Date of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)


This dissertation is a response to current justice-thinking that emphasizes fairness, equality and autonomy but neglects the internal aspects of justice – its character as a virtue. By not attending to the heart of justice, I argue, this thinking reduces justice to an anemic concept that is ineffective in promoting flourishing. Thus, I suggest an affective and relational approach to justice that grounds justice in love and the pursuit of right relations. The Augustinian doctrine of rightly ordered loves and modern Catholic social teaching provide the foundation for my account.

Chapter one examines the liberal accounts of John Rawls and Susan Moller Okin, and the postmodern-pragmatist account of Richard Rorty, arguing that these accounts – representative of current justice-thinking – are impoverished because, broadly, they hold inadequate views of selfhood. Chapter two explores Augustine’s account of the relation between love and justice, which inheres in right order and is apparent in the pursuit of right relationships. This account turns on Augustine’s view of human nature: human beings are rational, volitional, affective, relational creatures, who are called to love. Chapter three reckons with Augustine’s predestinationism and support of religious coercion, as well as Hannah Arendt’s rejection of love (especially the Augustinian kind) from political life, emphasizing the relationality and moral psychology of Augustine’s account to defend it against charges that it is too exclusivist, interior or paternalistic to be relevant to secular politics. Chapter four offers Augustine’s thinking on rightly ordered loves and right relations as a positive contribution to contemporary justice discourse. I develop this account in light of Catholic social teaching, focusing especially on human rights, responsibilities and the common good. Finally, chapter five suggests what engaging in right relations might mean for Christian political activity, relying heavily on H. Richard Niebuhr’s account of responsibility, and I compare this with liberal and postmodern perspectives.

This dissertation, then, offers a holistic and authentically human framework for thinking through contemporary justice issues. It provides an important corrective to liberal and postmodern views of justice that focus solely on the rights of autonomous individuals, by maintaining that justice inheres in rightly ordered loves and the pursuit of right relationships.