious Traditions for a Global Struggle (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991).


1 Quoted in Robert A. Evans and Alice Frazer Evans, Human Rights: A Dialogue between the First and Third Worlds (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1983), 245.

2 Ibid.

3 "A Preview of Mater et Magistra," in The Encyclicals and Other Messages of John XXIII, editorial staff of The Pope Speaks Magazine (Washington: TPS Press, 1964), 233. Quoted in David Hollenbach, S.J., Claims in Conflict: Retrieving and Renewing the Catholic Human Rights Tradition (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), 42.

4 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 43. See "Church and Human Rights in History," Convergence, no. 2 (1979):5-9.

Rerum Novarum, 1891 Encyclical of Leo XIII on the Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, no. 7. In The Church Speaks to the Modern World: The Social Teachings of Leo XIII, ed. Etienne Gilson (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Image, 1954).

6 Ibid., no. 2.

7 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 48.

8 Ibid., 49.

9 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 56.

10 Ibid.

11 Christmas Address, 1942, in Claims in Conflict, 60.

12 Address of 6 December 1953, in Claims in Conflict, 60.

13 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 61.

14 Alfred Verdross, "Fundamental Human Rights: The Journey of an Idea," trans. John D. Gorby, Human Rights 8, no. 3 (Fall 1979):22. See Jungmann, Missarum Sollemnia II (1949), 74 and Durig, Imago (1952), 126 and 167.

15 Ibid., translator assisted by Dr. William Carroll of the John Marshall Law School faculty.

16 Alfred Verdross, "Fundamental Human Rights: The Journey of an Idea," trans. John D. Gorby, Human Rights 8, no. 3 (Fall 1979):22.

17 Ibid.

18 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1, II, 21, 4, reply 3, trans. Thomas Gilby, quoted in Verdross, "Fundamental Human Rights: The Journey of an Idea," trans. John D. Gorby, Human Rights 8, no. 3 (Fall 1979):23.

19 Alfred Verdross, "Fundamental Human Rights: The Journey of an Idea," trans. John D. Gorby, Human Rights 8, no. 3 (Fall 1979):23. Mohammed Allal Sinaceur writes: "Even if it is true that Christianity raises man to divine estate, the new feature as the modern era dawns is the substitution of the rule of statute law and the empire of man for the legal order of ancient societies, the unique encounter between Christian doctrine and a renascent jurisprudence, the transformation of the jus suum cuique tribuere of Roman tradition into jus suum cuique reddere. From this point on Europe is attuned to the notion of human rights." Sinaceur, "Islamic Tradition and Human Rights," in Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights, 201.

20 Herbert Spiegelberg, "Human Dignity: A Challenge to Contemporary Philosophy," in Human Dignity: This Century and the Next, 42.

21 John A. Coleman, S.J., "Catholic Human Rights Theory: Four Challenges to an Intellectual Tradition," Journal of Law and Religion, 2, no. 2 (1984):349-55. He suggests that the positions of David Hollenbach and Bryan Hehir, the two major Catholic writers on human rights, are basically derived from Jacques Maritain's assertion: "The dignity of the human person? The expression means nothing if it does not signify that, by virtue of the natural law, the human person has the right to be respected, is the subject of rights, possesses rights." Maritain, The Rights of Man and Natural Law, trans. D. Anson (1951), 65; quoted in Coleman, "Catholic Human Rights Theory," 350.Hollenbach indicates that modern Catholic social teaching has shifted from natural law to human dignity, as a basis for human rights, which allows for development of a more realistic and universal doctrine of human rights. See Claims in Conflict, 131-33.

22 See Gregory Baum, "The Catholic Foundation of Human Rights," The Ecumenist 18, no. 1 (November-December 1979):10.

23 David Hollenbach, S.J., Justice, Peace, and Human Rights: American Catholic Social Ethics in a Pluralistic Context (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1988), 95.

24 Ibid., 96.

25 Pacem in Terris, 1963 Encyclical of John XXIII on World Peace, in Joseph Gremillion, ed., The Gospel of Peace and Justice: Catholic Social Teaching since Pope John (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1976), no. 9.

26 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 65.

27 Ibid., 66-67. All these rights are listed in Pacem in Terris, nos. 11-27. Philibert Secretan asserts: "The only right which must resolutely be refused to man is that of acting as though he were himself the source of his rights." Secretan, "Thoughts on Respect for Human Rights," Convergence, no. 2 (1979):15.

