Potential Parts of the Virtue of Justice

  1. Order of treatment. Following the order proposed by St. Thomas, after discussing the general virtue of justice we next consider the virtues annexed to the cardinal virtue. Either nine or ten potential parts of justice are proposed : 1. religion; 2. piety; 3. respect; 4. obedience; 5. gratitude ; 6. friendship ; 7. truthfulness ; 8. affability ; 9. liberality ; 10. epikeia. The treatise on the virtue of religion embraces almost everything contained in the first three Commandments of the Decalogue ; the treatise on the virtues of piety, respect and obedience includes what is ordained by the Fourth Commandment. Therefore this section may be conveniently divided as follows into three questions ;
  2. the virtue of religion — the first three Commandments of the Decalogue;
  3. the virtues of piety, reverence and obedience — the Fourth Commandment ;
  4. the remaining potential parts of justice.


The Virtue of Religion — the First Three Commandments of the Decalogue

We shall consider : 1. the nature of religion ; 2. the different acts of religion ; 3 . the vices contrary to religion.


  1. Etymology. Four explanations are given of the etymology of this word. It is said to be derived either from “ relegere ” (Cicero) — to meditate ; from “ reeligere ” (St. Augustine) — to choose again ; from religare (Lactantius) — to bind oneself again ; or from relinquere (Masurius, Sabinus) — to leave behind.

Real Definitions. Religion is understood in various ways by different people. Non-Catholics take religion as signifying either the feeling of subjection to God (the more common view) or for natural morality or in other senses which space does not permit us to list. Catholics understand religion ; 1. in its objective sense, to signify an established manner of belief in God or worship of Him (the Christian religion, Jewish religion, the Mohammedan religion) ; 2. to signify the entire moral life of man (James 1, 27) ; 3. to signify a particular state of man (the religious state, such as the religious Order of the Dominicans, of the Franciscans, etc.) ; 4. to signify a distinct moral virtue. This virtue of religion is defined as : the moral virtue which inclines man to give


The remote subject of this virtue is those persons or beings in whom the virtue is found ; the proximate subject is the faculty of the soul in which the virtue resides.

The remote subject embraces : a) men on earth (including Christ himself) ; b) the souls in Purgatory ; c ) the angels in Heaven. On the other hand the virtue of religion is not to be found in : a) animals or in any other primary purpose is ocher than this, either the game is unlawful or the stakes must be regarded as a salary in return for work done. a) Gaines of skill are those in which the result of the game depends largely on the skill of the players themselves, such as football ; b) games of chance depend on fortune and practically no skill is used, as in dice games ; c) games of a mixed character depend partly on skill, partly on chance, v.g. many card games.

Principle. Games played for stakes are lawful, provided the following conditions are verified :

  1. the players must be free to dispose of the stakes for which they gamble ;
  2. the gamble is undertaken with full knowledge and consent ;
  3. the players must have a morally equal chance of winning ;
  4. all fraud must be excluded ;
  5. gain must not be the chief motive of the game neither must it be sought after too eagerly.

Note. Since games played for stakes are most dangerous because of the serious disorders which often ensue, the confessor should prudently censure them.

  • 4. Lottery
  1. Definition. A lottery is an aleatory contract whereby on payment of a certain sum of money the right is acquired of obtaining some prize, if fortune favours that person. Since a lottery is no different from a game of chance, the same principles apply as for gaming.

Speculations on the exchange — a frequent form of aleatory contract in these times — cannot be more briefly discussed than in the author’s Man. Theol. mor. II, 231, to which the reader is referred.



Potential Parts of the Virtue of Justice

  1. Order of treatment. Following the order proposed by St. Thomas, after discussing the general virtue of justice we next consider the virtues annexed to the cardinal virtue. Either nine or ten potential parts of justice are proposed : 1. religion; 2. piety; 3. respect; 4. obedience; 5. gratitude ; <5. friendship ; 7. truthfulness ; 8. affability ; 9. liberality ; 10. epikeia. The treatise on the virtue of religion embraces almost everything contained in the first three Commandments of the Decalogue ; the treatise on the virtues of piety, respect and obedience includes what is ordained by the Fourth Commandment. Therefore this section may be conveniently divided as follows into three questions :
  2. the virtue of religion — the first three Commandments of the Decalogue;
  3. the virtues of piety, reverence and obedience — the Fourth Commandment ;
  4. the remaining potential parts of justice.


The Virtue of Religion — the First Three Commandments of the Decalogue

We shall consider : 1. the nature of religion ; 2. the different acts of religion; 3. the vices contrary to religion.


  1. Etymology. Four explanations are given of the etymology of this word. It is said to be derived either from “ relegere ” (Cicero)— to meditate ; from “ reeligere ” (St. Augustine) — to choose again ; from religare (Lactantius) — to bind oneself again ; or from relinquere (Masurius, Sabinus) — to leave behind.

Real Definitions. Religion is understood in various ways by different people. Non-Catholics take religion as signifying either the feeling of subjection to God (the more common view) or for natural morality or in other senses which space does not permit us to list. Catholics understand religion : 1. in its objective sense, to signify an established manner of belief in God or worship of Him (the Christian religion, Jewish religion, the Mohammedan religion) ; 2. to signify the entire moral life of man (James 1, 27) ; 3. to signify a particular state of man (the religious state, such as the religious Order of the Dominicans, of the Franciscans, etc.) ; 4. to signify a distinct moral virtue. This virtue of religion is defined as : the moral virtue which inclines man to give due worship to God as his supreme Creator.

The remote subject of this virtue is those persons or beings in whom the virtue is found ; the proximate subject is the faculty of the soul in which the virtue resides.

The remote subject embraces : a) men on earth (including Christ himself) ; b) the souls in Purgatory ; c) the angels in Heaven. On the other hand the virtue of religion is not to be found in : a) animals or in any other irrational creatures ; b) the devils and the damned ; c) those who commit the formal sin of irreligion.

The only proximate subject of the virtue is the will.

364- The necessity of religion is founded on a) Natural law which strictly commands the worship of God, b) divine positive law ordaining the worship of God both in the Old and New Testaments, c) human law commanding the worship of God and punishing the absence of religion.

This necessity of the virtue of religion includes the internal, external and — sometimes — public worship of God.


  1. The chief acts of religion are : devotion, prayer, adoration, sacrifice, the use of the Sacraments, vows, oaths, adjuration, sanctification of certain days. Sacrifice and the Sacraments will be considered in a special treatise devoted to the Sacraments ; for the present we are considering the other acts of religion.

Art. 1. Devotion

3 66. Definition. Three things are usually designated, by the word “ devotion ” :

  1. certain pious exercises, such as devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament ;
  2. attention and spiritual consolation in prayer. Thus we say : I made my meditation with great devotion;
  3. the primary act of the virtue of religion, in which sense we define devotion as : a prompt will (i.e. an act of the will) of offering oneself to the service of God. This is the definition given by St. Thomas. It is almost identically the same act as that whereby a man determines to do everything for the greater glory of God, but only in so far as such an act proceeds immediately from the virtue of religion and not from charity.

The causes of devotion are either external — the grace of God, good example, the moral influence of other devout men — or internal — the contemplation of God’s kindness or majesty, of Christ’s humanity, of our dependence on God as our Creator, Providential ruler and Prime Mover.

The effects of devotion are numerous :

  1. spiritual joy ;
  2. accidental or affective devotion (devotion understood in its second meaning as given above) ;
  3. a facility and readiness in performing other acts of religion ;
  4. the best possible influence on even external behaviour and manner of acting (cf. the author’s Man. Theol. mor. II, 330).

Art. 2. Prayer

  • 1 . Definition and Kinds of Prayer
  1. Definition. Prayer, understood in its theological sense, may signify :
  2. in its widest sense, an act of religion — in fact, the entire religious life of man viz. the fife of prayer ;
  3. in its wide sense, any pious movement of the soul towards God ; in this sense St. John Damascene defined it as “ the raising of the mind to God.” Thus to elicit an act of faith, hope, or charity would be prayer within this meaning of the term ;
  4. in its strict sense, the prayer of petition, and in this sense it is defined by St. John Damascene as “ the asking of seemly things from God.” – — It is not man’s intention by such prayers of petition to make known to God all his needs since in the divine omniscience He is fully aware of them even before prayer ; nor does man desire by such prayers to change the decrees of Providence, since this would be impossible because of God’s immutability. The prime intention (in addition to the worship of God) of our prayer of petition is to remove from within ourselves all those obstacles which prevent the fulfilment of our desires, for in prayer we exercise almost all the virtues : humility, faith, hope, charity, etc.

The remote subject of prayer is the same as that of religion (cf. n. 363). It is beyond question that the souls in Purgatory can pray in the wide sense of the word, and it is also probable that they can offer prayer of petition in the strict sense. — The proximate subject of prayer is not the will but the practical reason, since prayer is nothing more than a means of speaking with God and of revealing to Him our desires, which are acts of the practical reason.

  1. Kinds of prayer.
  2. Mental (internal) prayer and vocal (external prayer). Mental prayer is accomplished by internal acts and is either simple meditation (which consists in a loving and discursive consideration of religious truths) or contemplative prayer (which consists in a loving and intuitive consideration and admiration of religious truths). 1 Vocal prayer is performed by the mind and external signs.
  3. Public prayer and private prayer. Two things are required for prayer to be public : it must be recited by an official minister, and it must be recited in the name of the Church (cf. c. 1256). A priest while reciting his Office in private is offering public prayer ; on the other hand, if he recites his Rosary in private his prayer is not public but private, since he is no longer praying in the name of the Church.

Note. All public prayer must be vocal.

  • 2 . The Object of Prayer
  1. 1. What to pray for. We are permitted to pray for anything which it is lawful to desire (St. Augustine). Therefore nothing is excluded from prayer except what is morally evil or sinful.
  2. For whom to pray. Prayer may be offered for every creature capable of sharing in eternal glory. Therefore only the damned in Hell are excluded from our prayer. But in consequence of positive ecclesiastical law excommunicated persons are sometimes excluded from public prayer, as will be mentioned in the treatise on censures.
  3. To whom to pray. We must pray to God alone as the only person who can give by Himself all that we request, but it is permissible and useful to invoke the saints and the angels in order to ask them to intercede on our behalf with God.

The Council of Trent (Sess. 25) defined that the invocation of the saints and angels was lawful and useful; a few theologians (Sylvius, Boeckhn) have maintained that such prayer was absolutely necessary.

It is also permissible to offer private, but not public, prayer to the souls in Purgatory and to baptised infants.

  • 3 . Necessity of Prayer
  1. Proposition. Prayer is not only useful for all adults but also a matter of divine precept ; generally speaking, it is a necessary means of salvation also.
  2. That prayer is useful for all adults is evident a) from its excellence as an act of religion ; b) from its power in obtaining such great graces for man.

*It is right to distinguish further between ordinary contemplation which can be attained by any person in the state of grace, and extraordinary contemplation which requires an altogether special instinct of the Holy Ghost and is sometimes accompanied by ecstasies and other miraculous events.

  1. That prayer is necessary for all adults by reason of divine precept is evident from many texts of Sacred Scripture — v.g. : “ Watch and pray ” (Mt. xxvi, 41) ; “ . . . shewing them that they ought to pray continually and never be discouraged ” (Lk. xviii, 1) ; “ Never cease praying ” (1 Thess. vi, 17).
  2. That prayer is a necessary means of salvation — at least generally speaking and according to ordinary law— is the more common and probable opinion. This absolute necessity of prayer is well expressed in the Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict : “Just as breathing is always necessary for the continuation of life in the body, so is prayer absolutely essential for spiritual health … I would more easily believe that a man has no soul than that he could become a perfect religious without prayer.” The same conclusion is reached by reason : it is absolutely necessary to worship the majesty of God. But this worship is impossible without a loving movement of soul towards God, which is prayer — -at least in the wide sense.
  3. Fulfilment of the obligation.

In itself this precept obliges us to pray frequently during life, but it is impossible to determine accurately how often we are bound to pray in virtue of divine law. It is the common teaching of theologians that the precept in itself binds us to pray ; 1. at the outset of man’s moral life, when man who has attained to the use of reason must first turn himself towards God; 2. in danger of death ; 3. frequently during life.

But for incidental reasons the precept obliges us to pray : I. each time that other precepts cannot be fulfilled without prayer, such as the precept of hearing Mass on Sundays ; 2. in moments of temptation to grave sin which cannot be resisted without prayer ; 3. in serious disasters, especially of a public nature.

  1. Note. i. Since the precept of its very nature obliges us to pray frequently during life, the confessor must ask those penitents who have neither received the Sacraments not heard Mass for several years, whether during that period they have also neglected prayer, since such negligence is a special sin, at least objectively speaking.
  2. Nowhere is there to be found a general law commanding morning and night prayers, or grace before and after meals ; therefore their omission is not of itself a sin neither is it sufficient matter for confession. But in practice the faithful should be earnestly encouraged not to omit these prayers, since by so doing they are liable to be deprived of many graces which they require for their daily life.
  • 4. The Efficacy of Prayer and its Conditions
  1. I. Prayer which fulfils the requisite conditions has three primary effects and many secondary effects.
  2. a) The primary effects of prayer are: 1. merit, 2. satisfaction, 3. impetratory
  3. Prayer merits de condigno an increase of grace and glory, provided

it is made properly by a man in the state of grace. — The reason is that any good work performed by a person in the state of grace and proceeding from charity merits that twofold increase.

The prayer of the sinner fulfilling all the requisite conditions merits de congruo three benefits : a) it disposes him for the reception of sanctifying grace; b) it obtains temporal goods; c) it accustoms him to good works. (St. Thomas, Suppl. q. 14, a. 4).

  1. Prayer is a means of satisfaction seeing that it possesses all the qualities required for satisfaction — it is a work that is good, arduous, and inspired by grace. Therefore confessors usually impose prayers as salutary penance and satisfaction.
  2. Prayer has an impetratory value, a) inasmuch as it is a good work, and b) in so far as it is a request heard by God.
  3. b) The secondary effects of prayer are, v.g. the enlightenment of the intellect, increase of faith, hope, charity, humility and other virtues, spiritual consolation.
  4. II. Prayer which fulfils the requisite conditions is infallibly heard by God in consequence of His promises.

This is evident from many texts in Sacred Scripture, as : “ Ask, and the gift will come ; seek, and you shall find ; knock, and the door shall be opened to you. Everyone that asks, will receive ; that seeks, will find ; that knocks, will have the door opened to him.” (Mt. vii, 7). “ Believe me, you have only to make any request of the Father in my name, and he will grant it to you.” (John xvi, 23).

III. The conditions required for the efficacy of prayer relate to its object, its subject and the person prayed for.

On the part of the object it is required that it benefit and not hinder man’s eternal salvation.

On the part of the subject who prays there are required the state of grace, humility, confidence, perseverance, attention. What form of attention is requited will be discussed below.

On the part of the person prayed for it is necessary that he be disposed to receive the grace requested or at least that he place no obstacle in the way.

375 – The attention necessary for prayer.

Attention is either external or internal.

Since attention is opposed to distraction, external attention is that which excludes external distractions, viz. all those external acts which occupy a person to such an extent that he is no longer able to attend to the meaning. Thus, for instance, external attention would be lacking during his prayer a man reads, or paints, or does some other work which requires keen attention ; on the other hand, external attention is present if he prays while he walks or performs some light work which does not require much attention. Such external attention well deserves to be called attention since a person is thus applying himself to prevent his prayer being disturbed by external occupations. For just as a man who takes care that no wild animals wander into his flower garden is said to be attending to his garden, so in the same way a man who turns aside from external occupations is attending to his prayer.

Internal attention excludes all interior distractions or wanderings of the mind to things which have no connection with prayer. Interior attention may be concentrated on any of the following three objects : 1. the words of the prayer, so that the words are pronounced correctly (material or superficial attention) ; 2. the meaning of the words (literal or intellectual attention) ; 3. the purpose of prayer, i.e., the worship of God (spiritual or mystical attention).

This third form of attention is more perfect than the others, whereas the second is more perfect than the first. Interior attention may be either actual, virtual, or habitual. Actual attention is present when a person here and now attends to his prayer ; virtual attention is present when previous actual attention has never been revoked even though here and now there exists voluntary distraction. Habitual attention hardly deserves to be called attention, since in effect no attention exists but only a certain inclination towards it. There are two points of agreement between authors, one point of disagreement.

  1. All are agreed that at least some attention (either internal or external) is essential for prayer, because that which is done without any attention is not a human act and, a fortiori, not prayer.
  2. It is also agreed that for mental prayer some interior attention is necessary since mental prayer is of its nature an act of the mind. ‘ But the form of attention required for vocal prayer is a matter of dispute, although its outcome has a practical bearing on the recitation of the Divine Office especially.

Many authors incline to the view that mere external attention is sufficient e.g Durandus, Lugo, Silvester Prierias, Tamburinus, Elbel, Noldin’ and many recent theologians. ’

The contrary opinion is proposed by Cajetan, Dom. Soto, Reiffenstuel. Suarez, Billuart. St. Alphonsus regards this opinion as the more probable and common.

  1. In practice, seeing that the first opinion is at least extrinsically probable, no one can be accused of not fulfilling the ecclesiastical obligation of reciting the Divine Office or of being obliged to make restitution for the revenue received from his benefice provided he observes external attention and intends to satisfy his obligation. For it is not certain that the Church intends to demand interior attention for the recitation of the Office. Since anyone obliged to recite the Divine Office prays in the name of the Church, any lack of interior attention can be supplied by her.
  2. The essence and, a fortiori, the efficacy of private prayer would seem to be lacking in the absence of all interior attention. Prayer is an act of the practical reason or the raising of the mind to God. But to say that the practical reason can at the same time elicit an act directed towards God (prayer) and a contrary act (such as a voluntary impure thought) is a contradiction.
  • 5 . The Canonical Hours
  1. Different names. Various words have been used by the Church for the Canonical Hours: Collecta ; Agenda; Divina Psalmodia ; Cursus ; Officium Divinum ; Officium ecclesiasticum ; Opus Dei ; Missa ; Vespertina ; Breviarium – The composition of the Divine Office. The Divine Office comprises .
  2. the seven canonical hours, viz. Matins and Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline. ” Predosa is not a distinct hour but it does form part of the Divine Office ;
  3. the Office of the dead to be recited on the Commemoration of All Souls ;
  4. the Litanies recited on the feast of St. Mark and on the Rogation Days : Pius X, Const. “ Divino afflatu,” Nov. 1, 1911, n. 3. (Acta Ap. Sedis, III, 646.)

Note. The “ Aperi ” and the “ Sacrosanctae ” prayers are not integral parts of the Office, but they are useful acts of devotion.

Nowadays in the Roman rite there is no obligation to recite : a) the Office of Our Lady, b) the Office of the Dead (except on the day already mentioned), c ) the Penitential Psalms, d) the Gradual Psalms : Pius X, Const. “ Divino afflatu,” Nov. 1, 1911, tit. VIII (Acta Ap. Sed. Ill, 646).

