No society can live peacefully without the rule of law. In the attempt to restrain the abuses that have often prevailed in human history, we have developed forms of governance in which there is a division of powers. In such constitutional arrangements the separation of the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch have proven truly helpful. Yet the temptation for those who hold authority even in these systems to usurp additional powers is ever with us. Without the rule of law there is inevitably violence against the weak. But there can be no rule of law without a recognition that there is an objective and transcendent standard of justice. And there can be no such transcendent standard of justice apart from God as the transcendent creator and sustainer of morality.
As Pope Benedict XVI eloquently stated, “When morality and law do not originate in a God-ward perspective, they degrade the human person…. Where human affairs are so ordered that there is no recognition of God, there is a belittling of the creature made in God’s image.”
True worship of the one true God begins with reverence in prayer and leads us to order our lives according to his will in all things. There is an integrity that is demanded in each person, and especially in authorities who are entrusted with various powers intended to be used for the common good. It is not enough to use high-sounding words. We must steadily pray that God give his wisdom to those in authority, and we must ourselves act prudently to restrain those who undermine the rule of law and claim for themselves power without moral restraint.
- Fr. Joseph Koterski, SJ