Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput (left) those attending day two of the Faith in the Public Square conference that one must always remember that natural law precedes civil law. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

God's natural law supersedes any man-made law, says Chaput

  • August 7, 2014

TORONTO - Natural law, that which reflects the sense of order God inscribed on humanity upon creation, needs to be recognized by contemporary society as the underpinning of our civil laws. 

“Creation begins in chaos (but) on each day of creation God brings new things into being and He orders them according to a plan; God makes things for a purpose,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia. “The world is better when it follows God's design. Too often we think of rules as things that keep us from being happy but rules, understood as God's order, are good for us because they show us how to live in a way, they lead us to embody what God intends human beings to be and to do.”

Chaput addressed about 150 people Aug. 6 at St. Michael's College School's Centre for the Arts on the second day of Faith in the Public Square – a joint effort conference co-ordinated by the Archdiocese of Toronto and St. Augustine’s Seminary. The three-day conference covered topics regarding faith in media and law, with Chaput speaking to the latter. 

The archbishop said that civil, human or earthly laws, those which have been passed by governments and enforced by a judicial system, are not separated entirely from natural laws both in the moral grounding and purpose. 

“Earthly laws should lead us towards our earthly end which should also ready us for our heavenly end,” said Chaput. “The ultimate goal of our laws is to make us morally good. Our laws should help us accord with the design that God has written into human nature.” 

That is because man came before earthly law. But since man arrived on the sixth day, he did not come before natural law as God had already begun creating order. Thus one can say that natural law, the order for all of creation which God “wrote on the heart of man,” is a byproduct of natural law. 

“Law can't teach effectively without the support of a surrounding moral culture because law arises from the culture,” which is ordered by natural law, said Chaput. “Law embodies and advances a culture, especially its moral aspects.” 

Unfortunately as the journey continues into “the new Dark Ages,” as Chaput coined the current era, many have lost sight of the foundation of our earthly laws and their purpose. 

“Modern life frees us from thinking that we have to conform to any natural order or even from believing a natural order exists,” he said. “They (who reject natural order) experience it as confining or unjust.” 

Chaput blames this for centuries of “totalitarianism.” 

Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins agrees that a lack of recognition or acknowledgement of the natural laws has strayed society into a self-interested state of affairs which does not harmonize with God's intended purpose for humanity.

“He has expressed very clearly in his presentation the need for us to be attentive to the deeper law of God and law of nature which underlies all of life,” said Collins. “This is an order and a harmony that comes from God and it is only if we are attentive to that that individuals and society can find their meaning and can find true peace. When things don't have a purpose or a rational purpose it all becomes what the individual ego seeks, the pure will, and when that happens in society it means the person who is strongest dominates everyone and there is nothing to limit that power.” 

But all hope is not lost for today's society which continues to lean towards universal secularism in the public square as a whole, said Chaput. 

“If the traditions of the virtues were able to survive the horrors of the last Dark Ages we are not entirely without ground for hope,” he said. “This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they've already been governing us for quite some time.” 

And it is the job of true Christians, those who still follow the guidance of God's natural laws, to combat this. 

“What matters for us now is the construction of formal communities within which civility and natural and moral life can be sustained through the new Dark Ages which are upon us. We Christians need to keep this in mind as we strive for moral justice in our society. (We need) to create parishes, seminaries, clubs, colleges and families that are real schools of sanctification.” 

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