Uses and Misuses of the Term "social Justice" in the Roman Catholic Tradition

Journal of Religious Ethics 15 (2):261 - 282 (1987)

A considerable amount of confusion surrounds the use of the term "social justice" in contemporary ethical dialogue, as can be seen in the Roman Catholic bishops' pastoral letter on the economy. By examining its first appearances in Catholic writings influenced by the neo-Thomistic revival, this paper discerns numerous confusions arising from misunderstandings of Aquinas' vision due to the pervasive influence of modern political philosophies. To avoid such con-fusions, commutative and distributive justice ought to remain our main tools in ethical analyses of the economy, while social justice, with its focus on the common good, on social solidarity and on the primacy of duties, ought to be reserved for issues that relate directly to the common good.
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