Chapter 6

The member

If that is what the authority looks like in any society, what about the member? What are his duties, responsibilities, and rights, and so on?

Ordinarily, of course, a person is not what they call a "charter member" of a society: one who was there at the beginning, and therefore one of those whose at least tacit consent accounts for the constitution of the society. Most people, therefore, who join societies either accept the already constituted form the authority takes, or don't join.

There are, however, societies that are not joined freely: those societies which are unavoidable because of our human nature, such as the family and civil society. You are, as Heidegger says, "thrown" into the family, and there is nothing you can do about it; and similarly, you are "thrown" into a nation, and cannot get out of it unless changing citizenship is built into its constitution. In marriage, you freely join, but you can't do anything about certain aspects of the form the marriage takes.(1) But I will discuss these specific societies later.

Once in a society, there are certain obligations that a member has that don't depend on the particular common goal or constitution of the society, but simply on what is implied in the fact of being a member of any society. Since if you disobey these obligations, you are acting inconsistently with yourself as a member of society, then these are moral obligations.

First, of course, there is the obligation to obey all the laws of the society.

This means that you have the general obligation to obey the laws, not that it is morally wrong to disobey one or another in certain circumstances. The laws, remember, were passed so that the common goal could be accomplished and the common good (the rights of the members) could be preserved; but laws, as requiring uniformity of action, necessarily will be general, and not cover circumstances when obeying the law is either silly or even acts against the common goal or common good.

A nurse told me an instance of this once when I was teaching medical ethics and had just made the point above. In a hospital where she worked, there was another nurse in the emergency room, when a patient who had taken poison was wheeled in, barely conscious. There wasn't a doctor there at the moment, so the nurse called the poison center and told them what the patient had ingested, and was told to administer syrup of ipecac to make him vomit. She said, "Is this a doctor giving me this order?" and was answered, "No, there aren't any doctors here; but if he doesn't get ipecac, he'll die." But since the law said a nurse must not administer medicine without a doctor's orders (a very good law, in general), she fussed around trying to find a doctor; and while she was doing this, the patient lost consciousness, after which it was too late to give him the ipecac, and he died.

Conclusion 23: In cases where obeying a law would be contrary to the obvious reason why the law was passed, it is not immoral to disobey.

You have to be a little careful not to read your own opinion into "the obvious reason why the law was passed"; but, as can be seen from the rest of this book, I don't buy the deconstructionists' argument that anyone's notion of "the obvious reason" is as good as anyone else's; there are obvious intents of laws which are discoverable by anyone of good will. In any case, if your own bias is so strong that you mistake the obvious intent of the law and disobey it based on this, you are not morally guilty of disobedience.

What I am saying, of course, is that the distinction people make between "the letter of the law" and "the spirit of the law" is valid. You are only bound by the letter of the law, in the sense that you don't have to do more than this, since the law is supposed to be the minimum restriction on our freedom consistent with accomplishing the common goal. So even if "the spirit of the law" obviously goes beyond the letter, you still don't have to do more than you are explicitly told. But if obeying the letter of the law makes you do something foolish, and the spirit of the law did not intend this foolish act, then you can obey the spirit and ignore the letter.

All this really means, however, is that it isn't immoral to do this. Sometimes it also means that the authority should let you escape the sanction on the law, and sometimes it doesn't. If, for instance, you run a red light when there is no one around (you think) for miles, you are not being immoral, because the obvious intent of the traffic signal is to regulate traffic, and at the moment there is no traffic. Nevertheless, you did disobey the law, and when the policeman pops out from behind the billboard, you won't escape the sanction by saying, "But officer, there was no one coming."

The reason, of course, why it is not unjust for the sanction to be imposed is that if the traffic laws said, "On approaching a red traffic signal, stop unless it seems to you that the coast is clear," you would find that traffic was not regulated, since different people have different ideas about what "no one was coming" means. Hence, as I said, the law has to be obeyed "practically all" the time, and it wouldn't be if it didn't say you had to obey it all the time. So even when it isn't immoral to disobey a law, you still have to be willing to pay the temporal penalty if you are caught.

If a person, however, disobeys frequently, then even though each individual instance may not be morally wrong, the effect of the series of disobediences makes the person a "scofflaw" and changes the morality of what he is doing. In effect, the person is saying, "I will obey the laws when it seems to me reasonable to do so; if it doesn't seem reasonable, I won't obey."

But the supposition of a law is that it won't seem reasonable for you to obey it--in fact, it won't be reasonable (in the sense of advantageous) to obey, because the act is a cooperative act, not one that is of any particular benefit to you. When you join any society, you are declaring your willingness to cooperate for the common goal and the common good; and it is a direct contradiction of this choice to "cooperate" only when it seems proper to you to cooperate. You are then not obeying the authority, the authority is obeying you (because tacitly you are demanding that all the laws be in your own interest).

Hence, the scofflaw is saying, "The society has no right to tell me what to do," when in fact the very essence of society is that the authority has the right to tell you what to do. This is why you must obey all the laws, and can use the distinction above in only very rare instances.

But since most laws will seem foolish to those who have to obey them, we can say this:

Conclusion 24: The moral obligation to obey all the laws extends even to foolish ones.

There are, however, situations in which you must disobey laws: those in which the laws are immoral or unjust.

An immoral law or command commands a person to do what is morally wrong (or against his conscience).

An unjust law or command commands a person to do what he has a right not to do, even though it is not morally wrong for him not to do it.

Every immoral law is an unjust law, because obviously a person has an absolutely inalienable right to avoid doing what he thinks is morally wrong. But since the basis of society's expecting you to obey is the fact that you would be contradicting yourself as a member (and so would be doing what is morally wrong) if you didn't, then obviously, the society cannot expect you to obey if what it tells you to do is morally wrong.

And, of course, this means "morally wrong according to the information you have" (your conscience, as we defined it in Chapter 6 of Section 1 of the fifth part 5.1.6).

Conclusion 25: Any law that commands a person to do what is contrary to his conscience is not a law and must not be "obeyed."

The reason, of course, why you must not do what it tells you to do is that you must never do what as far as you know is morally wrong, for the reasons I spelled out in Chapters 3 and 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.3 3.4.4. Hence, no matter what the sanction is--even if certain death follows your disobedience, you may not obey an immoral law.

And this is why the Eichmanns of this world cannot use, "I was only following orders" as an excuse for doing something morally wrong; and they can legitimately be put on trial and condemned for participating in "crimes against humanity," even if their society told them that they had to perform these acts or they would be killed. Morality does not, as I said in Chapter 3 of Section 1 of the fifth part 5.1.3, depend on the nation or the culture you live in, but on what is consistent or inconsistent with the actual reality you have. And that is why it is perfectly legitimate for people of another society and another culture to try and punish people for atrocities against the human race, in order to keep people from thinking that if their culture is willing to be inhuman, they can commit these acts with impunity.

But since people can make mistakes about what is morally wrong and what isn't, "crimes against humanity" must be such blatant atrocities that only a deconstructionist would have any qualms about declaring them such. It is not, for instance, a crime against humanity if a given society does not have a free press, however much we in America might think so.

Now a merely unjust law is one which does not command you to do something that it morally wrong, but simply something that you have a right not to do. There is nothing morally wrong, for instance, with my not using a public library; but if I am Black and the law says that Black people may not use the public library (which is supposed to be for citizens), then the law violates my right as a citizen to use the citizens' facilities. Similarly, in a small society, it is not immoral for a secretary to make the coffee for the office in the morning; but if it is not part of her job description, it is unjust for the employer to command her to do it.

Conclusion 26: An unjust law must in general be disobeyed; but it may be obeyed when the Double Effect applies.

This is actually a generalization of Conclusion 8; whenever a person is commanded to do something unjust, the society is exceeding its authority, and so the law is not a law. It must in general be disobeyed, because the authority must not be allowed to do what is contrary to the common good. But if, as I said under that conclusion, the only thing that is going to happen is incurring the sanction with no prospect of changing the law, it may be obeyed.

Rosa Parks was doubtless using the Double Effect the other way when she stayed in the front of the bus in Alabama on that fateful day; she was willing to face the penalty in order not to have to have her right violated. At the time, the attitude of the society was volatile enough so that, as it happened, what she did sparked the whole civil rights movement, which led to the abolition of unjust laws like the one she disobeyed.

I should point out, however, that there is a serious danger to disobeying unjust laws, as the civil rights movement demonstrated. To the extent that civil disobedience is successful, it gives the impression that unpopular laws may be disobeyed and changed by civil disobedience--and this undermines the authority in society, and in the limit can destroy the society altogether. The reason why it undermines authority is that people in general don't make the sophisticated distinction between laws that violate rights that we actually have and laws that violate that "right" that we think we have to do what we want; and so people will claim all sorts of silly "rights" and engage in civil disobedience to get the laws changed in their favor. We are suffering from this at the moment.

I do not want this to be construed as saying that what Martin Luther King, Jr. did was morally unacceptable. The laws were in fact a blatant injustice against the Blacks, forcing them to act as if they weren't really human beings, and as if they were "citizens" only to the extent that the society could get something out of them. But in cases like this, the probable consequence of the undermining of authority when it is acting legitimately must be taken into account in assessing whether the fifth rule of the Double Effect is fulfilled.(2)

The second obligation the member has is to provide information to the authorities dealing with laws under consideration, and also dealing with infractions of existing laws that he has come upon (and hasn't gone looking for). Yes, the member has an obligation to "rat" on other members who are violating the laws, because every violation of the laws is an attack on the society, and the members are supposed to be cooperating for the common goal and the common good, not conniving in its frustration. Once again, using the Double Effect, one may withhold the information in cases where nothing good will be accomplished by providing it, and there are bad effects likely in doing so. If the only thing that is going to happen is that you are going to get the reputation of being a troublemaker, then you can keep your information to yourself.

If you happen to have wisdom, you have the obligation also (though a considerably weaker one) of giving the authority the benefit of your wisdom. The reason the obligation is weaker is, of course, that everyone thinks he is wise; and so the obligation is really incumbent upon those the authority chooses to be his advisors.

Now then, once you have supplied the information (or the advice) to the authority, your obligation is discharged, and you are still under the command of the authority. So if he doesn't listen to you and passes the foolish law, you still have to obey it, just like any other member.

The fact that the member has an obligation to report infractions of the law is the reason for the following conclusion:

Conclusion 27: It is morally legitimate for the authority to force a member to testify against another one.

I don't think this really needs a great deal of elaboration. What it says is that the "subpoena" (lit. "under penalty") power of the authority is legitimate. You can't be forced to testify against yourself, but you can be forced to testify against someone else. This right to force testimony against others, however, does not apply to what are called "privileged communications," between doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, and confessors and penitents, because of what I said in Chapter 5 of Section 2 of the fifth part 5.2.5 about the disastrous effects of such testimony. It is also the case that one partner in a marriage cannot be forced to testify against the other on the grounds that this completely subverts the marital relationship, which is not to be sacrificed on the altar of the benefit of society. It also, of course, invites perjury; the love between husband and wife guarantees that testimony forced by one against the other will be unreliable; so even if it could morally be done, it would be of no practical use.

The third obligation the member has is to respect those in authority. He must not speak disparagingly of them or bring disgrace upon them while they are in office. This is not to say that he must pretend that they are perfect persons, but he must not make it harder for the other members to obey by holding the authority up to ridicule.

This goes against the grain in our democratic society; but its deleterious effects can be seen everywhere. People don't tend to obey those they despise; and since the society can't exist unless the people obey "practically all" the time, then one who promotes disobedience is doing what is morally wrong.

In a democratic republic such as ours, where those in authority are elected by the people, facts relevant to choosing them must of course be made known; but (a) this should not necessarily be done all during the time they are in office, and (b) it should be done in a respectful manner. In this regard, the posturing of the members of the Senate toward each other (even when it is clear that they have no use for what the other stands for) is not only perfectly proper, but laudable and to be imitated.

The member also has the obligation, as I said before, to accept sanctions imposed upon him for violations of the law, even in those cases where it was not immoral for him to choose to violate the law. He also has the obligation to accept the authority's judgment in the settlement of disputes, and not carry on the dispute after it has been decided, even if the decision went against him.

This last is not to be taken to mean that the person cannot appeal the decision, if there is in the constitution a process for doing so. But once the final decision is made, it must be accepted.

Note that this only deals with disputes between members. There are also civil cases that question the justice or morality of the laws themselves; and it does not follow that if a law is immoral or unjust, and the courts determine that it shall stand, the issue must be accepted. It must not, because the mistaken judgment of the court then simply confirms the authority in doing what is morally wrong; and the authority must be prevented, so far as is possible, from doing what is morally wrong.

Conclusion 28: Immoral and unjust laws must be changed; the only time when they can be allowed to stand is when by the Double Effect further attempts to change them would only result in something worse.

Aside from the obligations toward the authority, members also have obligations to the other members and to the society as a whole. The obligation with respect to each other is to have harmonious relationships among themselves. Since the members are cooperating, and since cooperation is that much more difficult between enemies, the members must make efforts to see that the conditions for cooperation are present; and this means positive attitudes toward each other.

This does not mean, of course, that members must like each other; this is desirable, but, since our emotions are not completely under our control, not in practice possible. But they must refrain from showing dislike or making pejorative remarks about other members.

In one sense, members of a society are more than brothers and sisters to each other, because brothers and sisters are simply "thrown" together with no say in the matter, and without any a priori common interest or common goal to achieve. That much misunderstood "brotherly love," which is ordinarily taken to be a kind of "natural affection" that so many brothers and sisters feel guilty at not having, is really the learning to live with someone who is "just there," and in many ways is a rival for the benefits that one would like to have exclusively for oneself. Brotherly love is really acceptance of the reality of other persons with their own independent interests and the recognition that you are not in fact the center of the universe. If brotherly love includes emotional affection, this is fine; but it isn't the essence of the relationship.

But in a society, there is a common goal which all share and toward which all are working together; hence the relationship between the members should be more than mere acceptance of each other, but a definite positive attitude toward each other; and it is this attitude, of course, that forms the community that is underneath every society.

Connected with this is the avoidance of invidious comparisons with each other in terms of who contributes most and who receives the most benefits from the society. This pretends that the basic relationship in the society is the economic one, where compensation for services rendered is the order of the day, rather than the cooperative relationship, in which justice is distributive justice, not commutative justice.

As to the relationship of the member toward the society itself, since in a secondary sense his reality is that of being a member of the society he has the obligation not to act in such a way that he brings disgrace upon the society.

There are those who resent the fact that they are members of the society and want to be accepted "for themselves as individuals," not as "spokesmen" for the society. I remember a nun in great indignation saying to me, "Every time I do something or say something, people think that it's the whole congregation acting, not just me." I answered, "Then why are you wearing that habit?" The point is that the way people thought was correct: it was she who was acting, but it was not just she. That is, it was correct in a secondary sense, but correct nonetheless. How is the congregation to act except through its members? And when anyone who is recognizably a member of the congregation acts in any way at all, the whole congregation is acting in that member's act. Of course, the member is acting for herself too; but she can't escape the fact that she is also a member of the congregation.

This, I suspect, is really why many nuns have forsaken their habits and dressed in a way indistinguishable from other women. They don't want to be recognizable as members of their order, so that when they act people will take their actions as only the actions of themselves as individuals; but in so doing, they have rejected that aspect of themselves which is their membership in the order; and since one of the reasons for the existence of Religious orders is to "witness" Christianity in the world, they are, to the extent that they are not recognizable as nuns, acting against one of the main purposes of the congregation.

This business of acting with decorum is connected with the responsibility of the member in society. Just as the authority in society becomes responsible for other people's actions in addition to his own, so the responsibility of the member is not simply that his own actions and their consequences are his.

In the first place, the member is not morally responsible for anything he does in obedience to a command which is not either unjust or immoral. If the command is foolish but not unjust, he must obey it, as I said in discussing his duties. Therefore, he is not the one who is morally in control of what he does. The responsibility for what he does lies with the authority, because the authority and not the member is the one who can morally prevent the act by his choice. In that respect, belonging to a society relieves one of many responsibilities.

I hasten to add that a member can become responsible for what he does under orders if he knows some information relevant to the order and does not inform the person in authority. In that case, the information might have made the person give a different order, and so the member to that extent has control over what he is told to do. We will discuss this more at length shortly.

But this absolution from responsibility because one is under orders is as far as most people go. In fact, some of the nuns I spoke of earlier also want to engage in "discernment" with their superiors, so that both together can discover what the "Spirit" wants for the nun. But in practice what that amounts to is that the member is manipulating the authority into commanding what she wants to do, not what the congregation as such needs to do. This "collegiality" is a subversion of the whole essence of society; it pretends that the members of the Religious order are like the Bishops, each of whom is the direct emissary of Jesus, and precisely not subject to anyone else. And what this "allows" the nuns to do is "take responsibility for their own acts." Well, in fact they don't have responsibility for their own acts; the fool in authority who goes along with them still has the responsibility, because she could have said, "We'll have no more of this nonsense, Sister; we need a math teacher in our school and you have a degree in math; we are not going to hire a lay person when you are available." This "taking responsibility for their own acts" is a pretense and a sham, not a reality.

Of course, if a person disobeys and command, he is responsible for his act and all its consequences, including the consequence of the undermining of authority and the harm to the society which disobedience implies.

