PUBLIC LAW AND PRIVATE MORALITY
These days some try to tell us that there is supposed to be a separation of church and state. What those who spout such tripe really want is a separation of public law from private morality. It is impossible to separate law from morality because public law is, and always has been, a reflection of the morality of those who make the laws.
Here in this country law is based on morality just as everywhere else. In fact many of the common practices of law here reflect a particularly Catholic view of morality.
- In a court of law a husband may not be compelled to testify against his wife, nor a wife against her husband. This is because the Constitution guarantees that no one shall be compelled to testify against oneself. A husband and wife are united in soul at marriage, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh." MAT 19:6 Because they are one, forcing a spouse to testify against a spouse is the same as forcing someone to testify against himself. This is a particularly Catholic view of marriage as an indissoluble, soul-uniting sacrament that has been included in our U.S. Constitution.
- When determining the guilt or innocence of someone in a court of law, a major factor is intent. For most crimes someone is only guilty if they had the specific intent to commit the crime or act. This is the real basis of the "not guilty by reason of insanity" verdict. If a person does not have the capacity to form the intent to commit the act, then they are not held liable under the law. This is a direct reflection of Catholic moral theology. According to Catholic moral theology, in order to judge the morality of an act or omission there must be a conjunction of the act itself; the circumstances; and the will. If an act or omission was not conducted with sufficient consent of the will, it was not sinful. The secular legal world defines will as intent, but the reasoning is a direct copy.
- Today any group can file for tax-exempt status under section 503(c) of the IRS code. This section covers non-profit organizations. This is another very old tradition with a modern face. The Church has never paid taxes. This is because to pay taxes to an entity shows obeisance. In the ancient world, to pay taxes showed that the payer was subject to the king that collected them. The Church is a separate kingdom that is subject to none other than Christ the King. This is why the Church has never paid taxes to this day. Recently other non-profit groups have been granted the same privilege.
- The federal and state governments have special days when their employees stay home from work. The name for these days are holidays. This is a direct extension of the "holy-days" of Christmas and other feasts on which the Church proscribes work.
The custom of law has always been, and will always be rooted in a moral code. Because our nationís historical foundation is western European, we have inherited a legal system that is based on the morality system used on the European continent. That code of morality, which is the basis for laws and the legal system which has been handed down to us, is the moral code of the Catholic Church.
Some people harp that tired slogan about "separation of church and state". Those folks ought to wake up and look around. The moral code of the Church has permeated our way of life. Those who try to say otherwise live in a fantasy world created by faulty logic and poor reasoning skills.
The law has always been, and will always be a reflection of the morality of the law giver. In our representative democracy the people are the ultimate source of our secular laws. We can use a good moral system or a bad moral system to make law, but we are going to use a moral system. It is impossible to even attempt to separate our value system from the secular government process. There can be no separation of private morality from public law. The connection is here with us now as it has always been. It is absolutely essential whenever an election comes around to remind ourselves, and any one who will listen, of this incontrovertible fact.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, August 2000.