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For an ethic of the virtues in the feminine

· Editorial ·

Almost completely absent from today’s cultural horizon and often considered the heritage of an outdated religious education, the human virtues are in fact precious travelling companions. Justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance encourage us to live better, to be more righteous and true and to orientate ourselves to wisdom. In an epoch in which haste, efficiency, utilitarianism and the anxiety for affirmation easily get the upper hand, Women Church World is devoting a special issue to each one of these “four stars ne’er seen before save by the ken / Of our first parents…” as Dante writes. Nevertheless a doubt arises as to whether these virtues do not fit in among the subjects of particular interest for a woman’s magazine of the Church. But this is not the case.

The subject is in tune with the intention to foster dialogue between the world and the Church, between the Church and other religions, between men and women both within the Church and outside her. Here it is precisely the human virtues that function as a bridge, given that they belong to the human being as a social and reasonable being and at the same time are part of the project of the man and the woman, as revealed by the Gospel. It is necessary in particular to revisit them and to promote them in a concrete manner, starting from the experiences of women who reinterpret them through female categories and sensibilities: acceptance, receptivity, altruism, tenderness, empathy, sensitivity, patience, understanding, protection and listening. The aim is to promote an ethic of virtue in the feminine which does not focus solely on the deontological, consequential and normative attitudes, but also on discerning, helping and care-giving. The virtues, which are at the root of the idea of a social and ecclesial community, thus become fertile ground also for envisaging future roles, in decision-making and directing, for women in the Church.

The first “star” is justice. The other virtues are founded on justice because it concerns behaviour addressed not to ourselves but to others. When we are faced with the word “justice” courts, trials and prisons easily spring to mind or this word is understood as retribution, as fairness in an exchange or as a claim seen from a subjective and ideological point of view. We forget that instead justice is mainly that rectitude which is shown in the commitment to recognize and respect the rights of every person, giving them what they are entitled to in accordance with reason and the law. This is why human justice is based on law, a law that is inalienable for any society which desires to be civil and also for the life of the Church as an institution.

However, we must then understand why we have a law and what it is that urges us to the deepest moral attitude of acceptance, hospitality and disinterested and joyful altruism. For believers the foundation of human justice – and this is the point – is the divine creation. God loved, wanted and created man and woman as subjects of an inalienable law and whoever commits an offence against this law offends God himself. And this is not all. He does justice to those who err: he pardons, rehabilitates, loves them and makes them good. It is thanks to this his saving justice that humanity too is enabled to express goodness, love and forgiveness, to live, that is, something of that justice which it asks for with “Your kingdom come” and which Mary expresses in her Magnificat. So to come to the Gospel is it necessary to respect human justice in order then to transcend it, having God’s love as our beacon? The intention of this issue is to make people reflect on this. The invitation to do so reaches us, albeit in a different tone, even from distant voices like that of Albert Camus who writes, “I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice”. 

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