Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 8 of 8

Father Pegues concludes his exposition of the nine virtues associated with the moral virtue of justice. Here he discusses friendship and liberality.

The virtue of friendship “makes man endeavour by the whole of his exterior, both in word and deed, to treat his fellow-beings as it behooves in order to bring mutual pleasantness and charm to their lives.” Friendship “helps in a great degree towards the welfare of society, although not with the same rigour as that of gratitude, retributive justice, and truthfulness.”

It is possible to sin against the virtue of friendship in two ways: “by defect, in troubling ourselves little or not at all with what may bring pleasure or annoyance to others; or by excess, and this is the sin of flattery, which fails in disapproving externally the words or deeds of those with whom we live that deserve reproval.”

The virtue of liberality is “a disposition of soul which effects that man is attached to external goods only in such ordered measure as ever to be ready to give them and especially to give money for the well-being of others.”

Sins opposed to liberality are avarice and prodigality. “Avarice is the inordinate love of riches. . . . If one considers the disproportion between the soul, which is spiritual, and riches, to which it is inordinately attached, it is the most degrading of all sins; since therein the soul subjects itself to what is beneath it.” It is a dangerous capital sin because “there is no end to this inordinate love of riches; for to gain riches one may be induced to commit all sorts of crime against God, one’s neighbour, and oneself.” The inordinate love of riches may lead to excesses in the acquisition or retention of riches, such as by means of violence, guile, words expressed under oath, or by deeds. Thus, the “daughters of avarice” are “hardness of heart which knows no pity, disquietude, violence, deceit, perjury, fraud, and treachery.”

“Whereas avarice exceeds in the love of riches without being drawn to make good use of them by giving to others, prodigality does not properly estimate riches and distributes them with too ready a hand.” Avarice is the graver sin because “it is more opposed to the virtue of liberality, which gives rather than retains.”

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

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Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 7 of 8

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the nine virtues associated with the moral virtue of justice. Here he discusses three of these: retributive justice, natural equity, and truthfulness.

Retributive justice is a special virtue “whose office it is to see that an evildoer does not go unpunished whenever justice demands such retribution.”

The virtue of natural equity or epikeia (“fairness” in Greek) inclines the will “to seek justice in all things and in all orders, as it were, outside of and above the established laws among men, whenever the natural reason in virtue of its very first principles shows that in a given case the established laws cannot and should not be applied.”

The virtue of truthfulness “inclines us to manifest ourselves in all things both in words and in deeds, such as we really are.”

The sins opposed to truthfulness are lying, pretence, and hypocrisy. Lying is “the fact of speaking or of acting in such wise that knowingly one expresses or signifies what is not.” However, one is not always bound to say or to signify what is true. There are three kinds of lies: the jocose, the officious, and the pernicious. “The jocose lie is told for amusement’s sake; the officious lie in order to help another; and the pernicious lie in order to do another harm.” The pernicious lie is the worst of the three, for “whereas the first two kinds may be only venial sins, the third is of itself always a mortal sin, unless the injury done is only slight.”

Pretence consists in showing oneself externally in one’s life what one is not interiorly; and hypocrisy is pretending to be holy when one is not. . . . What the virtue of truthfulness demands is that we let nothing appear externally, whether good or bad, which does not correspond to our inner life.” One is not bound to abstain from some word or deed that might lend itself to a false interpretation, “except in the case when such false interpretation might cause some evil which it is our duty to prevent.”

The sins of lying, pretence, and hypocrisy are also committed by deviating from truthfulness by either excess or defect. “One can sin by exceeding the truth, and this is called boasting; or by deficiency, that is in falling short of the truth, when, for instance, a person makes out that he is lacking in some good which he really has, and this sin is called the belittling of oneself unduly.”

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

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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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Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 5 of 8

Continuing his exposition of religion, which is a virtue associated with justice, Father Pegues enumerates the sins opposed to religion. These are of two kinds: sins of excess, which are called superstition, and sins of defect, which are called irreligion.

Superstition is “that complexity of sins which consists in paying worship to God such as cannot be pleasing to Him; or to pay to things other than God the worship that belongs to Him alone.” An example of superstition is “the inordinate desire to learn the future or to bring to light things that are hidden, which effects the giving up of oneself to the manifold kinds of divination, or to what are called superstitious practices.”

Irreligion consists in either “not treating with due respect things that belong to the service and worship of God” or “abstaining altogether from acts of religion.” The latter is particularly grave because “it implies contempt or the scornful disregard of Him whom we are bound in the strictest sense to honour and to serve.” An example of the latter is secularism, which is “that system in which God is put out of one’s life completely: whether in a positive manner, in getting rid of Him in every way and in persecuting both Him and everything that has to do with Him; or in a negative way, in taking no account of Him at all in our life, individual, domestic, or social. In its positive form it arises from hatred or from some fanatic sectarianism; in its negative form it arises from a sort of intellectual and moral obtuseness, particularly with regard to the supernatural order.”

Other forms of irreligion are tempting God and committing perjury, “which are committed against God Himself and His Holy Name,” and sacrilege and simony, “which are committed against things holy.” Tempting God is “that sin against the virtue of religion which consists in want of respect towards God in making appeal to His intervention; or to make appeal to Him in circumstances that forbid His intervention.” An example of tempting God is “to count upon some special help from Him when one does not do oneself all that is possible to be done.” Perjury consists in “calling on God to witness a thing that is false, or calling on God as witness to a promise which we do not fulfil.” Sacrilege is “the violation of person, thing, or place consecrated to God, which are dedicated to His service and worship. It is a great sin; for to touch things that belong to God is in some sort to touch God Himself.” Simony consists in “imitating the impiousness of Simon the Magician [Acts 8:9-24] by offering insult to things holy in treating them as ordinary material things, of which men dispose as though they belonged to them, and which they buy or sell for a sum of money.”

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

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Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 4 of 8

Having discussed the internal acts of the virtue of religion, Father Pegues next addresses the external acts of religion: adoration, sacrifice, oblations, vows, the use of holy things, and calling on the Holy Name of God. All these are “directed to the honouring of God.”

Adoration includes “certain movements of the body, such as the inclination of the head, genuflexion, and prostration.” The excellence of these acts consists in the fact that “the body is made to contribute towards the honouring of God.” Moreover, “when these acts are performed in a fitting manner they help much towards the better performance of the internal acts.”

Sacrifice under the New Law is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Concerning oblations, Father Pegues states that it is “an act of religion pleasing to God to contribute according to one’s means towards the upkeep of His external worship by giving the wherewithal for the maintenance of its ministers.”

By making a vow, one promises God “something which of its nature is pleasing to Him.” One is bound to keep a vow “except in the case of impossibility or dispensation.”

Holy things can be used to give God “honour and homage.” By holy things is meant “whatsoever has received from God through the medium of His Church some consecration or particular blessing: as, for instance, persons consecrated to God; the sacraments; and the sacramentals, such as holy water or objects of piety; and also places of worship.”

By calling on the Holy Name of God “as witness to the truth of what one says, or by invoking it in praise,” one can render Him homage. By invoking an oath, “one calls on the Holy Name as witness to the truth of what one says or of what one promises. The oath is good only when grave necessity demands it; and it should be used with extreme reserve.” To adjure or to swear is “an act which consists in calling on the name of God or upon some holy thing in order to induce someone to act or not to act in the way we wish.” It is permissible “provided it be done with respect and according to the condition of those whom we adjure.” It is good to invoke the name of God often, “provided one do this with the greatest respect and in the form of praise.”

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

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Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 3 of 8

Father Pegues continues his discussion of prayer, which is one of the interior acts of the virtue of religion. Of all prayers, one stands out: the Lord’s Prayer. It is “a form of prayer whereby we may be assured of asking always for what is for our good.” It contains “all the requests we may ask and ought to ask of God,” for “whatever we ask of God can be reduced to one or other of the petitions expressed in the Our Father, provided, of course, that our request is for some good. . . . This prayer puts upon our lips in the very order that they should be in our hearts, all the desires that ought to be ours.”

He then explains the order of the petitions. “Of all our desires the first must be that God should be glorified, since the glory of God is the end of all things; and in order that we ourselves might co-operate in the best way towards this glory, we must desire to be admitted one day to a participation of that glory in heaven. Such is the sense of the first two petitions of the Our Father when we say: ‘Hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come.’ This glorification of God in Himself and of us in Him will one day be the final term of our life.”

“On earth and during the present life we have to strive to be admitted to the glory of God in heaven. To attain this end there is only one thing to be done: to accomplish in all things the will of God as perfectly as possible. And this we ask when we say: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'”

“But in order to fulfil the will of God in the most perfect way possible, we have need of God’s life to strengthen our weakness whether as regards temporal needs or spiritual. We ask for this help when we say: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.'”

“This indeed would be sufficient were it not necessary to avoid or get rid of evil which can be an obstacle either as regards our attainment of the Kingdom of God, or the accomplishment of His will, or the sufficiency of things of which we have need in the present life. Against this threefold evil we say: ‘Forgive us our offences as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.'”

Father Pegues says of the Lord’s Prayer: “We should live continually in its spirit, reciting it from time to time, and indeed as often as we can according as the conditions of our life permit.”

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

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Virtues Associated With Justice – Part 2 of 8

Continuing his exposition of religion, which is a virtue associated with justice, Father Pegues explains that religion is expressed by interior, as well as exterior, acts. There are two interior acts of religion: devotion and prayer.

Devotion is a certain movement of the will whereby it gives itself and all dependent on it to the service of God, and this always and with a holy zeal.”

After devotion, comes our first act in the service of God, which is the act of prayer. “Prayer, understood in its widest sense and in so far as it is addressed to God, is an act of the practical reason by which, under the form of supplication, we desire to lead God to grant what we ask. . . . Since we are by nature rational beings, we have need of considering in the greatest degree what God is and what we are. But we are filled with miseries; and He is the source of all good. The more intimately we know then our own misery in all its details, and that God only is capable of succouring our needs, the more we shall come to know what we ought to be, that is to know what our very nature has need of; and this is precisely what prayer effects. It is, moreover, the more perfect when it makes us the more conscious of our misery and of the goodness of God, which is the remedy of that misery. It is for this reason that God in His mercy wishes us to pray.”

It is “God’s will that we are fulfilling when we endeavour by prayer to lead Him to grant what we ask,” provided that “what we ask of Him is for our own true good. . . . God always hears our prayers when we ask of Him, under the very impulse of the Holy Ghost, what is for our true good.” The Lord’s Prayer is “a form of prayer whereby we may be assured of asking always for what is for our good.”

Knowing that all good things come from God, we may ask certain creatures to intercede for us before God. We may ask this of good people on earth, of angels and saints in heaven, and in particular, of Mary, “ever a virgin and the Mother of the incarnate Son of God.”

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

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