Pacem In Terris 62: Reconciliation and Protection of Rights and Duties of Individuals

Today let’s examine a brief single section:

62. One of the principal duties of any government, moreover, is the suitable and adequate superintendence and co-ordination of (people’s) respective rights in society. This must be done in such a way

  • 1) that the exercise of their rights by certain citizens does not obstruct other citizens in the exercise of theirs;
  • 2) that the individual, standing upon (their) 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.( Cf. Pius XI’s encyclical letter Divini Redemptoris, AAS 29 (1937) 81, and Pius XII’s broadcast message, Christmas 1942, AAS 35 (1943) 9-24)

Note that a serious consideration of duties in addition to rights widens the equation a bit. An individual’s rights do not extend to impede the rights–or even the duties–of other citizens.

As Christians struggle with the legal reality of a phenomenon of same-sex unions, this principle seems to come into play. Do people who see themselves as morally upright really have options in withholding publicly offered services to LGBT couples? It might be easy enough for me to say “no,” as the services I offer are connected with the Church’s sacramental life. And for the present, I have no interaction with couples of the same sex in marriage preparation.

On the other hand, if I were a florist, and offered a public business to the community, could I deny services for a same-sex union ceremony? If I were standing on a moral high ground, as it were, would I not be obligated to subject all prospective clients to moral scrutiny: sex outside of marriage, previous divorce, couples with open sexual habits? If not, why would I be singling out lesbian and gay couples? Because it was obvious to me? Or because I was lazy? Would I stay in business if I applied the same standard of morality to all potential clients? Or can I get away with a public opposition to LGBT clients because they formed a small fraction of my potential clientele?

At any rate, this section deals more with the action of governments in respecting rights. A government is responsible for overseeing that all citizens respect the rights of their sister and brother citizens, and to watch carefully that boundary where the exercise of one might violate the other.

Your thoughts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Pacem In Terris 62: Reconciliation and Protection of Rights and Duties of Individuals

  1. FrMichael says:

    A florist would be well in his rights morally to refuse to cooperate with any of your postulated situations. However, in metropolitan areas it is unlikely that he would know enough publicly regarding the previously divorced to demur, whereas the status of LGBT couples is obvious.

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