Jacques Maritain Center : Elements of Moral Theology


§ 1. Piety, reverence, and honour.

What is piety towards men?

Man becomes a debtor towards others in various degrees and manners, according to their diverse excellence and the diverse benefits which he receives from them. In both God holds the highest place, as infinitely excellent and as the first principle of our being and of our direction in life.

But, in the second place, as the source of our being and the orderers of our life, stand our parents and our country. Next to God, then, we owe service to our parents and our country.

But in this service due to parents is included that of our near relatives who are descended from the same parental stock. And in the service of our country is implied that of our fellow-citizens and of all friends of our country. (Patriotism is a part of piety towards man.)

The word "piety" is often applied to the service which we owe to God, who is the Father of us all. But the greater includes the less, and now we use the term in the more restricted sense.

Works of mercy, also, are sometimes called pious works for a similar reason, being part of our service towards God.

It is filial piety to provide for the support of parents.

For the Lord, in rebuking the Pharisees (S. Matt. xv. 5), taught us that this is part of the honour due to those who are the source of our being. Some things are due to parents and fellow-citizens as such; some things are due in special circumstances. To a father, as father, are due reverence and dutiful conduct. But he may be sick; then provision must be made for his infirmity. He may be poor; then his children owe him support, and all such things are included in dutiful conduct. This is part of the law of nature, as well as of the civil code.

The Common Law is to the same effect. "The child is equally compellable, if of sufficient ability, to maintain and provide for a wicked and unnatural progenitor, as for one who has shown the greatest tenderness and parental piety" (Blackst., i. p. 454).

Why, then, does S. Paul say (2 Cor. xii. 14), "The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children"? Because the father is bound to this per se, since children are his natural successors. But the child is not bound to lay up for a parent whom in the course of nature he will survive. The case before us, however, is that of present, not future, need.

Piety has its special object; sc., parents and country, and those connected with these, under the special idea of payiug duty and service to those who are the sources and directors of ourselves.

Therefore piety is a special virtue, a special manifestation of charity.

May the duties of filial piety be neglected on account of religious duties?

The Pharisees were sternly rebuked by Christ (S. Matt. xv.) for putting religion in the place of natural piety. Both are virtues, and cannot contradict one another, nor can the act of one exclude the act of the other.

The act of every virtue is limited by due circumstances, and if these are neglected, the act will be vicious, not virtuous. Now piety exhibits duty and service to parents according to the due mode. But it is not the due mode that parents should be set above God. If, then, the service of parents withdraw us from the service of God, it will not be filial piety if we persist in that service against God (who is the source of the filial obligation). In such a case, God must come first. But if dutiful conduct towards parents does not totally withdraw us from God's service, this conduct is required by piety, and we may not neglect it on account of religion.

There are, indeed, words of the Gospel, liable to be misunderstood, which seem to justify neglect of parents on account of religion. Thus, the Lord said (S. Luke xiv. 26), "If any one come unto Me, and hate not his father and mother, he cannot be My disciple." And, again, it seems to be said in praise of SS. James and John, that "they straightway left the boat and their father and followed Him." So it was said of Levi of old (Deut. xxxiii. 9), that be "said of his father and mother, I have not seen him." And to the man who said (S. Matt. viii. 22), "Suffer me first to go and bury my father," the Lord replied, "Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." This pertains to religion; but burying a father is a work of filial piety. Therefore, piety gave way to religion.

But as for the first quotation, parents who are adversaries towards God are to be fled from as if they were bated. If they try to induce us to sin, or to withdraw us from God's service, we do right to desert them. So the Levites ignored their kinsmen when the question arose of punishing idolaters according to God's command. SS. James and John left their father and followed the Lord, not because be tempted them to sin, but because they judged that he did not need them at that time for his support.

There were others who could bury a father, but the Lord, who knows all hearts, called the son from many evils which would probably follow his father's death (S. Chrys., Hom. xxviii. in Matt.).

We call God "our Father" because the very things which filial piety shows to earthly parents are referred to God, as other works of mercy which are done to our neighbours are offered to Him; and the King will say, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me" (S. Matt. xxv. 40).

So I repeat, if our service is so necessary to earthly parents that they cannot be duly supported without it, and they do not induce us to anything against God, we ought not to desert them for the sake of religion. But if we must sin in order to fulfil those duties to them, or even if without our assistance they can be duly sustained, it is lawful to leave those filial duties at the call of religion.

Reverence ("observantia") is a virtue, a form of piety, by which due worship and honour are rendered to those who hold office and dignity.

As an earthly father participates towards us in the universal fatherhood of God, so another who shares in a father's care of us, our education and training, is a quasi father, and shares a father's claims upon us. But a person in authority participates in the Divine rule after his earthly manner, as civil rulers, commanders in the army and navy, teachers in their school, etc. It is piety which gives worship and honour ("your worship," "your reverence ") to such dignitaries. Their official excellence or dignity entitles them to honour; their authority entitles them to that worship which consists in dutiful service, their lawful orders being obeyed, and their benefits repaid in some manner.

There is a legal observance which is due to those who have authority over ourselves; but there is also a moral observance, which is due to official superiority, even if we are not subject to it.

Honour implies outward testimony to another's excellence.

Before God the testimony of the heart suffices, but towards men such testimony can be given only by outward signs, as words, or gestures, or offering of gifts, or erecting statues. Honour, then, consists in corporeal signs. It is not the same as reverence, which may be either the cause of the honour shown, or the end of the honour, when one is honoured in order that others may reverence him. Praise which consists in words is included in honour, although honour is also of wider extent, being not only rendered for what is intended for some end, but also for those best things which are the very end itself. Glory is the result of praise and honour.

Honour is due to any one only on the ground of some excellence or superiority.

It is not necessary that he who is honoured be in all ways, or even in any way, superior to the one who honours him, because he may be superior to certain others, or have some special excellence in some special particular. Vicious superiors may be honoured, not as superior in virtue, but because of their dignity as ministers of God; in them, also, the whole community over which they preside is honoured. The apostle said (Rom. xii. 10). "In honour preferring one another;" and, again (1 S. Pet. ii. 17), "Honour all men," for in every one may be something for which he is accounted superior to another; "in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself" (Phil. ii. 3). Service, homage ("dulia"), is due to those who have dominion over others as a kind of participation in the Divine dominion which demands Divine service. Taken in its wider sense, this service or homage, or dulia, is of various kinds, as of servants towards their master, of soldiers to their officers, of scholars to their teachers, etc.

§ 2. Obedience and disobedience.

Is a man ever bound to obey another man?

God commands, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves" (Heb. xiii. 17). In the natural order Divinely instituted there are lower and higher ranks, some whose place it is to command through reason and will, others whose place it is to obey. No necessity compels as irrational creatures are driven; the obedience is freely rendered by deliberate choice of it.

(1) The Divine will is the primal rule of action regulating all human wills, but to that Divine will one human will and judgment approaches nearer than another in the Divinely instituted order. He who has right to command becomes a secondary rule for him who obeys.

(2) It might be objected that the more services are gratuitous, the more acceptable they are. If, then, man is bound by obligation to obey others in doing certain good things, his obedience detracts from the merit of his good deed and renders it less acceptable.

But "gratuitous" has two meanings. On the part of the work it means that which one is not obliged to do; on the part of the worker it means that he acts with free choice. But the deed becomes virtuous, laudable, and meritorious chiefly as it proceeds from free-will. And, therefore, although obedience is an obligation, yet if it is rendered by a prompt and ready will, its merit is not diminished on this account, especially before God, who views the heart as well as the outward works.

Obedience is in itself a special virtue, having as its special object the command of a lawful superior, tacit or express, according to that Divine order which is appointed in this world.

So it is specially commanded (Titus iii. 1), "Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient." The will of a superior, however known, is a tacit precept, and when, by obeying, an express precept is anticipated, the obedience seems to be more prompt and free.

(1) There may be other reasons for doing the thing commanded; it may be an act of some other virtue, although not all the acts of virtue are objects of command (some are counsels of perfection). But some things also are objects of command which would not be evil if they were not prohibited (as police regulations, or the observance of certain days of abstinence). Thus, disobedience is evidently a special sin in contempt of lawful command.

(2) This moral virtue, which is a part of justice, like every other virtue requires a ready will for its proper object, but not for that which is repugnant to the will. Now the proper object of obedience is the command proceeding from another's will. But if that which is commanded be willed for its own sake, as happens in what is agreeable to one's wishes, it may not seem to be done for the sake of the command, but from one's own independent choice.

But when that which is commanded, considered in itself, is repugnant to our own will because it is disagreeable, then the command is manifestly the ground of the action. Therefore S. Gregory said (Moral., lib. ult. c. 10), "Obedience in pleasant things, which has something of its own in it, is either no obedience, or at least is less."

But this applies to outward manifestations. For, according to the judgment of God, who searches the heart, obedience which has "something of its own" may be none the less laudable, if the promptly obedient will none the less sincerely aim at fulfilling the precept.

Is obedience chief among virtues?

As sin consists in man's despising God and adhering to changeable goods, so the merit of a virtuous act consists in making God our end. Greater, then, are the theological virtues by which the soul cleaves to God than the moral virtues by which some earthly thing is rejected in order that the soul may cleave to God, because the end is greater than the means to that end.

But among moral virtues any one of them is greater as it rejects a greater thing for this end. But there are three kinds of earthly goods which may be given up for God's sake; earthly goods (as in liberality) and bodily goods (as in temperance); but highest are the goods of the soul, and supreme among them is our will, through which all other goods are used. Therefore, in itself obedience is more laudable, in its giving up one's own will, than any other moral virtue. Hence S. Gregory says (loc. cit.), "Obedience is better than the sacrifice of outward things, because this may offer the flesh of another, but obedience sacrifices our own will." Hence virtuous deeds of any kind are accepted -- by God as meritorious in His sight because they are done through this motive of obedience to His will. For if I give my body to be burned in martyrdom, or bestow all my goods to feed the poor, unless I ordain this for the fulfilling of the Divine will, I am nothing. Charity cannot exist without obedience, and without charity all my works are empty of title to reward. "He that saith, I know God, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected" (I Ep. S. John ii. 4).

Why did Samuel say (1 Sam. xv. 22), "To obey is better than sacrifice," which is a part of religion, the highest of moral virtues? I answer that obedience in all its species springs from reverence towards a superior which offers him worship and honour. As it proceeds from reverence for those who hold high office, it is contained in observance. As it comes from reverence for parents, it belongs to piety. But as it proceeds from reverence towards God, it is a part of religion, and pertains to devotion, which is the chief act of religion. In this aspect of it, to obey is more laudable than to offer sacrifice; to offer our own will than to immolate the flesh of a victim.

Are those subject to authority bound to obey their superiors in all things?

Holy Scripture says (Acts v. 29), "we ought to obey God rather than men." And sometimes the commands of those who have authority are against the will of God. Therefore obedience is not due in all things. For two reasons the inferior may not be bound always to obey his Superior. First, a higher power may give an opposite command; and secondly, the superior may pretend to command where he has no authority to do so. The better part of a man comes under no earthly dominion; in the inward actions of the will man is bound to obey no one but God. Man may be subject to man in what he has to do through bodily action, but in what pertains to his body itself God is the only Lord. For all are created equal in what pertains to the support of life, the creation of a family. Hence servants are not bound to obey their masters, nor children their parents, in contracting matrimony, or choosing celibacy.

But in what pertains to the ordering of life's actions the subject is bound by his superior's commands within the limits of his authority, as the soldier to his officer in military affairs, the servant to his master in servile works, the son to his father in life's discipline and domestic affairs.

This, doubtless, is the meaning of what the apostle said (Col. iii. 20), "Children, obey your parents in all things;" i.e., all things within the scope of parental right.

In reasonable doubt we must stand by authority, for "melior est conditio possidentis".

Christians are bound to obey the secular power.

"Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as sent by him" (1 5. Pet. ii. 13). For the faith of Christ is the very foundation of justice; and by that faith the order of justice is not taken away, but rather established. But the order of justice requires that the inferior obey the superior, otherwise human society could not continue.

(1) But are not "the children free"? Yes; through the grace of Christ, free from the spiritual bondage of sin. But that grace does not liberate from corporeal defects, or from earthly rulers.

(2) But S. Paul was "dead to the law" (Rom. vii. 4), and human law is of less account than the Divine law of the Old Testament. Yes; but that Old Law was a figure of the New Testament, and so came to an end when the truth appeared. The case is not similar in human law.

(3) But men are not bound to obey robbers; and many a state is founded in usurpation or robbery, and many a ruler is as unjust as the rest of men. Yes; but obedience is due so far as justice requires, and no farther. No one is bound to obey usurped power (until, at least, general acceptance gives it the sanctions of legitimacy), or unjust commands, except accidentally, to avoid scandal or danger to self or others.

Disobedience: is it a mortal sin?

That is, is it contrary to charity, which is the soul's life? Charity is love of God and our neighbour. But charity towards God demands that we keep His commandments. Therefore disobedience to Divine precepts is mortal sin. But among Divine precepts is the command to obey those in authority. Therefore disobedience of this kind is also mortal sin. "He that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God" (Rom. xiii. 2). And Rom. i. 30 places disobedience to parents in the same category. But when anything is done contrary to the precept, yet not through contempt of it, the disobedient act pertains to some other sin ("formally"), and may be a venial one.

(1) Disobedience is the child of vainglory, which may be a sin not mortal. Yet since venial sin is a disposition to mortal transgression, vainglory may produce what is infinitely worse than itself.

(2) No one is obliged to impossibilities; and if the superior lay so many burdens on those under him that they cannot be endured, the "material" act of disobedience is no sin.

§ 3. Gratitude, ingratitude, and vengeance.

Gratitude is a special virtue which returns thanks and recompense to benefactors.

The greater, indeed, contains the less; so that gratitude to God is part of religion, and gratitude to parents is part of piety, and gratitude to superiors from whom come public benefits is part of observance; but there are also other benefactors from whom some particular and private benefits are received, and gratitude is due to them also.

Proportional return for favours received, if viewed as a debt, pertains to commutative justice. But gratitude is the return which is made as due to moral indebtedness alone, which debt one pays of his own accord.

The penitent owes most gratitude to God.

"To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little " (S. Luke vii. 47). But where there is greater favour shown, there greater thanks are due. The grace may be greater in amount. So viewed, the innocent owes greater thanks, other things being equal, because he has received from God in larger measure and in longer continuance. But the grace is greater also when it is given from more abounding love. From this point of view it is the penitent who owes most thankful love, because he has received from more abounding love. For when he was worthy of death he received the gift of grace. So his gift is comparatively greater, just as a small gift to the poor is relatively greater than a large gift to the rich.

Natural order requires that gratitude be rendered to every benefactor.

But what if favours be conferred with delay and insult, or marks of dissatisfaction? It is the sign of a good mind to attend more to the good than to the evil. If any one has conferred a benefit in an unsuitable manner, thanks are still due, though gratitude requires less because the favour is less.

Suppose that one confers a favour on another for his own advantage. Let Seneca meet the difficulty (De Benefic. vi. 12) "One may confer a benefit for his own sake, or for ours, or for both his and ours. And there is a wide difference between these. He who merely looks after himself, and benefits us because otherwise he cannot benefit himself, seems to me like one who provides fodder for his sheep. But if he have only admitted me to fellowship with himself, if he have thought of us both, I am not only unjust but ungrateful if I am not glad that what has benefited me has also benefited him. It is the height of malignity to deny a benefit unless it has put the giver to inconvenience."

Are we bound to thank a servant for favours received. from him? Let Seneca answer again (lib. iii. c. 2): "As long as a servant does his ordinary duty, it is his service when he does more, he puts himself in a friend's place, and confers a benefit." He has a moral claim for grateful acts.

Again, it may be said that no one is bound to do what he cannot do honourably and usefully; but a benefactor may be in such prosperous circumstances that recompense is useless; or be may become so vicious that recompense would be unbecoming; or he who is benefited is poor, and unable to make return.

But the poor is not ungrateful if he do what he can. And since the benefaction consists more in the affection of the heart than in its outward result, the recompense also is principally the gratitude of the soul. Reverence and honour can be given, no matter how prosperous a benefactor may be.

But even if a benefactor have fallen into vicious habits, still recompense must be made according to his condition; e.g., by using efforts to recall him if possible to a better life. But if his wickedness be incurable, he is differently affected from what he was before, and recompense is therefore no longer due, except in grateful recollection of what is past.

Lastly, suppose that requital of favours received is useless or injurious to the recipient. Recompense chiefly depends on the affection of the heart, and is outwardly to be made in that way which seems to be most useful. And if afterwards through his negligence it turn to his own loss, that is not to be imputed to our gratitude in making the return.

The inward gratitude is to be offered at once; the outward return, at the most opportune season. Undue haste in returning gift for gift does not seem to be virtuous recompense, but unwillingness to be indebted for a favour.

Acts of gratitude are due according to a benefactor's good will, not merely according to the favour conferred.

As the requital of a benefit pertains to justice and is a kind of legal debt, recompense considers the quantity of the thing bestowed. But gratitude regards the benefit as freely given. Therefore it considers more the intention than the actual effect.

It is true that God only sees the benefactor's heart; but signs of good will are visible, as the prompt and cheerful action of a friend who assists us.

The requital, therefore, is after the same pattern, not measuring quid pro quo, but rather exceeding the favour received.

Inqratitude. -- Ingratitude is always a sin, counted with other sins of the last days (2 Tim. iii. 2).

For gratitude is a moral obligation which virtue requires and pays.

(1) Gratitude is for benefits; but he who helps another in sin does not confer a benefit, but rather does an injury. To him no thanks are due, unless perhaps for his good will if he have been himself deceived and have thought that he was aiding in the good. And then the recompense is not the aiding him in sin; for this would not be paying him in good return but in evil, which is contrary to gratitude.

(2) Inability excuses no one from gratitude, because that debt is paid by a grateful will. But forgetfulness pertains to ingratitude; not, indeed, that which proceeds from natural defect of memory, which is not subject to the will, but that which is due to negligence.

(3) You may say, he does not appear to sin who is unwilling to be under obligation to another; and S. Paul says (Rom. xiii. 8), "Owe no man anything, save to love one another." But the debt of gratitude is derived from the debt of love, from which no one should wish to be released. If any one owe this debt unwillingly, that seems to be due to defect of love towards his benefactor.

Ingratitude is a special sin, because it is opposed to the special virtue of gratitude, in various grades of sin. First is not returning benefits; worse is dissembling, not praising for the kindness received; worst is want of grateful recognition, through negligence or any other such cause. These seem to be negative; but there is also the positive ingratitude, first, of returning evil for good; next, of scoffing at the benefit; and third, of calling it an injury.

It is sometimes, indeed, venial sin, being imperfect in its kind; but it is also sometimes mortal sin.

The debt of gratitude is one which is freely paid when one is not bound to do so. This may happen to be neglected through mere carelessness.

But, on the other hand, there may be inward contempt (which is lack of charity); or a benefactor may stand in need of help; ingratitude under such and similar circumstances is mortal sin. This negative ingratitude and the positive under like conditions are perfected sin, and therefore mortal.

Venial ingratitude is not contrary to the habit of charity; it is neglect of one of its acts.

Vengeance (vindicatio): is it lawful?

It is not per se evil and illicit. For no such thing can be attributed to God, as in S. Luke xviii. 7, "Shall not God avenge His elect which cry to Him day and night? . . . I say unto you that He will avenge them speedily." Vengeance inflicts some penal evil on the offender. Therefore we must consider the animus of him that takes vengeance. For if his intention be directed chiefly to the evil which he causes, and rests there, his action is altogether unlawful (it is revenge); for delighting in another's evil pertains to hate, is opposed to charity which requires us to love all men.

Nor is any one excusable in aiming at the evil of him who has unjustly caused evil. One is not permitted to hate the man who hates him, for we ought not to sin against another because he has first sinned against us. This is to be "overcome of evil," which S. Paul prohibits (Rom. xii. 21). But if the aim of him who takes vengeance he primarily some good which is to be reached by the punishment of the sinner, as his amendment, or at least the checking of him and the quiet of others, the preservation of justice and the honour of God, vengeance, under due conditions and circumstances, may be lawful.

(1) But is not this usurping what belongs to God? He says (Rom. xii. 19), "Vengeance belongeth unto Me; I will recompense." I answer that he who, according to his office, inflicts vengeance, does not usurp what is God's, but uses the power Divinely conferred upon him. "He is a minister of God; an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil" (Rom. xiii. 4). But if he does any such thing apart from the order Divinely instituted, he does usurp what belongs to God, and therefore he sins.

(2) The evil are tolerated by the good, who patiently endure injuries done to themselves, so far as they ought to do so. But they do not tolerate injuries done to their neighbours and to God.

(3) The law of the Gospel is, indeed, a law of love, and therefore vengeance is not a terror to those who do right with love in their souls, and these alone are properly under the Gospel law. But those who are not moved to the good by means of charity may be nominally in the Church, but they are not of it, and cannot claim the Gospel law of love.

(4) But ought we not to learn from the example of Christ not to revenge our injuries, but magnanimously to endure them? Yes; so far as the injury pertains to one's own person, if it be best so to do. But the injury done sometimes extends to society and to God. And then it may, under due conditions, be avenged, and ought to be avenged. Elijah and Elisha followed the law of righteousness in what they did, though the injuries done were primarily directed against themselves.

(5) What shall we say of the sin of a multitude, as in lynch law executed by a mob? Their sin is more injurious than that of one only. Yet vengeance is not to be taken for it. A whole diocese cannot be excommunicated for the sin of the great majority of its members. "Let both grow together until the harvest," lest the wheat be rooted up (5; Matt. xiii. 30).

I answer that when the whole people sins, vengeance may visit that people, as it does in many a just war; see also the story of the golden calf, in Ex. xxxii. But if the correction of the multitude who follow a few leaders is to be hoped for, vengeance may select the chief offenders, as in Num. xxv. 4. But if offenders and innocent are so mingled that there is no distinguishing of the one from the other, severity may be unwise. So with respect to rulers. Their sin is to be tolerated, if it cannot be punished without great scandal among the people, unless the temporal or spiritual injury is of more account than the scandal which is to be feared. (A very serviceable rule concerning evil and scandal in the Church.)

Observe that the natural inclination to remove what is injurious is in all animals, including man. And in us it is a certain aptitude for a special virtue, which special virtue proper vengeance is.

Are penal statutes on the whole just and expedient?

Vengeance restraining the evil is lawful and virtuous. Now there are those who have little or no love for virtue, who are so restrained through fear of losing what they value more than what they gain by doing wrong. Fear does restrain sin. Therefore proper vengeance consists in taking away what men most value. This is life, liberty, and outward goods. The proper penalties, therefore, are capital punishment, flogging, imprisonment, exile, loss, ignominy.

(1) The Lord forbade the tares to be rooted up, when that would endanger the wheat. But sometimes the bad can be sent out of this world, not only without danger to better men, but even for the great advantage of the latter.

(2) All mortal sins are worthy of eternal death, according to the Divine judgment. But the penalties of this present life are rather medicinal; and therefore only those offences deserve capital punishment which are the most harmful to other men.

Is vengeance to light on those who sin involuntarily?

Penalty is due only to sin. But all sin is voluntary therefore involuntary transgression is not to be followed by vengeance.

But this applies to vengeance as such. By penalty is repaired the violation of justice, due equality is restored; he who has sinned by unduly following his own will, suffers something contrary to his will. But penalty may be considered also as medicinal; it may aid the healing of past wounds, preserve from future ones, promote some good. So viewed, punishment sometimes comes on one without his fault, but not without cause.

This medicinal punishment, as such, never takes away a greater good for the sake of lesser good; but the less may be lost for the sake of helping the greater. Thus one may lose earthly goods without his fault for the sake of spiritual humiliation or probation. This is Divine visitation. But no one is punished with the loss of spiritual goods except through his own fault.

§ 4. Veracity and vices opposed to it.

Veracity is a special virtue by which our outward words and actions are duly made signs of the thoughts of our hearts.

It is a part of justice; not that there is herein any question of legal obligation, but there is a moral debt which we owe to others. (They have a right not to be deceived by us.)

Because man is made for society, is "a social animal," it is a law of nature that each owes to other that without which society cannot be preserved. But men cannot live peaceably and securely with one another, unless they trust one another's words and actions as signs of their thoughts. Therefore veracity is a moral debt which we owe to one another.

In affirmation one may, without deceit, fall short of the whole truth, as when one does not manifest the whole good that is in himself, his knowledge, holiness, or something else of that nature. This does not prejudice the truth, for the less is contained in the greater (2 Cor. xii. 6). But negation is different; for to deny that one possesses what is really in him, is falsity.


A moral act takes its character as such from its direct object and from its end as the object of the will. Veracity and lying consist in voluntary manifestation of thought through external signs. And the object of the manifestation is the true or the false. But the intention of the evil will is two-fold: first, to enunciate the false, and, next, the effect of that; viz., to deceive another.

If, then, those three concur, a falsehood enunciated, the will to enunciate what is false, and the intention to deceive, then we have (1) actual, "material" falsity; (2) moral, "formal" falsity, and (3) effectual falsity in the wish to deceive.

But falsehood proper depends on the second of these, and a falsehood is that enunciation which is contrary to the mind of the enunciator.

If any one, therefore, enunciates what is false, believing it to be true, it is a "material" falsehood, but not formally, morally such, because the falsity is contrary to the intention of the enunciator, and the assertion falls short of the perfect idea of a falsehood.

But if any one utter what is formally false -- i.e., having a will to enunciate falsehood -- what he says may he actually true, but, as voluntary and moral, his act has falsity per se and truth accidentally; it is a falsehood. The same principles apply to falsity in action.

That any one intend to deceive another, as the effect of his enunciation, is not included in the definition of falsehood (mendacium), for so would be excluded falsehoods uttered in joke, where there is no intention of deceiving. But this intention goes to make up the perfection of falsehood.{1}

How are falsehoods (mendacia) divided?

Falsehood may transcend the truth, in exaggeration or boasting; it may fall short of the truth, in what we will call "irony."

But as a fault or sin, we may divide falsehood according to the end aimed at, which aggravates or diminishes the fault. (1) Another's harm may be intended; this is an injurious falsehood (mendacium perniciosum); (2) some benefit or the removal of some harm may be aimed at; this is a serviceable falsehood, a "white lie" (mendacium officiosum); (3) it may he uttered simply to give pleasure, as in facetious falsehoods, compliments, flattery, etc. (mendacium jocosum); these are at least of a less grave character.

S. Augustine's divisions (De Mend. c. 14) with reference to the end sought for are more complete: (1) Falsehood against God, in the doctrines of religion; (2) against man with the intention of injuring some one, and not of benefiting any one; (3) with intention of injuring some one for another's benefit. These are forms of injurious falsehood. (4) Falsehoods from the mere desire of deceiving, or saying what is false, which come from the habitual liar.

(5) Falsehoods which hurt no one, and are uttered for the preservation of property; (6) for the saving of life; (7) for the preservation of chastity. These three belong to serviceable falsehoods. (8) Lastly come falsehoods uttered in order to please (as compliments, flattering remarks, etc.). They belong to the third class mentioned above.

Is every falsehood a sin?

Falsehood is evil in itself, being contrary to the law of nature; for signs are naturally so connected with things signified that it is unnatural and wrong to signify what one has not in his mind. "He that uttereth lies shall not escape" (Prov. xix. 5).

(1) Are examples of falsehood in Holy Scripture ever spoken of therein with commendation? For example, the midwives in Egypt told a downright lie with intention to deceive (Ex. i. 21). But they had their reward with God, not for their lie, but for their godly fear and benevolence. Examples of perfect virtue may be found in Holy Scripture; but some are commended there (as Jaci, the wife of Heher the Kenite), not for perfect virtue, but for a virtuous disposition, which was sullied with many imperfections. (Yet, to the best of her knowledge, Jaci was on the Lord's side against the enemies of the Lord's elected people.)

