by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Saint Alphonsus dei Liguori is one of the Doctors of the Church. He was named such by Pope Pius IX on account of the excellence of his teaching on morality. In his writings nearly every possible situation in which one has to make a moral judgement is explained by the principles he so clearly taught from Scripture, Tradition, the teaching of the Saints and great theologians.
One question he dealt with is the case of whether one is obliged to observe a merely positive law. A law is a norm which regulates behavior and which is promulgated by a legitimate authority. A positive law, is a law which emanates from a human authority and is in written form. A merely positive law is a positive law which has no fundament or basis in the Divine, moral, natural or evangelical law. Having no basis, here, means that it is not based on, nor incorporates, nor is derived from, nor applies any pre-existing law from God, from the Gospels, from the laws of nature or from the laws of morality, understood in the Catholic sense of the term, “morality”.
Take for example, the laws which regard the speed at which you can travel on the road with your automobile. These are merely positive laws. Likewise, consider the rule in a Public Library about returning a book within so many days. These are merely positivie laws.
Saint Alphonsus says that the observance of a merely positive law is based on our moral obligations to God and to our superiors and to others with whom we have bonds of fidelity or justice.
For example, in borrowing a book from a Library, while it is not a sin to keep it longer than the time permitted, it does breach fidelity with the authorities of the library, to whom we pledged to return the book. Likewise, the book is the property of the Library, and so we have a moral obligation to return it, not to keep it, because that would be theft, which is contrary to the Divine, moral, natural and evangelical law. So to neglect to return in on time is not a mortal sin, per se. But to neglect to return it for several years and then return it, would be a mortal sin against fidelity. It might also be a mortal sin of scandal, if one were a father of a family and by such gave bad example to one’s children. But to return it late by a day may be no sin at all, if we simply forgot and were not otherwise negligent. And so, since the rules about returning books are merely positive law, whether it be sinful or not to return a book late is determined not by the rules themselves but by reference to these higher laws of God, the Gospels, morals and nature. — In this case, I assume you have not signed a contract with the library to observe its rules, because if you have, then it might be a mortal sin of injustice by breach of faith, to not observe them. It depends on the terms of the contract.
The laws regarding the speed at which it is permissible to travel on a highway are similar. It is not a sin per se to go 1, 5, 10, or even 100 miles per hour faster than the the speed limit, however, you have to understand what “per se” means, to understand rightly this principle. “Per se” means considered by itself or through itself. In the present context, since the speed at which your automobile moves is not a moral act, whether it moves at 1 mph or 10,000 mph has nothing to do with sin, when we consider the velocity by itself or according to itself.
However, if we consider the speed of an automobile in respect of its physical proximity to other things, and the capacity of a driver to control the automobile at the given speed at which it is traveling, then we consider the speed no longer per se but inasmuch as it is the occasion or circumstance of a moral decision, which must always take into account the Divine, Evagelical, moral and natural laws.
In fact, laws about speeding are imposed for public safety, because when everyone knows what to expect from everyone else, then all can travel on the road in safe expectation of how the other automobiles will move on that road. This is a artificial harmony by consensus of free agents, where the legitimate authority establishes a velocity as a maximum or minimum for the utility and safety of all. And since automobile accidents can be and are frequently dangerous at high speeds, it is very reasonable and a proper exercise of jurisdiction that a legitimate authority exercise foresight and establish such rules.
So if the highway is deserted with no other cars at all on it, it is not a mortal sin to drive too slow or too fast, unless your ability to control your vehicle at that velocity on that road, in those weather conditions is impaired. And if it is impaired you should adjust your speed to reach a velocity where you can control your vehicle. Otherwise you are putting yourself, and any passengers, in mortal danger, and that is a mortal sin of imprudence and as regards passengers, of breach of faith.
But in the case of the Corona Control decrees in many nations, there are many difficulties. In many nations, these decrees are unlawful, since they are emanating from legitimate authorities which do not have constitutional or legal authority to issue such decrees or to issue such decrees which so contravene the natural rights of citizens to free movement and action and work.
If the decree is unlawful, there is no question of obligation in observing it. It must be considered by all, citizen and policeman, simply not to exist.
However, if the decree in some things is lawful and in other things is not lawful, then a citizen must consider whether it be based on truth. Because even a legitimate authority, which has the legal right to issue a decree, cannot morally obliged the citizen to its observance in those things which are not lawful.
Moreover, if the decree is not founded on truth, then it is not obliging in anything even if it is otherwise lawful.
And this appears to be the case with the Corona Control. Because, though many are SAID to be dying with Coronavirus, how many are actually dying FROM COVID-19 is not being accurately reported. And the authorities issuing unprecedented decrees to control the lives of citizens are showing NO concern that the numbers of those who die FROM Coronavirus be accurately reported. And that is sufficient grounds for the citizen to doubt the legitimacy of even lawful orders.
Furthermore, the statistics which have been published both in China and in Italy and all over the world, are in agreement, that COVID-19 is not as lethal as the winter flu is for the general population, even if it is more lethal than the winder flu for a very small segment of the population (compromised immune systems with existing pathologies).
The arguments that the CORONA CONTROL decrees must be or should be observed because a very small fraction of the whole population is put at risk by being infected by the whole population is simply irrational and cannot be sustained by any notion of justice. Because the risk to a very small part of the population cannot outweigh all the rights of the rest of the population to live. It is the question of the lives of a very few compared to the lives of everyone else, their livelihood, work, education, etc..
For this reason, since the CORONA CONTROL decrees are merely positive laws and lack a foundation in truth, justice, and common sense, there is no moral obligation whatsoever, from Christians or non-Christians that they be observed.
However, Saint Alphonsus does say, that inasmuch as merely positive laws may be enforced with heavy fines or severe penalties, then inasmuch as the person who is contemplating not observing them has some duty to care for others, he should restrain himself for their sake so that he can continue to care for them. This applies to parents and those who care for the sick, aged, infirm or needy. And this is why many priests are not risking their violation, because they want to provide the Sacraments after the Corona Control ends. — If it ever does.
This does not mean, however, that anyone should be careless about hygiene, especially in the presence of anyone who is at high risk from this infection. That is why, I say, there is no moral obligation to observe these CORONA CONTROL decrees per se, but there in specific cases may be an obligation to observe some aspects of them.
And this is why good mothers teach their children to blow their nose in a handkerchief or with a facial tissue, to wash their hands frequently, and to use bathrooms in a sanitary way, as well as, to stay home when sick. These instructions of our mothers or fathers, are sane rational practices to observe our duties of fidelity and charity to all around us.
Above, I have expounded the Catholic position. Compare it with the New World Order position, expounded here, without reference to God.
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