Kingdoms and Robberies

Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia? quia et latrocinia quid sunt nisi parua regna? Manus et ipsa hominum est, imperio principis regitur, pacto societatis astringitur, placiti lege praeda diuiditur. Hoc malum si in tantum perditorum hominum accessibus crescit, ut et loca teneat sedes constituat, ciuitates occupet populos subiuget, euidentius regni nomen adsumit, quod ei iam in manifesto confert non dempta cupiditas, sed addita inpunitas. Eleganter enim et ueraciter Alexandro illi Magno quidam comprehensus pirata respondit. Nam cum idem rex hominem interrogaret, quid ei uideretur, ut mare haberet infestum, ille libera contumacia: Quod tibi, inquit, ut orbem terrarum; sed quia ego exiguo nauigio facio, latro uocor; quia tu magna classe, imperator.

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.

St. Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, IV. 4.

Superfluity

Now what a ruler can do in virtue of his office, so that justice may be served in the manner of riches, is to take from someone who is unwilling to dispense from what is superfluous for life or state, and to distribute it to the poor […]  as Basil said, it belongs to the indigent.

Thomas Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio) on Aquinas.

Veracity

By veracity we understand a certain habit by which a man, both in his actions and in his words, shows himself to be that which he really is, neither more nor less. This, although not a legal, is a moral duty; for it is a debt which every man, in honesty, owes to his neighbour and the manifestation of truth is an essential part of justice.

— Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498).

We May Be a Small Country

We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a rôle of world-wide significance. We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birthright. And, even if we were to surrender, does anyone believe that Rhodesia would be the last target of the Communists in the Afro-Asian block? We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity; and in the spirit of this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless you all.

— Announcement of Unilateral Declaration of Independence, 11 November 1965.

Columcille’s Three Pets

There were three pets that Columcille had; a cat, and a wren, and a fly. And he understood the speech of each of those creatures. And the Lord sent messages to him by them, and he understood all from them as he would understand an angel or human folk that might be sent with a message to him. And it happed that the wren ate the fly, and the cat ate the wren. And Columcille spake by the spirit of prophecy, and he said that it was thus men should do in a later time: the strong of them should eat the weak, that is to say, should take his wealth and his gear from him, and should show him neither right nor justice. And Columcille said that the while the Gael of Erin were thus, the power of foreigners should be over them, and whenever right and justice were kept by them, they should themselves have power again. And such love had Columcille for those little creatures of his, that he asked God to revive them for him, to get back the fly from the wren, and the wren from the cat. And he obtained that from God. And they were with him thenceforth as they were before, till they had lived out their lives according to nature. Wherefore he made this quatrain:

The deed they have done.
If God wills it, may He hear me:
May he get from my cat my wren;
May he get from my wren my fly.

— Betha Colaim Chille (Life of Columcille),
X. Of Sundry Miracles and Prophecies of Columcille and of Certain Visions, 118;
compiled by Manus O’Donnell in 1532; edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

 

Reality Upturned into Perversity

Crucifix by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Santa Maria del Santo Spirito di Firenze, Florence.
Crucifix by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Santa Maria del Santo Spirito di Firenze, Florence.

We have heard so much in the past year about the mercy of God, as if the mercy of God does not depend on the justice of God. Without justice there is no mercy. The mission of the Church is not primarily to proclaim the mercy of God. The mission of the Church is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The mercy of God is surely seen and exemplified once and for all in the Cross of Jesus Christ. There is no greater symbol of God’s mercy and love. Those silly “resurrected Christs” that are placed on a cross over an altar in some Catholic churches are a product of sentimentality and denial of the justice of God. And yet when one looks at the Cross one sees there the terrible, horrible, judgment of God on this world of sin, that God would have to have his Son die in this way: what does that say about this world, about you and me? The obvious answer is quite negative. But you see, the deepest answer to that question is Love, there is the answer. But not the cheap love the world would have us believe in, love defined as what I want to do, love defined apart from the laws of God, love defined so as to upturn reality into perversity, a false love that is doomed to hell, as Dante saw, as Christ told us, as St. Paul wrote, that is doomed to death, for it is the opposite of Love.

— From homily on the Last Sunday after Pentecost, 2013,
Fr. Richard G. Cipolla,
Saint Mary’s Norwalk, Connecticut.

(h/t to Rorate Cæli)

Preferring Justice to Cash

[The royal knight Alvaro Yáñez de Lugo] was condemned to be beheaded, although he offered forty thousand ducados for the war against the Moors to the court so that these monies spare his life. This matter was discussed with the queen, and there were some who told her to pardon him, since these funds for the war were better than the death of that man, and her highness should take them. But the queen, preferring justice to cash, very prudently refused them; and although she could have confiscated all his goods, which were many, she did not take any of them to avoid any note of greed, or that it be thought that she had not wished to pardon him in order to have his goods; instead, she gave them all to the children of the aforesaid knight.

— Lucio Marineo Sículo of Queen Isabelle I of Castile and León.

A Kind of Irregular Justice

Samuel Johnson LLD MA.

In the Highlands it was a law, that if a robber was sheltered from justice, any man of the same clan might be taken in his place. This was a kind of irregular justice, which, though necessary in savage times, could hardly fail to end in a feud, and a feud once kindled among an idle people with no variety of pursuits to divert their thoughts, burnt on for ages either sullenly glowing in secret mischief, or openly blazing into public violence. Of the effects of this violent judicature, there are not wanting memorials. The cave is now to be seen to which one of the Campbells, who had injured the Macdonalds, retired with a body of his own clan. The Macdonalds required the offender, and being refused, made a fire at the mouth of the cave, by which he and his adherents were suffocated together.

— Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).