Friday, December 11, 2020 –
Moving right along with our Super Basic Primers on the Four Cardinal Virtues, today we will be covering Justice. A lot of people really misunderstand this one because I think a lot of people watch TV or YouTube “Karen” videos and get a warped sense that “justice” means some sort of revenge on people we disagree with or whom we think done us wrong. Sorry, kiddo, but get that idea out of your head.
Instead, let’s start with our not so basic Catechism definition:
Justice: The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor (1807). Original justice refers to the state of holiness in which God created our first parents (375). Commutative justice, which obliges respect for the rights of the other, is required by the seventh commandment; it is distinguished from legal justice, which concerns what the citizen owes to the community and distributive justice, which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs (2411).
Uhh…okay. That was a bigger chunk than what we were hoping to chew on today. We will get to all those other “justices” in a later set of primers. For today, we need only focus on the first sentence:
Justice: The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor (1807).
Excellent! That is a start. I was going to add in the Catholic Dictionary definition, but they say the same thing, then go down a random hole comparing and contrasting Justice with Charity. Spoiler Alert: they are different.
Now let’s crack open Bishop Morrow and get our basic idea fleshed out just a smidge:
How do prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives? –Prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives, as indicated below:
2. Justice disposes us to give everyone what belongs to him.—It teaches us to give what is due to God and to man. It makes us willing to live according to the commandments. Justice perfects the will and safeguards the rights of man: his right to life, freedom, honor, good name, sanctity of the home, and external possessions.
The just man is an upright man. He gives to every one his due: he gives God worship; the authorities, obedience; his subordinates, rewards and punishments; and his equals, brotherly love. “Render to all men whatever is their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; taxes to whom taxes are due; fear to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7). (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 87)
And finally, let’s see what the actual Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the matter:
1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”68 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
1836 Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due.
Giving “God an neighbor their due.” That is a tough concept for a lot of people. Too readily in today’s society—especially on social media—we think that “justice” means that when we see a perceived wrong, regardless of proof or circumstance, that it is our duty to punish the wrongdoer in the extreme. I kid you not, where I live there is a ridiculous social media page titled “The Wall of Shame” where people go to post nasty comments about other people in a vengeful fit to try and get “the wrongdoer” verbally clobbered by other people. It is a sad and detestable site. It is also NOT the definition of justice.
Right, so let’s get back to our example of a giant pile of candy and see a nominally decent use of justice. In today’s installment we will back this up to the day you and your good buddy Carl went down to the local grocer and subsequently purchased every delicious chocolate bar they had in stock. Justice, in this instance, breaks down somewhat like this:
- To God you owe due reverence for the creation of the beloved cocoa bean and His divine inspiration to whomever thought to add sugar and fat to concoct the first milk chocolate bar.
- To the grocer you owe the amount of money it takes to keep you adequately supplied in candy (AKA cost to run the store, pay stockers, etc.)
- To your dear friend Carl who helped you carry your candy stash home, you owe just compensation (at least a few candy bars!) for his time and aid.
And that is just the very basics of “giving each their due.” We could go down the rabbit hole of what you may or may not owe the government in taxes on your candy for building roads to bring in the trucks and armed guards to protect us from candy thieves, BUUUTTT…I really do not want to listen to Mr. Flusche complain about the government, so we’ll just leave that part out.
Sancte Laurenti, ora pro nobis!