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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reflecting on Social Justice: But What Is It?

Does this depict the meaning of social justice for Catholics?
Social justice is a phrase thrown about frequently. For many it means act like Robin Hood. Take from the rich (anyone who has more than you do) and give it to those who have less (you, of course). We're not talking voluntary giving here, but forced "charity" usually handled by government bureaucrats who have the power to coerce redistribution of income from workers to takers (often those whom they see as voting blocks grateful for government largesse  using other people's money).

Community organizers love to talk about social justice. They demand it, in fact, and depending on the particular issue is at the moment, they use coercion, manipulation, and intimidation to get it. Any end justifies any means and is legitimized by its success as Saul Alinsky taught.

But what is social justice really -- and in the Catholic sense? I've been struggling with this issue for some time, but haven't written about it. Others have, however. And here's an article by Fr. James Schall reviewing Social Justice Isn't What You Think It Is by Michael Novak and Paul Adams.

Fr. Schall, always insightful, says this about social justice:
Social justice is not, as too many maintain or imply, a revolutionary virtue whose object is the restructuring of the state, family, or society as the principal way to deal with modern problems. Rather it is an aspect of Aristotle’s understanding of justice and politics. It is a flushing out of the habit of virtue in all its implications. This virtue is located within each person. It is an acquired habit, the result of repeated and prudent acts....
There is an almost diabolical temptation in the souls of many politicians, clerics, and academics to want to solve someone else’s problems. Instead of thinking what people themselves can do to solve their own problems, the temptation is to think of ways to do it for them. This latter approach almost always ends up in emptying society of that individual and personal vitality that alone is able to vivify a society. Neither individualism nor socialism, or their variants, can show the record that a personalist-based approach to social justice as a virtue can achieve.
Fr. Schall gives the book high marks which makes it a must-read for me. Here's how father ends his review:
If anyone from the pope to the bishops to college professors and students, to media, business people, and government cadre is looking for a succinct and far-reaching guide to reconsider how to think about the order of this world and its relation to the human good, it would be difficult to find a better book than this work of Michael Novak and Paul Adams.
Wow! My next Amazon smile order will include Social Justice Isn't What You Think It Is. 

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