Lecture 2: Natural Law
Praised be Jesus Christ. Welcome to our introductory lecture on Catholic Moral Theology. We were talking the last time about where Catholic morality finds itself situated among the various moral methodologies that are used out there. We were saying that it does not fall under the category of the subjectivist or relativist approach to moral theory. Because we believe that some actions simply are intrinsically, that is in and of themselves, wrong, and therefore we may never do them regardless of the circumstances. Whereas the subjectivists were saying that there were no acts wrong in and of themselves, but they became good or bad according to the consequences or according to some other norm against which they were judged. We were saying that another approach is that of legalism, in which an individual does a moral act because of the weight of the law. The law has been imposed upon him, and he feels constrained to act in accord with the law. We were saying that the Catholic moral approach generally is expressive of that tradition within our past that is associated with names like Aristotle and Socrates and Plato and Seneca, i.e. what we call the natural law approach. I was telling you about the "ethic of the good" which is our moral life driven by a love for the good, the pursuit of it, and the happiness that accompanies it. The reason I tend to refer to our moral tradition as the "ethic of the good" is because there is such misunderstanding about the terminology of natural law.
The natural law tradition is very deeply imbedded within Catholic moral thought. One of the great difficulties we face today is that there is a terrible misunderstanding as to what the natural law is. We are going to consider the natural moral law in this lesson and try to distinguish it from the laws of nature that some people get confused about. There are critics of Catholicism who suggest that we can't do morality in accord with the natural law for two reasons. There are those who think we are depraved because of our sinfulness, like the classical Protestants. We are depraved because of our sinfulness so that our intellect cannot give us any guidance nor can our nature provide us with any help in coming to know about the way in which we ought to act. We have to rely entirely upon God's Word simply to tell us, because we can't trust our own nature anymore. That is one criticism that we receive.
There is another criticism that accuses us Catholics of, how should I put it, almost worshiping nature and thinking that we have to surrender ourselves to the laws of biology. There are those who accuse us of opposing contraception, for example, because contraception goes against just the natural flow of things, the natural order of things. They say that Catholics are (this is what these dissidents or dissenters call traditional Catholic moral theology) biologists or physicalists. These are terms that these authors have coined to level their accusations against traditional Catholic moral theology, but it results from a misunderstanding of the natural law. They think that traditional Catholic teaching on the natural law means we must surrender ourselves to these biological urges and processes and impulses. We are going to see that that's not what the natural law actually means. We were saying that we are able to look at the human person to gain some understanding of what will lead to his fulfillment. Gaudium et Spes says that married couples, any married couple, should be able to base certain moral judgments on their own understanding of the human person. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World from the Second Vatican Council says that objective criteria must be used by married couples in directing their acts for the transmission of life, criteria drawn from the nature of the human person and human action. What is the nature of the human person? We were saying before that it is the nature of the human person to act reasonably. This is what separates us from the rest of God's creation. It sets us apart in His physical creation. The angels also have intellect, but in terms of the world around us, we are set apart completely by our intellect, by our reason.
If we are going to talk about the natural law we have to define our terms. Let's look first to the notion of law. What is a law? Again the initial reaction to this is that it is a rule that is imposed upon us. It is something which is placed upon us, restricts us, constrains us, and reflects the will of Elijah or the person who is imposing it upon us. Saint Thomas Aquinas, that great theologian of the Middle Ages, the Dominican theologian priest, tells us that law is principally something pertaining to reason. It's understood most adequately if we see it related not to the will but rather to the intellect. Law is a creation of the intellect, something produced, Saint Thomas tells us, by reason directing actions. The classical definition of the law is found in the Summa Theologica, the Prima Secundae. Saint Thomas writes "law is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good made by him who has care of the community and promulgated." In other words, we have an individual who is responsible for the good of the community. He sees what is necessary for the community to achieve flourishing, and so he formulates precepts or directives to enable people to live together in harmony so that they all might flourish and, individually, might attain their respective happiness. Here we see that the law is a product of the intellect. Here we're just going to direct behavior so that we know how we might most ably achieve our own end and our own happiness. Thomas writes that it is due to the fact that one wills the end that the reason issues its commands as regards things ordained to the end. We know that we live in an order which has been created by God. We know that our ultimate end is God Himself. Our intellects can come to this insight. We know that God has created things with a purpose, that his mind directs all things according to their created ends. This act of God ordering all things in the cosmos to their created end is what we refer to as the eternal law. The eternal law is the mind of God ordering all things to their created ends. All of creation shows forth the glory of God as they reflect His mind and His purpose. So Saint Thomas starts with an understanding of the law found within human communities with which everyone is familiar. He first comes to a sound understanding that law is an ordinance of the reason directing the actions of the community. Then he applies this to God the Creator ordering the whole cosmos toward their specific ends for which He has created them. Thomas tells us all things belong to God himself, and the directing of anything to the end concerns him to whom the end belongs. All things are ordered toward God; all things are ordered to show forth his glory. So we can say that all things are ultimately directed to God and therefore have meaning and purpose which can be found and which can be discovered through the use of our intellect. Now we Catholics certainly believe that the intellect was wounded, the whole person was wounded in Original Sin. That first sin of our first parents, our primordial sin as our Holy Father calls it, which has resulted in the disordering, in the rebellion of our senses, so that no longer does the mind readily direct the actions of our passions. We do not believe that man's nature was obliterated in that primordial rebellious act. It's been wounded, but the mind is still able to see or perceive those ends for which God has created us. Now you can see here the language of ends and purposefulness.
Teleology -- we were talking about that in the first lesson. This approach to the moral life and law is a teleological one. The law makes sense, as we see it, ordering people towards their end, which is their perfection. Thomas reflects on the natural law and says, "whatever can be ruled by reason is contained under the law of reason." There are certain things that happen to us about which we don't reflect. There are certain things that take place within the body. For example, once a month a woman goes through her natural period in the fertility cycle, menstruation takes place. She doesn't reflect on this, she doesn't think about it, she doesn't bring it about by her mind. She is not "responsible for it." Saint Thomas says we are only required to govern by reason those things which are subject to reason. The law has to do with freely chosen human actions. Saint Thomas said that if one wills the end, the commands are issued regarding things ordained to the end. We will to be with God. That is our desire, our deepest hope, and so we begin choosing actions which are going to order us to the attainment of that end. Reason rules the other powers, so all the natural inclinations belonging to the other powers must needs be directed according to reason. It is universally right for all men that their inclinations should be directed according to reason. We're discussing a very interesting subject and that is the natural law, and we're trying to get a proper understanding of this teaching because it's traditional to the Catholic Church, and yet it is so terribly misunderstood. People usually think of the law as something which is imposed upon us by the will of the lawgiver. We want to come to some understanding of the law as being rather an ordinance of the reason, a directive of human behavior, which enables us to achieve the goal that we have chosen for ourselves. We know that we have within ourselves basic inclinations. We have an inclination to knowledge. We want to know things. We have an inclination toward the consumption of food. Young men have inclinations toward young women and vice versa. These are just built into us. Our mothers didn't have to teach us to head to the dining room table or the kitchen table when we got hungry. The smell of the food just drew us there. These are built into us. We don't have any control over certain things that can't be governed by the reason, but we can act in accord with these inclinations. We don't surrender ourselves to them. Rather we see that these inclinations become disciplined, chastened, directed so that they can help us achieve the goal that we really want. This is the role that reason plays. Reason sees the end toward which our inclination is ordered. I'll say it again. We consume food which will sustain our bodies, and the intellect understands that this means balanced meals, wholesome food, not overeating, not eating too little. Saint Thomas says that reason rules and commands the other powers so all the natural inclinations belonging to the other powers must needs be directed according to reason. Therefore, it is universally right for all men that their inclinations should be directed according to reason. Now you see that we, as human beings, understand the ends toward which our inclinations are ordered. The lower animals don't.
Now they too are disposed toward certain ends because all of God's created order is teleological, it is purposeful, it is directed toward ends. We had two boxer dogs at one time, Max and Maggie. Max was the older and we got Maggie as a pup. And as Maggie got older, lo and behold, she went into heat. She was able to have a baby or babies. Max responded to this. He didn't think about it, but, instinctively, he responded to Maggie being ready to have babies. We didn't want to breed the dogs yet because the female was young; it was the first time she had gone through heat. We just simply decided to keep the dogs apart, but we had no idea how difficult it was going to be in a house of nine children to keep two dogs apart when the female was in heat. It was no easy matter. We had to keep Max chained to a post in the basement. One of our daughters had the female dog up in her room behind closed doors. All night the dogs would howl and bark and scratch. They were drawn to one another. Obviously we had to let them out every so often to get some exercise. We had to try to keep them behind doors. It was just chaos, pandemonium in the house. We couldn't reason with them. They wouldn't listen to us. We tried to tell Maggie that she was too young that it wasn't time to have babies. Nothing worked. We went through the longest time and managed to keep them apart with little sleep on our part. Then one day I heard a scream from my daughter, and I was running up, and there were Max and Maggie in the marital embrace. Shortly thereafter we had eight little boxer puppies. Now we would say that Max and Maggie acted in accord with the creative mind of God. God had created Max and Maggie male and female so that they would have puppies, and that's what they did. They didn't think about it, they didn't reflect on it, they simply did it. After the puppies grew a little bit, my wife sold all the puppies and the two dogs to bring order back in our house. She bought one daughter a cello. Human beings can react to situations in a way in which animals can't. Why? We are animals too. God has also created us to be drawn to members of the opposite sex, and in many respects, for the same reason, that is, to come together to bond and to engender new life, to have children, to establish family. The difference between us as rational creatures and these lower animals is that we know and understand the ends toward which our inclinations are ordered. The young man who is a bodyguard down at the Jersey shore who sees an attractive young woman going down the beach is the animal that God has created him to be. He's drawn to her. He's attracted to her, but he understands the nature of his attraction. He knows why. He knows that ultimately this mutual attraction is to lead to friendship, that it is to lead to, as our Holy Father says, a communion between the two. Our Holy Father also tells us that in the complementarity between men and women the communion never remains simply communion, but rather it blossoms forth into community. A child arises from the love expressed between the man and the woman. There we see the difference between the lower animals and human beings. Our boxer dogs were subject to the biological laws of nature. We, too, insofar as we are animals, are also subject to the biological laws of nature, but we don't surrender ourselves to those inclinations, those appetites, as the lower animals do. We see and know the ends to which they were ordered. We consequently bring our passions and our appetites and our inclinations under the control of our intellect so that we can make the kinds of choices which will enable us to achieve the end that we really want. In terms of a young man and a young woman, what they are really drawn to in the other person is a quality which is very attractive in the other, the possession of which will eventually lead to their happiness. What they are really seeking in the other is happiness. We know that true happiness can be there only as they are faithful to one another in terms of husband and wife as they establish an exclusive relationship in which they are open to new life, bring children into the world and establish a family. This is what the natural law is all about.
There is a way in which we can say that our boxer dogs were not subject to the natural law. They were subject to the eternal law. They acted in conformity with the mind of God which orders all things to their created ends. They didn't act in accord with the natural law because the natural law, Saint Thomas tells us, is the rational creature's conscious participation in the eternal law. Our simply having the dispositions, the inclinations, and appetites are expressive of God's creative intellect and will. We can come to know and understand the ends toward which those inclinations are ordered, so we are able to share in God's providence, in God's direction, and the ends for which God has created us. We can say that when we are acting in accord with our reason, we are acting reasonably. When we are making the kinds of choices which are appropriate to helping us attain our end that we are pursuing, then we can say that we are acting in accord with the natural law. Sometimes it might be better to refer to this phenomenon as the natural moral law to avoid any confusion of the natural law with the laws of nature. Our two boxer dogs you see were subject to the laws of nature. They were driven by biological laws. Human beings on the other hand are not. They are aware of the biological laws. The moral life, then, is led by making the right kinds of choices so that we can attain the ends that we are truly seeking and that we truly want.
This teaching is often misunderstood. So often when the Church speaks of the natural law people think that this means that we just have to conform to our biological processes. I hope I can explain that to your satisfaction. Another thing we have to realize is that the natural law does reflect God's will for us. It is not subject or open to change. A homosexual was telling me, "you know, you misunderstand us gays. You have to realize that the only thing we want is to be able to have a spouse, another man who would live with us, and be true to us. We want to be able to have children. We want to be able to have a family and to raise those children." I said to this man, "those are very nice sentiments, but don't you think that God has a plan for the way in which a family is to come into being?" He said, "I used to, but I don't anymore." The reason he didn't anymore is because if the choices that he wanted to make didn't conform to God's plan, then he was simply going to try to bring about another plan. You see, we can't change the natural law. That's another thing we have to be aware of. The natural law is objective, it reflects the mind of God. It manifests the purposes for which God has created us, but we are not finding ourselves in a situation where our freedom is in any way restricted. Our awareness of the ends and purposes for which God has created us enables us to make choices. It enables us to be truly free. We can make the choices either to marry and raise a family or to refrain from marriage, to become a priest or become a nun. We can make a choice to decide on some kind of profession like teaching, working for the gas company, or becoming an attorney. We can't make those kinds of choices unless we have some understanding of the ends for which God has created us and an awareness of how some choices that we make are going to help us achieve those ends. The actions which we choose have to be appropriate to the attainment of the end. It is an intrinsic teleology. There is a meaningfulness built right into the act itself that is going to help the individual attain the end. I mentioned earlier the homosexual that just wanted to set up a family with another homosexual. It doesn't take much reflection to see that the sorts of actions that the homosexuals engage in are not within themselves ordered toward the actualization of what it is they are seeking, which is the establishment of a family with children. They are incapable of doing it themselves, so we can see right there on the face of it that the action is inappropriate if the end that the individual is seeking is marriage and family. That's how the intellect helps us make the right kinds of choices. We are making the right kinds of choices when we are acting in accord with the natural law.
As Saint Thomas tells us, the first precept of law is that good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this. Whatever the practical reason apprehends as man's good belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided. You see how broad Saint Thomas' definition is then. People misunderstand the Church's teaching on the natural law because they usually hear it used and referred to in matters such as contraception, so they think it is a biological wrong or that it deals merely with sexual matters. No. The Church insists that the natural law also guides nations with regard to their affairs, their international affairs, that all of our conscious choices for the good are reflective of the natural law. Saint Thomas speaks about it so broadly. The first precept is that good is to be done. We pursue the good, whatever that is. We act in accord with our nature so that good truly might be attained. If we are acting in that way then we say that we are acting in accord with precepts of the natural law.
This is natural to us. All human beings have this disposition toward the good because this is the way in which God has created us. The ultimate good is God himself. The Holy Father in his beautiful encyclical on moral theology entitledVeritatis Splendor has the story of the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus because he wants to know what he must do in order to be good. He is seeking the good. And Jesus directs him to the good telling him that the ultimate choice he has to make is God himself because God is all good. You remember one time someone addressed Jesus as "Good Teacher" and Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? There is no one good but God." Now Jesus was not saying that he was not good, because he was God. He just tried to draw attention to the fact that as human beings seek fulfillment and happiness what they ultimately are seeking is God, and God has created all of us for himself, which means that everyone can become aware of this basic inclination within him toward the good.
Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that those who were sinning were not free from guilt even though they had never heard God's law because they should have known from what was written in their hearts. We read in the very first chapter that the wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who in this perversity of their sinning hinder the truth. The truth is open to everyone. Whatever can be known about God is clear to them. God himself made it so. Since the creation of the world, invisible realities, God's eternal power and divinity, have become visible, recognized through the things he has made. Therefore these men were without excuse. Saint Paul tells us that. We all can know basically what is right and what is wrong. Saint Thomas, in our tradition, has said that what we find in the Ten Commandments are expressions of the natural law. Whether we look to the ancient Babylonian code, the Code of Hammurabi, or whether we look to other ancient pagan religions, we find all of them have rules against adultery, murder, theft, and bearing false witness against neighbors. This isn't something that just belonged to the Jewish people and now just belongs to us as Christians. It belongs to all people by virtue of their having been created by God for Himself. So this is what we refer to again as the natural law.
We use language in ways in which we are not always clear about what we mean. One of the reasons people become confused about the laws of nature is because we are using the word "law" here in an analogical sense. An analogy is where you take two things which are different but they have something in common and you try to gain some knowledge of the other thing which you don't know by looking to what is similar to what you do know. When we talked about biological laws we're really using law there to say it in an analogous sense. I have this pencil, for example, that I can hold up over my head, I can let go of the pencil and it will drop. I pick it up and let go, it drops again. I could keep doing this for the rest of the hour and that pencil would keep falling into my hand. Now someone would look at that and say, "My goodness, it looks as though that pencil is obeying some kind of command." We use that kind of language to say that the pencil is obeying the law of gravity. The law of gravity. Think about that language for a minute. This pencil is obeying the laws of gravity. How can an inanimate object obey anything? It certainly can't direct its own actions in accord with a directive of the intellect, which is what law is. When we use the term "laws of nature" we are merely describing something that happens over and over again. And so it happens with such regularity and such predictability that it appears that the thing is following a law. And so we talk about a pencil obeying the law of gravity. Laws of nature are merely descriptive, in other words, they describe what takes place over and over again. A real law isn't descriptive but rather prescriptive. In other words a true law prescribes what actions we are to take. The laws of nature are descriptive but the natural law, the moral law, is prescriptive. It prescribes certain actions to do or to refrain from doing so as to help us attain the end of human happiness which we are seeking in its various manifestations.
We have to see that we seek not just any end but rather a good end. And this is where the intellect again helps us to distinguish between what might be simply a false good attracting us or a true good. God has provided us with the ability to do that through the use of our intellect. The virtue which is applied to the practical intellect which has become well disciplined to choose true goods is known as the virtue of Prudence. It is an intellectual virtue because it is able to see the true nature of things. It is able to see things as they truly are, which is necessary if we are going to be making a moral choice. Prudence is also a moral virtue because it doesn't just stop with knowing what is true. It is going to enable us to choose the right goods, which will enable us to attain to the ultimate good, which is God Himself, and those subordinate goods which we seek in this life which don't bring us to the fullness of love which is God himself. Prudence is also called the mother of all of the virtues. It's Prudence which enables us to see and understand those goods toward which our lower appetites are ordered, the appetite for food, sex and drink. In perfecting that lowest appetite in accord with the life of the intellect man is in accord with the natural law.
The perfecting of that disposition and inclination is known as the virtue of Temperance. It must be subordinated to the insights of the intellectual virtue known as Prudence. Under the dictates of an enlightened will, we make the right kinds of choices to become integrated in our person, so the dispositions, the drives, the appetites that we have in pursuing the good help to form us into a harmonious whole. That's where we talk about an individual having integrity. It means that they are one, that they are ordered. They are ordered because it is the intellect directing them to the goods which will bring about their greatest fulfillment. This is what the natural law is all about. There is a way in which we can actually say that we formulate ourselves the precepts of the natural law as we seek the good. The law isn't something that is imposed upon us.
The Ten Commandments themselves are the natural order. No matter what society you study they will all have the same kinds of rules for human behavior. Saint Thomas says this is true for all except the third Commandment which specifies that it's the Sabbath day on which God ought to be worshiped and honored. But the precept of the natural law that can be found in the third Commandment is the fact that we all as human beings should be worshiping and praising God. That, too, is of the natural law. The God who loves us has bestowed on us certain inclinations and appetites which themselves bring about our flourishing. We are very blessed to have this capacity to know and to understand the ends for which we have been created. We are so blessed to have the natural law. We can see that the natural law helps us avoid falling into subjectivism because it insists there is an objective human nature, and it is from that human nature that we are going to be able to derive the prescriptions for the way in which we can lead wholesome and healthy lives.
The approach of the natural law helps us enter into dialog with other peoples who may not share our particular religious beliefs. The natural law and the doctrine of the Catholic Church tell us that the Church's basic moral teachings, whether they have to do with euthanasia, contraception, or the ways in which one wages war apply to everybody. It might be surprising to some people to learn that contraception is not considered immoral just for Catholics. The Church sees it as being against the dignity of all human beings to practice this. And why?
This is not a lecture on sexual morality or on contraception. This is a very complicated question, but I hope that perhaps with a brief reflection on this we might be able to understand better this distinction between the "laws of nature" and the "natural moral law." A lot of people think that the Church teaches that contraception is wrong because it is artificial. People think that the Church is opposed to birth control because people are using latex, they're using condoms, they're using foam, or they're ingesting chemicals, and so we talk about the immorality of artificial contraception. People tend to think that contraception is wrong because it's artificial whereas periodic abstinence, or natural family planning, is moral. (Periodic abstinence is avoiding marital relations at the time when the wife is fertile and can be done for the right motives and for the right end because it is natural). This thinking, however, would make us prey to the very narrow and false understanding of the natural law. The natural law doesn't have to do with artificial versus natural, it doesn't have to do with matters that deal simply with biology. The natural law has to do with what is reasonable. It is because contraception is fundamentally an unreasonable act that the Church says that it is immoral. It is our nature as rational creatures to act reasonably, and when we don't we act beneath the dignity of our nature. This is what is wrong with contraception.
