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Law and Morality

In the modern world, morality and law are almost universally held to be unrelated
fields and, where the term "legal ethics" is used, it is taken to refer to the
professional honesty of lawyers or judges, but has nothing to do with the possible
"rightness" or "wrongness" of particular laws themselves.
This is a consequence of the loss of the sense of any "truth" about man, and of the
banishment of the idea of the natural law. It undermines any sense of true human
rights, leaves the individual defenseless against unjust laws, and opens the way to
different forms of totalitarianism. This should be easy enough to see for a person
open to the truth; but many people's minds have set into superficial ways of
thinking, and they will not react unless they have been led on, step by step, to
deeper reflection and awareness
The right relationship between law and morality
Law and Morality do not coincide in meaning, though there is - there should be - a
necessary interdependence between them. Moral law distinguishes right and wrong
in (free) human actions. It is aimed above all at personal improvement and
ultimately at salvation.
Political-civil law is aimed at making it possible for people to live together in
community: in justice, peace, freedom. Its concern is not directly supernatural,
although in creating the conditions for true justice and truly human behavior, it
indirectly favors it.
Human civilization is not possible without law and morality, standing in right
relationship. The growing modern crisis of the West, shaking its culture and
civilization to its foundations, stems from separating both, seeing no necessary
relationship between them. But this is to relativise justice and truth in human
relations, and to reject any concept of objective truth capable of uniting men. The
bond of unity between men is tenuous when they simply share material interests;
this is an association of self-interests (always prone to clash). Unity goes deeper
and is stronger against potential divisions when people have common values to look
up to: shared truth, patriotism, religious faith...
"Law", according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "refers to the specialized form of
social control familiar in modern, secular, politically organized societies". The
thomistic and christian view understands law otherwise: "it is nothing else than an
ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the
community, and promulgated" [1].
The purpose of human law is the common good more than the good of individuals
(I-II, q. 96, art. 1). It is to establish a certain order, so as to protect social living.
Without law, there is no society, only the jungle, the rule of might "If there is
justice, and if law is based on a discernment of what is just, dialogue can begin and
benevolence can appear; so we come to what is ours in common. The first form of
culture is law. Its effectiveness means that barbarism has been overcome: men
have always been civilized this way" [2].
Ethics or morals is the study of what we ought to do; i.e. what is the right way to

act and what is the wrong.

Fundamental moral concepts such as right and wrong are necessarily universal. If
they are treated as relative and subjective, then they become inapplicable to the
social sphere; and hence to the whole area of human law. If what is wrong to me
may legitimately be right to someone else, then one may perhaps debate the
opportuneness of this or that law, but not its justice.
Without an interior sense of a moral order, there can be little respect for the law;
for this can only come from feeling oneself bound from within to observe the law.
Here we note that the almost universal modern concept of law as a system of rules
created by the state - which ensures its application through a system of courts and
a coercive power - leaves the law without any interior appeal or authority, except
insofar as one may recognize the need for some minimum of common rules. It also
exposes the individual to the tendency to regard the law as purely external
imposition to be evaded, if one can, whenever it is considered personally
The purpose of morality is to ensure the uprightness of individual conscience (the
law cannot force a conscience to be upright). Yet christian morality is not
individualistic; it leads one into community.
Law and freedom
Both law and morality imply human freedom. Clearly, without freedom one cannot
speak of morality. But the same holds for law, for if it were automatically and not
freely obeyed, men would be mere robots. Law is not a simple indication of what
happens, such as the law of physics; it is an admonition to free persons about what
they are required to do if they wish to live freely and responsibly in society; and it
normally carries with it a sanction or punishment to be imposed on whoever is
shown to have acted against given norms of conduct. Just law, properly
understood, appeals to freedom.
Nevertheless one of the most generalized liberal ideas is that law is by nature the
enemy of freedom. Servais Pinckaers holds that Catholic moralists have gone
through many centuries under the influence of this mentality which has led, by
reaction, to the anti-law approach of much of contemporary moral theology. In this
view, law and freedom were seen as "two opposed poles, law having the effect of
limitation and imposing itself on freedom with the force of obligation. Freedom and
law faced each other as two proprietors in dispute over the field of human actions.
The moralists commonly said, "Law governs this act, freedom governs that one..."
The moralists were traditionally the representatives of the moral law, and their
mission was to show to conscience how to apply it in a particular situation, in a
"case of conscience". Today we witness a strong tendency to invert the roles; the
moralists now regard themselves as defenders of freedom and of personal
conscience" [as against the law] [3].
Law and justice
Law cannot attempt to regulate the purely interior sphere of personal conduct;
morality can. Human or civil law is connected with external actions, precisely
insofar and because they impinge on the rights or lawful actions of others. Hence
the necessary connection of law with justice. For the regulation of interpersonal

relations must work from the basic principle of justice: "to each his due". Hence
arises the fundamental question of what is due to each one, and from this the
further question of human rights.
To each his due. Something is due to each. This is the sense of equality before the
law. "The possibility of giving his or her due not only to a relative, friend, citizen or
fellow believer, but also to every human being simply because he is a person,
simply because justice requires it, is the honor of law and of jurists. If there is an
expression of the unity of the human race and of equality between all human
beings, this expression is rightly given by the law, which can exclude no one from
its horizon under pain of altering its specific identity" [4].
Even for those who see law and freedom in mutual opposition, the whole concept of
law is essentially connected with that of justice. The ancient principle lex iniusta
non est lex (an unjust law is not a law), is at the basis of so many modern protests
in the name of freedom. "This law is discriminatory, therefore it is not just". But
justice is a moral concept; so these protests bear out the intrinsic connection
between law and morality,
"There is another crucial link between the virtues and law, for knowing how to apply
the law is itself possible only for someone who possesses the virtue of justice" [5].
'The law must respond to "living situations"...' Very good, but not in the sense that
it must take the situation as its norm. Justice must remain the norm, and
sometimes the law must regain ground for justice.
Basis and justification of law and authority
Social harmony, among persons capable of free choice, and hence of justice or
injustice towards each other, is not possible without law. But whence do we derive
the authority of the law?
a) does its force come simply from itself, from the fact that it "is there", legislated
or imposed by the powers that be? or:
b) can one find a principle by which to show that its authority comes also from
within, and so its force can be interiorised?
The first view has been proposed since ancient times. In Sophocles' Antigone,
Creon, the king, wishing to justify his tyranny: "whomsoever the city may appoint,
that man must be obeyed, in little things and great, in just things and unjust".
Hobbes held that: "Auctoritas, non veritas facit legem" (Authority, not the truth,
makes the law) (Leviathan, ch. 26). This is reflected in the program for life which
Goethe's Mephistopheles, the demon-spirit, proposes to men: "You have the Power,
and thus the Right" (Faust, Pt. II, Act V). In this view, law loses all interior force, it
becomes essentially coercive; its force deriving mainly from the threat of its
This view is held by those who profess an extreme positivism, rejecting any concept
of a natural law binding on all men. In a well-known lecture in 1897, Oliver Wendell
Holmes (1841-1935) [6], then a justice of Supreme Court of Massachusetts, sought
to reduce the whole function of the law to a simple indication of what the courts will
do, or a person may have to suffer, in the event of a particular mode of conduct. "A
legal duty so called is nothing but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain
things he will be made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court... The

prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are
what I mean by the law... The duty to keep a contract at common law means a
prediction that you must pay damages if you do not keep it - and nothing else" [7].
This immanent view makes the law justify itself. What is enacted in law must be
obeyed. This leaves one without any grounds for objecting to a law, except one's
personal dislike. There is no common court of higher appeal.
An apparently "democratic" version of this is that the authority of the law comes
from the people: i.e. from the majority. But this still leaves minorities with no basis
for any rights except those that the majority (or the manipulators of the majority)
grant them [8].
Natural Law
The only true alternative to positivism is the view that the authority of the law
derives from what man is; and that man can find within himself a measure of the
rightness or wrongness of the law.
This view of the law goes back to the most ancient times; it has been the common
wisdom of the ages. Among the Romans, Cicero taught: "The rule of law is to be
drawn from the inner nature of man" [9]. And so St. Thomas Aquinas: "Every
humanly conceived law has the true character of law insofar as it is derived from
the law of nature. If in some respect it diverges from the natural law, it is no longer
a law but a corruption of the law" [10].
The Nuremberg trials after World War II seemed to promise a revival of the notion
of the Natural law, standing higher than any state law. But this tendency was soon
strongly countered by the positive school dominant in modern jurisprudence,
perhaps because it was realized that the natural law necessarily points to a higher
authority than man himself, governing all the affairs of mankind.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, in an article entitled "Law, morality and natural law",
treats of the natural law very marginally and almost dismissively. "The attempt to
base norms on some such category of facts [about the nature of man and his
adjustment to the world] has for two millennia been associated with the concept of
natural law... It has always been possible to trace a mainstream of natural-law
thought, flowing from Aristotle's premise that the "nature" of any creature, from
which obligations must be derived, is what it will be in its fullest and most perfect
development. For man, this means what he is when the powers and qualities
distinguishing him from other creatures, namely, his reason and his impulse to
social living, are fully developed. Natural law embodies those obligations that will
appear if mankind's reason and sociality are fully unfolded. A major difficulty
presented by this attempt to develop normative standards appears to be that it is
very difficult to demonstrate, let alone create a sense of obligation towards values
that are only immanent".
Comment: the implication - that it is easier to demonstrate the worth of material
or external values - is not evident. One simply cannot prove by any empirical
means the worth of values nor can one demonstrate which are higher among them.
Either one holds that any scale of values is entirely subjective, or else allows that
certain immanent values or norms (the desire for truth or justice, the sense that
the truth can only be one, and that justice means "to each his due") are present,

however submergedly, in all men.

As John Paul II stated to the "World Jurist Association of the World Peace through
Law Center", "Among the primary aims of law must be to ensure that each person
receives his due, at every level of social life... The whole history of law shows that
law loses its stability and its moral authority... whenever it ceases to search for the
truth concerning man. The tragic consequences of disregard for truth have been
especially evident in our own century, in regimes which have sought systematically
to suppress the truth, presuming to deprive people of their inalienable rights in the
name of some higher justice, or showing a readiness to sacrifice the rights of
individuals to the rights of the State and its programmes" [11].
To quote Servais Pinckaers again: "The modern era is characterized by its
subjective conception of rights, as formulated by fourteenth-century nominalism.
From that time on, rights refer not to what I owe others, but to what others, and
society, owe me. Rights have changed hands: I think now in terms of my own
rights, not those of others. The fundamental orientation of justice has been
reversed: the burden of the debt falls on others, not on me. Justice no longer
implies a quality of soul, a movement outward toward others; it concentrates on the
defense of external rights. In this sense it is a matter of taking rather than giving.
The change accelerated with a new conception of the person's relation to society.
This was no longer based on a natural human inclination but became instead an
artificial creation, set up to meet human needs and to prevent destructive rivalry.
Under these conditions the relation between justice and charity degenerated, with
consequent serious problems. Since the two were now moving in opposite
directions, the one giving and the other taking, these virtues could no longer
operate harmoniously. Justice, with its stronger, more immediate claims, left little to
charity but a supplementary generosity, which could easily be included among the
duties of justice as far as the law allowed. As a result, Christian terms such as
charity, bounty, mercy, benevolence, and almsgiving were considerably devalued"
Pope John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae (1995), says that in order to save true
democracy and freedom, "there is a need to recover the basic elements of a vision
of the relationship between civil law and moral law, which are put forward by the
Church, but which are also part of the patrimony of the great juridical traditions of
humanity" (no. 71).
The denial of any common natural law utterly undermines any philosophy of human
rights. Pope John Paul insisted that it can lead to "totalitarianism [which] arises out
of a denial of truth in the objective sense. If there is no transcendent truth, in
obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure principle for
guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or
nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not
acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each
person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his
own interests or his own opinion, with no regard for the right of others"
(Centesimus Annus, (1991), 44).
We see this illustrated, for instance, in Rousseau's philosophy. He bases society, not

