The Personalist Project

Accessed on July 03, 2022 - 12:52:08

Justice and truth

Katie van Schaijik, Jul 17, 2012

The discussion of the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness" being on my mind, everything I read seems to refer back to it, and highlight new aspects of it. Yesterday's Mass readings are an example.

In the First Reading, from Isaiah: "Make justice your aim."

And from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, a passage that member Joan referenced the other day, in response to my post on forgiveness and dysfunction:

Jesus said to his Apostles: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.  I have come to bring not peace but the sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother...

It reminds me of another passage, from Jeremiah:

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.

Clearly, there is a way of achieving or maintaining peace that is not in accord with the teachings of our faith.  There is a way of "dressing wounds" that makes them fester, rather than heal.

Then, in the Crosby article posted for this month's reading circle, "Karol Wojtyla on Treating Patients as Persons," (Jules' audio intro. coming soon!) I find this passage quoted at the outset:

This problem of the transformation of the individual into a thing occurs everywhere in the realm of social relations.  According to John Paul II it is one of the biggest problems of philosophy—and one of the most serious problems in the modern world.

It is, likewise, the central problem for the Personalist Project.

I claim that "unprincipled forgiveness" is one instance of it.  It is a "social relation" in which the rights and dignity of one are subordinated to the interests of the other, in the name of peace or reconciliation.

Elsewhere, and throughout his body of personalist work, Wojtyla/JP II, makes clear that the post-eden master/slave tension that afflicts all our relations is alleviated by truth.  Josef Pieper, in his classic Leisure the Basis of Culture, as well as his Abuse of Language; Abuse of Power, elaborates the same principle.  Personal subjectivity unfolds in free relation to the objective world.  So do interpersonal relations.  Right relations between persons come from right relation to Reality.

The dysfunctional approach to "forgiveness" sets aside Reality.  "It doesn't matter what happened."  It doesn't matter whether something happened.  It doesn't matter who was responsible.  The thing is to "forgive" and "move on".

There's a great scene (one of many great scenes!) in The Winslow Boy.  After pressing for justice for their son and brother, at great cost of time and money, the father and Kate learn that a committee of authorities has looked into the case and resolved that "in future" parents will notified in advance...

The father says to Kate (I'm paraphrasing from memory): "But what about our case?  Aren't they going to do anything about that?"

Kate: "Apparently not."

Father: "But that's iniquitous!"

Promising to handle things better in future does nothing to address the injustice done in their case.  They decide to keep pressing.

Jules and I were talking about all this over lunch.

We were recalling the story of the two women who came before Solomon, each claiming the baby was hers.  Onlookers had no way of knowing who was telling the truth and who was lying.  How did Solomon find out?  In his great wisdom he recognized: The one who was more interested in the baby was obviously the real mother.  The one who was wanted an "equitable solution" was the fraud.

Let the baby stand for truth.  A person who "makes justice their aim" wants the truth.  A person who pushes for reconciliation apart from truth and justice is "dressing a wound as if it were not serious."