Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group V/Natural Law
According to Aquinas, natural law comes from God and exists independently in nature. The closer human-made laws align with natural law, the more correct they are. Humans were created by God as rational beings. This rationality allows humans to exercise reason, and when this reason is used correctly it will lead towards the natural law. According to Aquinas, it is the nature of mankind to seek after good, and this desire, too, was implanted by God. By using reason, humans can develop and implement the steps that will lead toward the common good. This is the heart of lawmaking. The objective of laws should be the common good.
Aquinas holds that in order for a law to be valid, it must contain four elements: It must (1) be directed at the common good, (2) follow practical reason, (3) be made by a valid lawmaker, and (4) be promulgated.
Each of these elements is present in R v A.D.H.
1. The Common Good The common good is a central issue in R v A.D.H. Aquinas believes the common good is the good of the community. Law imposes order on the community, and happiness is only possible within such order and stability. This was an overarching theme in the case. The court focused its approach on not punishing people who are not guilty. Aquinas would say that this is essential for maintaining order in society. The court found that A.D.H. did not make immoral choices and thus should not be punished. According to Aquinas, this is a way of ensuring people stay on the moral path towards the common good. The court found that she was not straying from the moral path, since she was unaware she was pregnant and thought the baby was dead. Her behavior was not a lapse in morality: while mothers are expected to provide for their children (as another part of the common good), her legitimate belief that the child was dead freed her from any moral obligation. If it had been a lapse in morality (i.e. if she thought the child was alive but momentarily neglected it for whatever reason), she would have been off the moral path and should be punished. But punishing the blameless would undermine the objective of the natural law.
The court also held that the law was in place in order to protect vulnerable people, particularly children. According to Aquinas, this is a valid objective as part of the common good. People would only abandon their children if they were off the moral path.
The law itself is also moral, as it is aimed a keeping people on the moral path towards the common good. If this were not the case, it would not be a law at all.
2. Practical Reason Aquinas sees law as teleological; it is directed at a purpose. In that sense, laws are practical reason directed at the common good. If a law does not have that as its goal, it is not a valid law and does not need to be followed. In order to be law, it must be in accord with reason. The court in R v A.D.H. held that the law in question was laid out reasonably. A central issue in the case was whether or not the provision required subjective or objective knowledge. It held that if the provision required objective knowledge, it would have been written differently. The use of subjective interpretation was to ensure that the morally innocent should not be punished. This is in line with practical reason and makes the law valid.
3. Valid Lawmaker According to Aquinas, the natural rulers know what is in the common good, and what will achieve universal happiness. They can threaten, coerce and punish the ruled to pursue the goal. But Aquinas does not believe in democracy. The law in A.D.H. was passed by an elected legislature. Though these are not natural rulers in the sense Aquinas would have in mind, the elected officials have been recognized by the public as having the necessary skills to rule. These skills would allow them to closely align with natural law, making the laws the pass valid.
In the case the court focused on legislative interpretation, based on the intent of parliament. This shows judicial trust in the ruling abilities of parliament. Aquinas also preferred legislation to judge-made laws. Legislation deals with broader laws, which Aquinas sees as more moral than case-by-case decision-making. Though the court held that the law in question was meant to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, the fact that it was passed by a legislature instills it with wisdom and morality.
Aquinas would also likely approve of the court’s decision to give a looser interpretation of the provision, as he holds that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.
4. Promulgation In order for a law to be valid, it must be written, known, and available. It is likely, then, that Aquinas would approve of the codification of Canada’s criminal laws. The law in question in the case was from the Criminal Code, which is available to the public. The purpose of the law is to compel obedience, and people cannot obey laws about which they are ignorant.