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464

Part Three

1901

If authority belongs to the order established by God, “the

choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left

to the free decision of the citizens.”

20

The diversity of political regimes is morally acceptable,

provided they serve the legitimate good of the communities that

adopt them. Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to

the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot

achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been

imposed.

1902

Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself.

It must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the

common good as a “moral force based on freedom and a sense of

responsibility”:

21

A human law has the character of law to the extent that it

accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal

law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason it is said to be an

unjust law, and thus has not so much the nature of law as of

a kind of violence.

22

1903

Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the

common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally

licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take

measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would

not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks

down completely and results in shameful abuse.”

23

1904

“It is preferable that each power be balanced by other

powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within

proper bounds. This is the principle of the ‘rule of law,’ in which

the law is sovereign and not the arbitrary will of men.”

24

II.

T

he

C

ommon

G

ood

1905

In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each

individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in

turn can be defined only in reference to the human person:

20

GS

74 § 3.

21

GS

74 § 2.

22 St. Thomas Aquinas,

STh

I-II, 93, 3,

ad

2.

23 John XXIII,

PT

51.

24

CA

44.

2242

1930

1951

2242

801

1881