Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Catholics and Natural Law

What is "Natural Law"?  Look it up in Wikipedia and you would be forgiven for believing that it can mean almost whatever the user wants it to mean. 

Catholics appear to define natural law as the rule of conduct which is prescribed to mankind by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed mankind.  Recently I've come across the expression several times in discussion with Catholics, who declare it as a kind of self-evident trump card.  As in "homosexuality is wrong - It's against natural law".  When looking natural law up at a website calling itself "Catholic Encyclopedia" I was surprised to be given as an example of natural law that in certain circumstances Polygamy can be lawful but that polyandry can never be lawful, presumably because of something written by a misogynist in the Old Testament.

I find myself wondering how laws which to a modern reader often appear bizarre, and are prescribed by a supernatural being, can possibly warrant the title of "natural".  Moreover, not even Catholic scholars through the ages can agree on the detail. Is it perhaps time to drop this rather unhelpful expression?

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