Pope John touches on the matter of racism:
44. Today, on the contrary the conviction is widespread that all (people) are equal in natural dignity; and so, on the doctrinal and theoretical level, at least, no form of approval is being given to racial discrimination. All this is of supreme significance for the formation of a human society animated by the principles We have mentioned above, for (our) awareness of (human) rights must inevitably lead (us) to the recognition of (our)duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a (individual’s) personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by other people.
And as we see in the current discussion on LGBT persons: what happens when a person’s God-given biology/psychology is tied up with the perception of sinful behavior? It’s a very difficult question, but it impacts a significant portion of the human race, and it reflects directly on the Church and its people.
Speaking more generally, I do affirm the connection of duties with rights. A person who has struggled for their rights may feel vindicated when these rights are finally recognized, but I read in this text that such a person retains a duty to recognize and respect others in turn.
Let’s delve a little deeper as to the bigger impact of that connection:
45. When society is formed on a basis of rights and duties, (people) have an immediate grasp of spiritual and intellectual values, and have no difficulty in understanding what is meant by truth, justice, charity and freedom. They become, moreover, conscious of being members of such a society. And that is not all. Inspired by such principles, they attain to a better knowledge of the true God—a personal God transcending human nature. They recognize that their relationship with God forms the very foundation of their life—the interior life of the spirit, and the life which they live in the society of their fellows.
Is this true, do you think? Does a truthful, just, charitable, and free society reflect something more of God? What happens when the secular culture does not honor some or all of these ideals? Does that make it incumbent on the Church to be a visible counterweight to poor values?