Pope Benedict on Legal Positivism

October 26, 2007 § 8 Comments


The pontiff also pointed out a problem that many modern democracies are facing. “What dominates today is a positivist conception of law” according to which “humanity, or society, or in effect the majority of citizens, become the ultimate source for civil legislation.”

“When,” the Holy Father proceeded, “the fundamental essentials are at stake: human dignity, human life, the institution of the family and the equity of the social order (in other words the fundamental rights of man), no law made by men and women can subvert the norm written by the Creator in man’s heart without society itself being dramatically struck … at its very core.”


§ 8 Responses to Pope Benedict on Legal Positivism

  • Rodak says:

    Zippy–Just exactly what is meant here by “the institution of the family?” The nuclear family, as we know it, is a relatively new unit, no more ancient than the end of the Victorian era, forged mostly by prevailing economic conditions. It is not the one norm globally, and is certainly not a feature of Natural Law. So, what does the Pope mean by “family” in this context.

  • brandon field says:

    Zippy,Did you ever get a chance to read <>Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures<>?

  • zippy says:

    Yes! Thanks for recommending it.

  • brandon field says:

    Glad you liked it.I’m not sure I can properly express how much I like our current pontiff.

  • Marion (Mael Muire) says:

    Rodak remarked that “the nuclear family . . . is a new unit.” What does the Pope mean by “family” in this context? Well, Adam and Eve from the very first chapter of Genesis would be an example of the prototypical nuclear family. Then there’s Noah, and his wife, who together with their three sons and their wives, rode out the flood – multiple nuclears forming an extended family.Then there’s Abraham and Sarah: “While he stayed in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, ‘You are about to die because of the woman you have taken, for she has a husband.’ Abimelech, who had not approached her, said: ‘O Lord, would you slay a man even though he is innocent?’ . . . God answered him in the dream: ‘Yes, I know you did it in good faith. In fact, it was I who kept you from sinning against me; that is why I did not let you touch her. . . Therefore, return the man’s wife . . .that your life may be saved. If you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all who are yours will certainly die.’ Early the next morning Abimelech called all his court officials and informed them of everything that had happened, and the men were horrified. Then Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him: ‘How could you do this to us! What wrong did I do to you that you should have brought such monstrous guilt on me and my kingdom? You have treated me in an intolerable way.’” (Genesis 20)Then there is Boaz, “Boaz then said to the elders and to all the people, ‘You are witnesses today that I . . . take Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, as my wife, in order to raise up a family for her late husband on his estate, so that the name of the departed may not perish among his kinsmen and fellow citizens.” (Ruth 4) Boaz and Ruth went on to become the ancestors of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus, of Jesus Our Lord. Which brings us, of course to: “Joseph went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2).Examples of nuclear families, all. Originated in the Victorian era? I think not. Victoria Regina holds a record for length of reign, but not even hers spanned what Jewish tradition holds to be a period of some 5,000 years.

  • Rodak says:

    Marion–Let’s just take Abraham and Sarah and examine that one more closely to see if we can discover the point I’m making. First, Sarah may have been Abraham’s senior wife, but what of all his “concubines.” I’m sure that many heads of contemporary nuclear families who be very pleased to be allowed a couple of licit mistresses with whom to *escape* the tensions of the nuclear family. Not that I endorse this, of course.And then we have the fact that OT guys like Abraham and Lot felt it to be their right, and the prudent course of action, to offer female members of their “nuclear” family as sex slaves, in order to save their own hides in sticky situations. Why don’t you bring up the “nuclear families” of David and Solomon?And how do you account for the fact that Jesus did not see fit to marry and leave an heir. Or that St. Paul openly scorned marriage as the lesser of two evils and stated that it would be better to be celebate, as he was?In point of historical fact, the nuclear family as a “love nest,” rather than as a “business” arrangement, in which a man takes on the financial support of a women in return for her labors as a housekeeper, and a brood mare, is only a 19th century development. And, looking at the divorce rate, and the declining birth rate, the experiment is not working out that well.

  • Marion says:

    Well, Rodak, and I think Zippy and Brandon will concur with me, I believe we can all rest assured that when the Pope speaks of “the family”, he does not have in mind an arrangement that includes concubines and sex slaves.I’m pretty sure. That the family-business arrangement nature of marriage has gone by the wayside is, to my way of thinking, part of the explanation for the exploding divorce rate. In medieval times, the presence of romantic feelings alone was viewed as a terrible basis for a successful marriage. After all, good character and background, including the promise of hard work and the skills needed to make a home or earn a living, and the basic compatibility of the couple indicated future happiness. I actually think it’s because so many of our people no longer take such things into consideration, but only whether he or she is “hot”, that we have so many divorces. But, hey, I’m a throw-back.

  • Rodak says:

    “That the family-business arrangement nature of marriage has gone by the wayside is, to my way of thinking, part of the explanation for the exploding divorce rate.”Marion–I agree with you.

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