28 Pacem in Terris, no. 144. In Gremillion, The Gospel of Peace and Justice, 232.

29 Ibid., no. 145.

30 Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2, in Gremillion, The Gospel of Peace and Justice, 339.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid., 342, no. 6.

33 Ibid.

34 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 77.

35 Gaudium et Spes, no. 26, in Gremillion, The Gospel of Peace and Justice, 264.

36 Ibid., 305, no. 69.

37 John Langan, "Human Rights in Roman Catholicism," in Human Rights in Religious Traditions, 31. François Refoulé claims that section 30 of Gaudium et Spes, which is entitled "The need to go beyond an individualistic ethic," was drafted to alert readers to the danger in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the French declaration of 1789, although the former includes social and economic rights as well. See Refoulé, "Efforts made on behalf of Human Rights by the Supreme Authority of the Church," trans. John Maxwell, in The Church and the Rights of Man, ed. Alois Müller and Norbert Greinacher (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), 79, and David Hollenbach, Justice, Peace, and Human Rights, 19. J. Bryan Hehir distinguishes both the classical and Christian natural law positions from the "Liberal-Christian" position developed by John Locke. Hehir, "Human Rights from a Theological and Ethical Perspective," in The Moral Imperatives of Human Rights: A World Survey, ed. Kenneth W. Thompson (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980), 1-24.

38 Ibid. See John Langan, "Introduction," in Human Rights in the Americas: The Struggle for Consensus, 2. Raymond F. Collins asserts: "It is the consideration of human rights which forms the context within which today's ethical decision-making takes place." Collins, Christian Morality: Biblical Foundations (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 51.

39 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 75. "This move amounts to a shift from a social ethic that proposed a concrete model of the structure of society as a necessary exigency of natural law to a social ethic in which all social models and structures are held accountable to the standards of human rights. The difference between the two perspectives is the acceptance of social, political, and ideological pluralism as an inescapable fact in the contemporary world." Hollenbach, Justice, Peace, and Human Rights, 90.

40 Ibid. Michael Novak argues that the primary responsibility of government is to protect public order. Novak, "Economic Rights: The Servile State," Catholicism and Crisis 3, no. 10 (October 1985):10. In response, David Hollenbach asserts the Catholic ethical principle of subsidiarity. Economic necessities are not, in the first instance, the responsibility of government; however, when the problem exceeds the power of mediating individuals and institutions, "government can and should intervene in ways guided by political prudence." Hollenbach, Justice, Peace, and Human Rights, 104-06. Novak agrees with Hollenbach that both the society and the state have obligations for the "general welfare" of people, although basic needs are in the first instance the responsibility of the individual person; however, he disagrees that these responsibilities constitute "economic rights" equivalent to civil and political rights. Novak, "The Rights and Wrongs of 'Economic Rights': A Debate Continued," This World no. 17 (Spring 1987):43-52. This allows for diverse forms of human dignity in different cultures.

41 See Andrew Greeley, No Bigger than Necessary: An Alternative to Socialism, Capitalism and Anarchism (New York: Meridian, 1977), 12; and David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 78-84.

42 François Refoulé, "Efforts made on behalf of Human Rights by the Supreme Authority of the Church," in The Church and the Rights of Man, 77.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid. See Claude Geffre, O.P., "Theological Reflections on a New Age of Mission," International Review of Mission 71, no. 284 (October 1982):478-92.

45 Justice in the World, no. 15, in Gremillion, The Gospel of Peace and Justice, 516.

46 David Hollenbach, "Both Bread and Freedom: The Interconnection of Economic and Political Rights in Recent Catholic Thought," in Human Rights and the Global Mission of the Church, 31.

47 "Instruction on Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation'," (Vatican City: Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1984), 31.

48 "Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation," Origins: NC Documentary Service 15, no. 44 (17 April 1986):716.

49 "The Church Subject to the Word of God Celebrating the Mysteries of Christ for the Salvation of the World," Convergence, no. 2 (1986):32.

50 Ibid.

51 Roberto Suro, "Pope, on Latin Trip, Attacks Pinochet Regime," The New York Times, 1 April 1987, 1.

52 "Justice and Peace Challenge in Singapore," Asia Focus 2, no. 45 (25 November 1986):7.

53 Ibid.

54 "Aborigines Welcome Pope," The Oakland Tribune, 30 November 1986, A-6.

