The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 23, Issue 3, Autumn 2023

Proceedings of the 2022 Catholic Bar Association Annual Conference and General Assembly

Jonathan J. Sanford
Pages 421-430

What Does the Law Have to Do with Virtue?

In light of truths expressed by Thomas Aquinas and in lawyers’ oaths, lawyers sworn to uphold the civil law must work toward the goal of teaching and gradually encouraging citizens to have the inner virtues that would make civil law itself irrelevant. This follows from claims central to the civic and the Catholic intellectual traditions: the civil law is a teacher, its effect ought to be the promotion of virtue, and virtuous living is constitutive of the common good. Natural law undergirds and gives substance to the civil law, which nonetheless should only demand under fear of punishment what is followable for the majority of men, given the needs of good public order and the habits and customs of their country.