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Life in Christ

475

The natural law is nothing other than the light of under­

standing placed in us by God; through it we know what we

must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light

or law at the creation.

8

1956

The natural law, present in the heart of each man and

established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority

extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and

determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with

nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and

eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn

away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is

a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is for­

bidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.

9

1957

Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can de­

mand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life ac­

cording to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the

diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds

men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevita­

ble differences, common principles.

1958

The natural law is

immutable

and permanent throughout

the variations of history;

10

it subsists under the flux of ideas and

customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it

remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very

principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of

man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:

Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law

that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself

does not efface.

11

1959

The natural law, the Creator’s very good work, provides

the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral

rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral

foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides

the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected,

whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles,

or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.

8 St. Thomas Aquinas,

Dec. præc.

I.

9 Cicero,

Rep.

III, 22, 33.

10 Cf.

GS

10.

11 St. Augustine,

Conf.

2, 4, 9: PL 32, 678.

2261

2072

1879