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From the Pastor 04/30/17

This is the second week of my four part series on the Four Cardinal Virtues. The theology presented is of course from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. This week is the second installment with the Virtue of Justice.

The Virtue of Justice

Justice is the virtue whereby we give to each person what is due to him, and we do this consistently, promptly and pleasurably. For a simple example, a just person wants to pay his bills on time, and he has a feeling of satisfaction when he is able to do so. Justice is the social virtue. It concerns right relations with others in society. What is just is summed up in a simple motto: to each his own, but it is not always easy to establish what we owe to others. The simplest obligations are defined by the natural law, and that is based on the natural inclinations of each man, for example, to stay alive, to be part of society, to grow in knowledge. We have obligations therefore not to deprive others of life or health. We should not deprive others of the necessary means to stay alive, even though this may involve complex social issues. We owe the truth to others, and at least a basic minimum of friendship as members of the same society. By the same token, others owe these things to us. A further conclusion: If I have a right to life, I also have the right to use the necessary means to defend my right against an unjust aggressor. There are certain goods that we may value as much as life itself: material goods of great value: things necessary to support life or maintains our state in life, personal liberty, chastity, integrity of our bodies. If there is any progress in Western Civilization it is in an increased knowledge and recognition of human rights.

In general, it is good to keep agreements, and a person who does so is considered to be loyal and trustworthy. However, this is not always the case. I may have agreed always to stand by and support a friend, but it would be wrong to do so if by doing so I would be an accomplice in wrong-doing.

The three divisions of justice according to the parties involved are:

  • Legal justice ― what the individual owes to society as a whole. Generally speaking, these are the obligations defined by the law of the land. Exceptions would be when the law requires someone to do something that is morally wrong, in which case he must obey the higher law. Over and above the requirements of law, a citizen should also be civic-minded, willing to participate in the political process and concerned about the welfare of the community.
  • Commutative justice ― what one individual owes to another. First, he must respect the natural rights of other individuals. Second, he may have obligations that arise because of an agreement or contract. These obligations are usually clear-cut.
  • Distributive justice―what the society owes to individuals.In some cases, this is simple. Equal protection under the law, for example. However, there are complex situations. For example, the state would have the right under certain extreme circumstances to expropriate property, in which case it must give fair compensation. If individuals or groups of individuals have been unjustly deprived of their rights, some sort of compensation is due to them, but how much and for how long is difficult to settle. The person who acts in the name of the community does not act in his own name. If he shows special favor to certain individuals or groups, he is acting unjustly. For this reason, the person who is in charge of the common good must keep a certain distance and play his role. One thing that destroys justice is informality. For example, if a judge or police officer, or for that matter a professor, allows some people to address him on a first name basis, he risks subverting justice. It does not matter if such familiarity does not affect his official decisions. It can give scandal to others. An old proverb says that it is not enough for a thing to be just, it must also appear just.

There are certain situations where we have debts that we cannot possibly repay. For example, what we owe to God, to our country, to our parents and teachers. In these cases we must always remember that any actions we perform fall short. It is not possible to say to God that we have paid back what we owe, that now we are even. In ordinary English we do not have a single term for all of these things, but we have the word “Piety,” which at one time covered all these things. St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “A man becomes the debtor of others according to their different excellences and the diverse benefits received from them. Now, on both counts, God holds the highest place: He is most excellent and he is the first principle of our existence and our governance. Secondarily, however, the sources of our being and governance are our parents and country; from whom, and in which, we were born and raised. And so, after God, man is most indebted to his parents and country. Hence, just as the act of showing reverence to God belongs to religion, so on a secondary level the showing of reverence to parents and country belongs to piety. Under the reverence of parents is included the respect for all blood relatives, because they are called such by virtue of their descent from the same parents. Under the reverence of country is understood respect for all fellow citizens and friends of one’s country.”

Please come to pray for peace through the Rosary at All Saints Church on the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima on Saturday, May 13 at 1:00pm. Everyone is invited.

Bulletin Cover: Congratulations to our RCIA Community. Pictured on top are all the candidates that have come into the Church, along with the RCIA team and sponsors. Middle left are the Converts, Middle Right are Catholics finishing their Sacraments of Initiation, and bottom are the Newly Baptized. Please continue to pray for all of them as they have entered into the last portion of their formation called Mystagogy which continues until the Solemnity of Pentecost.

A blessed Easter Week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor