MORALITY AND LAW
All law is a reflection of morality. We have laws against murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment because these acts are considered wrong by the majority of the populace. At one time in the history of mankind this was not the case. In ancient Rome there were many slaves. Slaves could be killed at the whim of their masters. In fact it was considered amusing to give the slaves implements of war and watch them fight to the death. They called them gladiators. This grotesque form of murder was not only quite legal, it was considered great entertainment because it was in accordance with the pagan value system of the people.
If all law is a reflection of a moral system, then it would follow that laws change to reflect the values of whoever makes the laws. This has been the case throughout history. Over the years the value systems held by the lawmakers have been pagan, secular humanist, communist, Christian, you name it, but the laws still reflect the core values of those that make the laws. In a republic such as ours, "we the people" decide who makes the laws for us. Ideally then the laws should reflect the value system of the people we choose to represent us. The lawmakers can change, the value systems can change, but the laws are still a product of a certain set of values or morality. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is simply being irrational.
It is fundamentally impossible for someone to not use a value system to make decisions when enacting laws or choosing those who do. There is always a value system that is used unless you just choose by flipping a coin. The concept that one should not use one's personal value system when making decisions about laws is not expressed in the U.S. constitution, and even if it were, we would be morally compelled to ignore it, because it would prevent us from using our Catholic faith to guide our actions. We would therefore by definition be forced to use non-Catholic values to guide our actions. We can not do this because "We must obey God rather than men."(Acts 5:29) and "The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the moral order."(CCC2242).
Catholicism is a lifestyle, not a social club. All the decisions we make must be based on our faith in Jesus Christ. Our faith must affect everything we do and say. "Be assured then that faith without works is as lifeless as a body without breath."(James 2:26). We can no more leave our faith behind when we enter the voting booth than when we enter the church to hear Mass. If anyone tells us that we must not try to "legislate morality" or "force our views onto others" they are really forcing their views onto us by making us use their value system rather than our Catholic faith to make decisions.
The argument that we must abandon our faith when we enter the voting booth usually falls along the lines that there must be a "separation of church and state" due to the constitution. The constitution of the United States does not now, nor has it ever included the phrase "separation of church and state". The "respect no establishment of religion" clause of the 1st amendment merely prevents a national church such as the Church of England. The larger implication of the doctrine of "separation of church and state" is that the individual citizens should not try to allow their religious beliefs to affect public policy, or the laws that are enacted. This pernicious doctrine is as silly as it is immoral.
It is our duty as Catholics to work to ensure that the laws of our society reflect God's law, not pagan values.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, October 1998.