LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Common Good

The Westminster Confession, which I mentioned yesterday morning, states explicitly that we commit ourselves to ‘be subject to all governing authorities and obey them except when they require us to act unjustly’ – in other words, we shall be law-abiding citizens unless the laws in question are unjust.

That, of course, raises the question of what is ‘just’ or ‘unjust’.

Well, Aquinas says that law is ‘an ordinance of reason for the common good’; and he continues by stating in quite clear terms that if something is not reasonable, or is not for the ‘common good’, then it is not law.

Now; if something is law – ie meets Aquinas’ definition – then it is ‘just’; which implies that if it does not, then it is ‘unjust’. Equally, therefore, it must follow that something which is manifestly unjust is either unreasonable or not for the common good, and so is not ‘law’ – at least in the sense that we are bout to obey it.

Before you get worried; this is not a plea for a campaign of civil disobedience !

You may be aware that the Bishops of England & Wales published, a little while ago, a document entitled ‘Choosing the Common Good’, which specifically anticipated the General Election, and which set out in some detail a Catholic understanding of ‘the common good’; and what I am suggesting is that as we move towards the Election, we should be seeking to make it clear to all the parties that :

1. Catholics cannot and will not support parties which propose legislation which is not manifestly directed towards the common good; and

2. Catholics will vote accordingly.

If all the Catholics in England & Wales made that clear, and adhered to it, it might make the parties think a bit . . . we make a very large pressure group !

However; it seems to me that there is something else which may be worth pondering.

If you look back over the last thirty-one years (in other words, to the 1979 General Election), you will recognize that one of the features of British Government throughout that period has been that the Government has always had a substantial majority, which has allowed it to pursue its legislative programme with little fear of an upset.

As a result, whilst at least in the first part of the first term of each of the two Governments there has been a certain amount of necessary legislation, as time has run on the governmental intervention has increased, to less and less public benefit – and usually to greater public cost.

If, on the other hand, Governments were not in such a strong position – in other words, if they were more vulnerable – then they might be more sensitive to the wishes of the electorate; which might in turn mean that some of the nonsense of recent years (and particularly months) might be avoided . . . things like the Equality Act, and the Sex Education provisions (admittedly now mercifully lost in the end of this parliament).

The pundits say that we may, for the first time in many years, be facing a hung parliament. If that is true, then whatever Government is formed will be dependent upon popular support to get legislation through . . .

It may well be, therefore, that a hung parliament would be the best possible solution, in that it would offer an opportunity to break the mould of parties offering a choice between their visions of what policies Britain needs, and forcing them to listen to what the public actually wants.

Now wouldn’t that be a nice change ?

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