on man's nature, but on a concurrence of individual wills becoming the general

(collective) will (his "contrat social"). This type of liberalism has in it the roots of
democratic totalitarianism.
Alistair McIntyre says that any sincere claim that the institutions of law embody the
virtue of justice "represents the appeal to an absolute standard that lies beyond all
secular and particular codifications. On this medieval view, as on the ancient, there
is no room for the modern liberal distinction between law and morality, and there is
no room for this because of what the medieval kingdom shares with the polis, as
Aristotle conceived it. Both are conceived as communities in which men in company
pursue the human good and not merely as - what the modern liberal state takes
itself to be - providing the arena in which each individual seeks his or her own
private good" (After Virtue, p. 172).
Right or wrong have to be proposed, proved, judged upon. According to what
standard? Simply according to what the law has to say? But then can a law itself be
judged right or wrong? We are always brought back to the question of the
legislator's or judge's standards. If he cannot find them in the written law itself,
then he necessarily derives them from other discipline or mental position.
Either one comes back to a truth, true for all; or there is no such thing as truth or
justice or objective right or wrong; and there is no basis, except force, to resist
positive law.
St Thomas taught that men have a connatural inclination to understand what is
right and wrong according to their nature. This he called "synderesis". The
Encyclopedia Britannica objects: "To derive from this synderesis a universal natural
law, however, it would be necessary to demonstrate some "universal conscience" of
all mankind. But natural lawyers faced with the fact that men's consciences do not
coincide explain that conscience may err and reason be corrupt. Invocation of
synderesis is in fact helpful not as an account of how one may arrive at actually
based normative standards but as an illustration of the psychological tendency of
men to assert values".
Comment: but does this well-nigh universal "psychological tendency" not also
provide a factual base?
The relationship between law and morality
The positivist school would maintain an absolute separation, holding there is no
relationship. The Encyclopedia Britannica sidesteps this issue. In a section "Law,
Morality and Natural Law", it states: "A consideration of fundamental importance in
the philosophy of law is that of the distinction between law and morality. The
importance of the distinction is illustrated by the main questions to which it gives
rise: (1) How far and in what sense should the law of a community seek to give
effect to its morality? (2) Is there a moral duty to obey the law even when it does
not embody morality, and, if so, are there any limits to this duty? (3) When a legal
rule directs conduct that morality forbids, which should the citizen obey? (4) Is
there ever (and, if so, when is there) a duty to overthrow an entire legal system
because of its conflict with morality?"
Comment: The questions listed are important and well put. But, rather than rising
out of the "distinction" between law and morality, they presuppose the essential

connection between the two, and illustrate the difficult questions that may arise
from this necessary relationship.
The answer given to the first question will depend on one's notion of the nature and
purpose of law. Here the thomistic understanding differs very fundamentally from
the notion inspiring much of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence. "Thomists believe the
purpose of law is to promote virtue: in the social contract theory underlying AngloSaxon jurisprudence, the law represents the minimum infringements on personal
liberty necessary to regulate social life" [13].
Is there a moral duty not to exceed the speed limit in all circumstances? Is there a
moral duty to pay all of one's taxes if one knows that part is used to support
immoral public programs (abortion services, etc.)?
The answer to the third question is clear: one must obey God (and one's
conscience) rather than men.
The fourth question is really if and when there may be a duty to overthrow an
unjust regime. The answer will depend principally on the degree of injustice and on
whether it can be changed by other non-violent remedies, bearing in mind that
violent remedies tend to lead to other injustices and further violence.
Hadley Arkes, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College,
offers a very logical criticism of the position that would totally detach law from
morality. I will quote the Introduction at length, inserting at some point just a brief
"In the opening passage of the Politics, as Aristotle begins to explain the nature and
ends of a polity, he takes care to make the elementary point that 'men do all their
acts with a view to achieving something which is, in their view, a good'. Whether
we seek to change any state of affairs or to resist change..., all of our actions imply
at least a rough understanding of the things that are, in general, good or bad,
better or worse. When we contemplate those things that stand, universally, as good
or bad, justified or unjustified, we are in the domain of morals (or ethics); and as
Aristotle understood, the matter of ethics is, irreducibly, a practical concern: ethics
involves an understanding of the standards that ultimately guide our practice or the
activities of our daily lives.
Those standards, of necessity, are abstract; if they were not, they could not be
universal in their application. There is nothing "empirical" about them, and yet no
practical action may be taken in our daily lives, no decision may be made between
one course of action or another, without looking outward [or also inward?] to these
general understandings about the things that are right and wrong, just and
But as Aristotle recognized, [certain moral presuppositions] also constitute the
foundation of politics and political understanding. It was the mark of Aristotle's own
understanding that his work on the Ethics immediately preceded and formed the
groundwork for his treatise on politics. At the end of the Ethics, Aristotle derided
those Sophists who sought to teach what was desirable in politics simply by making
a compilation of all existing laws and constitutions and affecting to choose "the
best" - as though the choice of the best would well up from the list, without any
need to reflect on the principles of judgment. For it was only from the principles or

