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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/176

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AUTHORITY


138


AUTHORITY


governed by that custom of society which crystallizes into law.

And as it is natural to the individual, so is it natural also for the family to unite with others. Society cannot stop short at the family. As the individual is not self-sufficient, neither is the family. The family grows and then multiplies. We have a society of families; and that society grow'n great, and controlled as it needs to be controlled by some common authority, passes into a self-sufficient, autonomous society, otherwise called a State. Hence civil authority is defined as the moral power of command, supported (when need be) by physical coercion, which the State exercises over its con- stituent members. Civil authority is of God, not by any revelation or positive institution, but by the mere fact that God is the Author of Nature, and Naturq imperatively requires civil authority to be set up and obeyed. Nature cannot tolerate intem- perance, nor anarchy either. And what Nature absolutely requires, or absolutely refuses as in- compatible with her well-being, God commands, or God forbids. God then forbids anarchy; and in forbidding anarchy He enjoins submission to au- thority. In this sense, God is at the back of every State, binding men in conscience to observe the behests of the State within the sphere of its com- petence. "Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. . . . Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. . . . For they are the ministers of God, ..." (Rom. xiii, 1, 5, 6).

Obedience, being a practical thing and not a specu- lation, cannot abstract from the concrete facts of the case; it is paid to the powers that be, to the authority actually in possession. Obedience is as disobedience; men are never disobedient except to the government of the day. But there are limits to civU obedience, and to the competence of civil authority. As domestic obedience is not to be carried to the extent of re- bellion against the civil government, so neither is the State to be obeyed as against God. It is not within the competence of the State to command any- thing and everything. The State cannot command what God could not command, for instance, idolatry. The authority of the State is absolute, that is to say, full and complete in its own sphere, and subordinate to no other authority within that sphere. But the authority of the State is not arbitrary; it is not available for the carrying out of every whim and caprice. Arbitrary government is irrational govern- ment; now no government is licensed to set reason aside. The government of God Himself is not arbitrary; as St. Thomas says: "God is not offended by us except at what we do against our own good" (Contra Gentiles, III, 122). The arbitrary use of authority is called tyranny. Such is the tyranny of an absolute monarch, of a council, of a class, or of a majority. The liberty of the subject is based on the doctrine that the State is not omnipotent. Legally omnipotent every State must be, but not morally. A legal enactment may be immoral, and then it cannot in conscience be obeyed; or it may be ultra vires, beyond the competence of the authority that enacts it, in which case compliance with the law is not a iilatter of obedience, but of prudence. In either case the law is Tyrannical, and "a tyrannical law, not being according to reason, is not, absolutely speaking, a law, but rather a perversion of law" (St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 1", 2"% q. 92, art. 1, ad 4). Man is not all citizen. He is a member, a part of the State, and something else besides. "Man is not subservient to the civil community to the extent of his whole self, all that he is and all that he has" (St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 1" 2"", q. 21 , art. 4, ad 3). To say nothing of his eternal interests in


his relations with liis Maker, man has even in this life his domestic interests in the bosom of his family his intellectual and artistic interests, none of whicl: can be called political interests. Social and politica! life is not the whole of human life. Man is not the servant of the State in his every action. The State the majority, or the despot, may demand of the in- dividual more than lie is bomid to give. Wer< human society a conventional arrangement, wen man, being perfectly well off in isolation from hii fellows, to agree by way of freak to live in communitj with them, then we could assign no antecedent limits to civil authority. Civil authority would be simplj what was bargained for and prescribed in the arbi- trary compact which made civil society. As it is civil authority is a natural means to a natural end and is checked by that end, in accordance with ths Aristotelcan principle that "the end in view seti limits to the means" (Aristotle, Politics, I, 9). Tht immediate end of ci\'il authority is well set forth bj Suarez (De legibus,III, xi, 7) as "the natural happi- ness of the perfect, or self-sufficient, human com- munity, and the happiness of individuals as tlic\ are members of such a commimity, that they ma} live therein peaceably and justly, with a sufficiencj of goods for the preservation and comfort of theii bodily life, and with so much moral rectitude as is necessary for this external peace and happiness" Happiness is an attribute of individuals. Indi- viduals are not made happy by authority, but au- thority secures to them that tranquillity, that free hand for helping themselves, that restful enjoyment of their own just winnings, which is one of the condi- tions of happiness. Nor does authority make met virtuous, except according to that rough-hewn, out- line virtue, which is called "social virtue", anc consists mainly of justice. When the ancient.' spoke of "virtue" being the concern of the State they meant justice and efficiency. Neither thi virtue nor the happiness of individuals is cared foi by the State except "as they are members of th< civil commimity". In this respect, civil differs fron domestic, or paternal, authority. The father care; for the members of his household one by one, singlj and individually. The State cares for its memberi collectively, and for the individual only in hi: collective aspect. Hence it follows that the powe of life and death is inherent in the State, not in thi family. A man is hanged for the common good o the rest, never for his omi good.

This, then, is one measure of authority, the em w-liich the State has in view. Another is the stagi of development at which any given particular Stati has arrived. For there is not one measure of au thority common to all States. As the State dc velops, it grows in unity, and greater unity means ai ampler measure of central authority. There is f:i more authority in the England of to-day than ii the England of the Heptarchy. There was mon authority in an Anglo-Saxon kingdom than inĀ ; horde of savages. In early ci\il societies there is m legislative authority, and no law, but only immcnio rial custom. There is httle judicial authority, liu injured men, or their families after their dcatli right their own wTOngs. murder is restrained, im by judge, jury, and executioner, but by blood-fom! On the other hand, in highly civilized societies, r~ pecially those of a democratic character, the will n the people continually thrusts new functions u[>ii government, such as education, the care of puMi health, the carrying of letters, the sending of tclr grams. The recognition of this fact has been calU > "the principle of voluntary control". By it civi authority may be enlarged beyond its natural am essential limits. Like other principles, "the prin ciple of voluntary control" may be pushed too fai Pushed to the limit, it would involve Socialism