Joe Biden’s Adventures in the Natural Law, by Hadley Arkes

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August 13, 2019
Why Have Catholics in the UK and US Been Leaving the Church Since Vatican II?
August 13, 2019

*Image: Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1659 [Gemäldegalerie, Berlin]

By Hadley Arkes, The Catholic Thing, August 13, 2019

Hadley ArkesWilliam Blackstone, that venerable commentator on the English law, remarked that it was a contradiction in terms to suggest that the law may recognize a principle of revolution.  And yet, James Wilson, one of the premier minds among the American Founders, insisted that the law in America could indeed encompass a principle of revolution.

For the law in America began with the recognition that there could be an unjust law – a measure passed with all of the trappings of legality and yet wanting in the very substance of justice.  Americans could readily grasp that point because they began with an understanding of moral truths and natural rights quite apart from the laws that were “posited” or enacted in any place. And that body of natural law would supply the standards for judging the rightness or justice of the things enacted as law.

But by the end of the 19th century, the natural law had become an object of derision among lawyers.  In our own time, conservatives sharpened the reaction against natural law as they recoiled from liberal judges, moving outside the text of the Constitution, inventing new rights to contraception and abortion.  They were false constructions of natural right, but they had to be met by showing what was false in the reasoning. ….