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Utter Perversion of Mankind…from Injustice?

February 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Book Club, Cardinal Virtues, Justice, Sarah Reinhard

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The Four Cardinal Virtues (Week 6 of 12)
Utter Perversion of Mankind…from Injustice?

Justice is a hot word in some circles, and it's one that gets tossed around and not so deeply considered. I didn't realize just how true that was until I dove into this week's reading.

Last week, we read that justice is the only virtue that's an external act. This week, in chapter 3, we read two striking bits:

Justice simply means “doing one's own work” and “fulfilling one's own task.” (paragraph 11)

And then this:

We would do well to bear in mind that the uttermost perversion of mankind lies not in excess, which can be easily read in man's bearing and behavior, but in injustice, which, being essentially of the spirit, is not so readily distinguishable. We ought to be prepared to find that the most powerful embodiment of evil in human history, the Antichrist, might well appear in the guise of a great ascetic. (paragraph 13)

Um, ‘scuse me? Did anyone else do a double-take with that?

If ever I thought justice was someone else's worry (ahem) or the concern of people other than me (cough), I guess I have been corrected quite loudly here.

In fact, in chapter 4, Pieper goes on to outline Aquinas's three forms of justice, and they make sense when you stop to think about just simply wading through life.

First, we have our relationships with other people. Then we have the relationships of the social whole with individuals. Finally, there's the relationships of individuals to the social whole. So there's a multi-faceted approach, and justice is tying it all together. How we relate to that other singular person has as much to do with justice as how we relate to society and the larger group. And, in the same way, the way society (the larger group) relates to us is as important to justice as those individual relationships.

And suddenly, the way that confession and communion play into justice becomes clear. How can we be at peace if there is injustice within us? In chapter 5, Pieper shows us how restitution — and dare I say also forgiveness? — plays a part in justice. In fact, I walked away from these chapters realizing that the justice in my home and my personal life is every bit as critical as that justice (or injustice, as it were) in the larger world that has me up in arms.

I can't help but see that my domestic church and my little circle of influence is as important for justice in the world as the “bigger picture.” In fact, the bigger picture may be happening in my living room and not so much on the big screen.

I guess that would be why we're reading this book and diving into the virtues, huh?

Reading Assignment:

Chapter 6, Justice

Discussion Questions:

1. How can you practice justice in your own life? What small practices can you put in place to make the act of justice a habit that's integrated into how you live your life?

2. Do you need to make something right that was or is unjust in your life? What steps can you take to make that restitution?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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