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Catholic Dictionary




Legislation imposed by human authority, implementing the natural law. It may take one of two forms, declarative or specifying. Declarative positive laws simply declare in so many words what the natural law prescribes or draw conclusions deducible from the natural law. Such are laws forbidding murder, theft, or perjury. They differ from natural law only in the manner of promulgation, say the State, and not only by the natural light of reason. Specifying positive laws determine or establish specific ways of acting in accordance with the natural law but not directly concluding from it. Such are traffic laws, ways of collecting taxes, and the conditions for just contracts. No human law that contradicts the natural law is a true law, but it need not merely re-echo the natural law.