Imagine my surprise (or you might not need to if you read the editorial in today’s Sunday Age) when I found a picture of St Thomas More staring at me from the top of the Opinion pages in today’s Age. What odd company he’s keeping, I thought. After reading the editorial, I found myself not a little incensed that this newspaper would have the audacity to claim St Thomas’ patronage for their “Bring Hicks Home” campaign. Not that I think St Thomas’ principles are irrelevant to the case, but they are certainly misused by the Sunday Age for its own purposes.
The relevant passage is this:
“This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast,” playwright Robert Bolt has Sir Thomas say in A Man For All Seasons, “and if you cut them down … do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”
For more than five years the Australian Government has been flaunting its willingness to sacrifice the law in the case of David Hicks. While the British and US governments refused to allow their citizens’ rights to be trampled at Guantanamo Bay and by the US military commission set up to try inmates, the Australian Government has had no such scruples. The Government not only presumed Hicks was guilty, it showed an enthusiastic disregard for his human rights, too.
But if any government is willing to fell a forest of Australian law to ensure the conviction of Hicks, then we are all in serious trouble.
In this editorial, the Sunday Age confuses “THE LAW” in the sense of the Natural Law, the unchanging law, written on the hearts of every human being, which St Thomas defended and died for, and the juridical positivism that passes for law in our modern democracies, which allows laws to be created to serve the convenience of governments and interest groups regardless of whether they are inheritantly true and just. Had More really been a stickler for the “law” in this latter sense, he would have gone along with Henry VII’s new “law” of ecclesiastical supremacy without a qualm.
In fact, a very good case can be made for linking St Thomas More’s true understanding of law to the David Hick’s case, but it is not exactly the same as the use that the editors of The Age make of it. Moreover, if they were really sincere about championing More’s principles, they would find themselves having to reverse many of their own publically declared positions, especially in regard to same sex marriage, euthanasia, and embryonic research.
If you want to get a handle on what all this natural law stuff is about, then have a look at this recent address by the Pope to a conference held in Rome.