St Thomas Aquinas believed that all humans struggle towards the common good. According to Aquinas, laws set out the reasoned steps to assist humans in reaching the common good. Obedience to law develops in humans the habit of obedience and in turn propels humans to strive for the common good. Moreover, law keeps humans away from vices.
St Thomas Aquinas understanding and interpretation of law is illustrated in the court’s decision and reasoning in R. v. Sharpe. Accordingly, “Section 163.1 was enacted to protect children, one of the most vulnerable groups in society. It is based on the clear evidence of direct harm cause by child pornography, as well as Parliament’s reasoned apprehension that child pornography also causes attitudinal harm” (Page 4, Para. 2). Attitudinal is defined as a state of mind or feeling. It could be concluded that the court’s decision to prohibit child pornography is not only to protect children, but, also to reinforce the illegality of paedophiles’ sexually deviant behavior. Aquinas would argue that section 163.1 not only protects children from harm (the common good) but also keeps humans away from their vices. “The possession of child pornography contributes to the cognitive distortions of paedophiles, reinforcing their erroneous belief that sexual activity with children is acceptable. Child pornography fuels paedophiles’ fantasies, which constitute the motivating force behind their sexually deviant behavior” (Page 5, Para. 2). Hence, the enactment of section 163.1 would inhibit this force and reinforce to paedophiles their pernicious desires. Aquinas would argue that this law is valid in that propels some humans away from their vices.
According to Aquinas in order for a law to be valid four elements must be satisfied:
The law must be directed to the common good
The law must be directed to the good of the community as opposed to the good of a specific individual. R. v. Sharpe states, “The law intrudes into the private sphere because doing so is necessary to achieve its salutary objectives... the provision’s beneficial effects in protecting the privacy interest of children are proportional to the detrimental effects on the privacy of those who possess child pornography” (Page 6, Para. 2 ). In other words, the common good of protecting children far outweighs the privacy interests of individuals. It is in the interest of society to infringe on a few individuals to protect children.
Must follow practical reason
According to Aquinas, law illustrates the steps humans must take to reach the common good. Moreover, laws are practical reason directed towards the common good. The court highlights this practical reason, “Section 163.1(4) helps to prevent the harm to children which results from the production of child pornography; deters the use of child pornography in the grooming of children; curbs the collection of child pornography by paedophiles; and helps to ensure that an effective law scheme can be implemented. In sum, the legislation benefits society as a whole as it sends a clear message that deters the development of antisocial attitudes” (Page 6, Para. 2). Aquinas would most likely applaud the reason taken to acquire this law.
Must be made by a valid lawmaker (ruler within community, who hold this position by reason of the natural order)
Section 163.1(4) is found in the Criminal Code of Canada. Aquinas would most likely hold that the Legislature is a valid lawmaker who is naturally ordered to establish law.
Must be promulgated
Section 163.1(4) is found in the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code consists of laws written down and can easily be accessed by society. Aquinas would argue that the Criminal Code compels obedience because Canadians are aware of the laws and expected to know them.