St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province

 

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OF CHANGE IN LAWS (FOUR ARTICLES)

Deinde considerandum est de mutatione legum. Et circa hoc quaeruntur quatuor.    We must now consider change in laws: under which head there are four points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum lex humana sit mutabilis.     (1) Whether human law is changeable?
Secundo, utrum semper debeat mutari, quando aliquid melius occurrerit.     (2) Whether it should be always changed, whenever anything better occurs?
Tertio, utrum per consuetudinem aboleatur; et utrum consuetudo obtineat vim legis.     (3) Whether it is abolished by custom, and whether custom obtains the force of law?
Quarto, utrum usus legis humanae per dispensationem rectorum immutari debeat.     (4) Whether the application of human law should be changed by dispensation of those in authority?

 

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Whether human law should be changed in any way?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod lex humana nullo modo debeat mutari. Lex enim humana derivatur a lege naturali, ut supra dictum est. Sed lex naturalis immobilis perseverat. Ergo et lex humana debet immobilis permanere.   Objection 1: It would seem that human law should not be changed in any way at all. Because human law is derived from the natural law, as stated above (Question [95], Article [2]). But the natural law endures unchangeably. Therefore human law should also remain without any change.
Praeterea, sicut philosophus dicit, in V Ethic., mensura maxime debet esse permanens. Sed lex humana est mensura humanorum actuum, ut supra dictum est. Ergo debet immobiliter permanere.   Objection 2: Further, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 5), a measure should be absolutely stable. But human law is the measure of human acts, as stated above (Question [90], Articles [1],2). Therefore it should remain without change.
Praeterea, de ratione legis est quod sit iusta et recta, ut supra dictum est. Sed illud quod semel est rectum, semper est rectum. Ergo illud quod semel est lex, semper debet esse lex.   Objection 3: Further, it is of the essence of law to be just and right, as stated above (Question [95], Article [2]). But that which is right once is right always. Therefore that which is law once, should be always law.
Sed contra est quod Augustinus dicit, in I de Lib. Arb., lex temporalis quamvis iusta sit, commutari tamen per tempora iuste potest.   On the contrary, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6): "A temporal law, however just, may be justly changed in course of time."
Respondeo dicendum quod sicut supra dictum est, lex humana est quoddam dictamen rationis, quo diriguntur humani actus. Et secundum hoc duplex causa potest esse quod lex humana iuste mutetur, una quidem ex parte rationis; alia vero ex parte hominum, quorum actus lege regulantur. Ex parte quidem rationis, quia humanae rationi naturale esse videtur ut gradatim ab imperfecto ad perfectum perveniat. Unde videmus in scientiis speculativis quod qui primo philosophati sunt, quaedam imperfecta tradiderunt, quae postmodum per posteriores sunt magis perfecta. Ita etiam est in operabilibus. Nam primi qui intenderunt invenire aliquid utile communitati hominum, non valentes omnia ex seipsis considerare, instituerunt quaedam imperfecta in multis deficientia quae posteriores mutaverunt, instituentes aliqua quae in paucioribus deficere possent a communi utilitate.   I answer that, As stated above (Question [91], Article [3]), human law is a dictate of reason, whereby human acts are directed. Thus there may be two causes for the just change of human law: one on the part of reason; the other on the part of man whose acts are regulated by law. The cause on the part of reason is that it seems natural to human reason to advance gradually from the imperfect to the perfect. Hence, in speculative sciences, we see that the teaching of the early philosophers was imperfect, and that it was afterwards perfected by those who succeeded them. So also in practical matters: for those who first endeavored to discover something useful for the human community, not being able by themselves to take everything into consideration, set up certain institutions which were deficient in many ways; and these were changed by subsequent lawgivers who made institutions that might prove less frequently deficient in respect of the common weal.
Ex parte vero hominum, quorum actus lege regulantur, lex recte mutari potest propter mutationem conditionum hominum, quibus secundum diversas eorum conditiones diversa expediunt. Sicut Augustinus ponit exemplum, in I de Lib. Arb., quod si populus sit bene moderatus et gravis, communisque utilitatis diligentissimus custos, recte lex fertur qua tali populo liceat creare sibi magistratus, per quos respublica administretur. Porro si paulatim idem populus depravatus habeat venale suffragium, et regimen flagitiosis sceleratisque committat; recte adimitur tali populo potestas dandi honores, et ad paucorum bonorum redit arbitrium.    On the part of man, whose acts are regulated by law, the law can be rightly changed on account of the changed condition of man, to whom different things are expedient according to the difference of his condition. An example is proposed by Augustine (De Lib. Arb. i, 6): "If the people have a sense of moderation and responsibility, and are most careful guardians of the common weal, it is right to enact a law allowing such a people to choose their own magistrates for the government of the commonwealth. But if, as time goes on, the same people become so corrupt as to sell their votes, and entrust the government to scoundrels and criminals; then the right of appointing their public officials is rightly forfeit to such a people, and the choice devolves to a few good men."
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod naturalis lex est participatio quaedam legis aeternae, ut supra dictum est, et ideo immobilis perseverat, quod habet ex immobilitate et perfectione divinae rationis instituentis naturam. Sed ratio humana mutabilis est et imperfecta. Et ideo eius lex mutabilis est. Et praeterea lex naturalis continet quaedam universalia praecepta, quae semper manent, lex vero posita ab homine continet praecepta quaedam particularia, secundum diversos casus qui emergunt.   Reply to Objection 1: The natural law is a participation of the eternal law, as stated above (Question [91], Article [2]), and therefore endures without change, owing to the unchangeableness and perfection of the Divine Reason, the Author of nature. But the reason of man is changeable and imperfect: wherefore his law is subject to change. Moreover the natural law contains certain universal precepts, which are everlasting: whereas human law contains certain particular precepts, according to various emergencies.
Ad secundum dicendum quod mensura debet esse permanens quantum est possibile. Sed in rebus mutabilibus non potest esse aliquid omnino immutabiliter permanens. Et ideo lex humana non potest esse omnino immutabilis.   Reply to Objection 2: A measure should be as enduring as possible. But nothing can be absolutely unchangeable in things that are subject to change. And therefore human law cannot be altogether unchangeable.
Ad tertium dicendum quod rectum in rebus corporalibus dicitur absolute, et ideo semper, quantum est de se, manet rectum. Sed rectitudo legis dicitur in ordine ad utilitatem communem, cui non semper proportionatur una eademque res, sicut supra dictum est. Et ideo talis rectitudo mutatur.   Reply to Objection 3: In corporal things, right is predicated absolutely: and therefore, as far as itself is concerned, always remains right. But right is predicated of law with reference to the common weal, to which one and the same thing is not always adapted, as stated above: wherefore rectitude of this kind is subject to change.

 

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Whether human law should always be changed, whenever something better occurs?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod semper lex humana, quando aliquid melius occurrit, sit mutanda. Leges enim humanae sunt adinventae per rationem humanam, sicut etiam aliae artes. Sed in aliis artibus mutatur id quod prius tenebatur, si aliquid melius occurrat. Ergo idem est etiam faciendum in legibus humanis.   Objection 1: It would seem that human law should be changed, whenever something better occurs. Because human laws are devised by human reason, like other arts. But in the other arts, the tenets of former times give place to others, if something better occurs. Therefore the same should apply to human laws.
Praeterea, ex his quae praeterita sunt, providere possumus de futuris. Sed nisi leges humanae mutatae fuissent supervenientibus melioribus adinventionibus, multa inconvenientia sequerentur, eo quod leges antiquae inveniuntur multas ruditates continere. Ergo videtur quod leges sint mutandae, quotiescumque aliquid melius occurrit statuendum.   Objection 2: Further, by taking note of the past we can provide for the future. Now unless human laws had been changed when it was found possible to improve them, considerable inconvenience would have ensued; because the laws of old were crude in many points. Therefore it seems that laws should be changed, whenever anything better occurs to be enacted.
Praeterea, leges humanae circa singulares actus hominum statuuntur. In singularibus autem perfectam cognitionem adipisci non possumus nisi per experientiam, quae tempore indiget, ut dicitur in II Ethic. Ergo videtur quod per successionem temporis possit aliquid melius occurrere statuendum.   Objection 3: Further, human laws are enacted about single acts of man. But we cannot acquire perfect knowledge in singular matters, except by experience, which "requires time," as stated in Ethic. ii. Therefore it seems that as time goes on it is possible for something better to occur for legislation.
Sed contra est quod dicitur in decretis, dist. XII, ridiculum est et satis abominabile dedecus, ut traditiones quas antiquitus a patribus suscepimus, infringi patiamur.   On the contrary, It is stated in the Decretals (Dist. xii, 5): "It is absurd, and a detestable shame, that we should suffer those traditions to be changed which we have received from the fathers of old."
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut dictum est, lex humana intantum recte mutatur, inquantum per eius mutationem communi utilitati providetur. Habet autem ipsa legis mutatio, quantum in se est, detrimentum quoddam communis salutis. Quia ad observantiam legum plurimum valet consuetudo, intantum quod ea quae contra communem consuetudinem fiunt, etiam si sint leviora de se, graviora videantur. Unde quando mutatur lex, diminuitur vis constrictiva legis, inquantum tollitur consuetudo. Et ideo nunquam debet mutari lex humana, nisi ex aliqua parte tantum recompensetur communi saluti, quantum ex ista parte derogatur. Quod quidem contingit vel ex hoc quod aliqua maxima et evidentissima utilitas ex novo statuto provenit, vel ex eo quod est maxima necessitas, ex eo quod lex consueta aut manifestam iniquitatem continet, aut eius observatio est plurimum nociva. Unde dicitur a iurisperito quod in rebus novis constituendis, evidens debet esse utilitas, ut recedatur ab eo iure quod diu aequum visum est.   I answer that, As stated above (Article [1]), human law is rightly changed, in so far as such change is conducive to the common weal. But, to a certain extent, the mere change of law is of itself prejudicial to the common good: because custom avails much for the observance of laws, seeing that what is done contrary to general custom, even in slight matters, is looked upon as grave. Consequently, when a law is changed, the binding power of the law is diminished, in so far as custom is abolished. Wherefore human law should never be changed, unless, in some way or other, the common weal be compensated according to the extent of the harm done in this respect. Such compensation may arise either from some very great and every evident benefit conferred by the new enactment; or from the extreme urgency of the case, due to the fact that either the existing law is clearly unjust, or its observance extremely harmful. Wherefore the jurist says [*Pandect. Justin. lib. i, ff., tit. 4, De Constit. Princip.] that "in establishing new laws, there should be evidence of the benefit to be derived, before departing from a law which has long been considered just."
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod ea quae sunt artis, habent efficaciam ex sola ratione, et ideo ubicumque melior ratio occurrat, est mutandum quod prius tenebatur. Sed leges habent maximam virtutem ex consuetudine, ut philosophus dicit, in II Polit. Et inde non sunt de facili mutandae.   Reply to Objection 1: Rules of art derive their force from reason alone: and therefore whenever something better occurs, the rule followed hitherto should be changed. But "laws derive very great force from custom," as the Philosopher states (Polit. ii, 5): consequently they should not be quickly changed.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ratio illa concludit quod leges sunt mutandae, non tamen pro quacumque melioratione, sed pro magna utilitate vel necessitate, ut dictum est.   Reply to Objection 2: This argument proves that laws ought to be changed: not in view of any improvement, but for the sake of a great benefit or in a case of great urgency, as stated above.
Et similiter dicendum est ad tertium.   Reply to Objection 3: This answer applies also to the Third Objection.

 

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Whether custom can obtain force of law?

Ad tertium sic proceditur. Videtur quod consuetudo non possit obtinere vim legis, nec legem amovere. Lex enim humana derivatur a lege naturae et a lege divina, ut ex supradictis patet. Sed consuetudo hominum non potest immutare legem naturae, nec legem divinam. Ergo etiam nec legem humanam immutare potest.   Objection 1: It would seem that custom cannot obtain force of law, nor abolish a law. Because human law is derived from the natural law and from the Divine law, as stated above (Question [93], Article [3]; Question [95], Article [2]). But human custom cannot change either the law of nature or the Divine law. Therefore neither can it change human law.
Praeterea, ex multis malis non potest fieri unum bonum. Sed ille qui incipit primo contra legem agere, male facit. Ergo, multiplicatis similibus actibus, non efficietur aliquod bonum. Lex autem est quoddam bonum, cum sit regula humanorum actuum. Ergo per consuetudinem non potest removeri lex, ut ipsa consuetudo vim legis obtineat.   Objection 2: Further, many evils cannot make one good. But he who first acted against the law, did evil. Therefore by multiplying such acts, nothing good is the result. Now a law is something good; since it is a rule of human acts. Therefore law is not abolished by custom, so that the mere custom should obtain force of law.
Praeterea, ferre legem pertinet ad publicas personas, ad quas pertinet regere communitatem, unde privatae personae legem facere non possunt. Sed consuetudo invalescit per actus privatarum personarum. Ergo consuetudo non potest obtinere vim legis, per quam lex removeatur.   Objection 3: Further, the framing of laws belongs to those public men whose business it is to govern the community; wherefore private individuals cannot make laws. But custom grows by the acts of private individuals. Therefore custom cannot obtain force of law, so as to abolish the law.
Sed contra est quod Augustinus dicit, in Epist. ad Casulan., mos populi Dei et instituta maiorum pro lege sunt tenenda. Et sicut praevaricatores legum divinarum, ita et contemptores consuetudinum ecclesiasticarum coercendi sunt.   On the contrary, Augustine says (Ep. ad Casulan. xxxvi): "The customs of God's people and the institutions of our ancestors are to be considered as laws. And those who throw contempt on the customs of the Church ought to be punished as those who disobey the law of God."
Respondeo dicendum quod omnis lex proficiscitur a ratione et voluntate legislatoris, lex quidem divina et naturalis a rationabili Dei voluntate; lex autem humana a voluntate hominis ratione regulata. Sicut autem ratio et voluntas hominis manifestantur verbo in rebus agendis, ita etiam manifestantur facto, hoc enim unusquisque eligere videtur ut bonum, quod opere implet. Manifestum est autem quod verbo humano potest et mutari lex, et etiam exponi, inquantum manifestat interiorem motum et conceptum rationis humanae. Unde etiam et per actus, maxime multiplicatos, qui consuetudinem efficiunt, mutari potest lex, et exponi, et etiam aliquid causari quod legis virtutem obtineat, inquantum scilicet per exteriores actus multiplicatos interior voluntatis motus, et rationis conceptus, efficacissime declaratur; cum enim aliquid multoties fit, videtur ex deliberato rationis iudicio provenire. Et secundum hoc, consuetudo et habet vim legis, et legem abolet, et est legum interpretatrix.   I answer that, All law proceeds from the reason and will of the lawgiver; the Divine and natural laws from the reasonable will of God; the human law from the will of man, regulated by reason. Now just as human reason and will, in practical matters, may be made manifest by speech, so may they be made known by deeds: since seemingly a man chooses as good that which he carries into execution. But it is evident that by human speech, law can be both changed and expounded, in so far as it manifests the interior movement and thought of human reason. Wherefore by actions also, especially if they be repeated, so as to make a custom, law can be changed and expounded; and also something can be established which obtains force of law, in so far as by repeated external actions, the inward movement of the will, and concepts of reason are most effectually declared; for when a thing is done again and again, it seems to proceed from a deliberate judgment of reason. Accordingly, custom has the force of a law, abolishes law, and is the interpreter of law.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod lex naturalis et divina procedit a voluntate divina, ut dictum est. Unde non potest mutari per consuetudinem procedentem a voluntate hominis, sed solum per auctoritatem divinam mutari posset. Et inde est quod nulla consuetudo vim obtinere potest contra legem divinam vel legem naturalem, dicit enim Isidorus, in Synonym., usus auctoritati cedat, pravum usum lex et ratio vincat.   Reply to Objection 1: The natural and Divine laws proceed from the Divine will, as stated above. Wherefore they cannot be changed by a custom proceeding from the will of man, but only by Divine authority. Hence it is that no custom can prevail over the Divine or natural laws: for Isidore says (Synon. ii, 16): "Let custom yield to authority: evil customs should be eradicated by law and reason."
Ad secundum dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, leges humanae in aliquibus casibus deficiunt, unde possibile est quandoque praeter legem agere, in casu scilicet in quo deficit lex, et tamen actus non erit malus. Et cum tales casus multiplicantur, propter aliquam mutationem hominum, tunc manifestatur per consuetudinem quod lex ulterius utilis non est, sicut etiam manifestaretur si lex contraria verbo promulgaretur. Si autem adhuc maneat ratio eadem propter quam prima lex utilis erat, non consuetudo legem, sed lex consuetudinem vincit, nisi forte propter hoc solum inutilis lex videatur, quia non est possibilis secundum consuetudinem patriae, quae erat una de conditionibus legis. Difficile enim est consuetudinem multitudinis removere.   Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (Question [96], Article [6]), human laws fail in some cases: wherefore it is possible sometimes to act beside the law; namely, in a case where the law fails; yet the act will not be evil. And when such cases are multiplied, by reason of some change in man, then custom shows that the law is no longer useful: just as it might be declared by the verbal promulgation of a law to the contrary. If, however, the same reason remains, for which the law was useful hitherto, then it is not the custom that prevails against the law, but the law that overcomes the custom: unless perhaps the sole reason for the law seeming useless, be that it is not "possible according to the custom of the country" [*Question [95], Article [3]], which has been stated to be one of the conditions of law. For it is not easy to set aside the custom of a whole people.
Ad tertium dicendum quod multitudo in qua consuetudo introducitur duplicis conditionis esse potest. Si enim sit libera multitudo, quae possit sibi legem facere, plus est consensus totius multitudinis ad aliquid observandum, quem consuetudo manifestat, quam auctoritas principis, qui non habet potestatem condendi legem, nisi inquantum gerit personam multitudinis. Unde licet singulae personae non possint condere legem, tamen totus populus legem condere potest. Si vero multitudo non habeat liberam potestatem condendi sibi legem, vel legem a superiori potestate positam removendi; tamen ipsa consuetudo in tali multitudine praevalens obtinet vim legis, inquantum per eos toleratur ad quos pertinet multitudini legem imponere, ex hoc enim ipso videntur approbare quod consuetudo induxit.   Reply to Objection 3: The people among whom a custom is introduced may be of two conditions. For if they are free, and able to make their own laws, the consent of the whole people expressed by a custom counts far more in favor of a particular observance, that does the authority of the sovereign, who has not the power to frame laws, except as representing the people. Wherefore although each individual cannot make laws, yet the whole people can. If however the people have not the free power to make their own laws, or to abolish a law made by a higher authority; nevertheless with such a people a prevailing custom obtains force of law, in so far as it is tolerated by those to whom it belongs to make laws for that people: because by the very fact that they tolerate it they seem to approve of that which is introduced by custom.

