Virtue is a term derived from the Latin virtus, which means “strength” as well as virtue. This meaning points out that virtues inhere to a person’s inner character and personal strength. Cicero wrote: “Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature” (De Inventione, II, LIII). Unlike the commandments of God, which form a bottom line of moral behavior, virtue does not possess an upper limit. God is the infinite source and norm of all virtue, therefore humans can and ought always to increase in virtue. No human will ever reach the infinite virtue of God our Lord, and he will always help humans reach ever higher in virtue.
Naturally, much of a person’s interior character and virtue remains opaque to other humans. Ultimately only the Lord God can observe the virtues of any and all human beings:
Yet Christ taught, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). In that regard, we can consider the manifestation of virtues or lack thereof in the people around us, including politicians. Human behaviors can often, though not in every case, indicate the presence of virtuous character. While absolute certainty about another person’s virtue is impossible for limited human knowledge, we can justify an examination of politicians in this regard, simply keeping ourselves explicitly aware that our knowledge of another person’s virtue is limited.
Three of these virtues – faith, hope and love – are themselves unwarranted free gifts of God. Possession of them will be judged by the God who gave them rather than by human beings who can.
Other virtues are called the “fruit of the Holy Spirit”: