The Virtue of Justice and What We Owe One Another -- (De Bibendo, Tertia Pars)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
running down upon the beard,
upon the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life for evermore. -The 133rd Psalm

Thank you for letting me take a break from the de bibendo series--it allowed me to give this talk (that I am writing in parts for the website) to the wonderful people of St. Lawrence Center at Kansas University, and to meet up once again with the fantastic Patrick Callahan. Here is proof that it happened.

Here I am  blathering at the students:

And here I am with Patrick--serious:

And jubilant:

And these pictures are not totally unrelated to my post today. 

As Plato defines Justice within the first few pages of The Republic (and then debates for several hundreds more), this virtue is wrapped up in giving what each person or thing is due. There are several significant and useful paths that we could take regarding alcohol and justice: what we owe ourselves in consuming it, the reverence we should have toward it and its side effects, how that effects others, etc. All would be worthy of a long and fruitful discussion.

However, when it comes to drinking with justice, I would like to come to the situation from a different angle, one that, if we keep it in mind, we will most likely avoid injustice when it comes to how we drink. I think it is central to the whole concept of Catholic Beer Club itself: Fraternal Drinking (I mean this inclusively of both men and women--as far as I know, there is no gender-neutral version of "fraternal," and "sibling drinking" sounds problematic at best). 

As the scripture states above, true fraternity is likened to the abundant excess in which God anoints His High Priests. When we consider humanity in general, the bonds of brotherly friendship overflow upon the human condition like divine election. What was before the simple lot of man becomes ordered toward blessing and praise when people dwell in happy unity.

In other words, God Himself is truly delighted in us when we dwell like this with one another. As beautiful and fruitful as mountain dew, fraternal love lifts humanity upward in a way unparalleled by other human activities. It is among the height of contributions one can make to the common good.

It would be ridiculous to imagine that beer, wine, and other spirits have not played a role in this blessing of unity. While full well realizing the obstacles to unity alcohol may contribute, the part it has played in the creation of community, in life and death, are indisputable. You can of course grab some coffee, meet for lunch, or even have desert with someone and the commune between the parties be real, sustained, and lasting. But at least in the tradition of the west, it is hard to beat the offer of "getting a beer" together, or sharing a glass of wine with a group. 

If justice is the virtue of giving each person, each thing, each being their due, then if we keep in mind not only the joy we receive from one another, but God Himself derives out of our fraternal unity, then we will stay away from abusing our drinks together. If we truly share our drinks with one another, and keep in mind who it is when we raise our glasses and clink them together, justice will indeed be served.

Which brings me back to Lawrence, Kansas a few weeks ago. Not only did the talk go well, the hospitality of Patrick and his students lived up to the good name of the St. Lawrence Center. Heading downtown to grab a beer together before my drive back to Wichita, it was truly an instance of brothers (and sisters) dwelling together in unity. I am grateful to call everyone I had the chance to meet there friends.

This website is a great blessing, and is wonderful to write for. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I do. But if the idea of Catholic Beer Club is going to not only grow, but take root, remember that the greatest way to support the movement is to make it to the events being sponsored all over the country. I mean this in no small way--if you want to do your part in bringing a little bit of justice to your town, catch or start your own little band of Catholic Beer Clubs. Not only can it be a witness against the nihilistic drinking culture that currently reigns in our country's bars, it will more importantly, no matter how small, please God that you dwell in fraternal love. Cheers!


For my beer recommendation, I am breaking out one of my favorites: Boulevard's Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. I suggest it today for two main reasons. The first is because it combines the delight of drinking to my mind some of the most glorious beer around, all out of the same bottle (something wine usually has over beer). The second is because our February here in Kansas has been invaded by Spring-like temperatures as of late, and nothing makes you want to head outdoors quite like this bright, floral beer. It is a blessing to have it bottled so close, just a few hours east in Kansas City. Enjoy!

(Picture: Chapter Room of Santa Felicita, by Sailko,