 

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Whether the rulers of the people can dispense from human laws?

Ad quartum sic proceditur. Videtur quod rectores multitudinis non possint in legibus humanis dispensare. Lex enim statuta est pro communi utilitate, ut Isidorus dicit. Sed bonum commune non debet intermitti pro privato commodo alicuius personae, quia, ut dicit philosophus, in I Ethic., bonum gentis divinius est quam bonum unius hominis. Ergo videtur quod non debeat dispensari cum aliquo ut contra legem communem agat.   Objection 1: It would seem that the rulers of the people cannot dispense from human laws. For the law is established for the "common weal," as Isidore says (Etym. v, 21). But the common good should not be set aside for the private convenience of an individual: because, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 2), "the good of the nation is more godlike than the good of one man." Therefore it seems that a man should not be dispensed from acting in compliance with the general law.
Praeterea, illis qui super alios constituuntur, praecipitur Deut. I, ita parvum audietis ut magnum, nec accipietis cuiusquam personam, quia Dei iudicium est. Sed concedere alicui quod communiter denegatur omnibus, videtur esse acceptio personarum. Ergo huiusmodi dispensationes facere rectores multitudinis non possunt, cum hoc sit contra praeceptum legis divinae.   Objection 2: Further, those who are placed over others are commanded as follows (Dt. 1:17): "You shall hear the little as well as the great; neither shall you respect any man's person, because it is the judgment of God." But to allow one man to do that which is equally forbidden to all, seems to be respect of persons. Therefore the rulers of a community cannot grant such dispensations, since this is against a precept of the Divine law.
Praeterea, lex humana, si sit recta, oportet quod consonet legi naturali et legi divinae, aliter enim non congrueret religioni, nec conveniret disciplinae, quod requiritur ad legem, ut Isidorus dicit. Sed in lege divina et naturali nullus homo potest dispensare. Ergo nec etiam in lege humana.   Objection 3: Further, human law, in order to be just, should accord with the natural and Divine laws: else it would not "foster religion," nor be "helpful to discipline," which is requisite to the nature of law, as laid down by Isidore (Etym. v, 3). But no man can dispense from the Divine and natural laws. Neither, therefore, can he dispense from the human law.
Sed contra est quod dicit apostolus, I ad Cor. IX, dispensatio mihi credita est.   On the contrary, The Apostle says (1 Cor. 9:17): "A dispensation is committed to me."
Respondeo dicendum quod dispensatio proprie importat commensurationem alicuius communis ad singula, unde etiam gubernator familiae dicitur dispensator, inquantum unicuique de familia cum pondere et mensura distribuit et operationes et necessaria vitae. Sic igitur et in quacumque multitudine ex eo dicitur aliquis dispensare, quod ordinat qualiter aliquod commune praeceptum sit a singulis adimplendum. Contingit autem quandoque quod aliquod praeceptum quod est ad commodum multitudinis ut in pluribus, non est conveniens huic personae, vel in hoc casu, quia vel per hoc impediretur aliquid melius, vel etiam induceretur aliquod malum, sicut ex supradictis patet. Periculosum autem esset ut hoc iudicio cuiuslibet committeretur, nisi forte propter evidens et subitum periculum, ut supra dictum est. Et ideo ille qui habet regere multitudinem, habet potestatem dispensandi in lege humana quae suae auctoritati innititur, ut scilicet in personis vel casibus in quibus lex deficit, licentiam tribuat ut praeceptum legis non servetur. Si autem absque hac ratione, pro sola voluntate, licentiam tribuat, non erit fidelis in dispensatione, aut erit imprudens, infidelis quidem, si non habeat intentionem ad bonum commune; imprudens autem, si rationem dispensandi ignoret. Propter quod dominus dicit, Lucae XII, quis, putas, est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituit dominus super familiam suam?   