  1. Which persons are under a grave obligation to recite the Divine Office ’
  2. All clerics in major Orders (c. 135) who have not been lawfully reduced to the lay state.
  3. All beneficiaries, even if they are not in major Orders (c. 1745).
  4. All religious of either sex who are solemnly professed, provided they are obliged to sing Office in choir (c. 610, § 3).

All theologians teach that the obligation to recite the Divine Office is grave although it permits of venial transgression. Therefore anyone who omits a notable part of the Office without excuse commits serious sin. One little Hour or its equivalent is considered a notable part.

The obligation of beneficiaries. Beneficed clergy, such as parish priests, bishops, canons, etc., who deliberately omit a notable part of the Divine Office commit grave sin and are bound to make restitution by giving a proportionate amount of their income to church funds or to the diocesan seminary or to the poor (c. 1475, § 2). They must hand over all the revenue of their benefice if they possessed a simple benefice, but only a half or a quarter if the benefice was conjoined with the care of souls.

The obligation of religious. By common law religious who are not clerics and lay sisters are not obliged under pain of sin to recite the prayers prescribed by their Rule. The same applies to religious with simple vows who are obliged to sing Office m choir ; they are not bound to recite the Divine Office privately under pain of sin. More recent Congregations have no obligation binding under pain of sin to recite the Office of Our Lady. On the other hand, religious of either sex who are solemnly professed and obliged to sing Office in choir have a grave obligation to recite the Divine Office not only in choir but also in private.

  1. The form of the Divine Office is seriously violated (unless there is a legitimate excuse) in the following ways :
  2. if the rite is changed by using any other than the prescribed breviary (cf. S.R.C. January 27, 1899) ;
  3. if the Office is recited otherwise than in Latin — at least, if one belongs to the Latin rite ;
  4. if the Office recited is substantially different both in its quantity and quality from that prescribed. The character of the Office for the day is usually given in a Calendar or Directory.

Beneficiaries and all clerics attached to a Church are bound at all times and in all places to recite the Office of their own Church. Other secular clerics may follow the Calendar of the diocese in which they are ; they are obliged to do so if they have a quasi-domicile in that diocese. Regulars and exempt religious must follow their own Calendar.

When the wrong Office is recited involuntarily , i.e. through error, the following rules are to be observed:

  1. The accidental substitution of one Office for another satisfies the precept, but if the wrong Office is notably shorter than that prescribed some compensation must be made. The substitution of one Hour for another is not valid, so that, for example, Terce recited twice is no substitute for Sext.
  2. When the error is discovered it should be corrected at once. This is a probable opinion. Therefore a cleric who discovers that he is saying the wrong Office should turn to the corresponding place in the correct office.
  3. One mistake is not corrected by another. This again is a probable opinion. Thus if the wrong Office has been recited, exactly the same Office should be repeated on the day for which it is prescribed.
  4. The manner of recital. In order to satisfy the ecclesiastical precept perfectly, the Divine Office should be recited (privately),
  5. in its correct order and in a suitable place and position, but excuses are easily admitted ;
  6. at its correct time. There is a grave obligation to complete the Divine Office before midnight of the current day. All other directions regarding the time of recitation easily admit of excusing causes. The private recitation of Matins and Lauds may be anticipated from 2 p.m. of the previous day (S.R.C. May 12, 1905) ;
  7. in its entirety — that is to say, omitting no part or word or syllable of the Office. However it is permissible to recite the psalms alternately with another, even if the latter is a lay-person ;
  8. continuously, viz. without interruption in any Hour of the Office, but excusing causes are easily admitted ;
  9. orally, and not merely mentally. This obligation is grave, unless one enjoys a contrary privilege ;
  10. with the requisite attention and intention (cf. n. 375).
  11. Reasons excusing from recital are threefold :
  12. physical impossibility, such as blindness, grave illness ;
  13. moral impossibility, viz. grave inconvenience arising from the recitation of office, such as the omission of other most pressing duties ;
  14. legitimate dispensation which the local Ordinary or religious prelate may grant to their subjects for a short period.

Art. 3. Adoration

  1. Definition. In its general meaning adoration is the honour paid to another because of his superior excellence. There exist three types of excellence : divine, created supernatural, created natural ; and, therefore, there are three corresponding forms of adoration : the adoration of God known as latria, the worship due to the angels and saints which is called dulia, and the worship paid to outstanding men or civil honour. In its strict meaning as used today adoration is the supreme honour due to the divine excellence alone.

Kinds. Since adoration is a form of worship it would be useful to mention some of the more usual types of worship.

  1. Worship is absolute if offered to persons because of their internal excellence ; it is relative if offered to things because of their close connection with a person possessing excellence, such as a crucifix or an image.
  2. Worship is public if offered in the name of the Church by persons lawfully deputed to do so and by acts prescribed by the Church (liturgical worship) ; it is private if offered in the name of the individual (c. 1256).
  3. Worship may be either latria, hyperdulia, dulia, or civil. Hyperdulia is the worship due to Our Lady on account of her unique excellence. The other forms of worship have been explained already.
  4. Principle, i. Supreme absolute worship (latria) is due to God alone and to Christ our Lord ; supreme relative worship is paid to the Cross and to other instruments of the Passion and also to images of God and of Christ.
  5. A lesser form of absolute worship — dulia — is due to the angels and Saints ; relative worship of the same kind is offered to the relics and images of Saints and angels.
  6. A special form of absolute worship — hyperdulia — is due to the Mother of God, and a relative form of this worship is offered to her relics and images. All the points mentioned in this principle are sufficiently evident from what has been said already regarding the definition and kinds of worship.

Art. 4. Vows

Here will be considered : 1. the nature and kinds of vows ; 2. the subject of vows ; 3. the matter of vows; 4. obligation of vows ; 5. cessation of vows through internal causes ; 5. cessation of vows or their obligation through external causes, viz. through annulment, dispensation, commutation.

  • 1 . Nature and Kinds of Vows
  1. Definition. A vow is a promise made to God concerning something that is possible, good, and better than its opposite (c. 1307, § 1).

Three things are required to complete the essential nature of a vow :

  1. a) a strict promise, so that a mere resolution would not suffice ;
  2. b) a promise made to God and not to the Saints ; therefore a vow is a genuine act of adoration which cannot be offered to the Saints. Nevertheless a vow may be made in honour of the Saints in the same way as the sacrifice of the Mass is offered.
  3. c) a promise relating to a possible good which is better than its opposite — namely, to an object which considering all the circumstances is not only possible to the person making the vow but is also better than its opposite. Therefore although it is true that the married state objectively considered is not better than celibacy, nevertheless it may be better for the individual and therefore could be the object of a strict vow.

Moral usefulness. Vows prudently made for the purpose of worshipping God are morally good and extremely useful to man. This is the Catholic view as opposed to that of many Protestants, Quietists, and Liberal theologians. For a vow “is a happy necessity which compels to better things ” (St. Augustine) ; moreover it invests the acts of other virtues with greater merit, since there is the additional merit flowing from the virtue of religion.

  1. Kinds. 1. In respect of their object vows are : a) personal if they have as their chief obligation the performance or omission of some action by the individual, such as the vow to pray or to refrain from games ; b) real, if they are primarily intended to bind a person to devote some object to a specific purpose, such as the vow to give alms ; c) mixed, if they are partly personal, partly real, such as the vow of making a pilgrimage and of offering a gift.
  2. In respect of their duration vows are either temporary if they endure for a stated period of time, or perpetual if one promises to observe them for life.
  3. In respect of the way in which they are made vows are either absolute if made with no condition attached, or conditional if they are binding only when a stated condition is verified, such as the vow of going on a pilgrimage if I recover my health. If a person vows to inflict some punishment on himself if he commits a specified fault in the future, the vow is said to be penal.
  4. In respect of their form vows are either expressed in a set formula of words, or are implied (tacit) in some action freely performed to which a vow is conjoined, such as the so-called tacit religious profession or the reception of the subdiaconate to which the vow of chastity is attached.
  5. In respect of their acceptance by the Church vows arc either private if made without any intervention on the part of the Church, or public if they are made with the authority and intervention of the Church, such as the normal vows taken in approved Religious Institutes.

Public vows are further distinguished into simple vows which are taken a) in all approved religious Congregations, and b) in religious Orders prior to solemn profession ; and solemn vows which according to the present discipline of the Church are taken a) in religious Orders after the third year of simple vows, b) by certain members of the Society of Jesus, and c) by subdeacons of the Latin rite in respect of the vow of chastity! Authors arc not agreed regarding the precise essential difference between solemn and simple vows. The better view would seem to be that proposed by St. Thomas who states that the essence of a solemn vow consists in a certain spiritual consecration and surrender of the person making the vow which the Church then accepts in the name of God; simple vows contain nothing more than a spiritual surrender of the individual.

  • 2. Subject of Vows
  1. Since the primary purpose of vows is to confirm the will in goodness, no one whose will is already confirmed in good (or even in evil) is a fit subject for vows. Therefore neither Christ nor the angels and Saints in Heaven nor the damned in Hell make a vow. But all men (including non-Catholics) can make vows provided a) they have the perfect use of their reason, b) they have the intention of making a vow, c) they have, sufficient freedom and deliberation, d) they are not forbidden by positive law. — This is the prescription of Canon law, c. 1307, § 3 : “All persons having sufficient use of reason in proportion to the object of the vow can make a vow unless forbidden by law.”
  2. Perfect use of reason is required by the person making a vow in order that the vow be valid. All who at the moment of making a vow are capable of committing grave sin are judged to have perfect use of their reason, seeing that a person who can dedicate himself to the service of the devil through grave sin can certainly attach himself to God through a genuine vow.
  3. The intention or desire of making a vow is essential to its validity, and thus a. fictitious vow (one made externally without any internal intention) is null and void. The intention need not be actual and explicit ; a virtual and implicit intention is quite sufficient, such as is usually present in the reception of the subdiaconate. An interpretative or indirect intention would not be sufficient.
  4. There must be sufficient deliberation and freedom, because without these the person would be considered as imposing on himself such a grave obligation implicit in vows. It is the common teaching of theologians that for the validity of vows there is required that amount of deliberation and knowledge which is necessary for entering upon an onerous contract or any serious undertaking. Deliberation and knowledge are opposed by error, and freedom is either destroyed or diminished by fear.
  5. a) Substantial error affecting either the substance of what is promised or an essential condition invalidates a vow. The same applies to error regarding the purpose of the vow. Thus, if the chief motive for making a vow does not exist, the vow itself ceases to bind ; for example, if someone promises to make a pilgrimage for tile recovery of his father whom he believes to be ill whereas at the time the vow is made the father has died, the vow would be invalid.
  6. b) Accidental error relating to accidental conditions does not invalidate a vow but it does enable the vow to be easily dispensed or commuted.
  7. c) There are two instances in which fear invalidates a vow : 1. when the fear is so grave that it disturbs the use of reason ; 2. when grave fear was unjustly inflicted to force die making of the vow (c. 1307, § 3).

Although some authors (Busembauin, Navarrus) are of the opinion that any fear — even light fear— invalidates a vow, the truer and more common opinion is that a private vow is not invalidated a) by grave fear which results from natural causes or which has been justly inflicted, such as fear caused by the danger of shipwreck or of illness ; b) by light fear (St. Alphonsus, Theol. mor. bk. 3, n. 197). — Whenever fear exercised some influence on the making of a vow, the latter is easily dispensed.

  1. Prohibition of certain vows by ecclesiastical law.
  2. a) The Church makes many persons incapable of taking public vows in religious Orders and Congregations, and therefore she has laid down many conditions for the validity of such vows. These conditions are discussed fully by canonists, c.g. in the author’s Man. iur. can., q. 213.
  3. b) Regulars under the vow of obedience are not permitted to make a private vow which is contrary to the will of their superior or to their professed Rule.
  4. c) All private vows made by professed religious can be rendered void by their superiors (cf. below, in the section on annulment), with the exception of the vow of entering a stricter Order.
  5. d) Private vows made by professed religious and not annulled by their Superiors are certainly valid, although normally inadvisable.
  • 3. Matter of Vows
  1. The matter or object of vows must be a) possible, b) morally good, c) better than its contrary.
  2. a) The matter of vows must be possible, since no one has the power to bind himself to what is impossible.

Thus a vow made by a poor man to give a large alms is impossible and thus invalid. Similarly the vow to avoid all sin — even semi-deliberate venial sin — is invalid.

  1. b) The matter of a vow must be morally good and pleasing to God, since a vow is an act of worship of God and God is not to be worshipped by acts which are morally evil or even indifferent and useless. Therefore the vow to give an alms in order to take unjust revenge on one’s enemy is invalid.
  2. c) The matter of a vow must be better than its contrary — that is to say, the vow must not prevent a person from performing something that is even better than the vow. Not only good acts which are counselled and works of supererogation but also deeds that are already of obligation may form the matter of vows. Thus a vow made by a person addicted to drink that he will not drink to excess again is valid.

Note. It is not required that what is promised by vow should be absolutely and objectively better than its omission ; it is sufficient if it is relatively better for the individual making the vow. Therefore, although, objectively speaking, virginity is better than marriage, nevertheless in the concrete marriage may be better for the individual. Such a man could make a vow to marry, as indicated already (n. 383).

  • 4. Obligation of Vows
  1. 1. The nature of the obligation.

Principle. The obligation of every valid vow is one of religion and binds no one else except the person who makes it (c. 1310, § x).

Since a valid vow is of the nature of an obligatory promise, it necessarily binds the person who makes it. Furthermore since it is a personal promise the obligation does not affect anyone apart from the person who makes it nor can it be fulfilled by a different person. Thus, for example, if a father makes a vow to fast, his son cannot fulfil the vow for him ; if a community vows to fast on a certain day (as, for instance, in Rome on the Vigil of the Purification), their descendants may be bound to fast in virtue of a particular statute or lawful custom but they are not obliged by the original vow.

Although real vows do not impose an obligation in religion on the heirs, nevertheless there are occasions when justice requires their fulfilment since they are to some extent burdens forming part of the inheritance. Real vows can be fulfilled by a person other than the one making the vow even during the latter’s lifetime. Thus, for instance, a man who vows to give an alms can ask someone else to give it in his place. In such circumstances the substitute is not fulfilling the vow as such but providing the matter promised.

  1. Is the violation of any vow an act of sacrilege ? Cajetan replies in the affirmative. Others maintain more correctly that only the violation of public vows taken in religion involves sacrilege. Others think that in addition the violation of even a private vow of chastity partakes of the malice of sacrilege. The discrepancy between these views is one of terminology. Every serious violation of a vow in grave matter is a mortal sin against the virtue of religion.
  2. 2. The gravity of the obligation.

Principle. The gravity of the obligation of a vow depends on a) the gravity of the matter, and b) the intention.

A vow is, in a certain sense, a private law. Now the extent of a law’s obligation depends on the gravity of what is commanded and also on the intention of the legislator who has the power to command grave matter under a light obligation but not light matter under a grave obligation — such a procedure being irrational.- — Public vows taken in religious Institutes and in the reception of the subdiaconate relate to matters which are grave in themselves and these cannot be vowed under a light obligation since grave harm would be caused to ecclesiastical discipline.

The determination of grave matter. The matter of a vow is regarded as grave if it would have been imposed as grave by the Church.

It depends very much on the purpose and circumstances of the law as to what constitutes grave matter in ecclesiastical law. A person is considered to have undertaken a serious matter if, for instance, he vows to say the Rosary or to fast on one day.

In real vows grave matter is considered by some authors to be that which would be grave in cases of injustice. However this rule cannot be applied too rigidly, since it would mean that one would have to distinguish between absolutely grave and relatively grave matter in the violation of a vow, as occurs in the violation of justice, which no one does.

In real vows (but not in personal vows) slight matter can coalesce and become grave, so that a person who on several occasions violates a real vow in a trifling matter may at length be guilty of grave sin. For example : if a man vows to give a small alms to the poor each week and then fails to fulfil his vow during an entire year, he would be guilty of grave sin. On the other hand, if a person makes a vow to give a small alms each Saturday having as his chief intention the honouring of Our Lady and then overlooks the vow for twelve months, it is probable that this matter would not coalesce because the vow may be personal rather than real and attached to a particular day.

  1. 3. The fulfilment of the obligation.

Principle. Vows must be fulfilled in accordance with the intention existing at the time of making the vow. In doubt, the same rules are to be used as for the interpretation of laws.

A vow resembles a law in which the person making the vow is himself the legislator who is free to determine for himself and to define all the circumstances of the obligation.

Special attention must be given to the time of fulfilling the vow and to the obligation attached to conditional, disjunctive, penal and doubtful vows.

  1. a) The time of fulfilment.
  2. A negative vow (such as the vow not to frequent public-houses) binds on all occasions in exactly the same way and never ceases to bind, just as a negative law.
  3. If the time for fulfilling the vow was specified by the person making the vow, it must be fulfilled at that stated time, but there is no necessity to anticipate the time even if it is foreseen that the vow cannot be fulfilled at its proper time ; for instance, if a young man promises to make a pilgrimage in October, he is not bound to make it in September even though he knows that he will be prevented in October owing to his military service.
  4. Culpable neglect in not fulfilling the vow at the stated time is sinful, but there is no further obligation to fulfil it if the specified time was intended to be the limit of the obligation; for example, if a man vows to fast each Saturday in honour of Our Lady, he is not obliged to renew the fast on Monday having failed to fulfil it on Saturday. But if the stated time was not intended to terminate the obligation but merely to urge the fulfilment of the vow, then the vow must be satisfied at a later date and any appresiable delay would be grievously sinful. If the delay in fulfilling a vow results in some depreciation of its value — as may happen if one postpones entry into the religious life — then according to St. Alphonsus a delay of six months ( which has no excusing cause) constitutes grave matter. But if the delay makes little difference to the original vow, then according to many authors any amount of delay in fulfilling the vow never exceeds a venial sin.
  5. If no time was stated for fulfilling the vow it should be fulfilled as soon as possible : “ If thou makest a vow to the Lord thy God, do not defer payment of it ” (Deut. xxiii, 21).

393 – The obligation of conditional, disjunctive, penal and doubtful vows.

  1. A conditional vow is binding only if the condition is verified according to the strict meaning of the words used ; it is lawful to use any just means (but not unjust means) to prevent the condition being fulfilled.
  2. A disjunctive vow is not binding unless the alternatives are suitable matter for a vow and are subject to the free choice of the person making the vow. Consequently if prior to the actual choice of one of the alternatives the other has become inculpably impossible, the vow ceases to bind. In such disjunctive vows special attention must be given to the intention of the person making the vow ; if the intention is clear, the vow must be fulfilled in accord with that intention and not according to the material sense of the words.
  3. Penal and doubtful vows must be interpreted strictly in accordance with the rules set forth in the following paragraph.
  4. For the interpretation of vows the following rules are to be used :

First rule. A vow must be interpreted in the first place in accordance with the express or rightly presumed intention of the person who makes the vow.

A vow is in the form of a private law which has for its legislator the person making the vow, and the best interpretation of law is that which conforms to the express or rightly presumed intention of the legislator.

Second rule. When the intention is not clear and cannot be prudently presumed, the vow should be interpreted in accordance with the common practice of men or the general usage of the Church.

Thus a person who makes the Rosary the object of a vow may recite it with a companion, since this is common custom and the practice of the Church ; a person who vows to fast for a month need not fast on Sundays.

Third rule. In doubt as to the existence or extent of a vow one may follow the more benign interpretation.

The obligation of a vow cannot be presumed but must be proved and “ in obscure matters the least possible should be observed ” (Reg iur 30 in VI.).

  • 5. Cessation of Vows through Internal Causes

Introductory. A vow may cease for some internal reason (viz. through its matter changing or its principal reason failing), or through some extrinsic cause, viz. by annulment, dispensation, or commutation (cf. c. 1311). First to be considered is the cessation of vows through internal causes.

  1. General rule. A private vow ceases through intrinsic causes when there occurs such a change either in the object promised or in the person himself which would certainly have prevented the making of the vow if it had been present from the beginning.

Thus, for example, a rich man who promises to give an alms each week and then himself falls a victim to poverty, or a man who in good health vows to enter religion and then contracts an incurable disease are no longer bound by their vows.

Note. Public vows (of religion and of the subdiaconate) never cease through intrinsic causes, otherwise religious Institutes and the person making the vow would be subject to much inconvenience.

  • 6. Cessation of Vows through Annulment
  1. Definition. A vow is annulled or suspended by one who has legitimate authority over the will of the person making the vow or at least over the matter of the vow (c. 1312, § 1).

Consequently the act of annulment is an act of authority and not of jurisdiction. A distinction must be made between : a) direct annulment whereby a vow is annulled by one who has authority over the will of the person making a vow, such as the annulment by a father of vows made by his children below the age of puberty ; b ) indirect annulment which is the suspension of a vow by one who has authority over the matter of the vow, such as a master’s suspension of the vows made by his subjects which prevent them from rendering their service.

  1. First Principle. A sufficient cause is required for the lawful annulment of vows but not for their valid annulment.

Certain theologians (St. Antoninus, Cajetan, Suarez) maintain that no sufficient cause is necessary either for the valid or for the lawful annulment of vows, since the superior is always justified in exercising his authority over his subjects because their vows implicitly suppose the superior’s consent. Other theologians (Dom. Soto, Laymann, Lessius) hold the opinion that at least a slight cause is required for the annulment of vows, otherwise the superior would be unjustly preventing due worship given to God through the fulfilment of the vow and would also be impeding his subject’s welfare. This opinion is confirmed in the Code of Canon law, c. 1312, § 1 : “ One who has legitimate authority over the will of a person making a vow can validly annul the vows of the latter and for a just reason can lawfully do so.”

Second Principle. The power oj annulling directly the vows of subjects always remains even if the superior had already permitted or approved such vows ; this is not true of indirect annulment.

The reason for the first part of the principle is that a superior always retains complete authority over his subject’s will, even though he had previously given his permission or approval. With regard to the second part it must be remembered that the power of annulling vows indirectly extends only to the subject-matter of a vow which cannot be reclaimed once it has been given to the free disposal of the person making the vow.

  1. The power of direct annulment.
  2. The Pope and any religious Superior may annul directly the private vows of their professed subjects, with the exception of the vow of entering a more perfect and stricter religious state since each person remains free to choose a more perfect state. Private vows made by a professed religious prior to his profession (whether made while he was in the world or in religion) are suspended as long as the person remains in the religious life (c. 1315)-
  3. Parents (or, in their default, guardians) may annul directly all the vows of their children made before the age of puberty. This power may be exercised not only while the child is below the age of puberty but even afterwards, provided that the vow has not already been ratified by a new vow distinct from the first on attaining the age of puberty.
  4. It is disputed whether a husband may annul directly the vows made by his wife during the time of their marriage. The better opinion would seem to be that the husband has the power of indirect annulment only, since no positive argument can be alleged for the contrary view.
  5. The power of indirect annulment.
  6. The Pope may annul indirectly all vows relating to ecclesiastical property and to other goods over which he has the power of disposal.
  7. Parents may suspend vows made by children who are not yet emancipated, if they impede the free direction of the family, such as the vow of undertaking a distant pilgrimage.
  8. A religious Superior may annul indirectly the vows of novices which interfere with the discipline of the noviciate.
  9. Husband and wife can suspend the vows of the other in so far as they are contrary to marital rights.
  10. A master can annul indirectly vows taken by his servants or subjects if they prevent the rendering of due service.
  • 7 . Cessation of Vows or their Obligation through Dispensation
  1. Definition. A dispensation is the extinction of a vow’s obligation made in the name of God by someone possessing proper jurisdiction.

This definition reveals several points of difference between dispensation and annulment.

  1. A dispensation is given in the name of God, an annulment is granted on the authority of the individual.
  2. Dispensation presupposes jurisdiction, annulment authority.
  3. Dispensations require a just cause, annulments do not — at least for validity.
  4. While dispensations presuppose the consent of the person being dispensed, annulment does not.
  5. Requisites for dispensation. For valid and legitimate dispensation two conditions must be present : a just reason and legitimate power.
  6. Just reasons for granting dispensations are a) the good of the Church; b) the necessity or good of the person making the vow, such as the great difficulty which he experiences in keeping the vow or the risk which he runs of breaking it. However, the superior may always dispense where the existence of a just reason is in doubt.
  7. Legitimate power for dispensing from vows certainly resides in the Church which has the power to loosen the bond even of sin itself. The following exercise this power :
  8. a) The Pope can dispense in all vows (with the exception of a vow made in favour of a third party) and he has reserved for himself the power of dispensing :
  9. in all public vows (whether perpetual or temporary) taken in Institutes approved by the Holy See. Public vows made in diocesan Institutes can be dispensed by the local Ordinary (except the perfect vow of perpetual chastity, c. 638) ;
  10. in two private vows, namely those of perfect and perpetual chastity and of entry into an approved religious Order with solemn vows. These vows are considered to be reserved only if they are perfect both in their matter and in their form.

Due to imperfect matter the following vows are not reserved to the Holy See : the vow of virginity, the vow not to marry, the vow of temporary chastity, the vow of receiving Holy Orders, the vow of entering into a religious Institute possessing only simple vows. All these vows fall short of the vow of perfect chastity and the vow of entering a religious Order with solemn vows.

Due to imperfection in their form the following vows are not reserved : a) conditional vows, b) disjunctive vows, c) penal vows, d) vows made under the influence of fear (even if slight), e) vows intended by their agent to be binding under a slight obligation, /) vows already commuted by a legitimate superior into some good work, g) vows made before the age of eighteen (c. 1309).

  1. b) Bishops and other Prelates with equivalent episcopal jurisdiction may dispense for a just reason in all vows not reserved to the Holy See and also in the two private vows already mentioned :
  2. when there is urgent need and recourse to the Holy See is morally impossible, v.g. when everything is ready for a marriage which is to take place immediately ;
  3. when they concern a vow of chastity made previous to marriage ;
  4. when the vows are doubtful ;
  5. when they possess special delegated powers.

Note. Bishops may dispense in the vows of strangers (c. 1313).

4.03. c) Religious confessors who have the privileges of Mendicants may dispense either inside or outside of the confessional from all vows not reserved to the Holy See, with the exception of vows which were principally intended for the benefit of a third party and accepted by the latter. This is the more common and probable opinion. Concerning the vow of chastity regulars may dispense a) in a case of urgent need in preparation for marriage, b) after marriage has taken place, in order that one party may demand the marriage debt of the other.

  1. Parish priests and other ordinary confessors have no power to grant dispensations from vows except by special indult or during the time of a jubilee. When everything is prepared for marriage and the marriage cannot be postponed without probable danger of grave evil until a dispensation has been obtained from the local Ordinary, any confessor may dispense in the vow of chastity and in other vows impeding marriage, provided that the matter is occult (c. 1045, § 3).
  2. In exercising tile power of dispensation the following points should be noted :
  3. It is permissible to use this faculty either inside or outside the confessional unless the contrary is expressly stated. But in normal circumstances it is more fitting that the dispensation be granted inside the confessional.
  4. One may use this faculty even for oneself since it is an act of voluntary jurisdiction, unless, it is expressly prescribed that the dispensation is to be granted in the tribune of confession.
  5. Whoever has the power to dispense in vows may dispense in those to which an oath is attached.
  6. It is rarely expedient to free the person seeking a dispensation from all obligation of his vow ; it is better to commute the matter of the vow into something lighter.
  • 8. Cessation of Vows or their Obligation through Commutation
  1. Definition. Commutation consists in transferring the obligation of a vow from one work to another ; or, in other words, it is the substitution of another good work for that which was promised by vow under the same obligation. Therefore commutation is no different from partial dispensation of the vo w, if a less difficult work is substituted.

A vow may be commuted a) into a better work, more pleasing to God ; b) into something equally good which affords almost the same difficulty in its fulfilment ; c) into something less good and less difficult.

  1. First Principle. Although the person making a vow may commute the vow into something better or equally good on his own authority, this is not advisable in practice.

He may commute his vow into what is evidently better since God is rightly presumed to consent to any commutation which is of greater benefit to the one who vows and to the worship of God, and a work which is evidently better is certainly of greater benefit to the one who vows and to the worship of God. On the other hand it is positive law (c. 1314) which permits the individual to commute his vow into something equally good. But these forms of commutation are inadvisable in practice since it is often difficult — if not impossible — to decide which work is better or at least equally good, since one must take into consideration not only the nature of the work itself but also all the circumstances affecting the person making the vow.

Note. It is not permissible to commute on one’s own authority’ : 1. vows which are reserved to the Holy See (unless commutation is effected by entry into religion) ; 2. vows made in favour of a third party, once they have been accepted ; 3. the vow of entering a stricter religious Order.

408 Second Principle. Vows cannot be commuted into what is certainly and substantially less good, unless a ) one has special power and b) there exists a sufficient reason.

Such commutation represents a partial dispensation from the original vow and it has been stated already that special faculties and a sufficient reason are necessary for valid and legitimate dispensation from vows. Whoever has the power of dispensing has the power of commutation. But it is self-evident that for commutation a less good reason is required than for complete dispensation.

First corollary. After commutation (even if repeated) it is permissible to return to the original vow, since commutation is a favour which no one is obliged to use, ordinarily speaking.

Second corollary. It the substituted work has become impossible (even if through the fault of the person making the vow) he is not obliged to return to the original vow, provided that the substitution was made by a confessor or legitimate ecclesiastical superior, since the original obligation has been totally destroyed by the legitimate superior’s commutation. Some theologians think it probable that there never exists any obligation of returning to the original vow even when the substitution was performed by the person making the vow, since the original vow or obligation is destroyed by all forms of legitimate commutation.

Art. $. Oaths

  • 1. Definition and Kinds of Oaths
  1. Definition. An oath is an invocation of God s name to hear witness to the truth (c. 1316, § 1).

From this definition it is dear that an oath in itself is not only morally good (which is denied by Anabaptists, Mennonites and Quakers) but also an act of religion. Man being conscious of his own fallibility protests by his oath that God is omniscient and the omnipotent avenger of falsehood.

Kinds, 1. In an assertory oath God is invoked as witness to the truth of a past or present event — v.g. I swear that I did not commit that crime ; in a promissory oath God is invoked to bear witness not only to a future act but also to man’s present intention of doing or omitting something— v.g. I promise I will faithfully fulfil the office I am now undertaking.

  1. An invocatory oath simply invokes God as witness to truth ; an imprecatory oath invokes God not only as witness to the truth but also, expressly, as the avenger of falsehood. In the Old Testament these imprecatory oaths were quite frequent : “ The Lord do so to me and more also ” ; and the oath is now used in the formula : “ So help me God.”
  2. A solemn (judicial) oath is taken with a certain external solemnity, such as with lighted candles, or before the crucifix, or touching the Bible ; a simple oath is taken privately without any solemnity.
  • 2. Conditions required for Validity and Lawfulness
  1. Two conditions are required for an oath to be valid : the intention of taking the oath and a specific formula. For an oath to be lawful there are also required truth, justice, and right judgement. These three latter conditions are known as the attendant circumstances of an oath (comites iurisiurandi).
  2. An actual or virtual intention of taking an oath is absolutely essential for the validity of the oath ; consequently the mere external use of the formula of an oath makes the oath fictitious and is usually a grave sin since it is an idle invocation of God’s witness. I say : usually — because if it is easy to gather from the circumstances that the speaker has no intention of taking an oath no grave sin is committed. Thus, sayings in common use are not genuine oaths : this is as certain as the existence of God, may I die if this is not so.
  3. A specific formula is necessary for an oath to be valid, in which God is invoked either explicitly or implicitly. This is evident from the very definition of an oath. In ecclesiastical law the formula usually employed is : “ So help me God and these holy Gospels.” In civil courts set formulas are usually prescribed but the oaths are not religious oaths if they contain no invocation of God. Thus, for instance, the form used by the Mennonites — I swear by the truth of man — is not a religious oath.
  4. The truth of an oath means that the person taking the oath is not lying. If truth is lacking, then a grievous sin of perjury is committed. Truth not only excludes lying but demands moral certainty of the facts asserted. Thus an oath may not be made while there is doubt or mere probability regarding the truth. Similarly it is never permissible to take an oath which is accompanied by strict mental reservation; mental reservation in the wide sense of the term is also excluded, unless there is grave cause.
  5. Justice as the second accompaniment of an oath requires that nothing unlawful be either asserted or promised. For example, justice is lacking in any oath which concerns calumny, detraction, fornication, etc. Oaths which offend against justice are sinful, and indeed grievously sinful if
  6. a) the injustice committed or about to be committed is itself grave, and

b ) the intention of the person taking the oath was grievously sinful. It is disputed whether it is grievously sinful when the object of the oath is venially wrong, v.g. when it concerns a lie or slight deception. In practice oaths which concern venial sin in the future are rarely oaths in the strict sense, since there is usually lacking the intention of taking an oath.

  1. Right Judgement’s the third accompaniment of a lawful oath, demands due discretion so that there may be present a ) a sufficient cause, and b ) fitting reverence. Absence of this condition will ordinarily be a venial sin since vain use is made of God’s name ; it may become grievously sinful through accidental circumstances, if, for instance, it gives rise to grave scandal or the danger of perjury.
  • 3. Obligation of Oaths

41 1. Introductory. We are chiefly concerned with the obligation of promissory oaths, since assertory oaths in themselves do not bind a person to anything else than to speak the truth. However, if an assertory oath offend against truth or justice, there arises the additional obligation of making reparation for the damage caused, as in any other unjust action.

  1. Principle. A promissory oath which fulfils all the necessary conditions causes a grave or light obligation according as the object promised is grave or light.
  2. a) It is self evident that a genuine obligation is the outcome of an oath due to the fact that if the promise is broken, contempt is shown for God, who was invoked as surety for the promise. Thus God commands: “ Thou shalt perform what thou hast sworn in the sight of the Lord ” (Mt. v, 33).
  3. b) Some authors (Cajetan, Lessius, Concilia) regard every violation of a promissory oath as grievously sinful, inasmuch as it involves perjury ; the more common and true opinion is that the violation of a promissory oath admits of slight matter since the obligation arising from such oaths is less than the obligation of vows which certainly admit of slight matter.

Conditions required for the existence of an obligation.

The object of the promise must be possible and morally good. Therefore any such oath which relates to something impossible, morally evil, or even vain and useless is invalid. The same applies to an oath of fidelity or obedience which is sometimes imposed on subjects and which does not bind if the superior commands something unlawful.

On the part of the person taking the oath there are required : a) the intention to take an oath ; b) sufficient deliberation and freedom ; c) absence of substantial error. Fear which is both grave and unjust does not make an oath invalid but makes it capable of rescission (c. 1317, § 2).

  1. Interpretation of oaths.

First rule. A promissory oath must be interpreted strictly in accordance with the rights and intention of the person who takes it ; if deceit is used, the oath must be interpreted according to the intention of him in whose favour it was taken.

Second rule. Certain limitations are always understood to exist in every promissory oath :

  1. a) if the fulfilment of the promise does not become morally impossible,
  2. b) if my superior permits,
  3. c) unless another remits my obligation by yielding his right to its fulfilment,
  4. d) unless the matter undergoes a notable change,
  5. e) if another person stands by his promises.

Third rule. Generally, a promissory oath follows the nature and conditions of the act to which it has been added.

  1. The obligation of a promissory oath may cease either from internal or external causes. It ceases to be binding from internal causes in almost the same way as a vow — namely, if the object promised changes substantially or if the principal motive ceases to exist.

Extrinsic causes which result in a promissory oath ceasing to bind are :

  1. condonation by him in whose favour the promise was made ;
  2. annulment by a lawful superior, in the same way as the annulment of vows ;
  3. dispensation and commutation, as in vows (cf. c. 1320) ;
  4. relaxation which differs from dispensation to the extent that a dispensation is granted as a favour to the person who took the oath, whereas a relaxation is imposed normally for grave reasons by the person in whose favour the oath was made. It is similar to annulment except that it can be granted by the Pope alone a) if the common good requires it, b) as a punishment for the commission of a crime.
  • 4 . Perjury : the Violation of an Oath
  1. Definition. Understood in its widest sense perjury is identical with any unlawful oath, viz. one that lacks any of the three conditions mentioned above. In its strict sense perjury is a (moral) lie confirmed by oath. But the sin of perjury is not committed by one who under oath asserts something false which he invincibly considers to be the truth.

Principle, 1. Perjury in its strict sense is a mortal sin which admits of no slight matter ; 2. perjury understood in a wide sense is a venial sin if it lacks only the element of right judgement ; 3. if, however, it violates justice it is a grave sin which admits of parvity of matter.

Perjury in its strict sense is a grave sin allowing of no slight matter since it implies a most serious contempt of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Therefore Innocent XI condemned this proposition (24) : *’ To invoke God as witness to a small lie is not so serious an act of irreverence that God can or desires to damn a person.” Those who commit perjury are visited with various punishments by the Church (c. 2323), and suffer imprisonment at the hands of the civil law.

Perjury in its wide sense is venially sinful if it does not violate justice because the irreverence shown to God in this way does not seem sufficient to constitute mortal sin, since there is no direct violation of any of God’s attributes. But it may happen incidentally that an oath which lacks the element of right judgement becomes grievously sinful, e.g. through the scandal which ensues.

If the virtue of justice is violated perjury is a mortal sin, since any violation of that virtue (understood even in its widest sense) is a grave sin which admits of slight matter.

Art. 6. Adjuration

  1. Definition. Adjuration is the use one makes of the reverence , fear or love which another has for the name of God or a holy thing to induce him to do or omit something.

In adjuration, therefore, one person tries to obtain something from another in virtue of the latter’s reverence or fear of God. All who know God may be adjured — that is to say, God Himself, Christ, Our Lady, the Saints, men on earth, the devils.

