Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 6 of 8

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the nine virtues associated with the moral virtue of justice. We have discussed the first of these, religion, in the previous five posts. Now will we discuss three more: filial respect, reverence, and gratitude.

The virtue of filial respect is “that virtue whose object is to give to parents and to the fatherland the honour and the respect that is due to them; and this because of the existence that, together with all the benefits thereto attached, they have bestowed upon us.” The duties of filial respect towards our parents are “respect and deference; obedience when living under their authority; and assisting them in case of need.” The duties of filial respect towards one’s country are “respect and reverence towards those who represent it; obedience to its laws; and one’s service even to the sacrifice of one’s life in the case of just war against enemies.”

The virtue of reverence is “that virtue whose object it is to regulate the relations of inferiors with regard to superiors,” such as the relations of pupil and master, or of apprentice and master. There can also be superiority without authority, as in the case of superiority in talent, in riches, in age, or in virtue. Superior traits such as these “lend themselves to the practice of the virtue of reverence,” for “this virtue effects that man pays to every kind of superiority the honour due to it; and he does this in such order that first of all he pays honour to superiors that are in authority.” This is most important for the good of society, for “every society implies a certain multiplicity and in some sort a certain subordination, and every subordinate should practice the virtue of reverence, without which the harmony of the relations between men is impossible.” It is possible for everyone to practice the virtue of reverence, for “there is no one, in whatsoever order he himself may be superior, that is not in some other order inferior to some other person.”

The virtue of gratitude “has for its object, not indeed a strict debt that it is impossible to acquit fully, but a certain debt of the moral order such as one is able to pay, and the payment of which is necessarily ordained to the well-being of society.” Gratitude is a sort of payment in return for the good things we have received from another. One ought to strive to give in return more than one has received, so as to imitate the goodness of one’s benefactor.

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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