TOC Previous Next A+A-Print


Chapter 11: The Moral Authority of Law


As was explained in chapter seven, moral principles can be called “natural law.” But here “law” is used in the more usual sense to refer to various types of positive law—that is, law made or posited (put in place) by a legislator. Divine law, the law of human societies, and the law of the Church specify a large part of a Christian’s clear moral responsibilities. Genuine laws of all these types have a moral foundation and thus deserve to be obeyed. Even so, the moral basis of law and the obligation to obey laws are limited. This chapter examines the moral foundation of laws and the limits of their moral force.

Many of the specific norms which direct the lives of people are embodied in law. The moral obligation to obey laws follows from their moral basis. The nature and limits of that obligation can be understood only by distinguishing divine precepts, Church law, and the law of civil society. The latter is of various sorts.