This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Justice before charity

First, although charity is normally considered something of a “private virtue,” to be cultivated by the individual rather than coerced by the State, we must also recognize that it still operates in relation to justice, and justice itself has the prior claim. What this means is that if the requirements of justice are not met, then charity has not yet entered the picture, and so what the State extracts from the rich in terms of taxes is not necessarily a matter of coerced charity, but of coerced justice. Coerced charity would be inappropriate, but coerced justice is not. In the words of Benedict XVI, charity goes beyond justice:

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. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI’s words, ‘the minimum measure’ of it.[1]

The Catechism echoes in agreement, citing various authorities on the subject: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”[2] “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity.”[3] “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”[4]

Those who try to place charity in opposition to justice, and to use the one to escape the other, are trying to divide two sides of one coin:

There is no gap between love of neighbour and desire for justice. To contrast the two is to distort both love and justice. Indeed, the meaning of mercy completes the meaning of justice by preventing justice from shutting itself up within the circle of revenge.[5]

[1] CV, 6; PP, 22; GS, 69; Pope Paul IV, Address for the Day of Development (23 August 1968).

[2] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. In Lazaro 2, 5: PG 48, 992.

[3] Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8, 5.

[4] St. Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis. 3, 21: PL 77, 87.

[5] Libertatis Conscientia, 57.

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