(2) It may be said that a less evil is to be chosen in order to avoid a greater one; and there is less harm done in generating a false impression in the mind of another than in killing or being killed. Therefore it is lawful to lie in order to keep one man from homicide, and to save another from death. But the lie is sin not merely from the harm done to a neighbour, but from its own violation of God's order. "Speak ye truth each one with his neighbour; for we are members one of another" (Eph. iv. 25). And it is not permitted to use any illicit violation of Divine order in order to hinder the doing of injury. So it is not permitted to steal in order to have something to give away. Therefore, it is not lawful to tell a lie in order to liberate another from some peril. But it is lawful prudently to keep back the truth.

(3) It may be said, also, that it is a falsehood if one does not fulfil what he has promised; but not all promises are to be fulfilled; evil ones should be violated, and, therefore, not every falsehood is a sin. But he who promises anything with the intention of keeping his promise does not tell a falsehood, for he does not speak contrary to what he has in his heart. If he does not do what he has promised, he seems to be acting faithlessly in changing his mind. But he is excusable, first, if he have promised what is manifestly unlawful; he sinned in promising, he does well in changing his purpose. Next, he is excusable if the condition of persons and things be altered. A man is bound to do what he has promised provided that all important conditions remain unchanged. Otherwise, he was neither false in promising, because he promised what he had in his mind, the due conditions being understood; nor is he faithless in not doing what he promised, because those conditions no longer exist.

(4) Compliments, and other mendacia jocosa, have the nature of falsehood as acts, for there is the will to utter what is known to be false; but there may be no intention to deceive, and no actual deception may be produced.

Is every falsehood a mortal sin?

Mortal sin is properly what is opposed to charity whereby the soul lives in union with God. But a falsehood may be opposed to charity in three ways (1) First, in itself, as signifying what is untrue. If this regard Divine things, it is opposed to the love of God, whose truth is hidden or corrupted by such a falsehood. This is not only opposed to charity, but to faith and religion, and this falsehood is, therefore, most grave, and is mortal. But if the false expression concern that whose knowledge pertains to man's good -- e.g., to the perfection of knowledge and instruction concerning the moral life -- such a falsehood, causing loss to one's neighbour through false opinion, is opposed to love of our neighbour, and is mortal sin. But if the false opinion thus produced concern something which is indifferent, where it matters not whether it be known or not, then a neighbour suffers no loss from such a falsehood; e.g., if one were deceived in small, contingent particulars with which he had no concern. Such a falsehood, viewed in itself, is not a mortal sin.

(2) By reason of the end aimed at a falsehood may be opposed to charity, as when what is said is intended to do injury to God's honour, or other attribute of His, which is contrary to religion and is always mortal sin; or when it is intended to injure our neighbour's property, person, or good name; and this, also, like any wilful injury of another, is mortal sin. By merely intending to do what is mortal sin, one sins mortally. But if the end aimed at be not contrary to charity, the falsehood will not, so viewed, be mortal sin, as is apparent in complimentary remarks, and some "white lies" which are intended for some benefit to a friend. (This does not imply that they are no sin, but that they are not that deadly sin which destroys the spiritual life.)

(3) Accidentally, even such a lesser sin may be contrary to charity by reason of the scandal given to others, or some resulting harm which will make even a "white lie" to become mortal sin.

(1) But the Psalmist says (Ps. v. 6), "Thou shalt destroy them that speak lies." This, no doubt, is said of those who are injuring others by their falsehoods.

(2) Is not every kind of falsehood prohihited by the Ninth Commandment? Since all the precepts of the Decalogue are reducible to the love of God and our neighbour, falsehood is so far against the Ninth Commandment as it is contrary to charity. Hence, "bearing false witness against our neighbour" is explicitly named.

(3) But it is to he remembered that Venial sin is iniquity, being against just equity; therefore S. Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. i. 36), "Every one who utters a falsehood violates confidence; for he certainly wishes that another whom he tries to deceive have confidence in him, which confidence he violates. But every violator of trust is iniquitous." (So the apostle, Eph. iv. 25. And note that the argument applies with force to beneficial lies (mend. officiosa), which are violations of fidelity, if not directly of charity.)

Simulation and hypocrisy. -- All simulation is sinful.

For we have seen that veracity is the virtue by which one presents himself outwardly through external signs such as he inwardly is. But these signs are not only words but actions also. As, then, it is opposed to the virtue of veracity that one express in words what is not in his heart, it is equally so to make use of outward things or actions for the same purpose. This simulation is an acted falsehood. And since every falsehood is a sin, every simulation is a sin (under the same conditions).

As it is not falsehood to be lawfully silent respecting what actually exists, so it is not simulation to fail to signify in other manners than by words what actually is. Thus it is not the sin of simulation to conceal a sin, for fear of scandal given to others.

All hypocrisy is simulation, but not all simulation is hypocrisy, but only that which simulates another's person, as when the sinner pretends that he is a just man. He wears a mask, as the name hypocrite indicates.

But it may be objected that the hypocrites of the Gospel when they were giving alms showed outwardly what they were inwardly doing (S. Matt. vi. 2). I answer that the outward action naturally signifies the intention. When, therefore, in good works which naturally pertain to God's service, any one does not seek to please God, but to please men, he feigns a right intention which he does not possess.

Is hypocrisy always mortal sin?

The hypocrite of the Gospel is a mortal sinner, for he has two vices, defect of sanctity, and simulation of it; and his aim is both these vices; that is, he does not care to be

holy, but only seeks to appear such. This is mortal sin; for no one is totally deprived of holiness except through mortal sin. But if he who conceals his sin, and therefore intentionally feigns a holiness which he does not possess, be called a hypocrite, his sin indeed may be mortal, but the act of simulation is not an added mortal sin.

This you may see from considering the end aimed at. If the simulation be opposed to the love of God or one's neighhour, say, that the end is to spread heresy abroad, or to get office in the Church when one is unfit for it, or money, or reputation, as the end of the hypocrisy, any of these or the like makes the sin evidently mortal.

But if the feigning were out of pure vanity (e.g., delighting in the clerical garb without reference to the sanctity which it symbolizes and requires), sinful as it is, it may possibly not destroy totally the love of God in thc soul; that is, it may be venial sin.

Boasting ("jactantia"), and its opposite vice ("ironia"), self-depreciation.

There are two kinds of boasting, or extolling one's self in words. One may speak of himself not, indeed, above what he is in truth, but above men's opinion of him, which sort of boasting the apostle disclaims in 2 Cor. xii. 6. But in another way one may extol himself above what he truly is, and this is more properly boasting, and is manifestly a vice opposed to truth.

Perhaps its most frequent cause is the arrogance of pride, elevating one inwardly above his measure, and finding outward expression in boastful words, although personal vanity may produce the same result. Its end is vainglory or worldly gain.

Is it mortal sin?

As a form of falsehood it is sometimes directed against the glory of God, like the boasting of the Prince of Tyre (Ezek. xxviii. 2). Sometimes it is opposed to love of our neighbour, like the Pharisee's boasting in S. Luke xviii. 11, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men," etc. These are mortal sins (Ps. xii. 3).

But sometimes one boasts out of idle vanity, neither against God nor against his neighbour; this is sinful, but it may be venial sin. But, again, we may consider its cause, as pride, lust of gain, or vainglory; and if its cause be deadly sin, so will be the boasting from that cause. The lust of gain may lead to boasts for the purpose of deceiving and causing loss. This is deadly sin.

And, again, the vanity which produces it may set one's self above God's love, or lead to contempt of Divine commands. This will make the apparently harmless boasting a deadly evil.

Self-depreciation ("ironia").

There are two kinds of this also. One may be truly veracious, while he is reticent respecting the better things which he knows to be in himself, but discloses the faults which he knows that he has. This in itself is not sin, though the circumstances may make it such.

But, also, one may decline from truth in asserting some vile thing of himself which he does not recognize to be in him, or denying some good thing which he perceives that he possesses. This is the sin which, for lack of a better word, I have called "ironia."

It is no excuse for this sin that we are avoiding the opposite sin of self-exaltation, or pride.

§ 5. Affability and liberality, with their opposite vices.{2}

I mean by affalility that courtesy or friendliness by which a man becomingly orders his intercourse with other men in words and deeds. It is a special virtue of outward conduct even towards strangers.

It is a part of justice, or a virtue annexed to justice, for though there is here no question of a debt of legal obligation, there is a moral obligation on the part of a virtuous man to treat others in a becoming way.

Since man is by nature "a social animal," it is a law of nature not only that he preserve fidelity in his relations to his fellows, but that he take all pains to make his fellowship a source of pleasure to others; for pleasure as well as veracity is essential to human intercourse. The exception is when for some good cause it is necessary to produce beneficially the opposite feeling in men with whom we have to do; say, when some good is to be accomplished or some evil avoided by blame, etc.


One may attempt on all occasions to use flattering words, either for his own profit, or simply for the purpose of giving pleasure to another. The motive or other circumstances will determine whether or not the praising others is a sin. One may wish to console in trouble by giving pleasure, or to help another's progress in good; and, other due conditions being observed, this may pertain to the virtue of friendliness. But it will be the vice of adulation if one praise another for that which is not laudable, or is, perhaps, positively wrong; or if by doing so he incite to vainglory; or if his flattery aim at some personal advantage for himself.

Flattery is sometimes a mortal sin, and sometimes a sin not so deadly. It is mortal whenever it is contrary to charity, as when what is sinful is praised; for this is contrary both to the love of God and to the love of our neighbour. Again, it is mortal by reason of the intention; as when one flatters another in order to injure him fraudulently either in body or in soul. Again, adulation may give to another occasion to sin even without any such direct intention. And then it will be necessary to consider whether the occasion was actually given, or merely taken, and also what kind of injury resulted. The question is like that of scandal, which has already been considered (page 254).

But if one, simply out of an eagerness to give pleasure to others, use flattering language, or even if its object be to avoid some evil, or to obtain some needed good, the adulation is not against charity, and the sin will stand on the same footing with other falsehoods of similar character.

Unfriendliness, captiousness, moroseness ("litigium").

Contradicting others may be due to discord, when one refuses to assent to what another says on account of a want of charity towards him. But, again, one may contradict another from a general moroseness which has no hesitation in making one's self disagreeable. This is opposed to that virtue which we have named affability.

This form of contentiousness is, in itself, a graver sin than flattery, although the injurious motive may make adulation a more sinful thing. That which is baser in human actions is not always the graver sin. For the glory of man is his reason; and therefore carnal sins, by which the flesh gets lordship over reason, are more degrading than spiritual sins; although these are graver, because there is more contempt of God in them. Similarly, sins which have guile in them are baser, although open sins may sometimes contain more contempt of God. So it happens that guileful adulation seems to be baser, although quarrelsomeness seems to be graver.


Liberality is the virtue by which we use well the things of this world which are granted to us for the support of our earthly life.

(1) Natural inclination, indeed, leads each one to provide for himself rather than for others. But this is not contrary to the virtue of liberality, because a very little suffices for one person, and also the liberal man does not so provide for others that he neglects himself and those belonging to him. He uses money, and whatever can be measured by money, not as throwing it away in prodigal fashion, but judiciously securing, first, provision for his own support and for what is needful for executing his virtuous works.

(2) The prodigal is not to be regarded as a liberal man, because he does not follow the dictates of right reason as virtue does. And, on the other hand, the virtuous poor may be liberal, because the virtue does not consist in a multitude of gifts, but in the virtuous affection of the giver (Nic. Eth. iv. 1).

Those passions which are concerned with money or its equivalent are the immediate subject of liberality, as love of riches, desire for them, pleasure in them, sorrow at parting with them. Liberality hinders any inordinate affection for money from preventing the due use of it. But this due use is two-fold; first, for the owner's expenses; next, for others through gifts to them. The liberal man is free in his expenditure, free in convenient gifts.

But, of course, the virtue is far greater which leads to the giving than that which leads to the expending.

Liberality is not, properly speaking, a part of justice, because the latter returns to another what is his; but liberality bestows what is its own.

Yet there is a certain relation between them; first, because they are both primarily relative to another; and secondly, because they are both concerned with external things.

Liberality, also, is not concerned with legal debt as justice is, but it recognizes a moral obligation.

Beneficence and pity also give, but their giving proceeds from some special affection towards its object, and therefore such giving pertains to charity or friendship. But liberal giving is due to a special affection with regard to money which is neither inordinately desired nor loved. Hence the giving is not only to friends or to the suffering.

Is liberality chief among virtues?

Every virtue is directed to some good; and the greater the good, the greater the virtue. But primarily and per se liberality directs the soul with respect to the possession and the use of money. This places it below such virtues as temperance, which govern bodily concupiscences and pleasures; and below courage and justice, which are ordained for the common good; and still more below those virtues which are ordained for Divine good. This is the order first, Divine good; then, the common good; then, private good of soul, of body, and, lastly, private good in outward things.

But liberality may be directed to any or to all of these, and so it will have a secondary excellence as useful for many things.

God, indeed, "giveth to all men Liberally, and upbraideth not" (S. Jas. i. 5); but this Divine giving comes from Divine love, not from such mode of regarding external goods as enters into our definition of liberality in man.

Avarice: is it a sin?

God's Word says (Heb. xiii. 5), "Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have." In everything the good requires a due measure, and evil comes from going beyond or falling short of that measure. This applies to all things which exist for a certain end; they must be commensurate with that end, as medicine with reference to recovery of health.

But outward goods are things useful for some end; and therefore, necessarily, the good of man, so far as they are concerned, consists in a certain measure, a man seeking to have them so far as they are necessary for his life according to his condition in the world.

Therefore there is sin in going beyond or falling short of this measure, when, namely, one beyond or within the due mode wishes to acquire or to keep outward riches. Avarice is immoderate love of possession. Therefore it is a sin.

(1) The desire of external things is natural to man, but as means to an end. It is therefore free from sin so far as it falls under a rule derived from its end. But avarice exceeds this rule.

(2) But is it sin against God, against self, or against our neighbour? It may be against all three; for it implies disordination outward or inward. The getting or the keeping of riches may be directly sin against our neighbour, when one man superabounds in wealth through the poverty of many others.

