Definition of Law

"Law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, decreed by the authorities in charge of the community." (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, Q.90, A.4)

Definition of Natural Law

The natural law is a participation in the wisdom and goodness of God by the human person, formed in the image of the Creator. The natural law expresses the dignity of the person and forms the basis of human rights and fundamental duties.

Aquinas on Content of Natural Law ST I-II, Q.94, A.2

"The rational creature is provident for itself and others; it has a share of eternal reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end; and this participation of the eternal law in rational creatures is called the natural law... The first principle in the practical reason is founded on the nature of the good; hence this is the first precept of law: good is to be done and promoted and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this; so that all the things which practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good belong to the precepts of natural law under the form of things to be done or avoided; all those things to which man has a natural inclination are naturally apprehended by reason as being good, and objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance." Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274

Inclination Good Institution Negative Positive
Happiness = Knowledge and Love of the Highest Good God Churches Do not blaspheme Honor and love of God
Desire to Know; Curiosity; Wonder Truth Schools Shun ignorance; do not lie, bear false witness Educate and perfect the mind; develop arts and sciences
Association Friendship Government; Intermediate Associations No force or fraud in dealing with others Patriotism, loyalty, charity, fairness
Procreation; Union Children; Love Marriage & Family Prohibition of
- premarital sex / homosexuality
- divorce
- contraception
- Fidelity
- Care and Education of children
- Honor father and mother
- Respect for the body
Preservation of Life Life, Health Hospital; medical profession Do not murder; do not steal Always take care to preserve health and life (e.g., preserve access to food and water)

Aquinas on law Maritain Natural Law Redeeming Economics

Jacques Maritain on natural law: the best philosophical account of the basis for human rights

Benedict XVI, "Address to the participants of the International Congress on Natural Moral Law" (Feb 12, 2007)

Additional resources on natural law

Read about the right to access to food and water


Natural Law in Communio

Rémi Brague, "Natural Law and Divine Law", Communio 35, no. 3 (2008): 504–513. NC

Bradley V. Lewis, "Globalization and the Eclipse of Natural Right: What We Might Learn From Plato and the Other Greeks", Communio 27, no. 3 (2000): 431–63.

William E. May, "The Natural Law, Conscience, and Developmental Psychology", Communio 2, no. 1 (1975): 3–31.

Glenn W. Olsen, "Natural Law: The First Grace", Communio 35, no. 3 (2008): 354–373.

Martin Rhonheimer, "Rawlsian Public Reason, Natural Law, and the Foundation of Justice: A Response to David Crawford", Communio 36, no. 2 (2009): 138–167.

Tracey Rowland, "Natural Law: From Neo-Thomism to Nuptial Mysticism", Communio 35, no. 3 (2008): 374–396.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Natural Law and Private Ownership", Communio 17, no. 1 (1990): 105–19 RT.