Catholic Social Teaching: What is Really meant by Justice?
other criteria such as utility, autonomy, ownership, or egalitarianism.
Particularly prevalent in our relativist, materialist and secular society is the notion that justice is not an objective reality, but a conventional reality. For conventionalists, justice is something determined by social agreement, by social contract. They mimic the teachings of the ancient philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) who stated that "absolute justice does not exist." Epicurus taught that "[t]here are only mutual agreements among men, made at various times and places, not to inflict nor allow harm."
Epicurus and his disciples are to be rejected. "Justice, in fact, is not merely a simple human convention, because it is not first determined by the law but by the profound identity of the human being." (Compendium, No. 202)
As important as it is, of itself the virtue of justice is not sufficient to structure communal life. The virtue of justice can be merciless, cold-blooded, even cruel. It tends to separate, cause rifts, and it is not adept at reconciliation. It is susceptible to capture, to corruption, to hypocrisy, resulting in many complaints such as the one the French writer Anatole France who in his book Crainquebille cynically stated through his character President Bourriche that "justice is the sanction of established injustice."
It is this susceptibility to failure, self-interest, and blindness in a justice whose quality is--in Shakespeare's words in the Merchant of Venice--"strain'd" or restrained to look at itself and no other external source that can make justice "even betray itself." (Compendium, No. 174).
Justice needs more than justice to be justice.
Justice must be open to, informed by, tempered through, and supplemented with such things as solidarity, love, mercy, and forgiveness, all of whose qualities are "not strain'd." There are no bounds to solidarity, love, mercy, and forgiveness, and justice is not their master.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law, called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Social justice, justice, solidarity, mercy, freedom, social solidarity, Andrew Greenwell, Esq.
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