standards of judgment that the distinction between the good and the bad could
finally be drawn. In politics we are faced with the task of legislating, of making laws
that are binding on whole communities. The act of legislating would stand out as a
massive act of presumption unless it were understood that there are in fact
propositions with a universal reach, which can define what is good or bad, just or
unjust, for people in general. If that were not the case, if those principles of justice
did not exist, it would be impossible to show why it should ever be justified to
restrict the freedom of individuals and displace their private choice with the
imposition of a common law.
The central questions in politics [and in jurisprudence] are questions about the
nature of justice, and the people who spend their lives talking about political events
- whether they are historians, economists, citizens, or philosophers - all find
themselves casting judgments. They will offer judgments about the kinds of public
policies that are right and wrong, about the revolutions in this world that are good
or bad, and about the kinds of political regimes that are just and unjust. And yet, to
place one set of laws or one political order above another, to arrange things in a
hierarchy of preference or desirability, is to render a judgment that is distinctly
In short, the judgments on politics that seem to be offered so widely and
emphatically today would have to imply the existence of moral principles, the
principles on which moral judgments would have to be founded if they are to be
regarded as valid or comprehensible. But ... the paradox of our own day is that
these political judgments are offered most intensely at a time when more and more
literate people have become convinced that there are no principles of morals and
justice in the strictest sense. They have become convinced, that is, that there are
no propositions about the nature of right and wrong which are both universal and
true, and which therefore hold their truth across cultures. Anyone with experience
in the academy will recognize that moral "relativism" has become the secular
religion these days among those with a college education. In this persuasion, moral
understandings are replaced by "values," which are regarded as "good" and valid
only because they are "valued" by the person or the culture that holds them."
Comment: Some people would see in a "value system" a possible replacement for
a "moral system". This is to confuse notions. A value system implies an order of
goods, whether subjectively or objectively appreciated, whether derived from
reason or faith, or from both. In itself it does not enter the field of morals, though it
may lead to it. A moral system, which must accompany any belief in free choice,
implies the possibility of acting "rightly" or "wrongly", for or against one's personal
system of values (however subjectively these may be held). If, say, friendship or
sincerity forms part of one's "value system", it takes only elementary selfawareness to realize that one can treat the value as it deserves, i.e. as one should;
and that is to step from the mere intellectual awareness of something to be valued,
to the moral awareness of how it can be treated well or badly, rightly or wrongly. If
one has no sense of duty towards one's values, no sense that one should be a
reliable friend or a sincere companion, then one cannot claim to possess any real
"value system" at all.

But let us continue with Professor Arkes' Introduction:

"Even among those who recoil from moral "relativism," there is a disposition to
think that moral understanding depends on certain religious beliefs, which must be
accepted on faith, and which cannot be verified ultimately by reason... In the circles
of those who discuss high-minded things, the most widely traveled fallacy these
days seems to be the notion that the presence of disagreement on matters of
morals must indicate the absence of universal truths. Yet, it is not uncommon for
mathematicians to disagree over proofs and conclusions, and nothing in their
disagreement seems to inspire anyone to challenge the foundations of mathematics
or to call into question the possibility of knowing mathematical truths. The
challenge is not offered, the doubts are not registered, because it is understood
that mathematics rests on a body of axioms that guarantee the existence of some
right answers. It seems to be merely assumed, without critical reflection, that
mathematics is somehow different in that way from moral understanding. In that
respect, our modern outlook depends on a critical act of forgetting ... that there are
axioms or first principles in the domain of morals as well as in mathematics; that
those principles are virtually indifferent to variations in culture and geography, in
the same way that the law of contradiction is indifferent to the distinction between
London and Istanbul; and that in morals, as well as in mathematics, the presence
of axioms or necessary truths makes it possible to have some right answers...
The central problem, of course, involves the ground on which we can claim to
"know" the existence of morals or any truth of moral standing. That question is
posed to us in the most dramatic and consequential way in politics, because in
politics people are being committed through the exercise of authority: they are
being obligated to obey, to respect as law, policies with which they may deeply
disagree. That state of affairs presents the sternest test of the question of whether
those who make law for others are acting merely on the basis of their own selfinterest, or whether they are legislating on the basis of propositions that are indeed
valid and binding for everyone.
But there is always the possibility of a tension between self-interest and morality,
between the things that may give us pleasure and the things that we are obliged to
do out of a respect for the commands of moral reason. In fact, there would be no
real meaning for morality in our language and our lives if morals were reduced
simply to those things which accorded with our own self-interest... Any moral
principle will come into conflict, at one point or another, with someone's selfinterest. And that is the perennial problem for the polity as it faces the need to
legislate on any matter, not merely on questions of war and abortion...
... as Kant remarked, "the idea of law ... is present only in a rational being." That is
to say, only a being possessed of reason would be able to conceive, in the first
place, the notion of a "law" or moral rule which may be in conflict with his own selfinterest. But that is simply to recall the connection between morals and law that
was made at the very beginning of political philosophy: In the first pages of the
Politics, where Aristotle set out to explain why a polity is necessary, he explicitly
rejected the rationales that were to become familiar and dominant in our own day.
He rejected the contention that a polity can be justified by the need to provide

security against assaults and to promote commercial intercourse. What he argued

instead was that the case for polity arose decisively, preeminently, from the
existence of morals itself - and from the nature of a being who had the capacity for
It is a measure of the erosion in our own intellectual tradition that this original
understanding of the foundations of law and polity may come as a surprise to most
of our educated classes today, even though it was firmly settled among the literate
in the middle of the last century. What is even more sobering is that this ancient
teaching is likely to be quite as unfamiliar to most of the men and women who fill
out the judiciary. It would be no small step toward the restoration of our own, best
tradition - and no mean entry into the "first principles" of morals and justice - if we
recalled, in the first instance, this original case for polity and the classic
understanding of the connection between morals and law" [14].
Now, with many thanks to Professor Arkes for that rich contribution, let us develop
some further reflections.
The clash of law and morality
Such a clash is not logical among jurists. The logical thing is for the jurist to seek
the moral basis (at least in terms of justice) to every law, for without that basis, it
cannot be a just or legitimate law.
"To each his due" is the norm of law; but that demands objective evaluation. It
cannot mean "to each what he holds or claims as his due". Society is not possible if
"rights" are defined subjectively, and law courts tend to uphold such subjective
definitions. But this is the current trend.
A dominant principle underlying much of modern popular psychology is that man
identifies himself in complete freedom; he is a subject of "self-identification" or
"self-definition". This tends to permeate education, and is reflected at the highest
level of contemporary civil jurisprudence, being set forth as a basic principle of the
majority judgment in the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Planned Parenthood v.
Casey: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence,
of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" [15]. It follows that
every individual is his own project: also in the sense that in designing himself there
are no given norms to follow. He builds from scratch, as he chooses, freely using
the materials and situations of life so as to achieve his own project.
One of the sayings of Oliver Wendell Holmes was, "the only rule of the law that I
know is the will of the majority". But majority rule is already a relativization of the
rule of law. Why should not every minority claim to have their minority rights
respected, even to the extent of having their own minority laws? And why should
this not apply even to a minority of one? It is inevitable that we reach such a
position once every objective and universal concept of truth, morality and justice is
rejected. We are reaching it today.
The greatest degradation and instrumentalization of the law is shown in the
"principled" rejection of the need to base law on morality. A jurist - lawyer or judge
- without a principled sense of justice cannot be a good jurist.
Responsibility of civil authorities towards public moral order
Such a responsibility exists, although some would deny it. Because there is a public

moral order just as there is a private one.

Today everyone accepts that governments and laws must be directed towards
preserving a healthy environment that does not harm or contaminate men's
physical state. It is becoming more than appropriate to appeal to "ecology" (defined
as "study of relationships between organisms and their environment") to help
people reflect that man's interior state can also be contaminated and needs a noncontaminated and non-exploitative moral environment.
Civil law penalizes theft or arson because they are "wrong", they infringe the rights
of others. It similarly treats blackmail, where the harm threatened may be more
interior. Most legal systems still penalize the teaching of e.g. racial hatred to
children, because it warps their minds; and the peddling to them of drugs, because
it undermines the normal development of their will (creating freedom-less persons,
more and more incapable of resisting their addiction). The same should be true of
the peddling of pornography; its harm is not simply that it "shocks" some people,
but that it obsesses and takes away freedom, especially the freedom to love.
The law is on the side of freedom - of freedom to know the truth that liberates
Hence the challenge to all thinking jurists: to restore law to its place of dignity:
worthy of respect, and a stimulus to a free response. What must be sought is a
basis which can be seen to be common to all men, and which carries with it is own
internal appeal. This is an attractive goal. Here it is so important to believe in the
power and attraction of the truth.
That great jurist, Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), who may well be considered the
founder of English common law, once spoke of "the gladsome light of
jurisprudence". A phrase to be borne in mind by all who love both truth and law. It
is as if John Paul II were taking up Coke's idea, in his 1994 address to the Roman
Rota: "As a participation in truth, justice too has its own splendor that can evoke a
free response in the subject - one not merely external but arising from the depths
of one's conscience... Hence it is legitimate to speak of the splendor of justice
(splendor iustitiae) and of the splendor of the law (splendor legis) as well: indeed
the task of every legal system is to serve the truth, the only solid foundation which
can support personal, marital, and social life. It is only right, then, that human laws
should aspire to reflect in themselves the splendor of truth. Obviously, the same
can said of their concrete application, which is also entrusted to human agents.
Love for the truth must be expressed in love for justice and in the resulting
commitment to establishing truth in relations within human society".
Love for truth, love for law, love for justice... Only on the basis of these three interconnected loves can a society that is properly human be built.

