Evangelium Vitae - Unjust Laws










Evangelium Vitae Article 72 -74: Unjust Laws

This post is taken from the book, ” The Encyclicals in Everyday Language,”  by Joseph G. Donders.


72. Thomas Aquinas wrote,

“every human law can be called a law

insofar as it derives from the natural law.

But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law

then it is not really a law

but a corruption of the law. (ST Ia-IIae, q. 95, a.2).

This applies in the first place to the source

of all other rights, the right to life.

Laws that legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings

through abortion or euthanasia are in opposition to this right to life.

This is the case even when euthanasia

is requested with full awareness of the person involved.

Any state that makes such a request legitimate,

authorizing it to be carried out,

would be legalizing suicide-murder,

thus lessening respect for life

and destroying mutual trust.


73. There is a clear and grave obligation

to oppose such laws by conscientious objection.

Christians have a duty to obey

legitimate public authorities,

but they must obey God

rather than human beings (cf Acts 5:29)

In the case of a law permitting abortion or euthanasia,

it is never licit to obey it or

“to take part in a propaganda campaign

in favor of such a law, or vote for it.” *

A problem can arise when there is the possibility of an existing pro-abortion law.

In such a case people known

for their opposition to procured abortion

could vote in favor of such a law to limit the harm done.


74. Unjust laws raise difficult questions

for morally upright people as regards to cooperation.

The choices to be made are sometimes difficult;

prestigious positions and careers might be at stake.

One should recall here the general principles

concerning cooperation in evil actions.

It is never licit to cooperate formally in evil,

not even by appealing to the freedom of others

or to the fact that the law permits the action.

To refuse to take part in committing an injustice

is not only a moral duty;

it is also a basic human right,

a right that as such should be acknowledged

and protected by civil law.

Those who have recourse to conscientious objection

must be protected not only from lawsuits

but also from other negative effects

on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.



From “Evangelium Vitae”  #72-74

“John Paul II  - The Encyclicals in Everyday Language” by Joseph G. Donders

For a study guide to Evangelium Vitae, see the Priests for Life website

For the original encyclical in its entirety, see the Vatican website

Author: genericmum

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *