Jacques Maritain Center : Elements of Moral Theology


§ 1. Hatred.

Can any one hate God?

If not, why did the Lord say (S. John xv. 24), "But now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father"? Observe, then, that hatred is a passion moved by something which is apprehended. But God may be apprehended either in His essence or in His effects. But in His essence He is that Goodness which no being can hate, but all must love. There are some of His effects, also, which cannot be in any way contrary to our will, as life and thought, which He produces, and which are sought by all. So far God cannot be hated. But there are certain effects of God which the inordinate will opposes, as the infliction of penalty and the restraint of sins by Divine law. And as regards the consideration of such effects, God can be hated. Hatred of God is the greatest of sins.

For the defect in sin consists in aversion from God. (See page 107.) But such aversion would not be guilt if it were not voluntary. Guilt ("culpa "), therefore, consists in voluntary aversion from God. But this voluntary aversion from God is found, per se, in hatred of God, while in other sins it exists, as it were, by participation. For as the will, per Se, cleaves to that which it loves, so in itself it shuns that which it hates. Hence, when any one bates God, his will, per se, is averted from God. But, in other sins -- say, in sensual sins -- the will is indirectly averted from God, inasmuch as it seeks inordinate pleasure, to which this aversion is annexed. Hence, hatred of God is the gravest of sins.

(1) This hatred is deliberate malice, which is sin against the Holy Ghost.

(2) Infidelity is a fault only as it is voluntary; and the more voluntary it is, the graver is the sin. But its being voluntary comes from one's hating the truth which is presented to him. Hence, it is evident that the sin in infidelity springs from hatred of God, whose truth is the object of faith. Therefore, as the cause is more potent than the effect, the hatred of God is a greater sin than the infidelity.

(3) It is not true that whoever hates punishment hates God, who is the author of it. But to rush into hatred of God as punisher, is hating the justice of God, which is the gravest of all sins.

Is all hatred of our neighbour a sin?

Hatred is opposed to love; and hatred is so far evil as love is good. But love is our neighbour's due according to what he has from God; i.e., according to nature and grace. But love is not his due according to what he has from himself and the devil; sc., according to sin and defect of righteousness. And therefore it is lawful to hate sin in our brother, and all that pertains to defect of righteousness but one cannot hate his brother's nature and grace without mortal sin. But this very thing, that we hate in our brother his fault and defect of good, pertains to love of our brother, for it is all one to will another's good and to hate his evil. understood simply, then, hatred of our brother is always sin. "He that hateth his brother is in darkness" (1 Ep. S. John ii. 9).

But is it not natural, and therefore right, to hate our enemies? For they are opposed to us and aim at our ruin. But according to what they have from God, they are not contrary to us, and are to be loved. We ought to hate that they are enemies.

Is hatred of our neighbour the gravest sin, against him?

The evil of sin against our neighbour is two-fold: one, the disordered will of him who sins, which is the root of sin; another, the injury which is done to our neighbour. As regards the first, hatred is greater sin than outward injurious acts, and if the outward acts were inordinate without any inordination of will, they would not be sin, as when one ignorantly, or in zeal for justice, kills a man. And if there is any fault in outward sins which are committed against our neighbour, all springs from inward hatred. But as respects the injury which is done, outward sins are worse than inward hatred.

Hatred is not counted among the capital sins, because it is last, not first, in the order of destruction of what is virtuous in man; for it is most opposed to nature. It is most natural to man to love his neighbour's good.

Does hatred spring from envy?

Hatred of our neighbour is the ultimate in the progress of sin, in that it is opposed to the natural love of our neighbour. But the reason why one recedes from what is natural is that he aims to avoid what is naturally to be shunned. But naturally every animal shuns what causes sorrow, and seeks what gives pleasure. And as from pleasure springs love, so from sorrow springs hate. Hence, since envy is sorrow at another's good, it follows that that good is rendered hateful to us, and from envy springs hatred.

In another way, and more indirectly, as disposing to the ultimate, anger may cause hatred. For anger at first seeks our neighbour's evil, under the notion of just vengeance but afterwards, being prolonged, a man may desire absolutely that evil, which pertains to hatred.

§ 2. Spiritual sloth ("acedia").

This is opposed to that spiritual joy in Divine good which is the inward effect of charity. {1}

Is spiritual sloth a sin?

It is "a torpor of a mind which neglects to begin good things" (S. Aug., Ps. cvi.). But a sorrow of this kind respecting spiritual good is evil in itself. Even sorrow respecting what is truly evil may be bad in its effects, if it so load down a man that he totally withdraws himself from good works. Spiritual sloth, therefore, is evil, both in itself and in its effects. And, therefore, since it belongs to the will, it is a sin.

Humility, looking at one's own defects, does not exalt self; but it is ingratitude if one despise the good things which God has given, and from such contempt follows spiritual sloth.

As a special vice it wearies of the Divine good, in which charity rejoices.

Is spiritual sloth a mortal sin?

Mortal sin destroys the spiritual life in which God dwells in us through charity. And that sin is mortal which in its own proper nature is opposed to charity. Now spiritual sloth is such; for the effect of charity is joy in God; but spiritual sloth is weariness of spiritual good as Divine.

But sins which are in themselves mortal are only such when they attain their consummation. And the Consummation of human sin, which consists in a human act, is in the consent of reason. Hence if the beginning of sin is in the sense-nature alone, and does not reach the consent of reason, the sin is venial on account of the imperfection of the act. So concupiscence is mortal or venial sin according as it has or has not the consent of reason. So also the motion of spiritual sloth is sometimes in the sensuous nature alone, through the repugnance of the flesh against the spirit, and then it is venial sin. But sometimes it reaches the reason, which consents to flight from the Divine good, and feels horror of it and detestation of it, the flesh altogether prevailing against the spirit. This is manifestly mortal sin. It is a capital sin, because on account of it many evil things are done either to avoid the disagreeable effort required by the spiritual life, or because the burden of this spiritual sloth produces sinful acts which harmonize with it. S. Gregory (Moral. xxxi. 17) names six daughters of spiritual sloth: (1) Despair of the end; (2) pusillanimity with respect to the means; (3) sluggishness respecting obedience to God's commands; (4) rancor at spiritual counsellors who urge to a better life; (5) an evil mind towards spiritual goods themselves; (6) a heart wearied with spiritual joy and wandering after corporal pleasure.

§ 3. Envy. What is envy?

Another's good may be apprehended as one's own evil, and so there can be sorrow at it. And this in two ways one, when danger of injury threatens one's self, and so one is saddened at another's good; as when his enemy is exalted, and so he fears that harm may be done to himself. Such sadness is not envy, but rather the effect of fear. But, again, another's good may be esteemed as one's own evil, diminishing one's own glory or excellence; in this way envy is troubled at another's good. Envy, therefore, especially regards those goods from which glory arises, and in which men love to be honoured and held in high reputation.

Is envy a sin?

Sadness at another's good may arise in four ways : (1) When one fears injury to himself or to his good things, as the result of such prosperity. This is not envy, and may exist without sin. "It may happen that without loss of charity, an enemy's ruin makes us glad, and again his glory saddens us without envy; since we believe that by his fall others will well be lifted up, and in his prosperity we fear that many will be unjustly oppressed" (Greg., Moral. xxii. 6).

(2) One may be saddened in consequence of another's good, not because he has it, but because that good is wanting in ourselves. And this is properly emulation; and if that emulation concerns moral goods, it is laudable. But if it refer to earthly goods, it may be sinful, or it may not be so.

(3) He for whom the good happens may be unworthy of it. Sadness at this, indeed, cannot arise from those moral goods by which any one is made righteous. But it may spring from wealth acquired, and from other such things as both the worthy and the unworthy can obtain. And this sadness pertains to indignation ("nemesis"), and is connected with good habits. But such a view of earthly goods leaves out of sight the eternal verities. But according to the doctrine of faith, the temporal goods which the unworthy obtain are distributed according to the just ordination of God, either for the correction of the unworthy, or for their condemnation. Goods of this kind are as nothing in comparison with the future goods which are reserved for those who are worthy of them. Such sadness is forbidden by the Holy Scriptures : "Fret not thyself because of the ungodly, neither be thou envious against the evil doers " (Ps. xxxvii. 1).

(4) One is saddened at another's good, inasmuch as that other exceeds himself, and this is properly envy; and this is sin, grieving at what ought to cause rejoicing, sc., another's welfare.

Is envy a mortal sin?

It is certainly a species of mortal sin. For sin gets its specific character from its object. Now envy, according to its object, is the opposite of charity, through which comes the spiritual life of the soul. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren" (1 Ep. S. John iii. 14). The object, both in envy and in charity, is the good of our neighbour; for charity rejoices at it, but envy is saddened by it. Manifestly, then, envy is, in its species, a mortal sin.

But we have seen (page 115) that in every kind of sin are found certain imperfect motions in the sensuous nature, which are venial sins, as in homicide, the first motions of anger. So also in envy are found certain primal motions, sometimes even in good men, which are venial sins.

(1) These come from the passion on which envy is grounded, which passion is seen even in little children.

(2) The grief which the Psalmist expressed ("nemesis") was at the prosperity df the unworthy (Ps. lxxiii. 3), which is the opposite of envy at the prosperity of the worthy.

Envy is a capital sin.

The child of pride is vainglory, and this begets envy. The daughters of envy are secret backbiting and open detraction, exultation at our neighbour's adversity and efforts to impede his prosperity, and, last, and the culmination of all, hatred of our neighbour.

§ 4. Discord and strife.

Discord is a mortal sin.

S. Paul (Gal. v. 20) places divisions among the works of the flesh, and "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Discord is opposed to concord, which springs from charity joining the hearts of many, first, in Divine good, and next, in the good of our neighbour. Therefore discord is sin.

But discord may take away this concord, first, per se -- i.e., according to the intention, when one knowingly dissents from Divine good, and his neighbour's good to which he ought to consent. This is mortal sin in kind, because it is opposed to charity, although the first motions of this discord may be venial through their being imperfect acts. But discord may, again, destroy concord per accidens -- i.e., without such intention, when different persons aim at some good which pertains to the glory of God or the benefit of our neighbour, but one judges a certain course to be good, while another has a contrary opinion. Then discord is, per accidens, contrary to the Divine good or the good of our neighbour. Such discord is not sin, nor contrary to charity, unless there be error respecting what is necessary to salvation, or undue obstinacy in one's opinion. For concord, which is the effect of charity, is the union of wills, not the union of opinions (page 215). Discord, then, is sometimes the sin of one, when he knowingly resists the good which another wills; and sometimes it is the sin of both parties, when each dissents from the good of the other and loves his own good.

(1) But you may say that another's will is not the rule of yours, but only the Divine will is such. And this is true of that other's will considered in itself; but when that will adheres to the Divine, it does become the rule for others also, and discord with such a will is discord with the Divine rule.

(2) But S. Paul excited discord between the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Acts xxiii. 6). I answer that to destroy that good concord which charity produces is a grave sin; "He that soweth discord among brethren is an abomination unto the Lord" (Prov. vi. 16). But to take away the evil concord of bad wills is laudable, and the Lord Himself said (S. Matt. x. 34), "I came not to send peace, but a sword."

(3) The discord between SS. Paul and Barnabas (Acts xv. 39) was per aceidens, because each was aiming at the good, but to the one a certain course seemed to be good; to the other, another. This was due to human imperfection, for the controversy did not concern what is necessary to salvation. Even this dissension was ordained by Divine Providence for the resulting benefit of the world.

If discord is viewed as a departure from another's will, it may be called the daughter of envy; but viewed as depending on self-seeking, it is the child of vainglory.

Is contention (strife) a mortal sin?

S. Paul (Gal. v. 20) places it with discord among the works of the flesh which exclude any one from the kingdom of God; therefore it is a mortal sin. As discord expresses contrariety of wills, so contention implies the same in speech. But we must look at the intention and at the manner of contending. In the intention we must consider whether one is contending against the truth, which is blameworthy, or against falsehood, which is laudable. And in the manner, we are to consider if it is suitable to the persons and the things; for if so, it is laudable. If, then, contention signify impugning the truth and an inordinate manner of contending, it is mortal sin. But if it be an impugning of falsehood with proper acrimony, it is laudable. But if, again, it be contending against falsehood in an inordinate manner, it may be venial sin, unless perhaps the inordination is so great as to cause scandal of others. So S. Paul says of such strife (2 Tim. ii. 14), that it tends to "the subverting of the hearers." {2}

When the disciples contended (S. Luke xxii. 24), they did not mean to impugn the truth, for each one was defending what he thought to be true; but their contention was inordinate, being about an improper object; sc., the primacy of honour, for they were not yet spiritual men. Therefore the Lord checked their contention.

Contention, like discord, is the daughter of vainglory. For pride and vainglory seek one's own superiority, which may be done in speech and cause strife of words.

§ 5. Schism. Is schism a special sin?

It is directly and per se opposed to unity, and it is a special sin when one intends to separate himself from that unity which charity makes, which not only unites one to another in the spiritual bond of love, but also unites the whole Church in the unity of the Spirit. And, therefore, properly speaking, schismatics are those who spontaneously and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church, which is the principal unity. For the particular unity of Christian man with Christian man is ordained for the unity of the Church, as the union of member with member in the body is for the unity of the whole body. But the unity of the Church depends on two things; first, the communion of the members with one another, and next, the subordination of all the members to the one Head (which is Christ), "the Head from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God" (Col. ii. 19).

(1) All sin separates man from God; but this is not necessarily schism, since it may not be the intention of the sinner to separate himself from God, but to turn inordinately to temporal good.

(2) Every sinner disobeys the precepts of the Church, but the schismatic does so with rebellion, since he pertinaciously despises those precepts and refuses to submit his judgment. Every sinner does not do this.

(3) Heresy is opposed to faith, but schism per se is opposed to the unity of charity in the Church. Therefore, as faith and charity are diverse virtues, although whoever lacks faith lacks also charity, so schism and heresy are diverse vices, although whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic, but not conversely. And yet, as loss of charity is the road to loss of faith (1 Tim. i. 6), so schism is the road to heresy. Hence, S. Jerome well remarks that "there is no schism which does not invent to itself some heresy (note this), in order to justify its separation from the Church" (Ep. ad Titum, cap. 3).

Is schism a graver sin than infidelity?

The gravity of a sin depends upon the species of the sin and also upon its circumstances. But the particular circumstances are infinite in number and infinitely varied. And so, in comparing two sins in order to find which is the worse, we have to look only at their specific character. But this depends upon the object; and, therefore, that sin is the greater which is opposed to the greater good, as sin against God is worse than sin against our neighbour. But infidelity is sin against God Himself as the primal verity on which faith rests; while schism is against Church unity, which is a derived good and less than God Himself. So it is plain that the sin of infidelity is specifically graver than the sin of schism, although it may happen that some schismatic sins more deeply than some infidel, either on account of greater contempt or greater peril to others' souls, or some such reason.

(1) But schism is against the good of the multitude, whereas infidelity is only against the particular good of one. Yes; but there is a greater good than either of those, which is the Divine verity, to which unbelief is opposed.

(2) But schism is a sin against charity, which is a higher virtue than faith, to which infidelity is opposed. Yes; but charity has two objects, Divine goodness, and our neighbour's good. And schism is a sin against the good of our neighbour, which is less than the object of faith, viz., God Himself. Yet, of all the sins against our neighbour, schism seems to be the greatest, because it is against the spiritual good of the multitude.

Here note that schismatical clergy have the authority which belongs to their orders, for this sacramental power is conferred once for all through a consecration to that end.

Heresy or schism does not annul it, for if they return to the Church they are not ordained or consecrated anew. (See the Novatian schism, Conc. Nic., canon viii.)

But this sacramental power is not lawfully used without the sanction of superior authority in the Church. If, however, it should be illicitly used, it has its ordained sacramental effect, because in sacraments man is only God's instrument, and the fault of the minister does not destroy the efficacy of what he instrumentally does.

But authority of jurisdiction is conferred by men who have it, and is not indelible, like Holy Orders. Open schismatics and heretics may lose by man's decree what man has given.

6. Wars, quarrels, and seditions.

Is making war always a sin?

Three requisites are demanded for a righteous war: (1) due authority -- sc., that of the commonwealth -- for it does not pertain to any private person to make war, since his private right can be prosecuted through the judgment of his superior. And, again, to summon the people, which is necessary in war, cannot be done by a private individual. But as those who have charge of the commonwealth may lawfully defend it with the sword against internal disturbance, punishing malefactors with death (Rom. xiii. 4), So it belongs to them to defend the state from external enemies with the sword of war.

(2) A just cause for war is requisite; viz., that those who are attacked deserve attack for some grave fault.

(3) There must be right intention on the part of those who make war; sc., that good be promoted or evil avoided. But it can happen that war is declared by legitimate authority and for a just cause, and yet the war may be unrighteous on account of the evil intention of those who begin it; e.g., their eagerness to injure, their fierceness of revenge, their implacable mind, their lust of new dominion.

(1) But did not the Lord say (S. Matt. xxvi. 52), "All they that take the sword, shall perish by the sword"? But S. Augustine says justly (Cont. Faust. xxii. 70), "He takes the sword who is armed against another's life without any superior or legitimate authority which orders or permits him to do so." If any private person with due authority, or any public person through zeal for justice and with God's authority, use the sword, he does not himself take it, but he employs it as entrusted to him by another.

And those also who sinfully use the sword are not always slain with the sword, but they themselves always perish through their own sword, because for the sin of the sword they are punished everlastingly, unless they repent.

(2) But, again, the Lord said (S. Matt. v. 39), "Resist not evil;" and in the Epistle to the Romans we read (Rom. xii. 19), "Avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath." I reply that precepts of this nature (affirmative), as S. Augustine says (Serm. Dom. in Monte, i. 19), are always to be observed in the preparedness of the soul; sc., a man must always be prepared to make no resistance, to give up self-defence, if there be reason for doing so. But sometimes it is a duty to act otherwise, for the sake of the good of the community, or even for the sake of those against whom one contends. If license to work iniquity be taken away thereby, it is well to conquer in war.

(3) But war is contrary to the virtue of peace. Yes; but those who wage just war are aiming at lasting peace, not that evil peace of which the Lord said, "Think not that I came to send peace on the earth" (S. Matt. x. 34).

Is it lawful for priests and bishops to engage in war?

For the good of human society many things are necessary, and some are inconsistent with others, so that they cannot well be exercised by the same persons. And military affairs are most of all repugnant to those duties which belong to priests and bishops for two reasons; first, they withdraw the mind from that Divine service for which the clergy are appointed; next, the clergy are ordained to set forth the sacrifice of Christ; therefore, instead of shedding others' blood, they should be ready to give their own for Christ's sake.

(1) It pertains indeed to prelates and priests to resist -- wolves, robbers, tyrants; but their weapons are not carnal, but spiritual (2 Cor. x. 4); i.e., admonitions, prayers, and excommunications.

(2) The clergy may spiritually aid those waging just war by their spiritual ministrations. They may call on others to undertake a just war, for engaging personally in it is not forbidden to them because it is wrong, but because it is inconsistent with their holy office.

Promised faith must be kept, even with enemies in war but just war may call for stratagems and secret snares; for such things, in such a case, are not repugnant to justice, nor do they spring from inordinate will.

Are quarrels, "fightings" (rixae), always sin?

As contention implies contradiction in words, so these private "fightings" imply the going to blows. It is a sort of private war, without public authority, and springing from an inordinate will. Such quarrels always imply sin. In him who unjustly attacks another, it is mortal sin, for injury wilfully done to our neighbour cannot be without mortal sin.

But in him who defends himself there may be no sin at all, or venial sin, or mortal sin, according to his mind and manner in defending himself. For if he only intend to repel injury offered, and with due moderation defend himself, the quarrel is not on his side. But if he do so with a vindictive mind, or one filled with hatred, or in undue excess, there is always sin; venial, indeed, when the sinful impulse is not a grave one, or the lack of moderation is not serious; but mortal, when he is steadily bent on doing serious injury to the other party. Fightings of this kind are the children of anger rather than of hatred. For the latter aims absolutely at harming an enemy whether openly or secretly, matters not. But anger, the desire for vengeance, is not satisfied with secretly doing harm, but desires that the other party may know that he is suffering the consequences of his wrong-doing. And this is implied also in quarrels, or fightings ("rixae").

Is sedition a special sin?

It has something in common with wars and fightings; but the first are properly against external foes, nation arrayed against nation; the second are the conflicts of one against one, or of few against few; but sedition is properly between the different parts of one people disagreeing with one another, one part of the state contending with another. And, therefore, because it is opposed to a special good -- sc., the unity and peace of the community -- it is a special sin.

Is sedition always a mortal sin?

The unity to which sedition is opposed is the unity of justice and the common good, and it is mortal sin in its kind, and so much the graver sin as the common good is of more importance than that private good which is impugned by private quarrels. But the sin of sedition primarily and principally belongs to those who stir up sedition; these sin most gravely; but next, those are involved in it who follow those disturbers of the common peace. But those who resist them and defend the common good are no more seditious than those who defend themselves are quarrelsome.

The rule of tyrants is not just, because it is not ordained for the common good, but for the private benefit of the ruler himself. And, therefore, arousing the people against this tyrannical rule is not sedition, unless possibly when this tyranny is so inordinately attacked that the subject people suffer more detriment from the consequent disturbance than they did from tyrannical rule. But it is rather the tyrant who is seditious, nourishing discords and seditious among the people, in order that he may more easily keep them down.

7. Scandal.

What is scandal?

This vice, opposed to the beneficence of charity, may be defined, with S. Augustine (Contra Faust. xxii. 27), as "a word or deed deficient in rectitude, giving occasion for the spiritual ruin of another." As one may put a stumbling-block in another's way, so that, if he encounter it, he is liable to get a fall, so, in the progress along the spiritual road, one by his advice, persuasion, or example may lead another into sin; this is scandal. But nothing according to its proper nature disposes any one to spiritual ruin, unless it be deficient in rectitude. For that which is perfectly right rather strengthens one against a fall than leads him to his ruin.

Both that is defective in rectitude which is evil in itself, and that which has the appearance of evil; for even if there be no corrupt intention in it, it may give occasion for another's fall. And therefore the apostle said (1 Thess. v. 22), "Abstain from every appearance of evil."

The word or deed of any one can be in two ways the occasion for another's sin. First, per se, when the evil word or deed is actually intended to induce another to sin (direct, active scandal); or, even though not so intended, the action is of such a nature that it incites another to do wrong (indirect, active scandal); as when one publicly sins, or does what has the appearance of evil. And then he who does anything of this kind, properly speaking, gives occasion for falling. These are active scandals.

But, secondly, per accidens some word or deed of one person is the cause of another's sinning, when, apart from the intention of the one who does the action, and without the action itself having any such tendency, some one ill-disposed is by this action induced to sin, say, to envy another's goods; and then he whose action is right does not give occasion, but the other takes it. This is passive scandal without any active scandal. Sometimes, then, it happens that active scandal is found in one and passive scandal in another, as when one induces another to commit sin. But sometimes there is active scandal without the passive, as when one by word or deed tries to lead another into sin, and he does not consent. And finally there is sometimes passive scandal without active (the scandal of the weak through ignorance or infirmity, and the scandal of the Pharisee through his own malicious wickedness).

Is scandal a sin?

Passive scandal -- i.e., the scandal in him who receives it -- is always sin in him, since he is not, properly speaking, scandalized, unless in some way he fall into spiritual ruin, which is sin. (Note that "offence," Rom. xiv. 21, is indignation against him who sins, which can exist without this fall.) But passive scandal can exist without any sin on his part from whom the scandal proceeds, as when any one is scandalized by those things which another has done with perfect rectitude.

Similarly, active scandal also is always sin in him who gives the occasion for it, because either what he does is sin, or, if it have only the appearance of evil, he is bound in charity to avoid it, since it is the duty of every one to care for his neighbour's salvation. And so he who does not avoid occasion for scandal acts against charity. But we have seen that the active scandal may exist without any sin on the other side (e.g., one may be "offended," without himself falling).

(1) The Lord said (S. Matt. xviii. 7), "It must needs be that offences (scandals) come." But this is not to be understood in the sense of absolute necessity. There is a conditional necessity of what God foreknows or has foretold; also there is a conditional necessity of that which is useful for some end, and scandals are useful that they "who are approved may be made manifest" (1 Cor. xi. 19). Scandals are conditionally necessary, also, according to the condition of men who will not keep themselves from sin. So a physician might say, when he saw the mischievous diet of his patient, "He is bound to have a long spell of sickness;" meaning, if he do not change his diet.

Active scandal per se -- i.e., when one by his word or deed intends to draw another into sin -- is a special sin, not that which is per accidens, there being no such intention (direct or indirect).

For the aiming at a special end constitutes a new sin over and above the original sinfulness of the act in question. And so active scandal may be found apart from other sins, as when one scandalizes his neighbour by an act which is not sin in itself, but which has the appearance of evil.

Is scandal a mortal sin?

Passive scandal may be a stumbling only, without actual fall; this will be venial sin, as when one through the inordinate word or deed of another is moved in a venial manner only. But passive scandal may be mortal, sin, as when one in such a case proceeds to actual mortal sin.

But active scandal, if it be per accidens (not intended either directly or indirectly), may be venial sin, as when the thing which is done is in itself venial, or has only the appearance of evil, and is committed through some light indiscretion.

But sometimes it is mortal sin, whether because the act is in itself such, or because the salvation of our neighbour is made of no account, and one does not for the sake of that give up what he chooses to do. But if we speak of active scandal per se -- viz., the intending to lead another into sin -- it is mortal if the sin is such, or if the intention is such in him who gives scandal; but it may be venial if sin and intention are such.

In this way we may understand the Gospel (S. Matt. xviii. 6), and S. Paul (1 Cor. viii. 12).

Those who perfectly adhere to God through love take no occasion of stumbling from others' words or deeds. Much less do they give reasonable occasion for active scandal to the weak. Through human infirmity, iadeed, they may fall somewhat short of the perfect standard set before them, but they do not go far away, nor so far that another can reasonably take occasion of sin from their words or deeds.

Remember, however, that one may scandalize himself (Pharisaic scandal). Consider the ease of S. Peter (Gal. ii. 14); was his sin so grave that others could be justly scandalized? (Or did he fall, and repent, and return to the measure of a perfect man?)

Venial sins may be found in perfect men, but they are chiefly those sudden motions of the passions which are inward and do not give scandal. If those infirmities appear outwardly in venial sins, those sins are so light as not to have in themselves power of giving scandal.

May spiritual goods be given up on account of scandal?

There can be no question about active scandal. Sin can never be lawful. But if we speak of passive scandal, there may be a question as to what is to be given up lest another be scandalized. But among spiritual goods there are some which are necessary for salvation, which cannot be abandoned without mortal sin. But it is manifest that no one ought to commit mortal sin in order to hinder another from doing wrong. In the order of charity man ought to place his own spiritual safety higher than another's. Things, therefore, which are necessary to salvation may not be left undone for the sake of avoiding scandal.

But in the case of spiritual goods which are not necessary to salvation, we should distiuguish two kinds of scandal. For the scandal which arises from these sometimes springs from malice, when there are those who wish to hinder such spiritual goods by exciting scandals. Such were the Pharisees who were scandalized at our Lord's teachings (S. Matt. xv. 12). This sort of scandal the Lord taught us to treat with contempt. But sometimes the scandal comes from infirmity or ignorance, the scandal of the weak. On account of this, spiritual goods may be kept hidden or even sometimes deferred when there is no imminent spiritual danger in doing so, until, further explanation having been given, the scandal may cease. But if after such explanations it still endure, it may possibly seem to come from malice; if so, spiritual goods are not to be relinquished on account of it.

(Note that argument may not put an end to scandal of the weak, however sound the argument may be. For the weak may be very weak in logic, or have their heads full of other arguments, with no room for more; or they may be so hardened in old habits that arguments run off from the surface of their minds, unable to enter any further.)

(1) But S. Augustine teaches that the discipline of sins may sometimes be passed over if there be great danger of schism (Contra Epist. Parmen. ii.). So a spiritual good, an act of justice, would be neglected on account of scandal. But I reply that punishment is not to be sought on its own account, but penalties of Church discipline are medicinal, intended to prevent sins, and they are so far just as they have that tendency. But if, through enforcing Church discipline, manifestly more and greater sins will follow, then the infliction of penalties will not come under the idea of justice. This is the case of which S. Augustine is speaking, where the excommunication of some will probably be followed by the schism of others.

(2) But sacred truth is to be held back on account of scandal. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (S. Matt. vii. 6). I reply that sacred truth and the teaching of it are here to be distinguished. That truth is so necessary to salvation that the contrary of it may under no circumstances be taught for fear of any scandal whatsoever which will follow the proclamation of the truth. But he whose duty it is to teach the truth will give it according to what fits the times and the persons. This teaching is one of those spiritual works of mercy of which we shall presently speak.

(3) Fraternal correction, also, is intended for the amendment of a brother, and it is a spiritual good so far as this can be attained. But if he be scandalized by it, it is not a spiritual good. Therefore, if such fraternal correction be passed by through fear of scandal, a spiritual good is not given up.

(4) But you may say that the giving of alms and the following of spiritual counsels may sometimes be left undone on account of scandal. I reply that counsels or works of mercy are not to be left undone on account of scandal, although, for the sake of the weak, they may be concealed or deferred. But sometimes the observance of spiritual counsels or the works of mercy may be necessary to salvation. There are those who have vowed to follow the counsels of perfection; there are those whose office and duty it is to assist the poor or to teach the ignorant; there are cases occurring of extreme necessity in all such cases the principle already laid down respecting what is necessary to salvation applies; they may not be neglected through fear of scandal.

(5) But ought not one to commit some trifling venial transgression on account of some grave scandal -- say, to hinder another's mortal sin? For a man ought to hinder the damnation of his neighbour, if he can do so without loss of his own soul.

But there is contradiction in these terms. For if the thing may be lawfully done, it is not evil, it is not even venial sin; for sin can never be rightly chosen. I grant, however, that it may happen that something which would be venial sin under other circumstances, may be no sin at all, those circumstances not being present. A jest is venial sin under certain circumstances, but if it be uttered for reasonable cause it is not an idle word, it is no sin.

Are temporal goods to be given up on account of scandal?

Observe that a distinction must be made between what is our own and what is entrusted to our care, if we are guardians of Church property or of the goods of the commonwealth (or trustees of minors, etc.). Such deposits we are bound to preserve, and they are not to be resigned on account of scandal; neither are those things which are necessary for human life to be given up. But as respects those things over which we have dominion, sometimes on account of scandal we ought to let them go by giving them up, or not seeking them when others have them, and sometimes we ought not to do any such thing. For if the scandal arise from the ignorance or infirmity of others (scandal of the weak), temporal goods are to be abandoned, or the scandal is to be stopped by proper admonition.

But sometimes scandal originates in malice (the scandal of Pharisees). Property is not to be surrendered on account of those who excite such scandal, because such a course would be injurious to the common good, giving occasion for robbery to the evil-disposed; and it would be injurious to the plunderers themselves, who, by keeping others' goods, would continue in open sin.

(1) It is true that we ought to prefer the spiritual salvation of our neighbour to any earthly goods; but this principle can only apply to scandal of the weak.

(2) When S. Paul said: "Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died" (1 Rom. xiv. 15), he was speaking, of course, of what is not necessary for bodily sustenance; as again in 1 Cor. viii. 13: "If meat maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I make not my brother to stumble."

(3) Our Lord (S. Matt. v. 40) said: "If any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." And S. Paul to the same effect (1 Cor. vi. 7). But this is said of preparedness of soul when such a course is expedient; but sometimes it is not expedient.{3}

{1} See the suggestive essay prefixed to Canon Paget's Spirit of Discipline, 1891.

{2} S. Thomas seems to understand the "logomachy" here spoken of, as wordy strife rather than as strife about words.

{3} If there is a question of positive duty, or of grave injury to self or to others, passive scandal may be permitted. But distinguish between moral precepts, including the law of nature, and purely positive law. The former may not he broken in order to avoid scandal; the latter may be freely suspended by the higher law of charity.

It is not the sin of scandal to permit a sin in order to hinder many sins; e.g., the theft of a child or a servant permitted in order to detect and stop pilfering, or a marked letter or coin for a similar purpose.

(Qu. I. Observance of the "Sabbath," and the use of fermented drinks, as passive scandal of the weak or the Pharisee. Sacramental wine rests on a different basis.

Qu. 2. Dances, and "low-necked" gowns?)

<< ======= >>