Adjuration is solemn if made with the ceremonies prescribed by the Church ; otherwise it is simple. It is precatory if made in the form of a request ; it is comminatory (imperative) if accompanied by commands.

Principle. Adjuration which fulfils the requisite conditions is an act of religion and therefore lawful and morally good.

By such an act recognition is made of God’s majesty. Furthermore it is an act which has often been used by the Church.

The requisite conditions for lawful adjuration are the same as those for a lawful oath, viz. truth, justice, right judgement.

Truth demands that the agent should not deceive the individual who is adjured.

Justice demands that he intend something that is lawful.

Right Judgement demands that adjuration should be accompanied by due reverence.

  1. Exorcism. In its strict sense exorcism is the expulsion of the devil from one possessed ; in its wide sense it includes the nullifying of the devil’s influence in any creature. In a solemn exorcism, understood in its strict sense, the directions of the Church must be scrupulously observed. It is of prime importance to obtain the Ordinary’s permission since it is his function to decide whether it is a genuine case of diabolical possession and whether it is fitting to perform the exorcism solemnly (cf. c. 1151 sqq.). Private exorcism may be performed by anyone, but its influence is greater if exercised by one who has received the Order of exorcist.

Art. 7. Sanctification of Sundays and Feasts

This article is divided into three paragraphs : I. nature, origin and utility of this worship ; 2. the precept of hearing Mass — the first part of this worship ; 3. prohibition of servile work — the second part of this worship. In this article will be included everything prescribed by the First of the Ten Commandments and by the First Commandment of the Church.

  • 1 . Nature, Origin and Utility of Sanctifying Feast Days

4×8. Nature and Origin. The precept of sanctifying Sundays and holy days is partly Natural law, partly divine positive law, and partly ecclesiastical law.

  1. a) It belongs to Natural law in so far as it commands a specific time to be devoted to the public worship of God.
  2. b) The divine positive law commands rest from all forms of servile work one day each week for the purpose of giving praise to the Creator ; this is a probable opinion.
  3. c) The precept is part of ecclesiastical law in so far as the Church alone has decided on which days and in what way God is to be worshipped.
  4. The extent of the precept.
  5. Who are obliged by the precept? All baptized persons who have reached the age of seven and have the use of reason (c. 12). Even heretics are bound to observe this precept, but transgressors are frequently excused from formal sin through ignorance.
  6. Which days are to be kept holy ? By common law and according to present discipline all Sundays and the following ten feasts are days of obligation : the Nativity of Our Lord, the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the feast of St. Joseph her Spouse, the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, the feast of All Saints (c. 1247). By local law some of these feasts are excluded and others have been added, v.g. the feast of St. James in Spain. 1
  7. What does Ecclesiastical law require on Sundays and holy days ? Two things : the hearing of Mass and resting from servile and public work (c. 1248).
  8. Utility of the precept.
  9. Man’s natural powers are rested ;

In England, but not in Scotland, the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of St. Joseph are not observed as holy days of obligation.

  1. valuable help is given to man’s spiritual and religious life ;
  2. family life is fostered ;
  3. social worship and universal religion are encouraged.
  • 2. The Precept of Hearing Mass
  1. 1. Gravity and extent of this precept.

All baptized persons who have reached the age of seven and have the use of reason are obliged under penalty of serious sin to hear Mass on Sundays and holy days. Thus imbeciles and children who have not yet attained the use of reason are excluded from the precept. Children who attain the use of reason before the age of seven years are not strictly bound to assist at Mass, since Ecclesiastical law does not bind them (c. 12). — A priest who celebrates Mass (even in a private oratory) satisfies this precept.

For the perfect fulfilment of the precept four things are required : bodily presence, the entire Mass, devout assistance, a proper place.

  1. a ) Bodily presence is considered sufficient if the person hearing Mass is morally united to the celebrant.

Therefore the following satisfy their obligation : a) all who arc in the church itself, even if they are in a side-chapel and cannot see the celebrant, provided that by the sound of the bell or by adverting to the actions of others they realise to some extent what is being done by the celebrant ; b) even those who stand outside the church close to the door (even if it is shut) or who are in some neighbouring building, provided that they have some view of the ceremonies and unite themselves with the celebrant. c) The entire Mass must be heard, viz. from the beginning of Mass up to and including the priest’s blessing.

On those days when the priest celebrates three Masses (Christmas Day and the Commemoration of All Souls) the faithful are not obliged to hear more than one Mass. — Whoever omits a notable part of the Mass does not satisfy the precept and thereby commits grave sin. What constitutes a notable part is not easily determined. Two points are agreed : a) what constitutes a notable part is to be decided not merely from the length of time but more especially from the dignity of the omitted parts ; thus a person who is absent for the Consecration and the Communion, even though he may be present for the rest of the Mass, does not fulfil the precept ; (b) a third part of the Mass constitutes a notable part and is regarded as grave matter. The following are looked upon as slight omissions : everything from the beginning of Mass until the Offertory exclusively ; all that follows the Communion ; everything from the beginning until the Epistle together with all that follows the Communion.

  1. c) A devout and not merely physical assistance is necessary during Mass. Thus there are required : 0) a right intention of worshipping God ; therefore a man who comes to church merely to listen to the music or to meet some girl does not satisfy the precept ; b) proper attention. It is disputed whether internal attention is required in addition to external attention, cf. above in n. 375. The necessary attention would seem to be lacking if a person were to be in the confessional for the whole of Mass or during a notable part. Therefore unless genuine need excuses them, such penitents would be obliged to hear another Mass. Often, however, there does exist such a need, as, for example, in the case of domestic servants or of those who cannot go to confession at any other time.
  2. d) The proper place for hearing Mass is normally a church, or a public or semi-public oratory. 2

A public oratory is a place permanently set aside by authority of the Ordinary for public worship and which has been blessed or even consecrated. Furthermore it is required that any of the faithful should be able to enter it, at least during the time of Mass (c. 1188, § 2).

A semi-public oratory is one which although erected in a somewhat private place or at least not absolutely public is intended to serve the convenience not of some private individual but of some community or gathering ; v.g. chapels in seminaries, ecclesiastical colleges, institutes with simple vows, colleges, hospitals, prisons, houses of bishops and cardinals, etc.

A private oratory is one erected by indult of the Holy Sec in a private house for the convenience of some individual or family. In such an oratory any of the faithful may receive Holy Communion, but only those to whom special permission has been granted can fulfil the precept of hearing Mass. Usually there are many clauses contained in the indult, all of which must be carefully observed. Ordinarily those who are guests of the person to whom such an indult has been granted have permission to fulfil their obligation of hearing Mass in such an oratory, and by the term “ guests ” are understood even those who have been invited to dinner only.

For a just and reasonable cause the Bishop can allow Mass to be said and heard in any suitable place and even in the open, but such a concession can only be granted for a specific case (c. 1194).

  1. 2. Causes which excuse a person from fulfilling his obligation of hearing Mass may be reduced to physical or moral impossibility. Others say that necessity, charity and duty excuse from the obligation. St. Alphonsus rightly declares : “ Any cause which is moderately grave excuses from the precept — namely, any reason which involves some notable inconvenience or harm to mind or body cither of oneself or of another” (Theol. mor. bk. 3, n. 324).

2 The Code of Canon law lays down the following directive (c. 1249) : “ The precept of hearing Mass is fulfilled by a person who assists at the Sacrifice celebrated in any Catholic rite in the open or in any church, or oratory (public or semi-public), and in private cemetery chapels but not in other oratories unless this privilege has been granted by the Holy See.”

  • 3. Prohibition of Servile Work
  1. Distinctions. There are four types of work :
  2. Servile work is that which a) requires mainly bodily activity, b) has as its immediate purpose the welfare of the body, c ) was formerly done by slaves ; e.g. farm work such as digging or ploughing, mechanical work like sewing or making shoes.

N.B. The character of servile work is not determined by the worker’s intention or by the fatigue involved, or by the fact that wages are received, etc., but solely by the nature of the work itself which remains servile even if done out of charity or for the sake of recreation.

  1. Cultural work is that which a ) is the product chiefly of the mental faculties, b) is immediately directed towards the development of the mind, c) used to be performed by persons who were not slaves, such as reading, writing, singing, playing the organ. These acts remain cultural even if energy is lost in their performance and wages received.
  2. Ordinary ( natural ) work is that which is done indiscriminately by all classes and is chiefly intended for the daily sustenance of the body, such as eating, hunting, travelling, cooking.
  3. Judicial and commercial work is that which is transacted in the courts or in the course of public trading, such as sitting in court, defending criminals, buying, selling, leasing, etc.

Note. There are forms of work whose exact nature remains in doubt. In order to solve such doubts one should be guided by the common opinion of men. Thus, for example, rowing is servile work, but common opinion regards it as lawful on Sundays if done for the sake of recreation.

  1. Principle. All servile, judicial and commercial work is forbidden on Sundays and holy days, but cultural and ordinary work is allowed (c. 1248). Any form of servile, judicial or commercial work prevents man from giving sufficient attention to the worship of God, since it absorbs the attention of the mind and tires his body. Other forms of work do not have the same effect. A more lenient attitude towards commercial work is at present in existence, since markets are allowed for the sale of small articles such as flowers or fruit, and private contracts of buying or selling are also permitted.

The prohibition of servile and judicial work is grave but allows of parvity of matter. It is thought that servile work lasting for more than two hours (either continuously or with intervals) without any excusing cause constitutes grave matter and is therefore grievously sinful. But if the work is light in character rather than servile, a space of three hours is considered necessary before grave matter exists.

  1. Causes which excuse from this precept can be reduced to three types : 1. personal need or that of another ; 2. legitimate custom ; 3. legitimate dispensation.