As I said, if the command is unjust or immoral, the member must disobey. He is responsible for what he does in disobeying, but is clearly not morally guilty of anything--even of disobedience; because morally speaking he couldn't prevent it. He is morally praiseworthy and responsible for all of the good consequences that flow from standing up to an unjust authority. That is, in fact, why Martin Luther King, Jr. is held in such high esteem today.

If a member refuses to give the authority information or wisdom he has, he then becomes responsible for the command and its consequences, because he could have prevented its foolishness by informing the authority. Here is what I alluded to above. The authority is also responsible for the foolish command and its consequences, of course; but in this case the member has a certain control over the level of ignorance of the one in authority. Many is the member who complains about the stupid things he has to do and says, "I could have told them this wouldn't work," not realizing that he then proves that, since he didn't tell them, the stupid thing he is doing is his own fault, as well as the responsibility of the one who ordered him to do it.

Note that if the member does inform the authority and a foolish command is issued (even one directly against the information or advice), the member is not now responsible for the command, since he does not have power over what the authority does, but simply provides information to him. He must then obey, and if he has to do silly things, then at least he is not now responsible for what he does.

The attempt by a member to "take responsibility for his own actions" is often an attempt to abdicate the real responsibility he has as a member for what the authority and the society does, and to hide behind the illusion of his own responsibility for his own act. That is, St. Ignatius' Jesuitical "blind obedience" is by no means as simple and irresponsible as it appears on the surface. The member's "conformity to the command of the superior" as best for himself now is after the fact of the command; but he has a serious duty before the command is issued to see to it that the authority knows all he needs to know to issue an intelligent command. Further, Ignatius never intended obedience to be so "blind" that a person would do what was immoral or unjust simply because he was ordered to do it.

The point of "blind obedience" is that it is easier to obey once there is a command if you stress in your mind the reasons for obeying and ignore the reasons for disobeying. Since you have to obey anyway, this simply makes psychological sense, and is highly to be recommended in any society. The calumnies directed against this aspect of the Jesuit order are based on misinterpretation of the phrase itself, not on what Ignatius said in explaining it in his famous letter on obedience.

As to the rights of the member, it is obvious that he has all his human rights, except any alienable or relatively inalienable ones he freely gave up as a condition for joining the society. I mentioned in dealing with the kinds of rights in Chapter 6 of Section 1 of this part 6.1.6 that freely joined societies can, if it serves the common goal, make it a condition of membership that a person give up some rights he has, such as the right to ownership, the right to marry, and so on. Of course, if something like the right to ownership is given up, then the society must see to it that it supplies what the person needs to live a human life and be able to pursue his goals. But beyond these, the member retains all his human rights. I mentioned earlier that a member has a right to follow his conscience. This is, of course, one of his human rights.

The member also has all of his civil rights. Civil society of course yields him his civil rights; and any lesser society is within the jurisdiction of civil society, whose function is to protect the rights of the citizens, and so the member never ceases to be a citizen by joining a society within the civil society.

This does not mean that the society may never do something to a member that the member has a right not to have done to him; because sometimes in defending a law or in defending other members against violations of their rights, the society can use the Double Effect and do harm to a person, or prevent him from following his conscience.

For instance, civil society may (and in fact must) morally prevent a woman from having an abortion, even if she thinks for some reason that she has a moral obligation to have one (as, e.g., if she doesn't know that the fetus is human and has found out that he is severely deformed, and thinks that she has an obligation not to have a deformed child). The reason is, of course, that the fetus is a human being, whatever the mother might think, and so has a right to life which must be protected.

Similarly, if a child needs a blood transfusion and the parents think, because of their religion, that such a thing is morally wrong, the society may take the child from their care temporarily and give him the transfusion, and then return him to them. Once again, following their conscience would violate a right of the child, and they cannot be allowed to do that.

Note that no society may force a person to do what is contrary to his conscience, but only prevent him from doing something he thinks he has a right or a moral obligation to do, because forcing a person to act contrary to his conscience would violate the first rule.

At any rate, we can say this:

Conclusion 29: A society may prevent a member from following his conscience, using the Double Effect, when some right of some other member would be violated by his doing so.

The member, of course, also has all the rights that belong to him as a member of the society; his membership itself is the title to these rights. Again, he has all the rights that belong to his status in the society. For instance, a person in authority has the right to be respected by the other members.

The member also has the right to be treated as an adult if he is one, and not like a child under the tutelage of a parent. That is, even though people in authority must be respected by the members of the society, this does not allow them to look down on the other members or patronize them, or not listen to them or consult them. The respect due to them is due to the status, not the person; and every person should be respected as a person.

The member also has a right to privacy. I mentioned earlier that the society may not interfere with a person's life any more than is necessary to preserve the common good or attain the common goal. But it is also true that the society has no right to know facts about the individual that are not relevant to these ends, even if the facts will not be used against the person in any way.

Why is this? Basically, the reason is that each of us has a moral obligation not to lie: that is, not to deliberately communicate to others information that would lead them to take as a fact something that is not a fact. But this obligation not to lie also applies to facts about oneself, what kind of person one is, and so on.

But everything a person does gives others some kind of impression about the kind of person he is, and this impression can easily be misleading. In certain contexts, a person's behavior can give the impression that he is a saint, while in others, it can lead to the conclusion that he is a reprobate--neither of which may be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Still, you have an obligation not to mislead others about who and what you are. But then, given what I just said, how can you keep your actions from misleading people? There are only two ways: (1) Give them enough information all the time to correct misleading impressions, or (2) have it generally known that their information is incomplete, and that therefore they should not draw any conclusions from the observation of this aspect of your life.

Clearly (1) is not possible. In the first place, you would not know what information you would have to supply about yourself to correct false impressions. In the second place, everyone's having to hear all the details of everyone else's life would make social intercourse a supreme bore for everyone except a gossip columnist. No one cares about the details of your life; and anyway, we could never be sure you weren't lying by leaving out some particularly unsavory bit of information, and so even if you told all, we might still get the wrong impression.

So the only way you can be honest about yourself in your dealings with others is to be able to withhold information about yourself, so that others realize that what they know about you is probably only partial information, and does not provide sufficient evidence for assessing your character. Hence, any judgment they make about the kind of person you are is their responsibility, not yours. You have not misled them, precisely because it was understood in your dealings with them that they were not to take what you did with them to be the whole story about your life.

Note that this not only applies to concealing your indiscretions and immoralities, but also your virtuous acts. Apparently this was what Timothy was trying to do, but not with complete success, as Paul informed him in his first letter: "--And don't drink just water any more; drink wine every now and then to help your digestion and the health problems you have so often. Some people have sins that are obvious and cry out for punishment, and there are some that keep them quiet--and some people's good deeds are obvious too; but the ones who have secret virtues can't really hide them."

Of course, this right to withhold information cannot be used to deprive anyone else of any right he has. For instance, a doctor can't make a proper diagnosis sometimes without knowing facts about a person's sex life, which might involve seriously wrong acts. The person must then reveal them. This is actually why these communications are legally "privileged," so that the doctor may not be forced to reveal the information he was told by the patient. The same goes for lawyers and confessors.

The right to privacy as I have formulated it is much more radical than the traditional Scholastic view on the subject; but I think nonetheless it is a logically implied right from the moral duty to tell the truth about oneself. You either have to tell the whole truth, or you have a right not to tell everything, which means that no one can morally extort the information from you.

The Scholastics built their notion of the right to privacy on a right a member of society also has: the right to a good reputation. Since it can be difficult or even impossible to do what you need to do if other people despise you, then you have a right to have faults that might make people despise you hidden from them if the lack of that information does not violate any right of theirs.

Actually, the way I see it, this right to a good reputation follows from the previous right to privacy. If you can withhold information from others, then obviously you can withhold damaging information; and therefore, you have a right that others see only the good side of your life, since this does not imply that the bad side doesn't exist, but only that it's none of their business.

So we can say this:

Conclusion 30: The public has no "right to know" information about any person in a society, including those in authority or in "public life" unless that information is necessary to enable them to perform some act they have a right to perform.

This little survey of the rights of the member of society finishes the general discussion of society as such. We will now pass on to a brief look at the natural societies of marriage, the family, and civil society, and the economic society that is the firm containing employees.



1. There is also a society which a person can't avoid belonging to, if he knows the facts: the Catholic Church. The necessity of belonging to this society can't be established philosophically, of course; but if redemption is necessary for human beings, and if this comes only through the community that Jesus set up, and if the Catholic Church is that community, then to escape from the eternal consequences of sins you have committed, you need to belong to this community. The teaching of the Catholic Church is, however, that those who are sincerely trying to do God's will according to the facts as they understand them, are actually saved through the Church, and "belong to" it in some sense, because if they are sincere and knew what the facts really were, they would belong to it. So those of you who don't think that the Catholic Church is the true way to worship God needn't feel that in the mind of Catholics you are "damned infidels."

2. Of course, Dr. King's willingness to suffer the penalty for violating the unjust laws militates against this misinterpretation.