Fr. Robert Bengry: Justice?

A photograph belonging to the Rev. Fr. Robert Bengry.

The virtue of justice governs our relationships with other people. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give one’s due to God and neighbour.

Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion”. Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.

With this in mind, what does the Catholic Church tell us are the rights of every Catholic? The Code of Canon law gives us some useful legal information: here are a few excerpts:

Can. 208 From their rebirth in Christ, there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality regarding dignity and action by which they all co-operate in the building up of the Body of Christ according to each one’s own condition and function.

Can. 209 §1. The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are always obliged to maintain communion with the Church. §2. With great diligence they are to fulfill the duties which they owe to the universal Church and the particular church to which they belong according to the prescripts of the law.

Can. 210 All the Christian faithful must direct their efforts to lead a holy life and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification, according to their own condition.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church. §2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and they're desires. §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Can. 217 Since they are called by baptism to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, the Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation.

Can. 218 Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.

Can. 220 No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.

Can. 221 §1. The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law. 

Can. 222 §1. The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers. §2. They are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.

Can. 223 §1. In exercising their rights, the Christian faithful, both as individuals and gathered together in associations, must take into account the common good of the Church, the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.

Do you respect the rights of your fellow man in your day-to-day conduct? Are you familiar with the Catholic understanding of justice? — because it’s not a cowboy justice so popular today, especially in North America. It is a justice begun in charity, kindness and a generosity of spirit with due reverence to the other, both lay and ordained. 

Micah 6:8 reads like this: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It’s true, God has indeed shown us what is good, true and holy. He has also shown us how to do Christian justice, to love kindness, and to live a life of humility with God. Let us try to do that with all we meet, those whom we enjoy and love, and equally for those whom we count as enemies. — Fr. Robert Bengry



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The photograph: From the Bengry collection. Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.