OK... back from a weeklong hiatus. Geoff: 1, loggerhead sea turtles: -1. ; )
Andy: "What are the tenets of civil justice, and what are the tenets of divine justice?"
The tenets of civil justice are that every man respect the earthly life, liberty and property of other men. The tenets of divine justice are that you respect all of the above, plus God, and the spiritual life of other men.
I assume no one here wants a theocracy: the state punishing every violation of the divine law as defined by the Church. But consider this: where do you draw a solid line on what sin to punish?
Does anyone really want the U.S. Council of Bishops in charge of a morality-based legal system, telling us we have a moral obligation to give jobs, housing, and "free" healthcare to people, and restricting (or banning) the production and sale of firearms? Could the theo-civil police punish you for lying about winning a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics? Should they impose a $250, or even a $20,000 fine for lying, if the theocrats decide that should be the punishment? How can you quantify spiritual transgressions in temporal terms? Should we try? I'm trying to be practical, here. If someone steals $500 from me, I want $500 back, plus the cost of lost business, if there is any. It's clear-cut. But how do you propose to punish a mortal sin on God's behalf?
If you legislate against things that do not violate life, liberty, and property of others, it's like a depiction of an ailing body politic. If the body politic (the sum of the individuals who comprise society) has an illness, (sin) you can reduce the symptoms (manifestation) of the illness by taking a Tylenol (laws backed up by force.) But you're not treating the root cause of the problem, which is the sin itself! Sin cannot be fought with force. Can you have a law against an ideology, and successfully prohibit it? That's what we're trying to do right now over in Iraq. To change an entire nation from Shariah law and warlords, to "democracy." They're democratic over in Palestine, now. But they elected the terrorist group Hamas to lead them. They were able to change the external structure of how people express what they believe, but not the underlying ideology of what they believe.
If some people want to lock other people up for committing a particular kind of mortal sin, hey, let them go for it. They can think they're acting as God's personal enforcers, trying to make other adults be good people. I harbor no such sentiments, indeed, no such delusions. I prefer the practical concept of neutralizing the manifest threat of those who manifestly hurt another person against said person's will. (Imprisoning rapists/murderers/thieves/robbers, etc.) I also believe in using only the minimum degree of force necessary to effect the neutralization of the threat. Temporal violations of temporal goods should be temporally punished. God will see to the rest.
Andy: "As far as I see, an (true) obligaton is a moral obligation whether it is imposed by God through human nature directly, or by more proximately by another man."
What moral obligation can be imposed by another man without the consent of both parties? If I shove a brick into your hands, and tell you to pay me $10 for it, or else, have I imposed a moral obligation on you? That's essentially what government does every day, in the form of taxation. It forces upon me something I would not have bought with my ten dollars. Whatever I would have bought would have been much more beneficial to myself and others, based on the tenets of the free market.
If someone is deliberately speeding toward you in a car, and you're in a car heading toward him, is he imposing a moral obligation on you to either turn to the left or the right to prevent yourself from being killed? No. You have the obligation to protect your life, period. His speeding toward you did not impose any new obligation on you. It is only an instance in which you must exercise prudence in order to fulfil the pre-existent obligation to protect your own life in certain situations.
God himself very rarely actively punishes infractions of the divine law in temporal matters. (Besides the natural law consequences.) He has punishments for immoral actions, after death, however. He legislated the divine law. He enforces it.
God gave us the power to protect what is ours. We have human nature, but it is not our human nature to do with whatever we want, like property. It is not human nature itself that we can protect by laws. You're not protecting human nature by punishing someone who committed theft against me. You're protecting other people's property, and through the action of protecting property, you are respecting their human nature, through their right to property.
Laws can either try to protect the earthly rights of men, or the divine rights of God. All of the former fall under the latter, but not all of the latter fall under the former. Human nature is God's, because he created it. It is ours, insofar as we share and partake in it. We do not own it. Hence, how can we prevent or punish a violation? God has a law, and he enforces it perfectly. We cannot enforce the whole of divine law. But we don't need to. We just need to take care of ourselves, and keep ourselves free enough to learn about God and teach his message to others.
Andy: Its root is necessarily the obligation to "do good and avoid evil" "for neighbor as for self", where this is understood in light of man's pursuits of the practical ends.
I think it is true that legislation should be for practical ends. But many people seem to think a law against things done by two consenting parties is a practical end. Is it a "practical" end to legislate against sinful behavior between consenting people? Behavior that does not manifestly harm others? Because if that is truly the case, we can make laws that call for the burning of heretics like Protestants. Their false teachings are leading people to Hell every day. If the practical application of law is to "make people good," rather than "allow people to be good, in an environment free from force, fraud and coercion," then let's burn all the heretics. Civil authorities once did burn heretics, following this logic. Why did they stop?