Following the herd
When we consider the virtue of justice, we first find that it is intimately linked to prudence. Josef Pieper again says: ‘justice is based solely upon the recognition of reality achieved by prudence.’ No prudence, no justice, he seems to be saying. Why is that? Surely, an imprudent person cannot be all bad. Even someone with a limited capacity for making prudent decisions would not wish to be unjust, we might argue. But, sadly, the wish to be just is not the same thing as the capacity to be just.
What is justice? The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a wonderful definition:
Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour. 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 neighbour (no. 1807; also see nos. 2095 and 2401).
Justice is not about merely wanting to be just. Justice, like prudence, requires ‘habitual right thinking.’ The word habitual is the operative one, I think. Once in a while isn’t good enough. Life is too complex, and if we just drift along like an animal in a herd most of the time, without actively questioning our culture’s half-truths and exercising our powers of insight, we will not develop the ability to evaluate situations truly, nor will we recognise what our obligations are in the situations life throws at us. Nor, for that matter, will we respond generously if, by chance, we happen to notice that something is required of us.
I promise you I did not know this Synod document was about to be published when I began answering your question, Is Christianity Dead? But there are good ideas in there to help address your concerns. I move on to the short paragraph entitled Going Out. I think we have to realise that when Pope Francis is talking about vocations he is by no meaning just the priesthood and religious life.
Pastoral vocational care, in this sense, means to accept the invitation of Pope Francis: “going out”, primarily, by abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible; “going out”, leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in; and “going out”, by giving up a way of acting as Church which at times is out-dated. “Going out” is also a sign of inner freedom from routine activities and concerns, so that young people can be leading characters in their own lives. The young will find the Church more attractive, when they see that their unique contribution is welcomed by the Christian community.
The church porch is important; each one is a door of mercy where people, old and young, should feel welcome to come in and go out freely. If that is not the case, how can it be remedied? What ways of acting do we need to give up? Pope Francis does not promise it will not be demanding.
No apologies if I’ve told this story before; but it is good to start the year with an open heart and open mind which I certainly needed to one year.
This was a school year and I was starting a new job. My superior was running through the register of ‘my’ form of 16 year olds, jabbing a sharp-nailed index finger at Cormac’s name: ‘Watch him, he’s a nasty piece of work.’
I wished I’d not heard those words but tried to keep an open mind. Cormac turned out to be a bit of a bully, something of a leader, a lunchtime absconder and a smoker. To deal with the last problem first, I kept a tube of extra strong mints in my pocket. He could not smell his after-lunch breath, but if I could others would. The other little difficulties were alleviated a little when he and his fellow smoker were referred to me for a misdemeanour even I could not ignore, so detention slips were duly written and handed out.
After lessons they appeared with strong evidence of their innocence – on this occasion. ‘I could count this against all the times you should have had after school detention but didn’t, or I could just rip them up,’ I said. Actions speak louder than words, except for the next word: Sorry.
I went off sick soon after that. When I struggled back it was Cormac who stood up in form period and said, ‘Sir, you should not be here. Go home.’ He was right. I am ever grateful for the solidarity he showed that day.
A degree less on the central heating, walking instead of driving, eating less meat; climate change is the responsibility of each one of us. Yet I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the little I can do is too little, and that governments must lead by example.
We sometimes think of the US as a litigious society, a bad habit that’s spreading over here, with lawyers encouraging people to sue blithely for harm done to them by those with a duty of care. Monica has drawn attention to an interesting and possibly momentous law suit brought by young people in Oregon, alleging that US Authorities have failed in their duty of care to those growing up since the facts about pollution and how to combat it were known and not acted upon.
She found the story here but a more sober account is here at the Environmental Law Reporter . (I checked, fearing a hoax story, sorry Monica!)