How can we understand this? If we look at men and women we can see the inclinations that they have towards one another and we can understand what those inclinations mean in terms of the ends toward which they are ordered. We talked about this before. We can make sense of the marital act by understanding the ends toward which a marital act is ordered. The marital act is ordered toward what the Church has called a "remedy for concupiscence" where it allows us to release our sexual drives and to enjoy one another bodily. There is nothing wrong with that. The marital act can also be understood in terms of the mutual support that the husband and wife give to one another, the fidelity between the spouses. But it principally can be understood in terms of the child which arises out of it. The meaning of the marital act is terms of its end is the child. The child makes sense of the marital act. These ends of bodily pleasure, of mutual support, and of friendship that are expressed in the marital act and also the child not only explain the marital act they make it possible.
T.S. Eliot had said the end is where we begin. We can't even go someplace unless we have an idea of where we are going. We can't even perform an action unless we understand what the action is for. And when it comes to conjugal intercourse we see that the end that is engendering of children, the establishment of a family which is going to bind husband and wife together even more firmly in their friendship with one another. And if one contracepts, one performs some kind of action which is directed against the very meaning of conjugal intercourse. It doesn't matter what one does, whether one uses the pill or a condom or a diaphragm, one is placing an act out of the marital act. This contraceptive act has no end or purpose, no meaning other than to keep the child or the procreated good from coming into being. In other words, that end of the marital act which ultimately makes sense of it is being denied. Consequently, contraception is beneath our dignity. It is an unreasonable kind of act. It undermines the basis for our freedom. We can't even act unless we have some understanding of an openness toward the end, toward which the conjugal act is ordered. So it is not the artificiality of contraception which makes it immoral. It's not the "naturalness of natural family planning" or "periodic abstinence" which makes it moral. It is the fact that the one act, contraception, goes contrary to the very nature of the conjugal act or marital act itself. You have human beings acting contrary to their very nature. It's an unreasonable act. If the married couple avoids sexual relations at a time when the wife is fertile and they shouldn't be having a child, then that couple doesn't have to act against one of the ends or goods of the marriage act. They simply refrain from acting altogether.
Now you can see here, I hope, that the fact that we're not talking about the natural law in terms of simply what is natural as opposed to that which is artificial. Time and again we have to see that we are understanding moral behavior as being directed by the intellect. We're talking about reasonable behavior and this is how we can understand the way in which the natural law works in our lives and why we would be able ourselves in a sense to be the ones who formulate the precepts of the natural law. That is the prescription for action. The reason a prescription of the moral law will be the same for me as it will be for you and it will be for our neighbor is that we all share the same human nature. If we are going to be acting in accord with our human nature the result will be that there will be certain actions which will always be prescribed for us. There will be some kinds of actions which we may never do because they would do violence to us as persons and to our dignity.
While it is true that people can be confused about what the precepts of the natural law really are, Saint Thomas says the further we descend from the general principles that "good is always to be done and evil avoided," and descend further from the broad principles that we find in the Ten Commandments that we are not to murder, commit adultery, or bear false witness there could be confusion. When we get down to the concrete situation sometimes it isn't always that easy to know what the right course of action should be in accord with the natural law. For example, it could be in some societies where a woman going to the beach and wearing a bathing costume that went down to her ankles could be considered immoral if people were not accustomed to seeing that kind of behavior. It's not that wearing a bathing suit like this in and of itself is immoral. What is wrong is that one ought not to be doing something that would be inciting the passions in others. In some societies that would mean even going to the beach in bloomers down to their ankles; whereas in other societies that wouldn't be the case. There is a certain way in which the precepts of the natural law are applied in concrete situations so that it might look as though there are differences in the precepts of the natural law. But this isn't the case. The concrete application might vary from one circumstance to another, but the general norms of the natural law will be the same because God has created us all. Saint Thomas says, as though members of one body, and he is not talking about the body of the Church. He is talking about the body of humanity. And since we share a common humanity, and since we all seek the same things by virtue of the fact that God has instilled certain inclinations in us, all of us will be able to understand the directives and the precepts of the natural law. They will lead to our perfection and our fulfillment. We in the Church are very blessed by having Divine Revelation which helps us to understand more fully the ends toward which God is calling us.