Comfort can be a dangerous thing. While achieving comfort might be satisfying and relaxing in theory, it can lull people to a false sense of complacency and apathy, or indifference. Living a comfortable life can also be interpreted as a mark of privilege in which people become so wrapped up in their lives they are oblivious to the discomfort and sufferings affecting the people around them. This not only extends to the ‘poor and vulnerable,’ whom are so often spoken of in Catholic Social Teaching, but it also means friends, family, and peers.
A major theme in Catholic Social Teaching is called Rights and Responsibilities. While it can sound kind of intimidating, it actually goes hand in hand with Peace and Justice. The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) states that, “Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.”
When reflecting on what one’s responsibility is, whether in a religious or secular sense, it’s important to note that we have a responsibility to stand with each other simply because of our human essence.
Maybe this is uncomfortable to think about, especially considering how often we like to think of ourselves, particularly in America, as set apart from the crowd, or an individual. This is not to say we are all a part of one massive group, and have to all think and act the same –but it is to draw attention to the sometimes disregarded idea that we are both individuals and members of the human race. Our actions and inactions have larger repercussions than we’d like to think.
Exercise your responsibility in standing with those whose rights are being threatened. And if you don’t think that anyone’s fundamental human rights are being threatened, come find me in the Spiritual Life Office and together we can learn about new human rights issues. I can assure you, this is an everyday issue that involves everybody. Please don’t let the comfort you experience in having your rights protected and respected in our society come between you and a fellow human being. Keep pushing yourself to learn more, and I encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone to encounter others. I leave you with a widely known quote by Martin Luther King Jr. which he penned in Birmingham jail to complacent, comfortable white religious leaders:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”