NATURAL LAW, HUMAN DIGNITY AND TRADITION
OF BÖCKENFÖRDE’S CATHOLIC POLITICAL THEOLOGY, FROM A CONSERVATIVE VIEWPOINT
Copyright (c) 2021 Hörcher Ferenc
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This paper aims to show the connection between ideas on natural law, human dignity and tradition in the legal-political thought of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, an influential earlier judge of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court. It starts out from the Catholic background of the legal theorist, and his close connection to Carl Schmitt, probably the most charismatic legal thinker of the age, who, however, burnt himself by his support of the Nazi regime. Böckenförde was politically closest to the Social Democrats, yet political theology remained crucial for his legal thought. His interpretation of the German Grundgesetz was founded on a very strong, universalist interpretation of the concept of human dignity, which he took as the most important, founding value in the value catalogue of the Basic Law. Although not a conservative, Böckenförde also claimed that in a specific legal sense, tradition also plays a major role in legal interpretation. He took over from the writings of his brother, the theologian Werner, the idea that tradition and reception can serve as checks on the way natural law is interpreted. All in all, as Böckenförde points out, the three concepts (natural law, human dignity and tradition) provide a strong foundation for legal and constitutional interpretation.