Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

5/4/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

On Thiefdoms and Toolsheds

Something that is politically or legally expedient-even if it is the will of the majority-is not necessarily just.  Justice is something that hovers outside or above politics and law, that is extra-political or extra-legal or, perhaps better, supra-political or supra-legal.  Politics and law that are based upon nothing other than agreement is rudderless politics, rudderless law, and it quickly falls into something gravely evil. 

St Augustine

St Augustine

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/4/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Justice, politics, common good, compendium, St Augustine, Pope Benedict XVI, Andrew Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In his book City of God, St. Augustine famously said, "without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers?"  This statement seems to be a favorite of Pope Benedict XVI, and he has recruited it in warning lawmakers, particularly lawmakers in the Western nations with Christian heritage, of the way to which they are headed. 

He referred to these words in his address to the German Parliament or Bundestag when he visited Germany.  Some years earlier, in his encyclical Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI referred to those very same words. 

It is useful from time to time to recall these words of St. Augustine and the deep truth that they convey. 

In his encyclical Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict elaborated on St. Augustine's famous saying.  The reason why St. Augustine insisted on justice is that "justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics."  (No. 28). 

The negative implication of this statement is that without justice, politics--and the law promulgated by the political processs--is aimless and has no criterion.  In short, it is lawless, and being lawless, unjust.

To say that politics and law are aimless and have no criterion, is the same thing as saying that politics and law are unreasonable and arbitrary.  All politics and all law therefore become relative and unhinged from moral law.  This view of politics and law takes us from freedom--which is the liberty to do as we ought--past the threshold of justice into tyranny--where we are no longer free to do as we ought, but we must do what we're told. 

By definition, tyranny exists when politics or law is arbitrary.  In such a case, might makes right, whereas it ought to be the other way around: right--that is to say, justice--makes might.
 
Politics and law must then be informed by right, by justice.  It is an absolutely essential requirement that politics and law have justice behind them, otherwise we are ruled by thug government.

In politics, as in lawmaking, it is essential to focus on justice. 

Justice, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church makes clear, has both subjective and objective components. 

But we ought not to be confused by the term "subjective."  The term "subjective" does not mean whatever we want, or feel, or desire (which is how we ordinarily use the term).  In saying that justice has a subjective component, the Church is hardly advocating a politics of desire.

The term subjective as understood by the Church within the context of justice means that we ought to have the firm and constant resolve "to recognize the other as a person."  (Compendium, No. 201)  In other words, the term subjective in the context of justice (and politics and law) means not the I, not the ego, but rather the other, the you, the su, the tu.  

(It is indicative of the self-focused, individualistic nature of our society that the 1st person singular personal pronoun "I"-in Greek and Latin ego-has become a common word in English, but the 2nd person singular personal pronoun "you"-in Greek, su, in Latin, tu-is never heard at all.  The word egoism is common; the word tuism is used only by grammarians, and not modern jurists.  But egoism has nothing to do with justice; tuism has everything to do with justice.  The only word we have is "altruism" which is derived from the word alter or "other," but that has a sense of the anonymous or generic other, and not the familiar su or tu.) 

Not only then is justice entirely other directed, it is also based upon objective moral reality, the moral what is.  Therefore, justice must include "decisive criteria of morality in the intersubjective and social sphere."  (Compendium, No. 201) 

The "decisive criteria of morality" are found in the natural moral law.  The natural moral law has some "unchanging moral truths" from which we derive our inalienable rights, such as those relating to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No politics, no law can ever trespass these without rank injustice. 

As the Pope in January of this year told the American bishops in their ad limina visit to Rome, the reality of these "unchanging moral truths" is the "key to human happiness and social prospering."  To ignore them, to supplant them, to violate them is not liberty, not justice, but rather its opposite: for it is to build a society and a politics based upon "reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society."  This necessarily leads to injustice. 

In short, justice means the firm and constant resolve to recognize the other as a person, and to give him his due, all within the constraints of the natural moral law.

To the extent any government fails to recognize anyone as a person-such as happened in our former laws allowing human chattel slavery which were abrogated by the 13th and 14th Amendments after a sanguinary war-it is nothing but a band of robbers, because the politics and law in not recognizing a person as a person has failed in its aim and criterion of subjective justice.

Likewise, to the extent any government that trespasses the natural law-such as is happening now by the legal protection given abortion, or the legal recognition given homosexual "marriage"-it is nothing but a band of robbers because it has forgotten the aim and criterion of politics objective justice.

