Thursday, May 12

Charity and Justice

I have been reading a number of blogs recently wherein there has been discussions about charity and justice.  The more I reflect on these posts, the more I realise that the modern christian Inigo Montoya put it, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Charity, in the christian sense, is not about "something given to a person or persons in need."   That is the general definition in the dictionary, but it is only the crudest of external signs of charity in the same way that "the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment" is only the crudest of externalities related to Justice. 

Let us look at the tradition and teachings of the past 2000 years.  Justice is one of the four external virtues (along with Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude).  As St. Augustine puts it,
So we may express the definition thus:
that Temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God;
Fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God;
Justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man;
Prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it. (Against the Manichaeians, I,15)
 Seems it's all about the love for Augustine.  As well it should be, as love is the greatest of all virtues (1 Cor. 13:13).

Aquinas discusses Justice and Charity at some length (Summa, I-II, 80-86).  Justice concerns itself with relations with one another, whereas charity is about our relationship with the Divine.  Justice is an external, moral virtue in contrast to an internal, theological virtue.

My point here is that justice is treating others as they ought to be treated, to love your neighbour as yourself. Charity concerns the friendship which unites the human being to God, to love God with all your being.  In all things, love is underlined.  Love/ἀγάπη/caritas...all the same. "Deus caritas est". God is love.

Love God, love your neighbour.  The rest is commentary.

No comments:

Post a Comment