Or, again, the lust of riches, immoderate love of them or pleasure in them, is a sin of man against himself, because his inward affections are disordered.

And avarice, like any other mortal sin, is against God, inasmuch as man for the sake of temporal good despises the eternal good.

(3) It is true that the old, on account of failing powers, do naturally seek the aid of external things, like any other needy persons (Nic. Eth. iv. 1); but natural inclinations are to he governed by reason, and the aged are not free from sin if they exceed reason's due measure.

The special sin is the inordinate seeking of a special good; Sc., riches as numbered among the goods useful to man (Rom. i. 29).

Avarice may be opposed to justice in the getting and keeping riches against the rights of others; but when we consider the inward affection, the immoderate lust for riches, even apart from any wish to plunder from others, there is the sin of avarice plainly opposed to liberality. It neglects not the legal debt of justice, hut the moral debt of reason.

Is avarice always mortal sin?

When opposed to justice it is mortal sin, for it involves unjustly taking or keeping what is another's. But, like theft (see page 304), the imperfection of the act may make it venial.

But, as opposed to liberality, avarice implies inordinate love of riches. And if this so increase that it is set above charity, so that through love of riches one does not fear to act against the love of God and his neighbour, avarice is mortal sin (Rom. i. 29).

But if the inordinate love keep within this, so that it is not preferred to Divine love, and one is not willing to do anything against God or his neighbour for the sake of riches, avarice is venial sin.

The lust of riches darkens the soul whenever it excludes the light of charity.

Is avarice the greatest of sins?

Every sin, because it is evil, consists in some corruption or privation of some good; but, as it is voluntary, it consists in the desire of some good. So the relative gravity of sins may be viewed in two ways; first, as regards the good which is despised or corrupted; the greater that good, the graver is the sin. In this way the sin which is against God is the greatest of all sins; next to that, the sin against the person of man; after that, sin respecting outward things which are intended for man's service, among which sins is avarice.

But, in another way, the grade of sins may be viewed according to the good to which human appetite is inordinately subject. The less that good, the more shameful is the sin. But external goods are the lowest that man can obtain; less than corporeal goods, which, again, are less than the good of the soul, which is exceeded by Divine good. Thus viewed, avarice has the greatest deformity. But since the corruption or privation of good is the essence, the "formal part" of sin, and since the conversion to transitory good is the "material part," the gravity of sins depends rather on the first than on the second. Therefore avarice is not simply the greatestof all sins.

Yet avarice has its own special danger; sc., that it is most difficult to be eradicated from the soul, always increasing with increasing age and need of outward help.

Avarice is a spiritual, not a carnal, sin.

Sins are rooted in the affections or passions of the soul, and they are consummated in its pleasures and pains. Some of these pleasures are carnal, some are spiritual; and those are called fleshly sins which are completed in fleshly pleasures; those are spiritual sins which are completed in spiritual pleasures resulting from apprehension of the mind. And such a sin is avarice.

It has a material object, indeed, but the pleasure is not corporeal but mental. The sin, however, may be said to have an intermediate place between purely spiritual sins, like pride, and purely fleshly sins, like lust or gluttony.

Avarice is a capital sin.

Sins are so called which, being viewed as an end, originate other vices. Now the end most of all sought for is felicity, which riches promise in offering what is sufficient for all needs. As all pleasures can be purchased, or seem purchasable, money virtually appears to contain them all, and so its possession seems to be the height of felicity, and so originate the daughters of avarice; viz., treachery, fraud, deceitful words, perjury, restlessness of soul, violence, hardness of heart.


Prodigality is the vice which is opposite to avarice. The avaricious loves riches to excess, but the prodigal lacks due care for what is an earthly means to a well-ordered life. The prodigal goes to excess in giving, but falls short of duty in getting and preserving, while the avaricious, on the contrary, fails in giving, but goes to excess in getting and in keeping.

The prodigal son (S. Luke xv. 13), "wasted his substance in riotous living." And so prodigality may seem to be opposed to a temperate and continent manner of life. And this is most frequently the case. But prodigality as such may be directed to other evil ends, or it may be the mere indifference to riches which leads to wasting them. So it is directly opposed to avarice.

Is prodigality a sin?

Virtue is corrupted by defect as well as by excess. And although the apostle said that the inordinate "love of money is the root of all evils" (1 Tim. vi. 10), that does not imply that all evils always spring from avarice, but that there is no evil which does not sometimes originate in that capital sin. Even prodigality sometimes originates there, as when one prodigally wastes many things in order to win the favour of others, and to get a larger return.

When the apostle (1 Tim. vi. 17) said, "Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be ready to distribute," he spoke of giving according to duty, which is precisely what the prodigal does not. Prodigality is not liberality. For the excess of the former is not a question of mere quantity in giving, but rather of going beyond duty and propriety. The liberal sometimes gives more than the prodigal, if it he necessary to make large gifts.

Prodigality, considered in itself, is not so grave a sin as avarice. For, first, it is not so far away from the virtue of liberality, which also freely gives. Secondly, the prodigal is useful to many by giving to them; the avaricious is useful to none, not even to himself. And, lastly, prodigality, as such, is far more easily cured, both by advancing age, by losing what has been wasted, and by the easy transition from this vice to liberality; whereas avarice is rarely cured.

Both of them sin against others and against themselves. The prodigal sins against himself in wasting what is useful to himself, and against others in consuming what ought to be properly dispensed for the needy. And this is conspicuously true of the clergy, if they expend on themselves in luxuries or in pleasures what ought to be bestowed for the needy and for the Church.

The avaricious also sins against his neighbour and against himself; but while the prodigal may do good to some one, the avaricious benefits neither others nor himself, because he does not dare to use his goods even for his own benefit.

§ 6. Equity ("epicheia").

Human acts, concerning which laws are promulgated, can vary infinitely; and therefore it is not possible that any rule of law should be instituted fitted to all cases which may occur. Legislators are obliged to fit their laws to what generally occurs, but in some cases keeping to the letter of the law would be contrary to the equality of justice, and to the common good which is the aim of the law. Thus, law decrees that deposits shall be returned to their owner, because this is ordinarily just. But it may be injurious; e.g., an insane person may demand a revolver which he has left with you, or a rebel may demand what he intends to use against the people. In such cases it is evil to follow the letter of the law, and it is right to do what the law intended and the common good demands. This is the virtue of equity.

(1) This is not judging the law instead of judging by it. For he judges the law who says that it is not a good law. But he who says that the law does not apply in the particular case in question, judges of that case.

(2) In doubt concerning the meaning of the law, the interpretation of the law-makers or of the court having jurisdiction must stand. But where the case is plain there is no need of interpreting, but only of applying.

Equity is a part of justice viewed in its widest signification; but it is a "higher law," directive of legal justice.

S. Thomas Aquinas regards the Spiritual gift of "godliness," or "pietas," as perfective of natural religion. As the other Spiritual gifts are habitual dispositions of the soul making us prompt to be moved by the Holy Ghost, so this gift produces a filial disposition towards God. "Ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. viii. 15). To worship God as Creator and Lord belongs to religion; but to draw near to God as our Father in heaven is through the inspiring gift of the Holy Ghost.