55 Roberto Suro, "Pope, on Latin Trip, Attacks Pinochet Regime," The New York Times, 1 April 1987, 7.

56 Ibid.

57 "Encyclical Letter of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II: Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 29 February 1988, 6.

58 "Building an Authentic World Community," The Pope Speaks: The Church Documents Quarterly 33, no. 1 (1988):27.

59 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1983), 74.

60 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1986), v.

61 Ibid., xi and xiv. See John Langan, S.J., "Defining Human Rights: A Revision of the Liberal Tradition," in Human Rights in the Americas: The Struggle for Consensus, 69-101.

62 Rembert Weakland, O.S.B., "Dear Reader," Catholic Trends (15 November 1986):3.

63 Ted Zuern, S.J., "Bread and Freedom . . . Justice and Faith," Newsletter: Bureau of Catholic-Indian Missions 7, no. 10 (January/February 1987):3.

64 The right to health care is asserted in "1985 Issues of Concern," Charities USA¯13, no. 2 (February 1986):29. The Catholic bishops' statement, "The Right to a Decent Home," is discussed in "Background Paper on Housing" in the same issue. The president of Catholic Charities affirms the organization will defend "the right of the poor to struggle against injustice" and "the right of each person to self-determination." Mary Ann Quaranta, "Catholic Charities: Service and Action," Charities 13, no. 7 (12 April 1986):7 and 9.

65 William J. Wood, S.J., "Who in the World is the Church?" Commentary 7, no. 7 (November 1986):2. Original italicized.

66 See Joan Brown, "Human Dignity: Have We Failed Ourselves?" Active for Justice 11, no. 7 (July 1987):5; Shawn Crawford, "Human Rights: The Mentally Disabled—What About Their Treatment?" Active for Justice 15, no. 11 (December 1987):1 and 4; and Robert Traer, "The Struggle for Human Rights in China," Active for Justice 9, no. 6 (July/August 1989):5.

67 See Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, "Taking It on the Chin—For Life: Reflections on a Vatican Instruction," America 156, no. 14 (11 April 1987):295-96; and Virgil C. Blum, S.J., "America's Shameful Apartheid," Catholic League Newsletter 14, no. 2 (February 1987):8.

68 See John C. Cort, "Christians and the Class Struggle," Commonweal (11 July 1986):400-04.

69 See Sidney Callahan, "Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church," America 155, no. 1 (19-26 July 1986):22-23; and articles in the newsletter Light published by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church. Gregory Baum asks, it would seem, rhetorically: "Is the Church's defense of human rights authentic and credible if it fails to recognize human rights in its own organizational life?" Baum, "Catholic Foundation of Human Rights," The Ecumenist 18, no. 1 (November-December 1979):12.

70 Henri J. M. Nouwen, "We Drink from Our Own Wells," America 149, no. 11 (15 October 1983):206.

71 Thursday morning prayer in A Christian's Prayer Book: Poems, Psalms and Prayers for the Church's Year, ed. Peter Coughlon, Ronald C. D. Jasper, Teresa Rodrigues, O.S.B. (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 4th printing, 1972?), 132.

72 Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: The University of California Press, 2000), 237 and Figure 5.

73 Interview by Mark Juergensmeyer with Tom Hartley, councillor and leader of the Sinn Féin party in the Belfast City Council, Belfast, July 31, 1998, in Ibid., 37.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid., 41. Fr. Denis Faul has argued that the Catholic culture of the Irish gives them strength to kill and be killed, because death "is a sacrifice" and "the opportunity of forgiveness" reduces their sense of guilt. See Martin Dillon, God and the Gun: The Church and Irish Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 1998), 93.

76 Conor Cruise O'Brien, Ancestral Voices, 4, quoted in Terror in the Mind of God, 42.

77 Gilles Kepel, The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World translated by Alan Braley (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), 94-5.

78 Ibid., 197.

79 Ibid.

80 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 90.

81 Ibid. See R. J. Henle, S.J., "A Catholic View of Human Rights: A Thomistic Reflection," in The Philosophy of Human Rights, 87-92.

82 Stephan H. P. Pfürtner, "Human Rights in Christian Ethics," in The Church and the Rights of Man, 57; the phrase is used as the heading of a section on page 59.

83 David Hollenbach, Claims in Conflict, 175.

84 Ibid., 204.

85 Ibid., 207. © Robert Traer 2016