On the Cardinal Virtue of Justice

A while back I began a series on the cardinal virtues taken from a term paper I wrote for my Moral Theology class last semester. I realized in the busyness of final exams that I never finished that series. So here is the section on the cardinal virtue of justice.

Justice is seen as the preeminent virtue in the culture. The vast majority of the culture wars are centered around some notion of justice. With this in mind, it is clear why prudence must come before justice. A person cannot be just unless they know and desire conformity to the truth through reasoned understanding. The biggest stumbling block for far too many people is that the truth, including a proper understanding of freedom, must come first and then justice. If the truth is not rightly understood then great injustices arise, as is evidence through practices such as abortion. Justice itself must be properly ordered to God in order for men and women to live justly in society. “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 the common good (CCC 1807).” In order for this harmony to occur there must be a clear understanding of what is due to others.

Freedom is at the center of many disagreements concerning justice, as well as great injustices that occur. Once again, freedom is not about the ability to do whatever a person desires. Freedom is the ability to choose goodness and truth without constraint.[1] This type of morality is less concerned about fulfilling obligations and more concerned with the love of truth and goodness.[2] Justice then allows for all individuals to conform their lives to their ultimate truth, which dwells in God. Justice and prudence are ontologically and eschatologically driven, as are all of the virtues.

The order of human beings from the family level to the global level relies on justice to protect the dignity of each person. Through justice the habit of rendering each man or woman their due is fostered, not through coercion, but through a desire for their goodness and freedom, as well as within the individual who renders that due. St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Justice is a habit (habitus), whereby a man renders to each one his due with constant and perpetual will (ST II-II 58 1).” This requires a discipline of action in each encounter with persons throughout the day.

Within this framework it becomes clear that men and women have rights through a universal source. In order for something to be due to another there must be something prior to that encounter which resulted in a particular right. The grounding of rights rests in God and creation. “It is through creation that the created being first comes to have rights. By virtue of creation first arises the possibility of saying: “Something is my due.”[3] It is by the nature of God’s creation of man as “embodied spirits” where rights dwell.[4] Since the notion of “due” is a primordial concept from the beginning of creation, it is directly linked to the ontological drive in human beings for goodness.[5] For this reason the rights of others cannot overrule the truth. Thus in choosing the just due of another it must be an authentic right and conform to goodness and truth. If a person has not fostered the habit of discovering truth through reason via prudence, as well as the just due to each man and woman, the moral life will be greatly impeded if not entirely corrupted. A person who does not conform their lives to prudence and justice is doomed to error and vice until virtuous living is encountered and put into practice.

[1] Pinckaers, 359.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pieper, 731.

[4] Aquinas, 25.

[5] Pieper, 741.

Holy Thursday: Ending the Cycle of Violence

As another nation, this time Belgium, faces the aftermath of terrorism and its clarion call of hatred, the message of Holy Thursday and the need for Christ becomes ever more apparent. After Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist to be food for the Church, He went out to pray and submitted to the will of the Father. It was then in the darkness of night that Our Lord was betrayed and arrested:

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.  And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”  At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

(Matthew 26:47-56)

This passage is filled with the sinful inclinations of human beings. Judas demonstrates greed and how easily people can cast aside one another for material gain. Of course, we know this does not end well for Judas. He does not find fulfillment in the money he desired for his betrayal and he hangs himself in despair.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Cardinal Virtues: Introduction

It has been a very stressful week for my family and me with multiple health scares and the ever present agony of waiting for news. I did want to start a brief series on the cardinal virtues based on a term paper I wrote for grad school. This first part is from that paper. We will consider this the introduction and next week I will begin on prudence. I hope you are having a very blessed Lent.

The cardinal virtues are essential to the moral life. Each human being is made for happiness and truth, which can only be found in God. In order to discover and live this happiness each individual must foster proper habits through the cardinal virtues. In the Christian life the assumption is that the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity, as well as the movement of grace, are all at work within the individual as he or she works towards the ultimate truth of God. While the focus here is on the cardinal virtues, the supernatural virtues are always at work in each Christian’s life. Prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance are virtues which order behavior to the pursuit and habitual response to goodness and truth. An individual cannot hope to live a moral life fixed on objective truth without the constant pursuit of these virtues in daily living. It is within the seemingly mundane tasks of daily living where the bigger moral questions are grounded. If an individual lives their private life virtuously, then those habits will spill over into public life and the moral orders of family, community, and country.

In examining virtue and calling others to its pursuit there is often a stumbling block tied to freedom. Individuals may see the virtues as a limitation of freedom and an imposition from external forces against the desires of that particular person; therefore, freedom must be rightly understood first in order to prevent this impediment. Since human beings are spiritual and bodily creatures, there is a natural order within each person at the ontological level. At the very level of being human beings are made for goodness and truth. This goodness cannot be completely blotted out by sin and concupiscence.[1] Far from limiting personal freedom, the virtues order and give direction to life. Servais Pinckaers states, “Far from lessening our freedom, such dispositions are its foundation. We are free, not in spite of them, but because of them.”[2] This means human beings are free when they conform their lives to their natural inclinations for goodness and truth. Freedom is grounded in the human desire for good, “The natural root of freedom develops in us principally through a sense of the true and the good, of uprightness and love, and through a desire for knowledge and happiness.”[3] Freedom itself must not be seen as the ability to do whatever one wants, but as the perfection and pursuit of goodness so that each person may be fully alive.

Since freedom is grounded in goodness, there must be an examination of how best to achieve this goodness. As stated before, the supernatural virtues play their essential role, but the cardinal virtues are the habits needed in daily living. The process of acquiring virtue is life-long and a slow process requiring discipline. It is to make small choices in conformity to truth each day, so that truth is the ever present reality for the individual. Pinckaers uses the virtue of courage to explain this process, “The development of courage is progressive. It is acquired far more through small victories of self-conquest, repeated day after day, than through dreams of great actions. It grows with the dogged effort to study, to finish a task, render a service, or overcome laziness or some other fault.”[4] This development of habit applies to all of the cardinal virtues, but there is a hierarchical nature to the cardinal virtues. They develop, deepen, and are grounded in one another.

[1] Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, Third Edition, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995), 358.

[2] Ibid, 358.

[3] Ibid, 357.

[4] Ibid, 356.

Confessions of a Post-Ideologue: Why I am Now Anti-Ideology

Gods-Politics

I grew up in a firmly Republican household. We were also a family of debaters. My parents were debate partners in college and despite the fact that most debate partners loathe each other, they got married. They then had two of their three daughters enjoy and excel at competitive debate, myself being one of them. I also coached high school debate for a while when I was in undergrad. The art of argumentation and conservative politics was normative growing up; however, I joined the Navy at 18 and became politically apathetic. Most active duty folks know that it is the Republicans who give them a bigger paycheck, so that is how most of us voted, not all. Political activism is pretty much forbidden while on active duty and it wasn’t an issue when I was serving, like it is now. We worked long hours and fought wars. That was our focus.

I did absorb some military ideology that took me years to shake out and discard. Much to my shame, I supported the use of torture. Since I had personally witnessed the aftermaths of terrorism I felt that it was perfectly acceptable to use whatever means necessary to save lives. In all honesty it was tinged with a bit of vengeance for the family members I had served in 9-11’s wake. I worked in a field that demanded total allegiance and in my youth and naivete, I gave over willingly. While my particular job was not unethical, I had friends who worked in questionable missions. It didn’t matter. It was for God and country, right?

I did my 6 years in the Navy and got out when my first contract ended. I was burned out and sick of the politics. Plus, the whole point of my military service was to go to college, so that is what I did. While in undergrad I discovered my love of politics and current affairs once again. A good friend of mine volunteered and worked in various capacities for Montana Republican candidates. I got involved. I started to remember that abortion is the supreme human rights issue of my generation and I believed the lie that Republicans would follow through on their promises. I finished undergrad and was given a prestigious internship at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. This was a dream internship that would launch my career in politics. I was the National Defense Intern because of my job in the Navy. I understood the military, budgets, and the need for a strong national defense. I was willing to do what had to be done. That was in 2009.

While I was in my internship, something began to change. I remember when the scales fell from my eyes. I was sitting in a roundtable discussion with the Policy Analyst I interned for, Mackenzie Eaglen, high ranking Marines from the Pentagon, and a couple of Congressional Aides. We were discussing linguistics and the need for linguists on the ground. I knew this topic well. I had been a military linguist. We were carrying on an interesting discussion when the Congressional Aide began asking questions solely from the view point of statistics. I could see very quickly, he was also a Veteran, that people on the ground were merely numbers to him and whoever he worked for. He had no concern for their welfare. He had lost sight of his own service. It did not matter if people died. I left sick to my stomach.

Things went downhill from there. As I sat in Senate and House hearings I could see that nobody actually cared about people. It was all an abstraction, while I still remembered the faces of my friends who had been blown apart in Iraq. The friends I had wheeled around or walked with who had endured IEDs and gunshot wounds. I remembered my Marine friends at National Naval Medical Center, now Walter Reed, who had given everything only to be shoved in a broken down barracks with apathetic doctors. And now I was sitting in Congressional buildings looking at the same apathy. An apathy that had trickled down into the ranks. I couldn’t do it. People I loved, family and friends of mine, were still on active duty.

I knew that I was pigeon-holed into defense policy by virtue of my intelligence background. I would have to start from scratch if I wanted to shift into religion or education policy. I realized very quick that I wasn’t cut out for politics. I don’t have the patience or stomach for it. I was also starting to question the talking points that I had ingested so willingly.

I can say that my Heritage internship was a great blessing and amazing experience. I was a bit old for it at 27, but I made the most of every opportunity and did find a niche for myself in attending the Tocqueville Forum at Georgetown University; the only vestige of orthodox Catholicism on that campus these days. I also came back to the Catholic Church during that internship after experiencing the Sacred Triduum at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Catholic University of America’s campus. Thankfully the Basilica is right off the red line on the Metro, so I could easily attend Mass there on Sundays. Much to my own surprise, I left politics for good when I left DC after that internship.

In the last few years an even greater shift has taken place in me. Yes, I got married and began living my faith seriously, but I also became distanced enough from my military service and my time in politics to begin analyzing what I had accepted. I started to shift to a Catholic perspective and realized that much of what I believed was because of my anger following my 9-11 relief work experience. I had wanted justice and retribution for the people I had served, but it really was vengeance I wanted. I had accepted the vast expanses of government in the wake of 9-11 and now realize that who I worked for has taken those policies to frightening extremes. I also now see that the greatest threat to my family is the attack on religious liberty in this country.

In changing my opinion and heart on these matters, I began to dislike ideology. I started seeing how divisive it is within the Church at a time when we must come together to face the growing threat of persecution in this country and the very real persecution going on overseas. This has been reinforced by my graduate studies. Our faith is not contingent upon our political leanings or preferences. Our faith rests in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church that he established 2000 years ago. What I believe comes from Him, not me. What the Church teaches comes from Christ, not me. In the end the only choice I have is to follow Him or follow myself. When we choose ideology over the faith, we choose ourselves. We choose division. I know. I used to put my politics above my faith.

