<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Rights of Catholics Basic to Full Christian Life ARCC
ARCC Banner
Home Join ARCC Donate Facebook Table of Contents
DHTML JavaScript Menu By Milonic.com

Who we are

What we do

Contact us



Selections from ARCC LIGHT
the ARCC Newsletter 
edited by James E. Biechler, Ph.D.

A Question of Rights
Rights of Catholics Basic to Full Christian Life

By James E. Biechler

"My biggest problem with you “reformer” types is your constant harping on “rights.”  Our whole society seems obsessed with “rights” and, in my view, this is sick and essentially selfish.  Christians are supposed to be generous and giving, not insisting on their own rights.  How do you in ARCC square this with the gospel?"
--W.L.B.., St. Charles, MO 

Your question goes to the heart of the paradoxical standards which permeate the teaching of Jesus.  “If any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt 5:40-41).  Sayings like this certainly seem at variance with the behavior which characterizes our litigious society.  The teaching of Jesus, including the above saying, almost never focuses on minimums but nearly always looks toward the maximum, the unlimited. 

One of the few sayings which does not go beyond the minimum is the admonition to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  This seems at first glance to be an exception to cite those countless sayings and parables which direct our behavior toward open-handedness, generosity, compassion and forgiveness.  These, I’m sure, are at the root of your objection to ARCC’s focus on “rights” or minimums. 

ARCC is with you in believing that justice and rights are not the main ideals of Christian life.  Though they are not always easy to achieve, they are minimums!  Our goal as an organization is to reach a point in the life of the church at which there would be no need for the likes of us.  We would like to refocus the vision of the church to the maximalist vision of St. John XXIII!  We don’t expect that to happen tomorrow! 

Our problem is not so much that we should expect injustice because the church is made up of sinners.  Our main concern is that there are governing structures in today’s church which all but guarantee that people’s rights will not be respected.  We want to call attention to these built-in structures of injustice, reveal them as antithetical to the gospel, and suggest alternatives that would make it more likely that the minimum standards of justice would obtain.  If you were on the receiving end of the myriad complaints our ARCC office receives, you would not have much trouble seeing that our point of view is not in any way out of line with Gospel values.  We see our mission as a response to the Gospel injunction to serve our neighbor.  We don’t deny that what we accomplish is in the category of “the least.”  That’s the category of justice. 

Perhaps your difficulty arises from your experience that so many litigants in our society are motivated by greed and self-interest.  They seem to be mired in materialism and focused on money.  Those whose cause we espouse in ARCC are decidedly not in this category.  For the most part they are as much idealists as we are.  The injustice done them was not a result of their competition in the race for money or power but in their attempt to live out the Gospel teaching that the supreme law of our lives is to be of service to others. 

Perhaps some of your discomfort concerns ARCC’s rather “subversive” agenda.  Our idea of a constitution for the church and our charter of rights do strike some as “revolutionary.”  In a happy coincidence I am writing this on the Fourth of July when “revolution” and “rights” come prominently to mind.  Like the revolutionaries of 1776 who began by recalling their “Creator” who endowed humans with the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” ARCC’s ideas about rights are rooted in the Gospel as fundamental to Christian well-being.
I’m sure you don’t think that protecting these rights is a “selfish” pursuit.  Without these rights people in our country would not be able to pursue the broader ideals of human life.  Rights are means not ends.  They enable people, they remove major obstacles to productive and creative human life.  Without freedom of the press, for example, writers could not publish the truth; without academic freedom in the university, professors would always be looking over their shoulders in fear of losing their positions should they teach what is innovative or controversial.  You can think of many more examples. 

So, you see, while ARCC’s current focus is on rights, its more comprehensive and far-reaching goal is the great ideal of divine truth and love whose pursuit should be unhindered by obstacles of human origin.  It is true that a person can love God even though the institutional church imposes obstacles to that full expression.  God is not bound by human rules.  But since our love of God finds expression in our love of neighbor, it is our task to facilitate that service of others as much as we can.  When we work to establish the minimal conditions necessary for that service, it is the divine ideal that we are striving for, not some narrow personal satisfaction. 


Dr. Biechler, an emeritus professor of religion, is a member of ARCC's board of directors. He also holds a licentiate in canon law and is a longtime member of the Canon Law Society of America. 

E-mail Comments to Dr. Biechler

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

<--Previous | Next-->
Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address: ihs@ionet.net
Posted 18 July 1999
Last updated 18 July 1999
Copyright © 1999 Ingrid H. Shafer
Locations of visitors to this page

Contact Information

, D.P.A., President
(406) 544-5527
Postal address
P.O. Box 6512
Helena, MT 59604-6512


Website design and maintenance:
Ingrid Shafer &
Copyright © 2003-2010,
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
DHTML JavaScript Menu By Milonic.com