Pacem In Terris 51-52: More of the Appeal to Conscience

Continuing on the theme of individual conscience …

51. Governmental authority, therefore, is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees passed in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience, since “it is right to obey God rather than (people) “(Acts 5:29).

Indeed, the passing of such laws undermines the very nature of authority and results in shameful abuse. As St. Thomas teaches, “In regard to the second proposition, we maintain that human law has the rationale of law in so far as it is in accordance with right reason, and as such it obviously derives from eternal law. A law which is at variance with reason is to that extent unjust and has no longer the rationale of law. It is rather an act of violence.”( Summa Theol. Ia-IIae, q. 93., a.3 ad 2um; cf. Pius XII’s broadcast message, Christmas 1945, AAS 37 (1945) 5-23)

52. The fact that authority comes from God does not mean that (people) have no power to choose those who are to rule the State, or to decide upon the type of government they want, and determine the procedure and limitations of rulers in the exercise of their authority. Hence the above teaching is consonant with any genuinely democratic form of government.( Cf. Leo XIII’s encyclical epistle Diuturnum illud, Acta Leonis XIII, II, 1881, pp. 271-273; and Pius XII’s broadcast message, Christmas 1944, AAS 37 (1945) 5-23)

On #52, quite right. Democracy is as much a potential tool of God’s will as heredity or aristocracy.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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