Monday, August 11, 2008

Catholic Social Teaching; Natural Law

Rodger Charles S.J. wrote the single best expression of the social teaching of the Church in its entirety and he makes it clear that it is a teaching with a history that began with Genesis.

His two volume work was published in Great Britain in 1998, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus (Volume 1) From Biblical Times to the Late Nineteenth Century & (Volume 2) The Modern Social Teaching Contexts: Summaries: Analysis.

An excellent review of the work is at the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality.

The best place to find both volumes is either through Abe Books or through the publisher, Gracewing Publishing.

A foundational concept necessary to discern the justness of laws of governance is that of the natural law.

Here is an excerpt from Volume 1.

Natural law is a concept which has been used in different ways by different thinkers and writers over the centuries. It had its philosophical roots in ancient Greece but it was because it proved so valuable in the elucidation of law and the strengthening of the philosophy of law in the hands of the Roman jurists, whose skill in this area of intellectual and practical achievement has never been excelled, that it made its most lasting mark on the Western tradition. The concept itself received its classic definition from the Roman Stoic and philosopher Cicero.

“There is in fact a true law—namely right reason which is in accordance with nature and eternal…to invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right…it will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow…but there will be…one law eternal and unchangeable…there will be one common master and ruler of men, namely God the author of this law and its sponsor
.” (p. 76)