Law is an enactment made by the state. It is backed by physical coercion. Its breach is punishable by
the courts. It represents the will of the state and realizes its purpose.
Laws reflect the political, social and economic relationships in the society. It determines rights and
duties of the citizens towards one another and towards the state.

It is through law that the government fulfils its promises to the people. It reflects the sociological
need of society.
Law and morality are intimately related to each other. Laws are generally based on the moral
principles of society. Both regulate the conduct of the individual in society.
They influence each other to a great extent. Laws, to be effective, must represent the moral ideas of
the people. But good laws sometimes serve to rouse the moral conscience of the people and create
and maintain such conditions as may encourage the growth of morality.
Laws regarding prohibition and spread of primary education are examples of this nature.Morality
cannot, as a matter of fact, be divorced from politics. The ultimate end of a state is the promotion of
general welfare and moral perfection of man.
It is the duty of the state to formulate such laws as will elevate the moral standard of the people. The
laws of a state thus conform to the prevailing standard of morality. Earlier writers on Political
Science never made any distinction between law and morality.
Plato's Republic is as good a treatise on politics as on ethics. In ancient India, the term Dharma
connoted both law and morality. Law, it is pointed out, is not merely the command of the sovereign,
it represents the idea of right or wrong based on the prevalent morality of the people.
Moreover, obedience to law depends upon the active support of the moral sentiments of the people.
Laws which are not supported by the moral conscience of the people are liable to become dead
For example laws regarding Prohibition in India have not succeeded on account of the fact that full
moral conscience of the people has not been aroused in favor of such laws.
As Green put it, "In attempting to enforce an unpopular law, a government may be doing more harm
than good by creating and spreading the habit of disobedience to law. The total cost of such an
attempt may well be greater than the social gain."
Although law and morality arc interdependent yet they differ from each other in their content,
definiteness and sanction.
Some points of distinction between law and morality may be brought out as follows:

1. Law regulates and controls the external human conduct. It is not concerned with inner motives. A
person may be having an evil intention in his or her mind but law does not care for it.
Law will move into action only when this evil intention is translated into action and some harm is
actually done to another person.
2. Law is universal in a particular society. All the individuals are equally subjected to it. It does not
change from man to man.
3. Political laws are precise and definite as there is a regular organ in every state for the formulation
of laws.
4. Law is framed and enforced by a determinate political authority. It enjoys the sanction of the state.
Disobedience of law is generally followed by physical punishment.

The fear of punishment acts as a deterrent to the breach of political law.

5. Law falls within the purview of a subject known as Jurisprudence.

1. Morality regulates and controls both the inner motives and the external actions. It is concerned
with the whole life of man.
The province of law is thus limited as compared with that of morality because law is simply
concerned with external actions and docs not take into its fold the inner motives.
Morality condemns a person if he or she has some evil intentions but laws are not applicable unless
these intentions are manifested externally.
2. Morality is variable. It changes from man to man and from age to age. Every man has his own
moral principles.
3. Moral laws lack precision and definiteness as there is no authority to make and enforce them.
4. Morality is neither framed nor enforced by any political authority. It does not enjoy the support of
the state. Breach of moral principles is not accompanied by any physical punishment.
The only check against the breach of morality is social condemnation or individual conscience.
'Moral actions are a matter of choice of inner conscience of the individual, laws are a matter of
5. Morality is studied under a separate branch of knowledge known as Ethics.
We may conclude the discussion in the words of Gilchrist, "The individual moral life manifests itself
in manifold ways. The state is the supreme condition of the individual moral life, for without the
state no moral life is possible.
The state, therefore, regulates other organizations in the common interest. The state, however, has a
direct function in relation to morality."