Wednesday, March 28, 2012

QUOTATION: Law and Morality

It is certainly true that institutions have disappeared from the greater part of the world, it would seem permanently, whose disappearance every Christian must welcome. (Whether the non-Christian welcomes it equally, depends upon his point of view.) Formal slavery has disappeared, and physical torture used for judicial purposes, and the exposure of children, and the amphitheatre, and the duel, and child labour, and the grosser forms of purposeless cruelty towards animals. But these are not vices personal to the individual; they are vicious systems, against which the conscience of individuals long protested, before the community took any steps. The progressive enlightenment of the public conscience is fortunately a fact; though it is not certain what guarantee we have against retrogression. But the fact that the public obeys its own conscience is due, if we will be honest with ourselves, very largely to the policeman. The really salient fact about the modern age, from the Wars of the Roses onwards, is the growing effectiveness of centralised government, ultimately traceable to the influence of explosives. Not only have we better laws, but our laws are better kept. Where morality involves justice towards your neighbour, there is less temptation to do wrong now than formerly; indeed, there is every
temptation to do right. But does all this mean that, given the free opportunity, the average man to-day resists his temptations, such as they are, better than he did in the Dark Ages?

--Msgr Ronald Knox, The Belief of Catholics, 1927