Obeying man's law
#1
As Catholics, how strictly must we follow man's law?

Obviously we must pay taxes, as Christ said but what about, say, victimless crimes such as driving above the posted speed limit? If it's a sin, is it venial?
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#2
As far as the slightly speeding question I'll leave that to others, but going on to more serious things we are not obligated to recognize sodomite "marriage" and other such nonsense. God's law trumps man's law.
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#3
There are different opinions among moral theologians on certain laws which are more about maintaining some kind of basic order (which is not truly harmed by a slight violation), and those which are more directly for the common good. Some theologians would say that any violation of a reasonable human law to which one is legitimately subject is a venial sin, others would say there are "merely penal laws" which do not oblige in conscience, but if one is caught, oblige one in conscience to pay the penalty.

A law is an ordinance of reason which is meant to lead to the common good. A human law is made by a human power and promulgated by the legitimate authority and meant to make more specific certain aspects of the Natural or Divine law. A law in the proper sense always participates in the Natural or Divine law, even if it is many steps removed.

Taxes are a good example. It is reasonable for the state to demand some contribution from its subjects to help provide for the services it offers. So long as those taxes are not unreasonable, one is obliged to pay them in conscience.

Speed limits are in that debatable zone. Certainly it is reasonable for the state to regulate the order of the roads by imposing certain limits to promote safety and protect people. The question is whether the actual numerical limit is a reasonable limit. In most cases it is quite arbitrary and not tied to any design of the roads. Most 70 mph zones can easily be driven at 100 mph in a well-maintained car without serious additional danger. In most cases where the type of road is not issued a defined limit, the technique is to set the speed at just above the 85 percentile speed (the speed at which 85 percent of people are travelling below). The order desired and the limit commanded is reasonable in itself, but the question is whether the particular number is reasonable.

Further, exceeding the speed limit by a slight amount is not only generally tolerated, but also seems not to cause any real harm in most cases. A man going 65 in a 60 zone, does not harm the common good in any appreciable way. That is the argument that some would use to say that this is in no way sinful. However, to receive a ticket for such, and refuse to pay it would be showing contempt for the authority, and that certainly could not be excused from sin.

Clearly going 100 in a 60 zone is not only a violation of the law, but also unreasonable perhaps scandalous and thus sinful.

Others would argue that the state has every right to set an arbitrary limit, so any intentional violation is a contempt for the authority of the state, thus at least somewhat sinful.

No one is bound to follow either school of thought, though this author tends to see such light matters which have no direct or substantial impact on the common good as "merely penal laws".
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#4
The "any violation is a sin" interpretation would be devastating for someone suffering from scruples, especially since they often can't effectively distinguish between venial and mortal sin.  "I was accelerating and got to 61mph before braking when it was a 60mph zone.  But maybe I intended to speed when I could have braked sooner."  "The sign says no walking on the grass but I took a step slightly off to avoid a hole in the sidewalk."  Just some fictitious examples which come to my mind.
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#5
(01-21-2019, 03:41 PM)Steven Wrote: The "any violation is a sin" interpretation would be devastating for someone suffering from scruples, especially since they often can't effectively distinguish between venial and mortal sin.  "I was accelerating and got to 61mph before braking when it was a 60mph zone.  But maybe I intended to speed when I could have braked sooner."  "The sign says no walking on the grass but I took a step slightly off to avoid a hole in the sidewalk."  Just some fictitious examples which come to my mind.

This is exactly why it seems to me more reasonable to say that there are certain laws which are merely penal and oblige not in conscience, but oblige in penalty only.

Laws are meant to help guide one in virtue, not to set out minute restrictions which are only questionably and remotely linked with the Natural Law.

Certainly 61 mph in a 60 zone is no real violation of the Natural Law in itself. It is hard to imagine that there is any malice in this, and since sin requires at least some degree of malice (or culpable negligence) ...

Most who would hold that there any violation is a sin, would also excuse most if not all of the culpability because of lack of malice or attention. That also seems a possibility, but even then, at its root it seems there could be laws and regulations and rules which are merely to give some arbitrary standard to help preserve an order which is still quite a bit distant from the law itself.

A speed limit is meant to keep people from driving so fast that they put themselves or others in danger. If there were no limit, some would drive in an unsafe manner. That a limit is set is for this purpose. That this limit on this section is 60 mph is an arbitrary number meant to set some limit.

I have been on some roads in less developed countries where 100 kph is the limit and clearly no one in their right mind would go 100 kph (60 mph), and one of those countries is debating reducing urban limits to 30 kph (18 mph) all while they build nice new freeways which are better than some American roads and could easily handle 150 kph (93 mph) and are marked 100, yet the same reports suggest be reduced to 70 kph (45 mph). 

Not every number is reasonable, but a limit is reasonable. Thus, it seems to me that the numeric limit is not the real purpose of the law, and the purpose is to keep people driving reasonably. If people do the later, but violate the numeric limit, it seems they are keeping the purpose of the law, which is the reasonable part. Thus, I would argue for a merely penal law here.
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