It should warm the self-righteous cockles of Catholic hearts to read Protestant theologian Emil Brunner's remark that “while the Catholic Church, drawing on centuries of tradition, possesses an impressive systematic theory of justice, Protestant Christianity has had none for some three hundred years past.” The cockles, however, are in for a chilling with the realization of how little we have done, particularly in the United States, to give this noble tradition salience and application in Catholic thought, or to give it voice and currency in national and international political discourse. With such an in-house treasure as Brunner noted, why were we content to live as misers responding so little to the poverty in justice theory that scars our national setting? There were some notable exceptions, but they never became mainstreamed in American Catholic life. Why?
The principal reasons, I submit, are these: Catholic thought was (I) prone to conflate the just and the juridical; (II) distracted by charity to the neglect of justice; (III) insufficiently nourished by the justice preoccupations of the Bible; (IV) inattentive to the need to clarify and develop the theories underlying our social justice tradition.