Sanction is here understood as the act of legislative authority that secures a measure of inviolability for a law by providing either reward (premial sanction) for its observance or punishment (penal sanction) for its transgression; or as the reward or punishment so prescribed. In human experience effective legislation requires sanctions, which are commonly penal rather than immediately premial in kind, to provide motives to induce those subject to laws to conform to their requirements. A lawmaker neglecting to provide a sufficient motive to enforce the keeping of a law would be acting foolishly in making the law at all, for without such a motive the effect intended would no more probably be achieved with the law than without it, and the law itself would be useless. Moreover, it is necessary to verify the order that is reasonably held to exist between good action and happiness, and between evil action and the loss of happiness. But the faithful performance of duty often entails sacrifice and self-denial, while the neglect of it brings unmerited gratification. Unless something exists to balance the scales and restore the order between good action and happiness when this is disturbed, the reasonable expectation of men is defeated, and the difference between what is good and what is not is obscured, if indeed any appreciable difference is left.
Natural and moral as well as positive law requires a sanction. Concretely many different rewards and punishments serve as sanctions for moral law. Some of these affect an individual in himself, such as approval or remorse of conscience, interior peace and tranquillity or the want of it. Others affect the individual in his relation to others—for example, the enjoyment of the esteem, respect and affection of his fellows, or his subjection to their contempt. For the Christian still others affect the individual in his relation to God—for example, friendship with God, or the loss of it, and especially the final attainment of, or separation from, God.
The proponents of naturalistic ethics tend to regard the natural consequences of vicious action that recoil on the evildoer as adequate sanction for morality and sufficient in themselves to ensure right conduct. While it may be admitted that the virtuous, even in their earthly lives, enjoy a greater measure of happiness than the wicked and that the way of the transgressor is often a hard one, it cannot be seriously maintained that virtuous living invariably results in happiness so far as the present life is concerned or that vice and crime always meet an adequate measure of retribution. Human experience too obviously affirms the contrary. To provide a motive capable of inducing a man to live virtuously, it is reasonable that the rewards held out for the observance of the moral law should exceed the sacrifice and self-denial entailed in its observance. But commonly enough in ordinary life, and especially where virtue makes demands that approach the heroic, earthly reward and punishment seldom provide a sufficiently impelling incentive. Any idea of a sanction for moral law that leaves out of account man's relationship to God must be, for the generality of men at least, partial and inadequate.
See Also: punishment.
Bibliography: m. cronin, The Science of Ethics, 2 v. (Dublin 1939). o. lottin, Principles de morale, 2 v. (Louvain 1947). r. pound, Social Control through Law (New Haven 1942). a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951– ) 15.2:2621–22.
[p. k. meagher]
"Sanction." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sanction
"Sanction." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sanction