We are all familiar with human rights. Perhaps these words sound familiar: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence begins with a statement that we are all endowed with unalienable rights.
The Catholic tradition has always taught that the right to life is fundamental. Other basic human rights stem from it: a right to food, clothing shelter, work, rest, medical care, and essential social services. As the Catholic Bishops of the United States explain, “Every person has a fundamental right to life—the right that makes all other rights possible. Each person also has a right to the conditions for living a decent life—faith and family life, food and shelter, education and employment, healthcare and housing. We also have a duty to secure and respect these rights not only for ourselves, but for others, and to fulfill our responsibilities to our families, to each other, and to the larger society” (Faithful Citizenship, USCCB, #14).