Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Independence Day and The Natural Law

Written by my pastor in this week's bulletin:
The celebration of July 4th this past week provides an opportunity for us to thank God for the blessings he has given to our nation. For many, the United States is a symbol of hope and a promise of justice. As Americans, we want to realize fully the potential of our nation, while also acknowledging that our society will always be in need of conversion and purification.

The ideal of freedom that is the inspiration for our country is not a selfish ideal. We value political and social liberty not for its own sake, but as a necessary condition for the fulfillment of our human nature, created in the image and likeness of God. Freedom implies a commitment to justice, so that others might "obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1928).

"It is the duty of citizens," says the Catechism, "to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity" (CCC, no. 2239). Our obligation to help create a just society extends to the attitude with which we receive immigrants to our land: "The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extend they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot bring in his country of origin" (CCC, no. 2241).

The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776 begins with the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This statement is noteworthy for its acknowledgment of the natural rights of the human person. Human rights do not flow from government or any other human authority. They are a consequence of God's creation, and of our being made in his image and likeness.

The natural law precedes human law, and should be its foundation and guiding principle.

"The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical natural" (CCC, no. 1959).

Respect for the natural law is absolutely necessary for the creation of a just society. If human laws are rooted only on the will of the majority, or merely reflect the prevailing mores or opinions of a particular generation, they risk being onerous and unjust.

An example of an unjust human law that ignores the natural law is the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. In 1973, the court nullified all state laws that prohibited or regulated abortion... There was clearly no legitimate Constitutional foundation for this decision, which was an exercise of "raw judicial power."

Concerned citizens are right to lobby for laws that restrict or prohibit abortion. Indeed, we have an obligation to do so. "Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it... It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims" (CCC, no. 1930). To be true patriots, then, we must not only love our country, but also be willing to put into practice those ideals upon which it was founded.

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