Nor this alone; for the same gift prompts to honour all that belongs in special manner to the Father. It honours the saints; it listens with reverence to the Holy Scriptures; it succours the needy as children of the same Father.

§ 7. The precepts of justice: the Ten Commandments.

The Decalogue contains the primal principles of law, to which natural reason at once assents as most manifest principles. The first four commandments refer to the acts of religion as the highest part of justice; the fifth to piety, which stands next to religion; the others to justice in general as applied to our equals.

(1) The law aims at making all men virtuous, but it begins with manifest obligations of duty.

(2) The judicial precepts of the Old Law are determinations of its moral precepts towards our neighbour, as its ceremonial precepts are of the moral precepts towards God.

(3) The Ten Commandments have charity as their end (1 Tim. i. 5); but they directly command just acts.{3}

The First and Second Commandments.

Why do they begin the Decalogue? Since the law's aim is to make good men, consider the order of the process. It must begin with the will; but the goodness of that depends upon its end; and God is that ultimate end. And, first of all, impediments must be removed out of the way of true religion, and the chief impediment is the worship of false gods -- "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon" (S. Matt. vi. 24). When those impediments are removed by negative precepts, then can come the positive law of religion in the Fourth Commandment.

The Third Gommandment.

Not only superstition is an impediment to true religion which must be removed out of the way. Irreligion, defect of reverence by which God is despised, is an impediment. Superstition has substituted some other object in place of God. But irreligion, professing to receive Him, robs Him of His due honour.

(1) Not every assumption of the Holy Name is forbidden, but false oaths, whether assertory or promissory, false vows, etc.

(2) Not only swearing falsely is taking God's name in vain, but also swearing truly, without judgment, in levity, etc.

(3) The more common sins are specified; and vain swearing is more common than blasphemy, though the latter is equally prohibited.

The Fourth Commandment.

The impediments to true religion having been removed, then comes the precept of true religion which worships God. And as inward worship is presented to us in Holy Scripture under corporeal similitudes, so the outward worship of God is presented through some sensible sign of it. Man is led to the inward worship of prayer and devotion by the inward guidance of the Holy Ghost; but the precept of the law is given concerning outward worship in its sensible sign, a sign of the common benefit of the Creation, which ended on the day of rest.

(1) Literally taken, the precept is partly moral, partly ceremonial. It is moral in requiring that man set aside some part of his life for Divine things. The natural reason which sets aside some time for recreation, etc., also demands some time for spiritual refection. So far the Fourth Commandment is moral.

But in determining a particular time as a sign of the Creation, it is ceremonial. It is ceremonial also in its allegorical signification, pointing to Christ's Sabbath rest in the new tomb. It is ceremonial also in its moral signification of the soul's rest in God. As moral, not as ceremonial, this commandment takes its place in the Decalogue.

(2) Distinguish the end, the having time for Divine service, and the rest from servile work. The service of God was not servile work; therefore circumcision (S. John vii. 23), and the priests' and Levites' work, on the Sabbath were not prohibited (S. Matt. xii. 5). But other works are contrary to the observance of the Sabbath inasmuch as they impede our attending to Divine things.

There are also corporal works not pertaining to God's service which are not properly servile, because they are common to all, both servants and masters. Thus every one, servant or not, is bound to provide in necessary things not only for himself but for his neighbour, especially what concerns the support of life or the avoiding of great loss (Deut. xxii. 1; S. John vii. 23; S. Matt. xii. 2).

(3) The observance of the Lord's Day under the Gospel law takes the place of the Sabbath, not by force of the precept of the Old Law, but by the authority of the Church and Christian custom. The Lord's Day is not figurative like the Sabbath. No such strict prohibition of work, therefore, belongs to it. Cooking food was prohibited; it is now allowed, etc. And needful dispensation, even in what is prohibited by the Church, is more readily obtained under the Gospel's easy burden.{4} The Fifth Commandment.

The end of the Decalogue is love of God and our neighbour. But among neighbours parents hold the highest place. Therefore this commandment heads the second table; but since parents are the source of our being, it holds close affinity with the first table, and some -- e.g., Josephus and Philo -- have placed it there.

(1) Parents take the precedence of other relatives and of our country. Nevertheless, in this precept is understood whatever pertains to rendering due honour to others according to their rightful claim.

(2) Reverential honour is due to parents as such in every case; but there are special duties in special cases, like support in time of need, which are implied in the general law.

The last five commandments.

These pertain to justice in general, which gives all indifferently their due.

(1) Why are they all negative? Why is there no affirmative precept? Man is always and universally bound to do no harm to any one; and so the commandments prohibit it. But positive duties to our neighbours vary with person, time, place, etc.; therefore they do not appear in these universal laws.

(2) Are there not many other injuries beside homicide, adultery, theft, and false witness? Why are only these specified? These are chief in their respective classes, and the others are reducible to these. Thus, all injury to the person of our neighbour is included in homicide, as the chief injury; wrongful deeds of lust against others, and especially against those connected with us, are included in adultery; injurious actions towards others' property are embraced in theft; and, finally, injurious words, detractions, blasphemies, and the like, are prohibited along with false witness.

(3) In the Tenth Commandment, which prohibits concupiscence, are not included the first motions of it, which spring from our fallen, sensuous nature; but the consent of the will is forbidden, consent whether to the deed or to the pleasure of it.

(4) Concupiscence leading to theft or adultery is expressly prohibited, and not that (wrath, etc.) which leads to homicide, because that in itself does not present itself as a desirable or useful thing, like adultery or theft.{5}

{1} The English language, and the English-speaking races, so far as their language expresses their moral thought, seem to stand on a higher plane than the Latin language, and the nations using its derivatives. For our two words, "falsehood" and "lie," express moral differences which are lost or blended in mendacium. The lie, as we use the word, seems to imply the intention to deceive and to call a man a liar is the gravest insult, because we impute an evil intention which we can only infer. But the falsehood may be uttered without that intention, through ignorance, or carelessness, or in joke. Falsehood, therefore, seems to come nearer than the stronger word, "lie," to "mendacium" as the term is used hy S. Thomas Aquinas.

{2} Note here and throughout this work that a moral deterioration in the English language is found in the use of the term "vice." Originally it was any habit of sin, and the word is so used throughout this manual of Moral Theology. But popular use has lowered the word, morally speaking, to any habit supposed in any way whatsoever to be injurious; say, the "vice" of using tobacco.

{3} Our author, following S. Augustine, as the Roman and Lutheran communions of modern times also do, places three commandments in the first table, uniting into one the first and second, as the English and American Church divide them. Polytheism and idolatry are thus prohibited in one commandment. And there are good ethical reasons for this arrangement according to the author's system. Superstition is prohibited in all its forms in the First. irreligion in all its forms in the Second, Commandment. The reasons for separating polytheism from idolatry need not here be stated. Let it suffice to note that idolatry, not polytheism is one of the special dangers of a superstitions part of the Christian Church itself. Throughout this manual the commandments are numbered as the Anglican Church numbers them.

{4} See, further, Supplement, chap. iii. page 511.

{5} See, further, Supplement, chap. iii. page 514.

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