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96. The Power of Human Law

1. Human law, according to the Pandects of Justinian,"should be made to suit the majority of instances, not forwhat may possibly happen in individual cases." As St. Isidoresays (Etym. ii): "Law should be framed for the commongood of all citizens, and not for any private benefit." It isapparent then that human laws are primarily for the communityrather than for any individual member of the community.

2. In prohibiting, human laws cannot referspecifically to all human vices, but only to the more grievousones, and chiefly those that are hurtful to fellowmen (such astheft or murder) and which must be prohibited if the necessaryorder of life in human society is to be maintained.

3. Nor can human laws, in commanding, prescribeevery act of every virtue by special enactment. Human law mustprescribe all virtues that serve the common good, but not in fulldetail.

4. Just human laws derive, through the natural law, fromthe eternal law. Hence such laws bind a man in conscience. Unjusthuman laws do not bind in conscience, except to the extent that aman must endure some hardship rather than upset an establishedsystem of harmonious rule. But laws which are unjust because theydirectly contravene God's law are not only not binding, but aman is bound in conscience to disregard them, to oppose them, andto do what he can to have them revoked.

5. Human law binds all its subjects equally, and withoutexception.

6. The letter of the law is to be observed except wheresuch observance would be harmful to the general welfare. Sometimesnecessity dispenses from law. When pressure of necessity is not sosuddenor strong as to demand instant decision, a dispensationfrom the law is to be obtained from those in authority.

"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"
Thomas á Kempis

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"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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