Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz said on the feast of the Corpus Christi: Faithfulness to the truth obliges all of us, also the law-makers. The truth is not established by voting, therefore, even the parliament is not appointed to create a separate moral order than the one which is deeply inscribed in the human heart, human conscience (…). The Church reminds the man about his dignity and vocation, about the value of life, about the superiority of God’s law over the law made by legislative institutions. The Church never resigns from this mission, otherwise it would betray his Founder - Jesus Christ. It may sometimes cause and does cause tensions, and even an open criticism and disobedience towards the Church’. These words were useful for some politicians, who do not have an idea for governing, for strong criticizing the Church, among the others, in the following statements: ‘President cannot indifferently treat demands for the prism of religion over the law constituted by democratic institutions of the country’. (‘Threesome’, on 3 June 2013); ‘The Church should comply with the law, Constitutions and Concordat’ (‘GW’, 5 June 2013).

Acknowledging universal values

In relation to such a reaction to the words of the Cardinal, elementary matters should be reminded to the supporters of extremely positivistic concept of law, in which they express their opinion, do not acknowledge, a suitable hierarchy of law sources and who perversely refer only to statutory law.

In the preamble of the binding Constitution of the Polish Republic, there are the following words: ‘The Polish Nation – all citizens of the Polish Republic, both believers in God being the source of the truth, justice, good and beauty, and non-believers who take these universal values from other sources, are equal in rights and duties towards the common welfare – Poland’. Next, a legislator states: ‘The inherent and inalienable human dignity is the source of freedom and rights of the man and the citizen’ (art. 30).

The above dispositions of the Constitution oblige all citizens, both believers in God and supporters of positivistic concept of law, who do not participate in faith and who emphasize a strict relation of the three elements: law, the state and obligation and they assume the independence of law and morality. The consequence of the opinion is recognizing all, even the most unethical legal norms as binding as long as they were established or acknowledged by the legal state authority. For positivists the only source of law are only normative acts (constitution, ordinary acts, regulations…) passed by competent authority organs, that is, law established by people for people.

Inherent justice over the constituted one

Believers in God and supporters of the concept of natural law find this kind of understanding insufficient, because there are norms of proceeding over positive law constituted by competent authority organs, which are not a creation of human constituting. Aristotle stated that ‘political justice is either inherent or constituted’. He used to call inherent justice the righteousness and he thought that it is supersede over constituted justice, that is, norm deriving from authority. These norms are not the final reference point but they undergo evaluation according to the righteousness criteria, that is, righteousness and justice. Similar assumptions were accepted by Thomas of Aquinas who stated that: ‘Good should be done and it should be an aim, and the evil should be avoided. This is the basis for other natural laws; mainly so that the commandments of natural law would involve other orders of doing and avoiding certain things, which are naturally recognised by the practical reason as good for the man’. If constituted laws by the man are unfair and contradictory with the welfare of people, then – in the opinion of Thomas – ‘they are rather a violation of law than laws’. Therefore, the act (constituted law) should also be:

a) rational (passed according to the rational will of a legislator), that is:

– good (not opposing to God’s law, morally good by nature or by circumstances);

– fair (it considers welfare of everybody, allocates duties and benefits in a fair way);

– possible to do both physically and morally (law cannot demand heroic actions);

– useful (necessary or beneficial for a society);

b) established for the common welfare of the whole society (not an individual of a group of a political party).

Constancy of the natural law

The Catholic doctrine, deriving from Thomism says that the source of norms of the natural law is God. God’s Will was inscribed in the human nature, in the human conscience. One of the supporters of this attitude – Prof. Czesław Strzeszewski stated: ‘There is no law without a legislator, there is no legislator without God, without His ‘lexaeterna’ (eternal law – see M.S.), there is no natural law. The human nature and the human conscience are only the centre of promulgation of the natural law, which is the reflection of ‘lexaeterna’. Also the Catechism of the Catholic Church shows the divine origin of the natural law, stating that it is the ‘light of cognition given to us by God: thanks to it we learn what we should do and what we should avoid’. The catechism adds that the natural law is constant and permanent among historical and social changes and that it should be a ‘necessary basis for elaborating moral principles and the civilian law’.

Supporters of another way of presenting the concept of the natural law, for example, Hugo Grocjusz, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Francois Quesnay, do not refer to the revealed law but to the characteristic of the human nature, innate human dignity, the human reason. Hobbes stated: ‘The law of the nature is a regulation or a general principle which is found by the reason and which forbids the human being to do what is destructive for his life (…), which orders him to care about what can save his life in the best way, according to his way of understanding’. Also Quesnay, writing about the natural law emphasized that ‘in order to learn its obviousness, one must use its own mind, and that ‘the result of this obviousness is the law binding regardless to any coercion’. So, Quesnay pointed to the superiority of the natural law in relation to the positive law. The contemporary supporters of the law concept of the nature emphasize: ‘Today’s law concepts of nature show a direction of action. The man finds support and help in them, and counterbalance for possible tendencies for oppression of the nation by a governing group. These constant principles have their source in the human dignity or – as others say – in the human reason or the human essence’.

In order to protect the human dignity

The awareness of the human dignity and its rights, regardless to anyone’s law-making, has becoming significant in the recent times. In 1942 Pius XII said: ‘The legal order, which was constituted by God, is the source of law characteristic for the man and binding all the time, and which provides everyone with legal safety and shows a kind of defined range of rights, protected against any unexpected attack’.

In difficult times, when a constituted law turned out to be insufficient, the natural law was referred to, as overriding in relation to norms of positive law, which is proven by judicial cases judging the crimes of the Nazis or communist regime. The superiority of natural law over the constituted law was also confirmed in many international normative acts, like in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Summing up, we should state that God’s natural law and the revealed law obliges every human being – regardless to what political party he belongs to, or what is his worldview – not only because the law was inscribed in the Constitution or another formal normative act, but just because everyone is a human being.


"Niedziela" 24/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: