Pope Benedict XVI's Nightmare: Justice Corrupted
Without belief in the true God our efforts are in ultimately fruitless, in fact not only fruitless, but they bear poisonous fruit
There is an opposite side to Benedict XVI's "dream." We may call it Pope Benedict XVI's "nightmare." The nightmare happens when this inclination or thirst for justice is corrupted, disordered, or misguided, so that instead of being a force for good, it actually becomes a force for evil. The nightmare arises when this inclination for justice is tied to a misunderstanding of (or rejection of) God, or a misunderstanding of (or rejection of) man.
Those realities led Plato and Cicero and other philosophers to suggest the possibility-by adopting myths and dreams-of an eternal life, with just judgment, where justice finally its day. They suggest this as a tentative hunch, as something plausible but beyond reason and the evidence of the senses. Hence the only way it comes to us is by myth and dream.
However, for Christians, the reality, the objective truth of this "dream" or this "myth" has become revealed, and its truth is seized by Faith when we accept Jesus as God's justice, when we accept Jesus crucified, Jesus resurrected, Jesus who will come again to judge the living and the dead. In Faith, our inclinations towards justice are satisfied in the hope that justice, in the Final Judgment, will have its day.
But there is an opposite side to this "dream." We may call it Pope Benedict XVI's "nightmare." The nightmare happens when this inclination or thirst for justice is corrupted, disordered, or misguided, so that instead of being a force for good, it actually becomes a force for evil. The nightmare arises when this inclination for justice is tied to a misunderstanding of (or rejection of) God, or a misunderstanding of (or rejection of) man.
Nightmares of justice occur if we are materialists, if we refuse to believe in spiritual realities-in God, and in the spiritual nature of man meant for communion with God in a life in eternity. If there is no eternity and no God to set things right sometime in the future, then we are compelled to set things right in the here-and-now irrespective of the cost. The noble saying fiat iustitia ruat caeulum-may justice be done though the heavens fall-becomes downright demonic if it becomes fiat iustitia sine caelo-may justice be done without regard to heaven.
The traditional saying does not violate the injunction that we may not do evil that good may come. (cf. Rom. 3:5-8) The second materialistic notion justifies any means, good or evil, to achieve what is seen as good. So we have, per exempla, Stalin's Gulags and the West's abortion mills. Horrible injustices justified by the pursuit of a perverted sense of justice without regard to God or to man.
Without belief in the true God our efforts are in ultimately fruitless, in fact not only fruitless, but they bear poisonous fruit. (Deut. 29:18; Matt. 7:17) "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain." (Ps. 127:1). In his 2010 Lenten message where he discusses these issues, Pope Benedict XVI quotes St. Augustine: "if 'justice is that virtue which gives every one his due . . . where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?"
In his encyclical Spe salvi, Pope Benedict XVI elaborates on how the interaction of materialistic atheism corrupts the human inclination toward justice so as to make it nightmarish. Benedict XVI states that the atheism of the 19th and 20th centuries was, at heart, a moralistic venture, that is to say, an expression of man's thirst or inclination for justice. Those philosophical and political systems built upon atheism were built upon a "protest against the injustices of the world and of world history." Faced with injustice, these moralists blamed God, and rejected him.
And this is where the nightmare came in: "Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. . . . . [T]he claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power-whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts-will cease to dominate the world." Spe salvi, 42.
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