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The Government Must Safeguard
the Human Rights of Everyone

The teaching of right reason regarding the duty of authorities to safeguard the inviolable rights of each human being is confirmed by the teaching authority of the Magisterium of the Church. Here is a key passage taken from the Encyclical Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII.

Let us openly and willingly acknowledge Christ as King of our society so that what happened to Jerusalem in A.D. 70 does not happen to us through nuclear war. To acknowledge Christ as our King means we must make His laws the foundation of our laws and our society.

Responsibilities of the public authority, and duties of individuals:

60. In our own day it is agreed that the common good is safeguarded so long as personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, coordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For “to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority.”45

61. Thus any government which refused to recognize human rights or acted in violation of them, would not only fail in its duty; its decrees would be wholly lacking in binding force.46

Reconciliation and protection of rights and duties of individuals:

62. One of the principal duties of any government, moreover, is the suitable and adequate superintendence and coordination of men’s respective rights in society. This must be done in such a way that (1) the exercise of the rights of one section of the community does not obstruct other sections in the exercise of theirs; (2) that the individual, standing upon his own rights, does not impede others in the performance of their duties; (3) that the rights of all be effectively safeguarded, and completely restored if they have been violated.47


45. Cf. Pius XII Broadcast Message, Pentecost, June 1, 1941, A.A.S. XXXIII, 1941, p. 200.

46. Cf. Pius XI Encyclical Mit brennender SorgeA.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 159; and Encyclical Divini RedemptorisA.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 79; and Pius XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. XXXV, 1943, pp. 9-24.

47. Cf. Pius XI Encyclical Divini RedemptorisA.A.S. XXIX, 1937, p. 81; and Pius XII Broadcast Message, Christmas 1942, A.A.S. XXXV, 1943, pp. 9-24.