Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
NORM OF MORALITY
A standard to which human acts are compared to determine their goodness or badness. A proximate norm is immediately applicable to the acts; the ultimate norm guarantees the validity of the proximate norm.
Human nature is the proximate norm of morality because it is common to everyone, and the rules derived from it will be applicable to all human beings. Moreover, human nature, while essentially unchangeable, is flexible enough to admit of varying applications according to circumstances. It is also constantly present and manifest to all humankind.
The ultimate norm of morality is the divine nature. This assumes that God is the Creator of the universe and the pattern of all things, that he is Being by essence and the source of all things, so that whatever either exists or can exist is a reflection and participation of Infinite Being. This resemblance between God and creatures--including human beings--should be not only in nature (who God is) but also in action (how God acts). Consequently, the ultimate norm of human morality is the nature and activity of God. A person is as good as his or her character approximates the perfections of God; and his or her conduct is as good as it imitates the activity of God.