Continuing his talks on the cardinal virtues—Temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice—Bobby Angel explains what the virtue of justice is exactly.
St. Thomas Aquinas says justice is balance and giving another person their due. The Catechism says:
“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. ‘Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven’” (CCC 1807).
We understand justice from a very young age. Even children understand when a toy is rightfully theirs. Justice is very prevalent in the Old Testament, and is often contrasted with God’s mercy in the New Testament. Both justice and mercy are aspects of God, and mysteries beyond our comprehension.
Justice essentially means putting God, and nothing else, first. When we do not put God first everything else falls apart and we lose our sense of justice.
Social justice is justice toward social groups such as laborers, a certain ethnic group, or any other demographic in our society. It was popularized by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum when he was addressing the rights of laborers amid the Industrial Revolution. As Catholics, we are called to practice social justice, but—as noted above—if we do not put God first our notion of social justice will be off the mark.
We are also called to practice justice between family and friends. If we are working too hard, or ignoring loved ones for any other reason, they have a right to make this injustice known to you.
How can we act justly? How am I not acting justly? How am I not putting God first? Where am I afraid to speak for justice?
“He has showed you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
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The Virtue of Justice Explained
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