Without Justice, What Else is the State But a Great Band of Robbers (St.Augustine)
On Thiefdoms and Toolsheds
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. ...
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