Justice is the virtue by which we give to others what is due to them.
Three kinds of justice are commonly recognized. (1) The relations of individuals to each other are addressed by reciprocal justice. (2) The relations of the social whole to the individual are addressed by distributive justice. (3) The relations of individuals to the social whole are addressed by legal justice.
Distributive justice deals with the distribution of the common good, the total product of community life shared by all community members. The common good extends far beyond material resources. It is not simply utilitarian. Because humanity cannot be exhaustively defined, its common good cannot be either. Distributive justice enables community members to share in the realization of a common good that inevitably exceeds concrete definition.
Distributive justice is violated by any exclusive standard for societal development incapable of recognizing goods that resist quantification. Thus the contemporary tendency to overlook intangibles and assess a society solely in terms of its gross national product is a violation of distributive justice. Human potentialities always exceed our ability to account for them.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington