Catholic Dictionary




A theory of civil authority which holds that God directly gives authority to the whole people civilly united, who then transfer its exercise to an individual or group to the form of government they approve. The implied contract does not establish political society as such, but only the form of government and the ruler. All government exists by the consent, at best tacit, of the governed. First clearly enunciated by St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) in his Disputationes de Controversiis, notably in the De Laicis, III, 6; and Francis Suarez (1548-1617) in his De Legibus, III, II, 3, 4, it was later developed by John Locke (1632-1704) in England, and by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in the United States, and has become the mainstay of modern political democracies.