Caritatis in Veritate Post 2 – Justice precedes charity

Love must not be confused with justice. Justice is that virtue by which we exercise a constant and firm will to give both God and our neighbors their due. It applies no less to governments than to individuals: we have a duty to ensure that others receive what is theirs by right insofar as it depends upon us to do so.

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. (CCC §1807)

In CV §6, Benedict XVI reminds us of the distinction between the two:

Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his,” what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity, and intrinsic to it. [Emphasis added]

We dare not make the mistake of confusing the two. Love is not justice, and vice versa. When a man is given a living wage, he is not a recipient of charity. He is a recipient of justice, because (as the Church teaches) man has a right to a living wage. His employer only gives him his due when paying him justly.

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Posted in Rerum Novarum
2 comments on “Caritatis in Veritate Post 2 – Justice precedes charity
  1. Charity is superior to justice. Charity is also the mother of justice, just as it is the mother of all virtues (Aquinas would say). Great post!

  2. aquinasetc says:

    Thanks Theo! :-)

    As I said in the first post on CV, I think it is a great encyclical. I hope to do several more posts about it, and I hope I can do it some measure of justice!


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