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94. The Natural Law

1. As we have seen, the natural law is the eternal law asknowable by sound human reason without the aid of supernaturalrevelation. The natural law becomes naturally known (and is thuspromulgated) to normal human beings as they advance frominfancy to fuller and fulleruse of reason. The natural law isnot, in itself, a habit in the human mind, but it tends tobecome a habit. The habitual knowledge of first moral principles(summed up in: "Do good-avoid evil") becomes a true habitin the human mind; it is a habit called by the namesynderesis.

2. The basic precept of the natural law, "Dogood-avoid evil," is the root out of which definite preceptsand prohibitions grow as a person advances in awareness of thingsand recognizes their good or their evil. The natural law embracesall these directives.

3. The natural law indicates and directs man'sinclination to act in accordance with reason. Hence, since allvirtues accord with reason, we may say that all virtues areprescribed by the natural law.

4. The natural law is one and the same for all men. Yet,in certain persons, it may be perverted by passion, habit, or evildisposition, as, for instance, in ancient Sparta where lies andthefts and successful trickery were not considered wrong. Now, suchexceptions only prove the rule. Such exceptions do not destroy theuniversality of the natural law anymore than the prevalence ofmalaria among a certain people destroys the universal understandingof what is meant by human health.

5. The natural law is changeless in the sense that itsprecepts cannot be upset or destroyed. It can change by extension,by new applications, as experience brings new situations andcircumstances. Such a change is not in the natural law itself; itis extrinsic to the natural law; it is merely a new use of thenatural law. For instance, the question may arise as to the use ofatom bombs in warfare; we may inquire whether the use of suchweapons is in conflict with the natural law. Such a question isnew; it could not arise in the days when atom bombs were entirelyunknown. The question seeks to apply the unchanging natural law ina changing world.

6. The basic and general principles of the natural lawcannot be eradicated from human nature. St. Augustine (Conf.ii) says, "The law is written in the hearts of men;iniquity itself does not efface it."

"Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it."
St Philip Neri

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"Try to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God. "
Thomas á Kempis

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