What all of this means, of course, is that St. Augustine and Pope Benedict XVI are telling us that justice is outside politics and outside human law.  Something that is politically or legally expedient--even if it is the will of the majority--is not necessarily just.  Justice is something that hovers outside or above politics and law, that is extra-political or extra-legal or, perhaps better, supra-political or supra-legal.  Politics and law that are based upon nothing other than agreement is rudderless politics, rudderless law, and it quickly falls into something gravely evil. 

As Catholics--indeed, all humans of good will regardless of religious confession--we must not cooperate in any effort to remove an objective aim and criterion of politics and of law.  To do so would, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Mass prior to his election as Pope, be "building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires." 

Justice cannot be guilt on egoism, which is what the secularists wish to do.  It must be built on tuism and the natural moral law.  Anything less is to be ruled by a band of robbers.

The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray stated that accepting a secularistic notion of democracy-such as what is proposed by many modern political philosophies including the regnant one-would result in the dismantling of the "noble, many storied mansion of democracy," and would level it "to the dimensions of a flat majoritarianism, which is no mansion but a barn, perhaps even a tool shed in which the weapons of tyranny may be formed." 

If we allow ourselves to be ruled by a politics without justice, a politics that does not recognize the rights of persons and the natural law, then we will be ruled by a band of robbers, and we invariably will turn our "noble, many storied mansion of democracy" into a tool shed where the robbers pound out the weapons of their tyranny-laws of inhuman steel.

We will live in a toolshed, subject to thiefdom.

-----

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 agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Republicans warn foreign governments against negotiating deals with the Obama administration Watch

Image of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warns other countries from negotiating with Obama.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration's initial plan for talks with the United Nations on climate change has opened the door for Republican's to warn other countries to "proceed with caution" when negotiating with Washington during the present time. Those Republicans insist any ... continue reading


U.S. Presidency is not a 'crown' to be shared by two families, former Governor of Maryland says Watch

Image of Some Democrats have speculated that Martin O'Malley is angling to be Clinton's vice presidential candidate or a Cabinet secretary.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley has taken a swipe at likely 2016 contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush this past weekend. He said that "the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families." Appearing on ... continue reading


Indiana governor defends religious freedom act - says it's not 'anti-gay' Watch

Image of Critics who preach tolerance for the LGBT community should do the same for people of faith, Governor Pence said.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, enacted by Indiana Governor Mike Pence has been the subject of widespread controversy. Critics say the act legitimizes discrimination against the LGBT community. Governor Pence says the act protects people's ... continue reading


OUT OF CONTROL: During Harry Reid's time in Congress, national debt up an astonishing 15-Fold Watch

Image of During the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress, the debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress, the debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42, roughly equaling an increase of about $145,131 for every household in the ... continue reading


Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security exposed as favoring wealthy 'White House allies,' including Hillary Clinton's brother Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Department of Homeland Security's latest watchdog report reveals the agency's second man in charge, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, repeatedly "played favorites" when it came to well-connected participants in an investor-visa program. LOS ... continue reading


IT BEGINS NOW: Conservative rebel, Sen. Ted Cruz becomes first Republican to announce presidential bid Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas, has become the first Republican to announce a campaign for presidency in the 2016 election. Taking to Twitter, Cruz announced his candidacy with a 30-second video message posted shortly after midnight on March 23. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


What is going on here? U.S. threatens sanctions against Israel while making excuses for Iran Watch

Image of Even more trying to Israel would be any lessening of Obama's opposition to Palestinian efforts to join the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority will formally join the court this coming April 1.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What is going on here? Israel, the United States' only clear ally in the Middle East is now facing tough new sanctions from the Obama White House. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Politico's Michael Crowley, "Obama officials must now decide ... continue reading


Large study reveals startling media bias toward Democrats and Obama during presidential elections Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and international press show signs of strictly favoring the Democratic party. According to the Washington Examiner, a study of 130,213 news articles during the 2012 presidential election shows just how pro-Democratic the news sources were. LOS ... continue reading


Did the Obama administration give a massive amount of money to an anti-Israeli group to keep Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu out? Watch

Image of Is President Obama attempting to overthrow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Declining to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he was in the United States earlier this month is one thing, but President Obama may have crossed a line by illegally financing an American nonprofit group that was attempting to keep ... continue reading


Iranian president finds diplomacy with U.S. to be active 'jihad' Watch

Image of Describing his country's diplomacy with the United States as an active

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Describing his country's diplomacy with the United States as an active "jihad," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the diplomatic front is just as significant in advancing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rouhani praised the ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 61:1-3, 6, 8-9
1 The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 89:21-22, 25, 27
21 My hand will always be with him, my arm will make ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 4:16-21
16 He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, ... Read More

Reading 2, Revelation 1:5-8
5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 2nd, 2015 Image

St. Francis of Paola
April 2: Francis was born at Paola, Italy and was educated at the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter