The  Virtue of Justice (Part II)

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Human laws ought to be subordinated to divine law.  Human beings suck at directing themselves without divine guidance.  Just look at what happened to Communist Russia and Nazi Germany.  When a society tries to rule without God, it could easily justify killing thousands if not millions for the “good” of the state.  Many would say religion has caused many wars and consequently the death of many, but a religion-less state has cause far more deaths.  But is it really the fault of religion that wars happen or is it the followers of religion who don’t abide to the rightful teachings of religion?  If someone plays the music of Mozart poorly, is it the fault of Mozart or is it the fault of the one playing the musical instrument?  If Christians misbehave, is it the fault of Christ or His teachings or is it the fault of the misbehaving Christians?

We need to distinguish (a) human law, (b) natural law, and (c) eternal law.  Secular (a)human law which comes from human reason and will, should reflect the (b) natural moral law.  Natural moral law or the Ten Commandments as we have learned from the previous article is the law based on our nature as humans, hence, the adjective ‘natural’.  The natural moral law is a participation or part of the (c) eternal law which is defined as the mind and will of God.  It is eternal in nature because God’s thinking and willing goes beyond space and time and it does not change.  For human law to be just, it has to be aligned to the natural law and God’s eternal law.  Human laws therefore are something ‘expected’ by God from us humans because God designed us to be social beings i.e. to interact and form communities with fellow humans.  In other words, human society did not just evolve by accident, it is part of God’s design based on human nature.  Thus, when Pilate said to Jesus that he has the power to release him and crucify him.  Christ answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above…” (John 19:10-11) Scripture thus tells us that authority over temporal affairs is granted to civil officials by God, and not by governments themselves.

For Christians, obedience to human law is part of their religious obligation; yet disobedience to human law may also be part of their religious obligation when that human law is unjust or when it is in conflict with the law of God.  St. Thomas More exhibited this obedience to divine law when he refused to acknowledge the authority of King Henry VIII in 1535 as head of the Catholic Church of England.  King Henry VIII replaced the Pope and separated himself from the Church of Rome.  St. Thomas More had to disobey the king that cost him to die a martyr’s death.  He summarized his heroic obedience to God’s law, with his famous last words before being decapitated, “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Conflict with divine law and human law happened also in the Philippines when RH law was about to be implemented back in 2010 that mandated all institutions regardless whether they are business or non-business in nature to provide contraceptives to their workers.  The Catholic Church of the Philippines opposed it because it would be doing something against the consciences of the Catholic Filipino faithful who strictly adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church that contraceptives go against the law of God on marriage.  Marriage by God’s will, is geared towards begetting of children and contraceptives directly go against it.  Fortunately, the Philippine Supreme Court revoked this provision in the RH law and thus contraceptives can only be made available in government entities.  Sometimes what is legal is immoral, such as abortion and contraceptives, and we who are trying to be faithful followers of Christ and His laws, “must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)