Moral authority is an authority based on principles and values that are independent of written laws and considered more fundamental and lasting. These principles, which can be of metaphysical or of religious nature, are considered to be normative for behaviour, whether they are or are not also embodied in written laws, and even if the community is ignoring or violating them.
Moral authority has thus also been defined as the "fundamental assumptions that guide our perceptions of the world".
An individual or a body of people who are seen as vehicles for communicating such principles but who do not have the power to enforce them on the unwilling are spoken of as having moral authority. Examples are the Catholic Church and its leaders.
In this sense, moral authority has been defined as "the capacity to convince others how the world should be", as opposed to epistemic authority, "the capacity to convince others of how the world is".
See also 
- Legal Definitions: Moral Authority
- Richard Norris, Timothy F. Sedgwick, The Business of All Believers: Reflections on Leadership (Church Publishing, Inc. 2009 ISBN 978-1-59627119-7), p. 86
- James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars (Basic Books 1992 ISBN 978-0-46501534-4), p. 119
- Full text of Veritas Splendor, English Translation. John Paul II. August 6, 1993
- Jay A. Labinger, "Individual or Institutional Authority in Science?"
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