I still agree with many things that The Heritage Foundation works on. They are doing great work on religious freedom, education policy, and traditional marriage. Many of these shifts occurred after my internship. I just don’t agree with the rugged individualism that they espouse. I am also firmly opposed to socialism in all forms. What this means is that I hold a thoroughly Catholic belief on economic and social issues. I have an obligation to help the poor. I must fight for the end of abortion that has taken 1 billion lives on this planet. If I want to see change then I must raise my family and serve my community. The lowest level is the best solution and pure capitalism uses people just like socialism. I am also proud of my military service and the friends of mine who still serve. All four of us who served in my family got out before doing 20 years. We all got out for the same reason: We hated the politics within the ranks.

Politics are important for bringing about change, but politics are inherently flawed and fallen by nature of the people involved. Politics can never supersede theology. I say this time and time again and many days feel like I am whistling into the wind. Our theology is supreme. We must usher in change and the Gospels through our faith first. Our beliefs, political and otherwise, must be shaped and formed by our Catholic faith FIRST. That means saying no to torture, unjust wars, pure capitalism, rugged individualism, expansive government, socialism, redefinition of marriage, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, etc. You will notice that these issues cross party lines precisely because whatever political party we are a member of is doing one or more things immorally. Yes, abortion is the supreme issue of our day and we must vote accordingly, but we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that our political party is the one of the Catholic Church. Quite frankly, the GOP will drop social conservatives on marriage and then we really will not have anyone to vote for in the coming years. That is the issue that will lead to our open persecution, in fact, persecution of Christians is already happening in this country because of our views on marriage. Both parties are corrupt and we must choose the lesser of two evils, if there is one. More than anything, though, we must start living devoutly Catholic lives in our communities.

The reality is that persecution is here, as Christ promised. People will hate us, call us bigots, and push us out of public life because of our views on marriage.Read the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus constantly warns that we will be hated, reviled, and treated as the enemy. It is already happening. We need to be focused on holiness, not ideology. Our ideology isn’t going to help us wait out this storm. Our ideology is more likely to force us to abandon our Catholic faith. That is why I am anti-ideology. It lessens our Catholic faith. It takes away from the Gospel and it weakens our position. I went from anything goes Veteran (I am not anti-Veteran), to hardcore Republican, to Roman Catholic. The latter is the only thing that matters now. To change the world we must grow in holiness. We must give ourselves completely to Christ and His Church. Then we know that we are on the right path.

Rage Porn

screaming-kid

My title selection may be a bit shocking, but it is not far from the truth.  No I am not talking about some form of violent pornography. I want to talk about our culture’s addiction to rage. Keep in mind that anything I write about is a reflection of my own struggles.  You can see the first two posts in a series I am working on about anger here and here.

Social media is a great tool. It allows us to connect with people all over the world and people we have not seen or spoken to in decades. This is really great for people like me who are Veterans and who know people literally all over the world. It’s nice to see how people have changed, raised families, and continue on their journey. This is all good stuff. What I am concerned with is the focus on presumed righteous anger within the Church, which is actually sinful anger.

I seldom use Twitter.  To be honest, it overwhelms me with information. I find it is a place where people can share their outrage in 140 characters. It’s a constant flow of bad news and information. Look at what the rad-trads did today and look at what the proggies are up to. Pope Francis is a heretic. Pope Francis is not a heretic. Change is coming to the Church. Obama is the anti-Christ. The world is ending, stock up on canned goods. The onslaught is unrelenting. To see the polarization that is occurring in our country and within the Church, take a moment to read a comments section on a news article or blog.  Then look away and stay away. It is startling.

We are turning the Interwebs into a place of “us vs them” and I can tell you historically that never ends well. We begin turning the people next to us in the pews or on the streets into enemies. There are genuine heretics (not our Pope) and people who are disobedient, but it really is up to a priest or bishop to correct them in private and in public, unless they are a friend who needs our guidance. Admonishment of sinners is not something that needs to be done whenever we see someone sinning in a manner different from our own. I like to share my love of the Sacrament of Penance as a way to help people find healing and strength against sin.  I get the struggle.  I have done it. I have a strong sense of justice and it is troubling to see people flout Church teaching and then proceed to the Eucharist line, but in reality, you and I are not the enforcers of canon law. We do, however, have an obligation to balance justice and charity. We do not overlook sin, but we discern where Christ wants to use us. There are moments we will be used for admonishment, but we should be clear beforehand.

