Utrum lex humana imponat homini necessitatem in foro conscientiae
Whether human law binds a man in conscience?
Ad quartum sic proceditur. Videtur quod lex humana non imponat homini necessitatem in foro conscientiae. Inferior enim potestas non potest imponere legem in iudicio superioris potestatis. Sed potestas hominis, quae fert legem humanam, est infra potestatem divinam. Ergo lex humana non potest imponere legem quantum ad iudicium divinum, quod est iudicium conscientiae.
Objection 1: It would seem that human law does not bind man in conscience. For an inferior power has no jurisdiction in a court of higher power. But the power of man, which frames human law, is beneath the Divine power. Therefore human law cannot impose its precept in a Divine court, such as is the court of conscience.
Praeterea, iudicium conscientiae maxime dependet ex divinis mandatis. Sed quandoque divina mandata evacuantur per leges humanas; secundum illud Matth. XV, irritum fecistis mandatum Dei propter traditiones vestras. Ergo lex humana non imponit necessitatem homini quantum ad conscientiam.
Obj. 2: Further, the judgment of conscience depends chiefly on the commandments of God. But sometimes God’s commandments are made void by human laws, according to Matt. 15:6: You have made void the commandment of God for your tradition. Therefore human law does not bind a man in conscience.
Praeterea, leges humanae frequenter ingerunt calumniam et iniuriam hominibus; secundum illud Isaiae X, vae qui condunt leges iniquas, et scribentes iniustitias scripserunt, ut opprimerent in iudicio pauperes, et vim facerent causae humilium populi mei. Sed licitum est unicuique oppressionem et violentiam evitare. Ergo leges humanae non imponunt necessitatem homini quantum ad conscientiam.
Obj. 3: Further, human laws often bring loss of character and injury on man, according to Isa. 10:1 et seqq.: Woe to them that make wicked laws, and when they write, write injustice; to oppress the poor in judgment, and do violence to the cause of the humble of My people. But it is lawful for anyone to avoid oppression and violence. Therefore human laws do not bind man in conscience.
Sed contra est quod dicitur I Petr. II, haec est gratia, si propter conscientiam sustineat quis tristitias, patiens iniuste.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Pet 2:19): This is thankworthy, if for the sake of conscience a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully.
Respondeo dicendum quod leges positae humanitus vel sunt iustae, vel iniustae. Si quidem iustae sint, habent vim obligandi in foro conscientiae a lege aeterna, a qua derivantur; secundum illud Prov. VIII, per me reges regnant, et legum conditores iusta decernunt. Dicuntur autem leges iustae et ex fine, quando scilicet ordinantur ad bonum commune; et ex auctore, quando scilicet lex lata non excedit potestatem ferentis; et ex forma, quando scilicet secundum aequalitatem proportionis imponuntur subditis onera in ordine ad bonum commune. Cum enim unus homo sit pars multitudinis, quilibet homo hoc ipsum quod est et quod habet, est multitudinis, sicut et quaelibet pars id quod est, est totius. Unde et natura aliquod detrimentum infert parti, ut salvet totum. Et secundum hoc, leges huiusmodi, onera proportionabiliter inferentes, iustae sunt, et obligant in foro conscientiae, et sunt leges legales.
I answer that, Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Prov. 8:15: By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things. Now laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to wit, they are ordained to the common good—and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver—and from their form, when, to wit, burdens are laid on the subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good. For, since one man is a part of the community, each man in all that he is and has, belongs to the community; just as a part, in all that it is, belongs to the whole; wherefore nature inflicts a loss on the part, in order to save the whole: so that on this account, such laws as these, which impose proportionate burdens, are just and binding in conscience, and are legal laws.
Iniustae autem sunt leges dupliciter. Uno modo, per contrarietatem ad bonum humanum, e contrario praedictis, vel ex fine, sicut cum aliquis praesidens leges imponit onerosas subditis non pertinentes ad utilitatem communem, sed magis ad propriam cupiditatem vel gloriam; vel etiam ex auctore, sicut cum aliquis legem fert ultra sibi commissam potestatem; vel etiam ex forma, puta cum inaequaliter onera multitudini dispensantur, etiam si ordinentur ad bonum commune. Et huiusmodi magis sunt violentiae quam leges, quia, sicut Augustinus dicit, in libro de Lib. Arb., lex esse non videtur, quae iusta non fuerit. Unde tales leges non obligant in foro conscientiae, nisi forte propter vitandum scandalum vel turbationem, propter quod etiam homo iuri suo debet cedere, secundum illud Matth. V, qui angariaverit te mille passus, vade cum eo alia duo; et qui abstulerit tibi tunicam, da ei et pallium.
On the other hand laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good, through being opposed to the things mentioned above—either in respect of the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory—or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him—or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5), a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all. Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience, except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance, for which cause a man should even yield his right, according to Matt. 5:40, 41: If a man . . . take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him; and whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him another two.
Alio modo leges possunt esse iniustae per contrarietatem ad bonum divinum, sicut leges tyrannorum inducentes ad idololatriam, vel ad quodcumque aliud quod sit contra legem divinam. Et tales leges nullo modo licet observare, quia sicut dicitur Act. V, obedire oportet Deo magis quam hominibus.
Second, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, we ought to obey God rather than man.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod, sicut apostolus dicit, ad Rom. XIII, omnis potestas humana a Deo est, et ideo qui potestati resistit, in his quae ad ordinem potestatis pertinent, Dei ordinationi resistit. Et secundum hoc efficitur reus quantum ad conscientiam.
Reply Obj. 1: As the Apostle says (Rom 13:1, 2), all human power is from God; therefore he that resisteth the power, in matters that are within its scope, resisteth the ordinance of God; so that he becomes guilty according to his conscience.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de legibus humanis quae ordinantur contra Dei mandatum. Et ad hoc ordo potestatis non se extendit. Unde in talibus legi humanae non est parendum.
Reply Obj. 2: This argument is true of laws that are contrary to the commandments of God, which is beyond the scope of (human) power. Wherefore in such matters human law should not be obeyed.
Ad tertium dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de lege quae infert gravamen iniustum subditis, ad quod etiam ordo potestatis divinitus concessus non se extendit. Unde nec in talibus homo obligatur ut obediat legi, si sine scandalo vel maiori detrimento resistere possit.
Reply Obj. 3: This argument is true of a law that inflicts unjust hurt on its subjects. The power that man holds from God does not extend to this: wherefore neither in such matters is man bound to obey the law, provided he avoid giving scandal or inflicting a more grievous hurt.
Utrum omnes legi subiiciantur
Whether all are subject to the law?
Ad quintum sic proceditur. Videtur quod non omnes legi subiiciantur. Illi enim soli subiiciuntur legi, quibus lex ponitur. Sed apostolus dicit, I ad Tim. I, quod iusto non est lex posita. Ergo iusti non subiiciuntur legi humanae.
Objection 1: It would seem that not all are subject to the law. For those alone are subject to a law for whom a law is made. But the Apostle says (1 Tim 1:9): The law is not made for the just man. Therefore the just are not subject to the law.
Praeterea, Urbanus Papa dicit, et habetur in decretis, XIX qu. II, qui lege privata ducitur, nulla ratio exigit ut publica constringatur. Lege autem privata Spiritus Sancti ducuntur omnes viri spirituales, qui sunt filii Dei; secundum illud Rom. VIII, qui spiritu Dei aguntur, hi filii Dei sunt. Ergo non omnes homines legi humanae subiiciuntur.
Obj. 2: Further, Pope Urban says: He that is guided by a private law need not for any reason be bound by the public law. Now all spiritual men are led by the private law of the Holy Spirit, for they are the sons of God, of whom it is said (Rom 8:14): Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Therefore not all men are subject to human law.
Praeterea, iurisperitus dicit quod princeps legibus solutus est. Qui autem est solutus a lege, non subditur legi. Ergo non omnes subiecti sunt legi.
Obj. 3: Further, the jurist says that the sovereign is exempt from the laws. But he that is exempt from the law is not bound thereby. Therefore not all are subject to the law.
Sed contra est quod apostolus dicit, Rom. XIII, omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit. Sed non videtur esse subditus potestati, qui non subiicitur legi quam fert potestas. Ergo omnes homines debent esse legi humanae subiecti.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rom 13:1): Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. But subjection to a power seems to imply subjection to the laws framed by that power. Therefore all men should be subject to human law.
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut ex supradictis patet, lex de sui ratione duo habet, primo quidem, quod est regula humanorum actuum; secundo, quod habet vim coactivam. Dupliciter ergo aliquis homo potest esse legi subiectus. Uno modo, sicut regulatum regulae. Et hoc modo omnes illi qui subduntur potestati, subduntur legi quam fert potestas. Quod autem aliquis potestati non subdatur, potest contingere dupliciter. Uno modo, quia est simpliciter absolutus ab eius subiectione. Unde illi qui sunt de una civitate vel regno, non subduntur legibus principis alterius civitatis vel regni, sicut nec eius dominio. Alio modo, secundum quod regitur superiori lege. Puta si aliquis subiectus sit proconsuli, regulari debet eius mandato, non tamen in his quae dispensantur ei ab imperatore, quantum enim ad illa, non adstringitur mandato inferioris, cum superiori mandato dirigatur. Et secundum hoc contingit quod aliquis simpliciter subiectus legi, secundum aliqua legi non adstringitur, secundum quae regitur superiori lege.
I answer that, As stated above (Q. 90, AA. 1, 2; A. 3, ad 2), the notion of law contains two things: first, that it is a rule of human acts; second, that it has coercive power. Wherefore a man may be subject to law in two ways. First, as the regulated is subject to the regulator: and, in this way, whoever is subject to a power, is subject to the law framed by that power. But it may happen in two ways that one is not subject to a power. In one way, by being altogether free from its authority: hence the subjects of one city or kingdom are not bound by the laws of the sovereign of another city or kingdom, since they are not subject to his authority. In another way, by being under a yet higher law; thus the subject of a proconsul should be ruled by his command, but not in those matters in which the subject receives his orders from the emperor: for in these matters, he is not bound by the mandate of the lower authority, since he is directed by that of a higher. In this way, one who is simply subject to a law, may not be subject thereto in certain matters, in respect of which he is ruled by a higher law.
Alio vero modo dicitur aliquis subdi legi sicut coactum cogenti. Et hoc modo homines virtuosi et iusti non subduntur legi, sed soli mali. Quod enim est coactum et violentum, est contrarium voluntati. Voluntas autem bonorum consonat legi, a qua malorum voluntas discordat. Et ideo secundum hoc boni non sunt sub lege, sed solum mali.
Second, a man is said to be subject to a law as the coerced is subject to the coercer. In this way the virtuous and righteous are not subject to the law, but only the wicked. Because coercion and violence are contrary to the will: but the will of the good is in harmony with the law, whereas the will of the wicked is discordant from it. Wherefore in this sense the good are not subject to the law, but only the wicked.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de subiectione quae est per modum coactionis. Sic enim iusto non est lex posita, quia ipsi sibi sunt lex, dum ostendunt opus legis scriptum in cordibus suis, sicut apostolus, ad Rom. II, dicit. Unde in eos non habet lex vim coactivam, sicut habet in iniustos.
Reply Obj. 1: This argument is true of subjection by way of coercion: for, in this way, the law is not made for the just men: because they are a law to themselves, since they show the work of the law written in their hearts, as the Apostle says (Rom 2:14, 15). Consequently the law does not enforce itself upon them as it does on the wicked.
Ad secundum dicendum quod lex spiritus sancti est superior omni lege humanitus posita. Et ideo viri spirituales, secundum hoc quod lege spiritus sancti ducuntur, non subduntur legi, quantum ad ea quae repugnant ductioni spiritus sancti. Sed tamen hoc ipsum est de ductu spiritus sancti, quod homines spirituales legibus humanis subdantur; secundum illud I Petr. II, subiecti estote omni humanae creaturae, propter Deum.
Reply Obj. 2: The law of the Holy Spirit is above all law framed by man: and therefore spiritual men, insofar as they are led by the law of the Holy Spirit, are not subject to the law in those matters that are inconsistent with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless the very fact that spiritual men are subject to law, is due to the leading of the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Pet. 2:13: Be ye subject . . . to every human creature for God’s sake.
Ad tertium dicendum quod princeps dicitur esse solutus a lege, quantum ad vim coactivam legis, nullus enim proprie cogitur a seipso; lex autem non habet vim coactivam nisi ex principis potestate. Sic igitur princeps dicitur esse solutus a lege, quia nullus in ipsum potest iudicium condemnationis ferre, si contra legem agat. Unde super illud Psalmi l, tibi soli peccavi etc., dicit Glossa quod lex non habet hominem qui sua facta diiudicet. Sed quantum ad vim directivam legis, princeps subditur legi propria voluntate; secundum quod dicitur extra, de constitutionibus, cap. cum omnes, quod quisque iuris in alterum statuit, ipse eodem iure uti debet. Et sapientis dicit auctoritas, patere legem quam ipse tuleris. Improperatur etiam his a domino qui dicunt et non faciunt; et qui aliis onera gravia imponunt, et ipsi nec digito volunt ea movere; ut habetur Matth. XXIII. Unde quantum ad Dei iudicium, princeps non est solutus a lege, quantum ad vim directivam eius; sed debet voluntarius, non coactus, legem implere. Est etiam princeps supra legem, inquantum, si expediens fuerit, potest legem mutare, et in ea dispensare, pro loco et tempore.
