Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Roman Catholic Man and the Virtue of Justice

I would imagine that the cardinal virtue of justice might well be one of the most hotly contested in definition in our society. One camp would hold that justice is the giving to another that which his or her actions deserve.  A plea is made to Exodus 21:24, sometimes known as the lex taliones, which says "and eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth..." This is not so much a biblical prescription for the righteousness in taking revenge as it is a placement of restraint for the amount of vengeance that could be taken. In this interpretation, justice is the rendering of retaliation for wrong.  Is this what is meant by the cardinal virtue of justice?  Is it that we have a divine commission to rain down punishment on the guilty because they deserve it?

Those Christians who love to quote Exodus 21:24 quickly forget that Jesus negated such as interpretation in Matthew 5:36-41 where Jesus states "You have heard it said to you and eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, but I say to you...turn the other cheek".  Does this sound like the allowance for revenge as justice?  NO.  What changed?  The Incarnation changes this.  This leads to the definition of the virtue of justice within the Church.

If justice was about rendering to another that which their actions, for good or for ill, merited, then the Incarnation  (the Son of God fully becoming human as well in all things but sin) doesn't happen. Our sins merit hell.  They merit eternal punishment.  This is what we deserved.  As St. Paul reminds us multiple times, God sent His Son while we were still sinners.  God didn't give what we deserved, but what we needed.  To render to another that which is needed is the definition of the cardinal virtue of justice.  The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are powerful examples of this.  As a quick aside, the false definition of social justice as a delegating of personal responsibility to engage in justice to the state is not what we are talking about.  We may ask the state to be just, but this does not absolve of us personal responsibility.  Taxes do not equal charity.

For the Roman Catholic Man, cultivating the virtue of justice requires the discipline of love.  It requires a man to actively be aware of those around him and to look to their needs, especially when they cannot do this themselves.  Furthermore, the virtue of justice holds a man back from the abuse, exploitation, neglect, or apathy towards another person.  To give an example, pornography is a sin against justice in that it reduces another person to a means to a personal end of self-gratification.  It leads to a stripping away of a person's dignity.  That the person might well have surrendered that dignity does not mean we should take it; what is needed by the person is their dignity to be respected even if their actions do not merit such.

The call to forgiveness that is constant within the New Testament, it is a rendering of judgement that allows mercy to temper any and all forays into vengeance.  The sinner needs forgiveness.  They might merit condemnation, but forgiveness is the standard to which the Roman Catholic man is called.

For the Roman Catholic man called to marriage.  To render justice, you must come last.  Your wife and children come first.  God comes first. Justice requires selflessness.  Their needs come before your wants.  Sometimes it comes before your needs. When dealing with mistakes and sins, regardless of their severity, the use of anger and vengeance are always wrong.  Abuse is never justified.  As spiritual head of the home, you are to be the model of restraint, mercy, and forgiveness.  Sometimes, especially with children, the removal of something to correct behavior might be what they need.  For example to find your son viewing porn.  It is in his best interest to restrict access to the internet.  This is not vengeance as it is doing what is necessary to correct the behavior so as to set thing back on the road on which they should be.  Ignoring or enabling bad behavior is just as unjust as inflicting revenge.  Hence the virtue of prudence is necessary in how to exercise justice.

For the Roman Catholic man called to priesthood. God and your flock come first.  We are to be poured out like a libation, as St. Paul says of himself, for the good of those God has placed in our care.  Fear cannot mitigate message.  Our flock may not want to hear the truth about Catholic morality.  This does matter, they need to hear it.  Our flock has a need to a Mass which orients them to God.  Our flocks need to experience mercy; regulating confession to 45 minutes or less at the most inconvenient time is criminal.  Our flocks need Jesus.  They need the truth.  Our flocks need forgiveness and mercy.  They need to find this in their parish.  Woe to the priests who is neglectful or abusive!  We are to model ourselves after Christ Himself, who gave the totality of his entire being for the good of the flock.  It is that high standard to which we are held.

As Roman Catholic men, we need to recapture this virtue of justice.  In a society transfixed by entitlement and selfishness, the selflessness of the just man is a powerful witness that provides the safe harbor needed by those who are tossed about by the storms of this life, especially the storms of their own making.  We need to model our judgement and its rendering on Jesus Christ Himself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment