Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


It should be obvious that the project here, "Catholic legal theory," requires or depends upon, if it is to be (even) coherent, several reliable (if contestable) definitions. One of those defintions pertains to "law" and, derivatively, "legal."  The Catholic tradition isn't impoverished when it comes to the question of what it takes for something to stand as law or legal.  In the (correct) view of that holy tradition, what the civil legislature does that fails to serve the common good also fails, for that reason, to be law in the full or focal sense of "law" (and therefore can and, subject to the control of the virtue of prudence, must be disobeyed in circumstances in which disobedience would serve the common good).  Also in the view of that same holy tradition, law is not only, or in the first instance, the deliverance of the civil authority.  There is always and earlier the higher law, that of Christ the King.  Given Christ's kingship over all, His higher law (authoritatively interpreted by the Church) must serve as the governing norm if the civil polity is to seek the common goods, earthly and eternal.  Law, even Christ's, doesn't exhaust the field, however.  Mercy and forgiveness have their respective places in the divine economy, thank God, but they do so because the same God first (and thereafter His civil viceregents) ordered humanity to the common goods.  Mercy and forgiveness, in their true respective senses, depend upon an antecedent architecture in which the legisator has truly legislated (necessarily for the common goods).  It's high time certain discussants of the current predicament, including those souls dissecting, promoting, etc., the incessant (and oddly ultramontanist) soundbites issued from a guesthouse at Rome, recall that the human mind is in virtue of Creation itself a legally "measured measure."  Forgiveness, therefore, is (as it were) graciously parasitic on law.  Thank God for His forgiveness, but first for His law.   


Brennan, Patrick | Permalink