There is little you or I can do about people who choose to be Catholics in name only, except pray for them and try to live by our example.  Let’s show people that things like NFP require sacrifice, but they are doable.  Let’s show love and respect for the gay community without accepting their behavior.  Let’s minister to the person embroiled in divorce and try to guide them through the love of Christ.  Let’s try not to make assumptions because of someone’s political leanings. Human beings are complex.  We are a sum total of a variety of talents, experiences, and above all we derive our dignity from being created in the image and likeness of God. I am not my politics, sexual orientation, or liturgical preference.  What a limiting world that would be!

My point is that social media can be a train-wreck if we make it one. I have shifted dramatically since joining Facebook in 2008.  My posts were almost entirely political.  I supported things that I never would support now, but I was sure through my presumption that I was right.  The Republican Party was the party of the Catholic Church.  I feel absolutely stupid for this now.  No political party is the party of God.  The immorality is on all sides and politics are inherently corrupted by human sin. The Republican Party will eventually fold on marriage.  It is inevitable. So then what? That is a very good question and it will put us in a difficult situation. But, I gave up politics for a while, so I will come up with in answer in a couple of years.

What should concern us, however, is when this toxicity spills over into the Church. Our primary mission to evangelize is greatly harmed by our inability to separate our ideology from Christ. Our political or even “theological” ideology is not a reflection of the authentic Jesus Christ who beckons us to communion with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, my constant focus on click-bait, rage porn drives a wedge between that communion and me.  It takes my focus off of Christ and drives me to dwell on things outside of my control, but in a controlling manner.  I am not arguing that we should not keep track of the world. We need to be aware of the landscape, but we should not constantly dwell on it. When we see bad news or conflict, the first thing that we should do is pray. Yes, while you are looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed, bow your head and pray.  Pray for them and for yourself.

When I see the anger of the Catholic blogosphere, the first thing I see is a lack of trust. I know this, because I have, and still see that in myself. Somehow the Church will perish in flames if I don’t tell Pope Francis how to get things done. If the progressive get their way then the Church will crumble because of changes in sexual morality.  Folks, the Church’s teaching on faith and morals will never change.  It is irreformable.  The Church will never change her teachings on divorce, homosexual acts, birth control, etc.  She can’t because Christ is the head, not men.  So stop worrying that she will.  She can find pastoral approaches to those who have been deeply hurt by the Sexual Revolution, but her mission is to heal and bring sinners to Christ.  To help them see why those sins tore them apart. So stop screaming in fear. Trust. Instead of writing hostile blogs and articles, how about we focus on fixing the brokenness? St. John Paul II left us a wealth of knowledge and tools to help us heal this pain and these sins.  Thanks be to God.  Let’s use Theology of the Body rather than ranting that the Church is going to change. The only one who will triumph in all of these things we worry about is Jesus Christ who reigns as our King, Priest, and Prophet.

And let’s stop being so hostile about the Liturgy.  Full disclosure I veil in the Novus Ordo. I have never been to an Extraordinary Form Mass, although I would love the experience it.  I want a reverent and beautiful Liturgy.  We are working our way back to that.  Christ did not say, in his Aramaic, that all Masses must be in Latin.  Yes, I am aware this argument is poor in the face of tradition.  How about this?  Latin is a discipline, not a doctrine. Yes, Latin has a long tradition and it is still the language of the Church.  I love Latin and chant.  They send my soul soaring to Heaven, but the yelling and screaming is doing absolutely no good.  The issue is not the use of the vernacular, the issue is a breakdown in understanding of the Liturgy and the Real Presence.  That is where our focus should be.  In fact the nastiness should be sending a lot of people to Confession, just like the sexual sins, because of sinful anger.

None of us wants to get pigeon-holed into the idea that we are better because we are not “them”.  Christ dealt directly with this problem.  Remember Luke 18:9-14? If we want to change the world, then we must start with the primary mission of our Baptism: Our individual sanctification.  If we work on our own personal holiness, then we can change the world around us.  Can you imagine how the Catholic landscape in social media would change if we were focused on helping others achieve holiness?  That is the goal: Sainthood.  We cannot help others to holiness, if we ourselves are strangled by our own denial of sin.  It is not that we aren’t supposed to help sinners, it just happens that we must work on our own personal holiness before Christ will use us.

I know this is hard.  Ask my husband about me! You and I have been given a desire to write and share our faith.  That is a stewardship that God has given us.  We should respect it and use it for good.  That does not mean that we cannot wade into political discussions, ethical debates, or the Liturgy.  What it does mean is that we need to go into those posts remembering that we are a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We are a communion, not a community. We are members (as in limbs) within that Body and that means what we do profoundly impacts the other members.  So do we want to lift up the Body or do we want to tear it down? Do we want to bring people to Christ or drive them away?

The Need for Masculinity in the Church

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Recently I have read two excellent posts on the need for masculinity within the Church.  One was by Monsignor Pope and the other by a Dominican Friar calling men to the Priesthood.  I personally see both the Priesthood and men within the Church as an important balance to the “feminine genius” that St. John Paul II preached for women.  In a culture such as our own that demands that men conform more closely to what women demand of them, it is becoming obvious that this ideology is damaging men.  This very same idea has led to a crisis of faith for a lot of men.  In fact, men are leaving the Church at alarming numbers.

I have always related to men more than women.  I served in the military.  For a while I was the only woman on my watch team while I was in the Navy.  Men provide a different way of looking at the spiritual life.  One that is no nonsense and based on courage, spiritual warfare, and protective instinct.  My husband is always reminding me that it is in his nature to protect our daughter and me.  That is what drives him to serve and work so hard for us.  Unfortunately this type of service is derided in our feminized culture.  A culture that has been hurt by the clarion call of post-modern feminism.

As Monsignor Pope wrote in his post on masculinity, the Church needs mercy and love, but she also needs justice, to forgive quickly, and courage.  Men do not typically hold onto anger for as long as women and know how to forgive and let things go.  The path to holiness is a battle.  It is a battle that we wage every single day whether it is fighting temptation or defending the Faith, it is a part of our journey.  I think that in our over dependence on Feminism, we have forgotten that while women can teach compassion, mercy, and love, it is essential that men teach us courage and justice.  Men have a keen sense of these virtues.  I saw it when I was in the military and I see it in my male friends now.  Many of these men have been worn down by women and they are afraid to serve in the role that God has called them to.

Men and women are equal in dignity.  Both were created in the “image and likeness of God” with unique gifts.  Men and women are complimentary and neither is superior to the other.  It is time for members of the Mystical Body to embrace all of the virtues, not just the feminized or more palatable (to some) virtues.  We can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ and as sisters we need to learn to allow our brothers to freely exercise their own gifts.  I get the male call more because I have a warrior’s heart and because I see the great gifts that men bring to the Church that women cannot possibly bring.  God made it that way.

We also need to regain this masculinity so that young men understand the call to the Priesthood.  To become a priest is to take on the role of Shepherd and in various moments it is to act “in the person of Christ”.  There is no higher form of masculinity than to be like Christ.  There is a yearning in the hearts of all men to serve and protect the Church.  There is a desire to serve Christ with their unique dignity.  So let’s help our husbands, brothers, friends, sons, etc. recapture that authentic masculinity.  Let’s help show men that becoming a priest is to embrace their truest masculinity.

Here are the two posts I referenced from Monsignor Pope and the Dominican Friars.  They are much more eloquent than I.  God bless.