What are the effects of violating Natural Law? Leave it to one of the greatest minds of the Catholic Church to explain.
Saint Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, described the Law of Natural Consequences this way:
“The eternal law… has established with unshakeable firmness that the will is rewarded with happiness or punished with unhappiness depending on its merit,” (On Free Choice of the Will, 1.14, pg. 23, emphasis added).
St. Augustine, in this work, explains the problem the human will causes in man’s happiness.
Human beings possess an intellect and a will that far surpass every other creature on earth. Each human also possesses a soul which will last for eternity. This is untrue of other earthly creatures.
The Doctor of the Church lays out the case that man flourishes when he keeps his will in check, and his intellect clear (1.13, pg. 23).
The problem for mankind in this lifetime remains, however, his fallen human nature. Mankind has an attraction for sin, called concupiscence that remains present for one’s entire life.
When someone gives into the temptation to sin, he disrupts the natural order. He dulls his intellect and weakens his will with each sin he partakes in. Man’s mind and will are supposed to control his faculties, but he relents this power with each sin committed.
THE LAW OF NATURAL CONSEQUENCES
God established the universe in such a way that man can learn right from wrong from experience.
We can know our appetite for food and drink is given to us because we must eat and drink to survive. When we do either one in excess, however, natural consequences will result.
If we eat too much junk food, we will develop stomach aches, our teeth will rot, and so forth. Therefore, we can see the wisdom in eating healthy food. If we eat that instead, we will have more energy, we will sleep better, and so on.
In like manner, God established such parameters for proper conduct in many areas of human existence. This is none more evident than the realm of human sexuality.
More than that, though, God also gave mankind an intellect to both induce and deduce logical consequences of one’s actions. Mankind can apply this ability to reason to the sexual arena of his existence to learn a great deal.
The complementarity of the male and female bodies make procreation possible. When used properly to this end within marriage, all people experience great benefits.
When human sexuality gets perverted, society has a whole cannot help but suffer greatly as well.
The unhealthiness of the homosexual lifestyle, for instance, gives evidence to its immorality. The human body was not made to endure such a lifestyle.
The diseases, strokes, heart attacks, and other physical consequences of using the birth control pill and other contraceptives should compel people to realize the unhealthiness of their use. They can reason to the immorality of using contraception and the natural consequence for their unhealthy behavior back up their intuition, if they dare.
Some contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, serve as an abortifacient, as well. Causing the death of one’s own child remains a very unnatural action for anyone to take.
Yet, these are the choices people make on a daily basis in this Culture of Death we live in. They would rather welcome disease and death than follow their God-given, human nature.
Given the destructive lifestyles such perversions cause, man can conclude such lifestyles are to be avoided. They are immoral, as they misuse human sexuality, in fact.
ST. AUGUSTINE OFFERS A SOLUTION
St. Augustine proposes a means to avoid the Law of Natural Consequences ruining our individual lives and society as a whole.
First, he identifies the problem mankind has caused for himself:
“The eternal law demands that we purify our love by turning away from temporal things and toward what is eternal” (1.15, pg. 25).
He lists out the temporal “things” which mankind has a tendency to become too fixated on. Among these he itemizes the body, family, city, property, and one’s freedom to be their own lord.
Think our modern culture is guilty of idolizing the first and the last items on his list?
Chasing sensual pleasures makes a man a slave to his own body. Since such desires satisfy but for a short while, he will never be at peace seeking them.
Cleaving to pleasures, such as sexual license, will always lead to spiritual ruin.
Hangovers, break ups, sexually transmitted diseases, a trail of aborted babies, broken homes, and the like exemplify the temporal punishments inherit in such a licentious lifestyle.
The Law of Natural Consequences, thus, will have the last laugh.
The irony is that people caught up in this lifestyle will never experience what they are truly seeking: happiness.
Oh, sure, the one-night stand was pleasureful for a night. The adulterous affair excites its participants for a time. However, in the end, such thrills last but for a blink of an eye.
Inevitably, going outside the bounds of the Natural Law will lead to misery and can never fulfill.
St. Augustine implores us to subject ourselves to eternal truths, for only then will we be satisfied. Only there, being obedient to God and His Natural Law, will we be happy.
I imagine you have many tales you can tell where you or someone you know learned what are the effects of violating natural law.
Without naming names, maybe you can recall a story of someone who probably wishes they had heeded St. Augustine’s advice.
Feel free to comment below!