Friday, January 13, 2017

Justice and Love

Rod Dreher reports on a conversation with his priest in the confessional:
Dreher: I want justice. It's not fair, the way they do me.

Priest: Justice? You have no right to expect justice. It's nice if you get it, but if you don't, that doesn't release you from the commandment to love.


G. Veloren said...

Well what else would you expect a Catholic priest to say? These are the people who spent centuries telling the peasantry to suck it up and accept the rampant abuses of the powerful, because all that justice nonsense would be sorted out by god in the afterlife, so just settle down and endure your injustice like a good little lamb.

Justice is only ever served if we demand it be so. We have every right to expect justice, because to do otherwise is to allow injustice to flourish. You cannot have a just society in which people do not at every turn fight against injustice.

That said, there is something to be said regarding anger and compassion, which the priest seems to be touching on almost by accident.

Anger, although a natural and understandable response to injustice, is by itself not a sufficient means toward attaining justice. It clouds our judgement, hardens our hearts, and leads us away from righting wrongs, and toward answering every wrong with another wrong. Anger can compel us to action in the face of injustice, but it invariably compels us to wrongful acts - it tells us not to fight for justice, but to exact revenge.

Compassion, or the priest's notion of "the commandment to love", is the only source of true justice. A murderer is not brought to justice by being murdered in kind. They are only ever brought to justice by being healed of the ills that led them to commit such a crime, and being led to whatever degree of atonement and restitution is possible.

And yes, sometimes the unjust are beyond redemption. Sometimes, the best we can hope for is to lock them away and keep them from doing further harm. And while that may feel like a injustice that cannot be righted, the virtue is in not allowing their sickness to spread. If you allow someone else's act of murder to compel you to murder them in retribution, all you've done is give in to the corrupting influence of their hatred and pain - the very same forces that led them to their own heinous act in the first place.

Susi said...

G. Veloren... I wish I could 'like' this! Thanks to you both for this discussion.