Thomas L. SCHUBECK, Love that does Justice. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2007. pp. 211. $22.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-57075-746-4.
Reviewed by Ann S.F. SWANER, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL 33138

This book is about the interrelationship of the virtues of love and justice in Christian moral life and reflection. Schubeck’s perspective is that of virtue ethics, focused on the development of moral character within a community rather than on rules or determinations of consequences. The book is intended for undergraduate classroom use and would be very appropriate for that purpose. Schubeck begins in chapter one with students’ personal narratives of injustice (“negative contrast experiences”) to root the remainder of the book in students’ own experience. (It would have been helpful if one example had drawn on the experience of a non-traditional student.) In the second chapter he examines the meaning of love and justice in the Old and New Testaments where they are understood in the context of covenant.

Chapter three looks at early Christianity and how Jesus’ call for non-violence and loving the enemy were appropriated. He describes how Tertullian, in the third century, and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the twentieth century, took Jesus’ call to non-violence seriously as a Christian ideal, though neither was an absolute pacifist. The next chapter looks at how Augustine reinterprets and adapts Jesus’ teaching on non-violence to the fourth and fifth-century situation in which the barbarians were attacking the empire and the Christians were the government. In this context Augustine, building on the thought of Eusebius, Athanasius, and Ambrose, developed the concept of the ‘just war.’ Schubeck compares Augustine’s understanding of just war with modern formulations and raises the question of whether the Iraq War meets just war criteria.

Chapter Five studies the thought of Thomas Aquinas on friendship to see how he relates love and justice on interpersonal and social levels. Charity and justice work together on two levels for Aquinas: “First, they come together on the level of causality, where charity and justice act as efficient causes, both directing each other and both directing other virtues to their respective ends. Second, they come together in the loving and just actions of persons working for the common good.” (p. 130) Two important constituents of the common good are friendship and peace, both of which require both charity and justice to flourish.

In Chapter Six Schubeck examines Reinhold Niebuhr’s more dialectical understanding of the link between love and justice. For Niebuhr, love and justice are related in a dynamic tension and work together in both positive and negative ways: “Love fulfills justice by moving it toward greater equality and freedom; love negates justice by showing that its achievement of equality and freedom is only partial. Conversely, justice makes love concrete by creating relationships that are more equal and free than they were previously. Justice may also judge the ideal of love as impractical, impossible, or utopian.” (p. 149) Niebuhr was a ‘Christian realist,’ who recognized the pervasiveness and power of sin and drew a distinction between the moral behavior of individuals and of groups. In an “immoral society” justice has to wield power to change unjust social structures. Schubeck offers an assessment of the strengths and limitations of Niebuhr’s social ethics.

Finally, in Chapter Seven, Schubeck focuses on the social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II and what they say about globalism and capitalism. John Paul’s teaching is placed in the context of the history of Catholic social teaching, the modern social encyclicals, the Polish Solidarity movement, and liberation theology. Like Niebuhr, John Paul II was working in the area of social ethics, focused on both the good of individual persons and the common good of groups and nations. John Paul though was more optimistic than Niebuhr would have been about the possibility of countries working together to secure the global common good. John Paul, in his personalist ethic, stresses the inherent dignity of the individual and the human need for solidarity. Solidarity is his link between love and justice: “Solidarity, for John Paul II, incorporates the virtues of love and justice by its commitment to the good of others and by serving the common good. It assumes that all persons are responsible for and accountable to others for what they hold in common.” (p. 184) John Paul II relates solidarity to the preferential option for the poor so that, for example, in a global economy, solidarity requires helping poor nations deal with their debt. As he did with Niebuhr, Schubeck offers an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Pope John Paul II’s approach.

This book would be an excellent classroom resource. It is very clearly written with terms, concepts, and relationships defined and described. For example, in the chapter on Niebuhr, dialectical theology is clearly and concisely described and contrasted with the syllogistic thinking of Aristotle and Aquinas. Niebuhr’s Christian realism is clearly explained. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are excellent; they go well beyond recall to in-depth, stimulating discussion material. Examples used are up-to-date, relevant, and insightful. The suggested readings at the end of each chapter are helpful. Love that does Justice is a challenging, stimulating, and very intelligent book.

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