Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Catholic Roots of Human Rights

The Catholic Church played a big role in the development of our modern understanding of human rights. This fact has been neglected by historians but this is starting to change do to the work of Brian Tierney. Canon law and the concept of Natural law set the stage for the understanding of human rights. Here is a quote from a article that I found. It's an interesing read.


The evolution of a language of rights is only part of the story of this first "context." By the year 1300, the jurists of the Ius commune had developed a sturdy language of rights and created a number of rights derived from natural law. During the period from 1150 to 1300, they defined the rights of property, self-defense, non-Christians, marriage, and procedure as being rooted in natural, not positive, law. By placing these rights squarely within the framework of natural law, the jurists could and did argue that these rights could not be taken away by the human prince. The prince had no jurisdiction over rights based on natural law; consequently these rights were inalienable.(16)

The History of Rights in Western Thought

It is also Ironic that society is now rejecting natural law when it is the foundation of human rights.

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