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In his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II outlined a jurisprudential vision which includes the “doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with moral law.” The Pope’s jurisprudential reflections prompt the question I consider in this Article: How should we understand the doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with moral law in a religiously pluralistic democratic society like that of the United States today? My objective is to articulate a vision of the relationship between moral values and civil law that is grounded in the tradition of Catholic social thought and that can allow the church to contribute credibly and effectively to public discourse regarding the law and public policy in our religiously pluralistic democratic society. After outlining the understanding of the relationship between law and morality that John Paul II articulates in Evangelium Vitae, I discuss the understanding of the differentiated relationship of law and morality developed in the work of John Courtney Murray, S.J. Finally, complementing Murray’s views with insights gleaned from a number of contemporary voices in Catholic social thought, I propose six axioms that ought to inform our vision of the appropriate relationship between religious values, the objective moral order, and civil law and public discourse in the context of twenty-first century American pluralism.


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