By Fred Kammer, S.J.
There are often times when good people find themselves in serious disagreement with the prescriptions of “the law”—abortion, wars, the treatment of immigrants, the death penalty, etc. In the United States, we have a strong tradition of “the rule of law” to which many appeal as if such an appeal should end debate and assure obedience to legal prohibitions or statutory mandates. Just what is the Catholic position on such conflicts between statute and conscience?
At the Second Vatican Council, the council fathers drew on our long philosophical and theological tradition and reminded us that “political authority… must always be exercised within the limits of morality and on behalf of the dynamically conceived common good, according to a juridical order enjoying legal status.”1 When authority acts in such a way, then “citizens are conscience bound to obey.”2 So much for what we might call “good laws.”
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