What is an unjust law?


Does a law have to be actually asking something IMMORAL to be unjust? Or can it apply to some extent to ridiculosity? For example, are people in China sinning if they access illegal, censored (but innocent or good) sites on the Internet?


I don’t think it necessarily has to be immoral to be unjust. The catechism kind of touches base on 3 things when one is obliged not to follow civil authority/laws in paragraph 2242 which states:

The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”

As for your example about whether people in China are sinning for accessing illegal (but innocent) sites, I’m not really sure. But if they had grave reasons to do so, say perhaps letting a family member in America know that their mom passed away or is dying, I would think it would be fine.


I would think (just my thoughts, I am not certain) that a law that a government has no right to make, whether it requires immoral action or not, could be called unjust and disregarded without sin. Of course, we’d have to be careful about claiming this as a defense, and make sure we’re not just saying the government doesn’t have a right to make a law merely as an excuse to do something that we want to, and where the line actually lies would be hard to say.

I could also see an argument saying that we could disregard such laws only if they were in place in order to accomplish a bad end, or would likely lead to one. For example, I think if a government outlawed a news source because that source gave true information that is contrary to the government’s goals, that law could be ignored, despite the fact that there is nothing immoral about refraining from getting news from that source.

But I think that would probably be too strong. If a government outlawed, say, any site that hosted Justin Beiber music, then while I would think that the government had good taste, I’m not sure we’d be obligated to do what they say. But on the other hand, I could see an argument saying that we are obligated to follow even such silly laws (in the absence of positive justification for breaking them) because the idea that each person decides what laws are silly and what aren’t and so which he must follow individually would lead to chaos, which is generally bad. But then again, if such silly laws were piled on and on until they became an unreasonable burden, perhaps that argument would fall apart.

So I don’t know. I would hazard a guess that it depends on the law, the intent behind the law, the probable results of ignoring it, and the general legal atmosphere. Seems like a fuzzy area to me. (Outlawing Lady Gaga, on the other hand, would be entirely just with no questions asked. Because arghargharghargh.)


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