Roman Catholic Social Teaching and Just World Theory

How, if at all, does the Just World Theory inform your interpretation of Roman Catholic Social Teaching?

Do you find your political beliefs and values governed by the Just World Theory? Or are you more inclined to see the deck stacked against the less fortunate?

To explain my post a little better, I brought up the topic because I see a lot of Just World Theory here on CAF. I notice that a number of debates, about the homeless and refugees, for example, center around how the circumstances are of the less fortunate are their own fault. I’ve heard - directly and implicitly - that refugees should go back and “fix” their countries and that beggars should work harder, stop asking for hand-outs, etc.

These would be an examples of Just World Theory, which holds that the world is a good and fair place, therefore bad things most often happen only to people who make bad choices.

Whether or not you support Just World Theory isn’t really a yes-no question but one that exists on a continuum. I’m curious where on that continuum people find themselves . . .

As you say, it’s not cut and dry. People who behave certain ways have a tendency to do better than people who behave other ways. It seems that folks applying the Just World Theory are taking it to an extreme.

Taking it to the other extreme would be saying that it really doesn’t matter what we do, that everything happens by chance. That is abdication of responsibility. Choices matter and behaviors matter.

While taking the position that the scantily clad woman deserved what she got is unethical and completely wrong, it does cross the mind that maybe it wouldn’t have happened if she had worn more modest clothes. In any event, throw the rapist in prison and help the young lady recover.

The world is not just in the sense this article puts it, but we can certainly make choices that make it more just.

I don’t think “Just World Theory” is appropriate in Catholic doctrine because of the social nature of sin. Just people often suffer the consequences of another’s injustice. Likewise, even natural “evils” may be visited on the just and unjust alike. Jesus pointed to the collapse of the tower of Siloe, noting that the people it fell on were not necessarily worse people than His audience. Further, as St. Robert Bellarmine mentions in one of his books, sometimes the elect are punished in this life to expiate their few sins, since they will be rewarded forever in the next for all their good, while the reprobate are rewarded in this life for what little good they do, since they will be punished for their sins forever in the next.

That being said, often bad choices do lead to bad results (that’s usually what makes them bad choices) or it is someone’s fault that they are suffering: “if any man will not work, neither let him eat.” Justice requires discernment into the facts of each case. In general, I think charity requires we give someone the benefit of the doubt in doubtful circumstances.

A special note should be made about civil authority, since the example in the article was in that context. Other injustices of a victim does not therefore make an unjust act committed against them just. This would amount to a private execution of vengeance. Public authority should punish the criminal according to his own demerits and his own crime, not the demerits of his victim.

It should also be noticed that imprudence is different from injustice. An imprudent choice may lead to a foreseeable and otherwise avoidable consequence, but that does not amount to the imprudent person strictly deserving that consequence. For example, walking through a high crime neighborhood at 2 AM playing on your cell phone will lead to your cellphone getting stolen, but that does not make the theft just. In common parlance we might say it is the victim’s “fault” for not making more prudent choices which would have mitigated or altogether eliminated the risk of the injustice, but this does not justify the theft or mean the victim committed an injustice himself.


It’s the Just War teaching.
Never heard of JUST WORLD. :coffee:

Must be the Jesuit’s co-opting Aquinas.

This type of concept requires a lot of research to create something close to a full picture. Individuals, groups of people, special interest groups and local, state and federal agencies in the US can and have made bad choices.

The Church has always reminded us about the poor and to do what we can to help them.

The Church has always commented on manufactured social changes and given a detailed analysis to the faithful and all men of good will.

Doing whatever one wants without thinking through the consequences is irresponsible, but it is not always the fault of the uninformed person who sincerely believes he can do whatever and escape potential consequences.

I have talked to the homeless on the street and there are a number of reasons why they are there. Some do not say why but others do. “I lost my job and had nowhere to go.” “I can’t find work.” which can include not having the necessary skills. They don’t want to be out there holding cardboard signs and sleeping wherever they can.

Homeless shelters are there but they are few. They can offer food, drink and a place to sleep, but they fill up during cold weather and some places open “warming centers.”

Those who control a country’s money supply and the world’s money supply, are the ones in charge. There are few kings or queens but the world is mapped, dissected and analyzed. Various groups are created to plan for the future. Those with great wealth will do whatever they can to keep it. However, some choose to share it with the less fortunate.

The world, aside from some new gadgets, is still a feudal structure. The king and his court, the nobles and landowners make up about 8 to 10% of the US but own 80% of the wealth. The peasants split what remains among themselves.

Justice for all means not only a respect for the law but the recognition that we have a civic and spiritual duty to help our neighbors and families.

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First time for everything. :wink:

To be fair, there’s been plenty of rape under the Taliban. Rape is a symptom of a culture that objectifies and disrespects women, regardless of how they dress. But I do see your point about how it may be helpful to the discussion to look at the Just World Theory on a case-by-case basis.

Just world theory is an entirely unrelated thing to just war teaching. It’s a psych thing that basically says, people tend to be biased towards the idea that people get what they deserve. It’s hypothesized that it makes us feel safer by making us feel like, if we do everything right bad things won’t happen to us. And it makes us feel less responsible for helping others. So we’ll try to default to finding a reason to blame people.

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Oh - I couldn’t tell if you were kidding. Sorry - tone is hard to read online.

Yes @Darklight defines it well.

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