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September 27, 1991     The Message
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September 27, 1991
 

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2 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern 27, 199: A look at the principles of natural law By JULIE ASHER Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS)- The Senate confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas brought a focus on the con- cept of natural law and its proper role in interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Simply put, natural law is the philosophy that individu- als have certain basic human rights that are based on uni- versal moral principles or on "a higher law" which is not limited by the letter of the law. St. Thomas Aquinas, a Do- minican teacher and writer on virtually the whole range of philosophy and theology, is most often identified as one of the first proponents of natural law, which has roots in the writings of Aristotle. For Aquinas, "Natural law is nothing other than the par- ticipation of eternal laws in rational creatures." He saw it as "the imprint of God's prov- idential plan on man's natu- ral reason." To explain its place in civil lawmaking, adherents of nat- ural law in the United States point to the section of the Declaration of Independence that says "we hold these Continuing Continued from page 2 vestigate the results of the U. S. Department of Educations tests from the National As- sessment of Education Progress program. These tests are given to students in grades 3, 8 and 11. According to a set cycle, students are tested in each of the subjects. The independent researcher found that Catholic school students scored significantly higher in reading comprehen- sion, mathematics, written composition, computer edu- cation and science. In some subjects the scores of Catholic school eight graders were higher than the scores of pub- lic school eleventh graders. The most recent research deals with our 8th grade stu- dents. Again the research is based upon data collected and analyzed by the U. S. De- partment of Education. About twice as many of our eighth grade students are involved in computer education class- truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain un- alienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The adherents of natural law would argue that these funda- mental rights must be protect- ed by civil laws. Two other approaches to interpreting the Constitution are "positivism," which holds that the only basis for law is the will of the sovereign (in the United States that would be the Con- stitution or the actions of elected officials), and "con- ventionalism," which says ju- dicial interpretation should reflect the community's moral judgment. Natural law is seen as moral norms corresponding to man's nature by which he orders his conduct toward God, neighbor, society and himself. The Catholic Church draws on natural law pre- cepts to develop its moral principles. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia: "This law, which is rooted in human nature, is of divine origin, can be known by the use of reason, and binds all men having the use of reason. es, in science fairs, in writing for the school newspaper, and in art and music classes than eighth grade students in public schools. Examining the national data on Catholic schools and the national .data on public schools, the conclusion is ob- vious. Catholic schools have a consistent documented record of effective school pro- grams which result in student achievement. Unfortunately, in many parts of this country students are at great risk if they attend public schools, while students in these same areas are most likely to suc- ceed if they attend Catholic schools. This is a finding of the California based Rand Corporation which studied inner city secondary schools in New York and Washing- ton. Next week, the third and final portion of Dr. Kealey's address. The Ten Commandments are declarations and amplifica- tions of natural law. The pri- mary precepts of natural law, to do good and to avoid evil, are universally recognized, despite differences with re- spect to understanding and application resulting from different philosophies of good and evil." Those differences in philosophies of good and evil seem to give rise to tensions between conservatives and liberals over the role natural law has in constitutional in- terpretations. At the Supreme Court level natural law principles have been: -- Invoked to both justify and castigate slavery. -- Seen as both synony- mous and antithetical to civil rights and civil liberties. -- Used to demand equal rights for women and also to deny them. -- Used by both the Supreme Court's "liberal stal- wart" Justice William J. Bren- nan Jr., and by conservative politician Lewis Lehrman. It also has been used by Thur- good Marshall in the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision in 1954 that mandat- ed school desegregation and by Thomas, who could possi- Gema, n .aamerlcmrl Bank We Make Friends For Life JASPER, INDIANA Peoples Trust Company 59 SOUTH MAIN STREET P.O. BOX 191 LINTON, INDIANA 47441 Buehlers I.G.A. "The Thrifty Housewife's Source of Savings" QUALITY FOODS, MEATS HUNTINGBURG Compliments Nass & Son Inc. FUNERAL HOME Huntingburg, Ind. NAAB CONSTRUCTION Co. Inc. Construction Management MARK NAAB 203 Moran Dr. 882-8209 Vincennes, IN 882-8035 DELICIOUS GERMAN RD PRIME RIB CHARBROILED STEAK COUNTRY FRIEDCHICKEN IIII Illl lil Washington Auto Trim 27 Years Serv,ce II I I ,. " " I ' II m AUTO TOPS' SEAT CVERS' BOAT COVERS  STEREO SALES & INST/ATIONS 254-3943 HWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELP, OWNER [ II SF..AFOODS * Sk, LAD BAR BANQUET ROOM FOR PRIVATE PARTIES R2JI &/,/, Ob'm C1.4TBZ/NGNJZ, CA/J. 1482,2440J Hwy 16: S. 390 3rd Ave., lssper, IN | . I bly succeed Marshall on the high court. One school of thought wmdd use natural law to de- fend the right to life of the unborn and another to defend economic rights. In an early opinion the Supreme Court used natural law to exalt property rights to the detri- ment of basic human rights. During the Thomas confir- nmtion hearings, which began Sept. 10, inembers of the Sen- ate Judiciary Committee, led by chairman Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del., quizzed the nominee on just where he stands on principles of natu- ral law. Even Biden, who has ex- pressed concern over Thomas's natural law philos- ophy, said during hearings in 1987 for then-Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork that he believed he possessed rights not only because the Consti- tution stated them but be- cause there were given to him by God. Bork, who did not win Sen- ate confirmation, was criti" cized by some committee members for his refusal to recognize rights based in nat,e' ural law, and Thomas for say" ing there are such rights. In past writings Thomas has said "natural rights and higher law arguments are thei best defense of liberty and of limited government .... " Hei also has stated that "natural' law provides a basis i' human dignity by which can judge whether human be'i ings are just or unjust, noble[ or ignoble." He als0 hadi[ praised, the use of natural law ! by Lehrman in making an ar- gument against a legal right t0:i abortion. But, in his testimony before the Senate committee, Thomas said he doesn't "see l a role for the use of natural:'[ law in constitutional adjuC cation" and that he has been interested in explor5 natural law and natural ri "purely in the context of p0, litical theory." 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