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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