Reply Obj. 3: The sovereign is said to be exempt from the law, as to its coercive power; since, properly speaking, no man is coerced by himself, and law has no coercive power save from the authority of the sovereign. Thus then is the sovereign said to be exempt from the law, because none is competent to pass sentence on him, if he acts against the law. Wherefore on Ps. 50:6: To Thee only have I sinned, a gloss says that there is no man who can judge the deeds of a king. But as to the directive force of law, the sovereign is subject to the law by his own will, according to the statement (Extra, De Constit. cap. Cum omnes) that whatever law a man makes for another, he should keep himself. And a wise authority says: ‘Obey the law that thou makest thyself.’ Moreover the Lord reproaches those who say and do not; and who bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but with a finger of their own they will not move them (Matt 23:3, 4). Hence, in the judgment of God, the sovereign is not exempt from the law, as to its directive force; but he should fulfill of to his own free-will and not by constraint. Again the sovereign is above the law, insofar as, when it is expedient, he can change the law, and dispense in it according to time and place.
Utrum liceat ei qui subditur legi, praeter verba legis agere
Whether he who is under a law may act beside the letter of the law?
Ad sextum sic proceditur. Videtur quod non liceat ei qui subditur legi, praeter verba legis agere. Dicit enim Augustinus, in libro de vera Relig., in temporalibus legibus, quamvis homines iudicent de his cum eas instituunt, tamen quando fuerint institutae et firmatae, non licebit de ipsis iudicare, sed secundum ipsas. Sed si aliquis praetermittat verba legis, dicens se intentionem legislatoris servare, videtur iudicare de lege. Ergo non licet ei qui subditur legi, ut praetermittat verba legis, ut intentionem legislatoris servet.
Objection 1: It seems that he who is subject to a law may not act beside the letter of the law. For Augustine says (De Vera Relig. 31): Although men judge about temporal laws when they make them, yet when once they are made they must pass judgment not on them, but according to them. But if anyone disregard the letter of the law, saying that he observes the intention of the lawgiver, he seems to pass judgment on the law. Therefore it is not right for one who is under the law to disregard the letter of the law, in order to observe the intention of the lawgiver.
Praeterea, ad eum solum pertinet leges interpretari, cuius est condere leges. Sed hominum subditorum legi non est leges condere. Ergo eorum non est interpretari legislatoris intentionem, sed semper secundum verba legis agere debent.
Obj. 2: Further, he alone is competent to interpret the law who can make the law. But those who are subject to the law cannot make the law. Therefore they have no right to interpret the intention of the lawgiver, but should always act according to the letter of the law.
Praeterea, omnis sapiens intentionem suam verbis novit explicare. Sed illi qui leges condiderunt, reputari debent sapientes, dicit enim sapientia, Prov. VIII, per me reges regnant, et legum conditores iusta decernunt. Ergo de intentione legislatoris non est iudicandum nisi per verba legis.
Obj. 3: Further, every wise man knows how to explain his intention by words. But those who framed the laws should be reckoned wise: for Wisdom says (Prov 8:15): By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things. Therefore we should not judge of the intention of the lawgiver otherwise than by the words of the law.
Sed contra est quod Hilarius dicit, in IV de Trin., intelligentia dictorum ex causis est assumenda dicendi, quia non sermoni res, sed rei debet esse sermo subiectus. Ergo magis est attendendum ad causam quae movit legislatorem, quam ad ipsa verba legis.
On the contrary, Hilary says (De Trin. iv): The meaning of what is said is according to the motive for saying it: because things are not subject to speech, but speech to things. Therefore we should take account of the motive of the lawgiver, rather than of his very words.
