Criminology | Section 2.3

Fundamentals of Criminology by Adam J. McKee

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Natural Law and Christianity

Laws are designed to protect the safety of citizens and the state, and insure tranquility and happiness for the people.  This was to be accomplished in part by the regulation of the morals of the people.  Thus, it is the duty of the lawgivers to promulgate the laws of the gods as the laws of man.

Saint Thomas Aquinas transferred this link to divinity into the theology of the Christian faith.  His adherence to the doctrines of Aristotle irrevocably bound the idea of Natural Law to legal philosophy.  For Aquinas, the Natural Law was the foundation upon which his entire philosophy was laid.

The knowledge of right and wrong came from God, instilled in the minds of man so that it is revealed to them naturally.  Thus, the basic precept of the law is that good should be pursued, and evil should be avoided.  Since the Natural Law emanates from God, it is equally valid everywhere.  The purpose of sanction is not to punish, but to compel the offender to virtue.

Because humans are imperfect, the law should not forbid all vices.  Law should only prohibit the more iniquitous vices that the majority of people can resist; chief among these is harm against others.  Society simply cannot be maintained if such conduct were not prohibited.

In addition, because of the innate imperfection of humanity, lawgivers are prone to make mistakes when promulgating the law.  If reason should show a new law to be better, the new law should be adopted.

Modification History

File Created:  08/04/2018

Last Modified:  08/04/2018

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This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

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