penal law

A law imposed not with a view of binding it on conscience, but of exacting a penalty for its non-observance. When the law and the penalty are reasonable one who breaks the law is bound in conscience to pay the penalty. When the law is unreasonable, as are all laws of persecution for religion, for instance, and laws forced through legislatures by political maladroitness, there is no obligation either to observe it or pay the penalty but, on the contrary, a duty on the part of every good citizen to resist and bring about its repeal or modification.

New Catholic Dictionary

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