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, omnis lex ordinatur ad communem hominum salutem, et intantum obtinet vim et rationem legis; secundum vero quod ab hoc deficit, virtutem obligandi non habet. Unde iurisperitus dicit quod nulla iuris ratio aut aequitatis benignitas patitur ut quae salubriter pro utilitate hominum introducuntur, ea nos duriori interpretatione, contra ipsorum commodum, perducamus ad severitatem. Contingit autem multoties quod aliquid observari communi saluti est utile ut in pluribus, quod tamen in aliquibus casibus est maxime nocivum. Quia igitur legislator non potest omnes singulares casus intueri, proponit legem secundum ea quae in pluribus accidunt, ferens intentionem suam ad communem utilitatem. Unde si emergat casus in quo observatio talis legis sit damnosa communi saluti, non est observanda. Sicut si in civitate obsessa statuatur lex quod portae civitatis maneant clausae, hoc est utile communi saluti ut in pluribus, si tamen contingat casus quod hostes insequantur aliquos cives, per quos civitas conservatur, damnosissimum esset civitati nisi eis portae aperirentur, et ideo in tali casu essent portae aperiendae, contra verba legis, ut servaretur utilitas communis, quam legislator intendit.
I answer that, As stated above (A. 4), every law is directed to the common weal of men, and derives the force and nature of law accordingly. Hence the jurist says: By no reason of law, or favor of equity, is it allowable for us to interpret harshly, and render burdensome, those useful measures which have been enacted for the welfare of man. Now it happens often that the observance of some point of law conduces to the common weal in the majority of instances, and yet, in some cases, is very hurtful. Since then the lawgiver cannot have in view every single case, he shapes the law according to what happens most frequently, by directing his attention to the common good. Wherefore if a case arise wherein the observance of that law would be hurtful to the general welfare, it should not be observed. For instance, suppose that in a besieged city it be an established law that the gates of the city are to be kept closed, this is good for public welfare as a general rule: but, if it were to happen that the enemy are in pursuit of certain citizens, who are defenders of the city, it would be a great loss to the city, if the gates were not opened to them: and so in that case the gates ought to be opened, contrary to the letter of the law, in order to maintain the common weal, which the lawgiver had in view.
Sed tamen hoc est considerandum, quod si observatio legis secundum verba non habeat subitum periculum, cui oportet statim occurri, non pertinet ad quemlibet ut interpretetur quid sit utile civitati et quid inutile, sed hoc solum pertinet ad principes, qui propter huiusmodi casus habent auctoritatem in legibus dispensandi. Si vero sit subitum periculum, non patiens tantam moram ut ad superiorem recurri possit, ipsa necessitas dispensationem habet annexam, quia necessitas non subditur legi.
Nevertheless it must be noted, that if the observance of the law according to the letter does not involve any sudden risk needing instant remedy, it is not competent for everyone to expound what is useful and what is not useful to the state: those alone can do this who are in authority, and who, on account of such like cases, have the power to dispense from the laws. If, however, the peril be so sudden as not to allow of the delay involved by referring the matter to authority, the mere necessity brings with it a dispensation, since necessity knows no law.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod ille qui in casu necessitatis agit praeter verba legis, non iudicat de ipsa lege, sed iudicat de casu singulari, in quo videt verba legis observanda non esse.
Reply Obj. 1: He who in a case of necessity acts beside the letter of the law, does not judge the law; but judges a particular case in which he sees that the letter of the law is not to be observed.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ille qui sequitur intentionem legislatoris, non interpretatur legem simpliciter; sed in casu in quo manifestum est per evidentiam nocumenti, legislatorem aliud intendisse. Si enim dubium sit, debet vel secundum verba legis agere, vel superiores consulere.
Reply Obj. 2: He who follows the intention of the lawgiver, does not interpret the law simply; but in a case in which it is evident, by reason of the manifest harm, that the lawgiver intended otherwise. For if it be a matter of doubt, he must either act according to the letter of the law, or consult those in power.
Ad tertium dicendum quod nullius hominis sapientia tanta est ut possit omnes singulares casus excogitare, et ideo non potest sufficienter per verba sua exprimere ea quae conveniunt ad finem intentum. Et si posset legislator omnes casus considerare, non oporteret ut omnes exprimeret, propter confusionem vitandam, sed legem ferre deberet secundum ea quae in pluribus accidunt.
Reply Obj. 3: No man is so wise as to be able to take account of every single case; wherefore he is not able sufficiently to express in words all those things that are suitable for the end he has in view. And even if a lawgiver were able to take all the cases into consideration, he ought not to mention them all, in order to avoid confusion: but should frame the law according to that which is of most common occurrence.
De mutatione legum
Of Change in Laws