I answer that, Dispensation, properly speaking, denotes a measuring out to individuals of some common goods: thus the head of a household is called a dispenser, because to each member of the household he distributes work and necessaries of life in due weight and measure. Accordingly in every community a man is said to dispense, from the very fact that he directs how some general precept is to be fulfilled by each individual. Now it happens at times that a precept, which is conducive to the common weal as a general rule, is not good for a particular individual, or in some particular case, either because it would hinder some greater good, or because it would be the occasion of some evil, as explained above (Question [96], Article [6]). But it would be dangerous to leave this to the discretion of each individual, except perhaps by reason of an evident and sudden emergency, as stated above (Question [96], Article [6]). Consequently he who is placed over a community is empowered to dispense in a human law that rests upon his authority, so that, when the law fails in its application to persons or circumstances, he may allow the precept of the law not to be observed. If however he grant this permission without any such reason, and of his mere will, he will be an unfaithful or an imprudent dispenser: unfaithful, if he has not the common good in view; imprudent, if he ignores the reasons for granting dispensations. Hence Our Lord says (Lk. 12:42): "Who, thinkest thou, is the faithful and wise dispenser [Douay: steward], whom his lord setteth over his family?"
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod, quando cum aliquo dispensatur ut legem communem non servet, non debet fieri in praeiudicium boni communis; sed ea intentione ut ad bonum commune proficiat.   Reply to Objection 1: When a person is dispensed from observing the general law, this should not be done to the prejudice of, but with the intention of benefiting, the common good.
Ad secundum dicendum quod non est acceptio personarum si non serventur aequalia in personis inaequalibus. Unde quando conditio alicuius personae requirit ut rationabiliter in ea aliquid specialiter observetur, non est personarum acceptio si sibi aliqua specialis gratia fiat.   Reply to Objection 2: It is not respect of persons if unequal measures are served out to those who are themselves unequal. Wherefore when the condition of any person requires that he should reasonably receive special treatment, it is not respect of persons if he be the object of special favor.
Ad tertium dicendum quod lex naturalis inquantum continet praecepta communia, quae nunquam fallunt, dispensationem recipere non potest. In aliis vero praeceptis, quae sunt quasi conclusiones praeceptorum communium, quandoque per hominem dispensatur, puta quod mutuum non reddatur proditori patriae, vel aliquid huiusmodi. Ad legem autem divinam ita se habet quilibet homo, sicut persona privata ad legem publicam cui subiicitur. Unde sicut in lege humana publica non potest dispensare nisi ille a quo lex auctoritatem habet, vel is cui ipse commiserit; ita in praeceptis iuris divini, quae sunt a Deo, nullus potest dispensare nisi Deus, vel si cui ipse specialiter committeret.   Reply to Objection 3: Natural law, so far as it contains general precepts, which never fail, does not allow of dispensations. In other precepts, however, which are as conclusions of the general precepts, man sometimes grants a dispensation: for instance, that a loan should not be paid back to the betrayer of his country, or something similar. But to the Divine law each man stands as a private person to the public law to which he is subject. Wherefore just as none can dispense from public human law, except the man from whom the law derives its authority, or his delegate; so, in the precepts of the Divine law, which are from God, none can dispense but God, or the man to whom He may give special power for that purpose.

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