Personal need or that of another sometimes excuses from this precept, as, for example, farmers during harvest-time, the poor, domestic servants, workers responsible for the maintenance of machines in factories. Some necessity’ is thought to exist if there is danger of sinning as the result of idleness.

Custom in certain places excuses hair-dressers, drivers of public vehicles, hunters, fishers, those who sell small articles.

A dispensation in this law may be granted by the Holy See and also in particular cases by bishops, religious prelates, parish priests for their own parishioners (c. 1245). A confessor has no power to dispense in this matter but in doubtful cases he may interpret the law and allow his penitents to undertake necessary’ work.

CHAPTER III. VICES CONTRARY to the virtue of religion

  1. Introductory. The virtue of religion is violated either by’ defect, viz. by irreverence, or by excess, viz., by superstition. The following chapter is divided into ten articles, the first six being devoted to superstition, and the remaining four to irreverence : 1. superstition in general ; 2. idolatry ; 3. divination ; 4. vain observance ; 5. magic and sorcery ; 6. magnetism, hypnotism, spiritism ; 7. tempting God ; 8. blasphemy ; 9. sacrilege ; 10. simony.

Art. 1. Superstition in General

  1. Definition. Superstition is the vice inclining man to render divine worship either to a creature who does not deserve it or in a way contrary to its nature (St. Thomas). This definition will be understood more clearly by considering the various forms of superstition.

There are two specific forms of superstition, each of which admits of further subdivisions .

  1. The first form of superstition consists in worshipping God in an improper manner either by false and pernicious honour or by superfluous honour.

False worship of the true God is offered in various ways, such as desiring to worship God according to Jewish ritual which supposes that Christ is yet to come. Such superstition is essentially a grave sin.

Superfluous worship of God is that which is not suited to the purpose of religion, such as demanding a certain number, arrangement and colour of candles in order to pray. This form of superstition is usually a venial sin. — All modes of worshipping God approved by the Church are free from any suspicion of superstition, v.g. novenas, Gregorian Masses, etc.

  1. The second form of superstition consists in worshipping false gods, or offering to creatures — especially the devil — honour due to God alone. This is the form of superstition exemplified by idolatry, divination, vain observance, etc.

Art. 2. Idolatry

  1. Definition. Idolatry is the worship of idols.

This worship is offered not to the idol or statue itself but to the person or thing represented by the statue, viz. a creature or the devil. Kinds,

  1. Idolatry is material (simulated, external) if honour is paid to the idol externally only and in a fictitious manner ; it is formal (internal) when the honour is internal and genuine.
  2. Formal idolatry is either perfect or imperfect ; it is perfect when the divine worship is offered to a creature by one who regards him as truly divine ; it is imperfect when the worshipper is fully aware that the idol is not divine and yet offers it worship through some evil desire, such as hatred of God or desire to obtain something through the devil.

Moral evil of idolatry. All forms of idolatry, whether material or formal, perfect or imperfect, are grievous sins unless they proceed from invincible ignorance.

Idolatry is most strictly forbidden by the First of the Ten Commandments : “ Thou shalt not have strange gods before me,” and it is an act of open rebellion against the true God.

Art. 3. Divination

  1. Definition. Divination is the prediction of future events through the use of disproportionate means, that is to say, means not instituted by God Himself.

Since no knowledge of future events can be gained by man’s natural powers or from God, the angels or the Saints, it must be that divination derives its inspiration from the devil. Thus it would be fitting to define divination as a form of superstition in which the devil is invoked explicitly or implicitly to aid man to discover the occult. Therefore in all forms of divination there is an explicit or implicit invocation of the devil. There are several different forms : that in which the devil appears in sensible form; dream-omens, necromancy (modern spiritualism) in which the devil is asked to raise from the dead someone who will reveal the occult; ) pythonism, whereby the devil reveals the occult through living persons who are possessed; geomancy in which the devil instructs men through figures or signs appearing in some earthly body. Rotating tables maybe regarded as a type of geomancy when the influence of the devil is actually present in such phenomena, although this appears to be rare. Casting lots is regarded as another form of divination if a person presumes to foretell the future from arbitrary signs, such as the throw of dice, cards, etc. However one may cast lots in order to divide things or duties, etc. 1

The use of the divining rod usually cut from the hazel or willow-tree is permitted for the discovery of underground water or metals but not for the investigation of the occult, since it is possible that there may be a natural explanation for the influence of water and metals on this rod.

  1. Moral evil of divination. Divination undertaken with an explicit invocation of the devil is essentially a grievous sin ; that which is accompanied by an implicit invocation of the devil is a grave sin which admits of slight matter.

The reason for the first part of the statement is that by such divination worship due to God alone is being offered to the devil, the implacable foe of God. Moreover there is imminent danger of apostasy and other grave sins. The reason for the second part is that in such forms of divination, although divine worship is not offered to the devil, intercourse with him is encouraged. — This form of divination is a venial sin if it is done a) through ignorance or stupidity, 6) for fun or pleasure, c) without firm conviction. No specific distinction is made between the various forms of divination— whether accompanied by explicit or implicit invocation of the devil — since they are all reducible to worship of a false deity. Nevertheless in confession it should be stated whether the invocation of the devil was explicit or implicit, 1. since the confessor is then able to decide more easily the gravity of the sin committed, 2. since many other sins usually accompany divination accompanied by explicit invocation of the devil, such as blasphemy, sacrilege, abuse of sacred things.

Art. 4. Vain Observance

  1. Definition and kinds. Vain observance is a form of superstition which in order to obtain some favour uses means not suited to that purpose either by nature or by the prescription of God or His Church.

There is only an accidental difference between divination and vain observance ; in the former one invokes the aid of the devil in order to obtain knowledge of the future or of the occult, whereas in the latter other external favours are sought, such as good health.

Older theologians distinguished three types of vain observance :

  1. that which was concerned with obtaining knowledge quickly and without labour by using totally unsuitable means ( ars notoria). St. Thomas is at pains to point out the futility of such practices, since the devil is unable to communicate knowledge quickly ;
  2. that which was concerned with curing sickness through unsuitable means ( ars sanitation) , such as wearing an amulet or other charms.
  3. that which was concerned with the observation of chance events in order to forecast something propitious or unpropitious and thus adjust one’s behaviour accordingly ( obseivantia eventuum), as practised, for instance, by a person who firmly believes that some evil is to befall him as the result of sitting at table with thirteen guests.

The moral evil of vain observance is of the same species as divination since both of them violate the virtue of religion in the same way.

Art. 5. Magic and Sorcery

  1. Definition. In its general sense magic is the art of producing surprising results through the use of occult means.

White magic makes use of natural means, black magic resorts to the aid of the devil. Magic used in order to harm persons is termed sorcery and according to the ancients use was made either of a philter (a love-potion) in order to arouse feelings of intense love or hatred towards a person, or of actions which inflicted bodily hurt on a person through the aid of the devil.

Moral evil, a ) White magic is perfectly lawful in itself; b) black magic is a grave sin of superstition which differs only accidentally from divination and vain observance ; c) sorcery violates charity and justice in addition to being an act of superstition. — All these statements should be evident from what has been said previously.

Art. 6. Magnetism, Hypnotism, Spiritism

  1. 1. Magnetism is either terrestrial or animal. The former is a physical force very similar to electricity. The latter (and this is the only type considered here) is a force probably residing in the nerves of man capable of curing sickness and producing other physical effects by the use of external attraction only. This power is frequently used nowadays by mesmerists, and objectively considered it does not contain anything unlawful in itself. It is nothing more than one of the many ways of curing diseases, like electropathy, homeopathy, etc. But it is often unlawful for incidental reasons, when, for example, it is practised by men without the requisite knowledge or who are lacking in moral principles, or who use the power for wrong purposes.

Many of the phenomena associated with “ rotating tables ” may perhaps be explained by means of this magnetic force (cf. the author’s Man. Theol. mor. II, 521).

  1. 2. Hypnotism. Although some authors are inclined to regard hypnotism as merely a higher form of magnetism, nevertheless there is a real distinction to be made between them. Magnetism makes use of purely corporeal attraction, hypnotism may resort to the use of many other means, such as looking fixedly at a bright object, or the art of suggestion, etc. Usually hypnotism produces artificial sleep in which the patient is subject to the will of the hypnotist. Waking suggestion is to be considered one form of hypnotism in which the patient carries out necessarily the commands of the agent without the use of true hypnosis. The effects of hypnotism are indeed amazing, e.g. catalepsy, lethargy, double personality which can even result in a girl regarding herself as a male, etc. Although some of the phenomena of hypnotism are difficult to explain, there is no need to attribute them to the intervention of the devil.

Principle, a) In itself hypnotism is not forbidden, b) but it is often unlawful through abuse.

This is the more common opinion held to-day. It is evident from what has been said that neither the means used nor the purpose of hypnotism are in themselves unlawful. Neither can the objection be made that it is forbidden to deprive oneself of the use of reason by force or to subject one’s will to the free choice of another, since for a reasonable cause there is nothing to prevent one relinquishing the use of one’s reason and will for a time, as happens, for instance, in natural sleep and in sleep induced by drugs.

However, hypnotism is often unlawful because of abuse since it is still shrouded in uncertainty, beset with dangers, open to abuse and is often of little value.

  1. 3. Spiritualism— understood in its strict sense — is unlawful communication with the spirits of another world. On rare occasions this communication is attempted by means of hypnotism, resulting in phenomena peculiar to hypnotism and spiritualism. In spiritualism strictly so-called it is claimed that communication is established with spirits of another world — that is to say with spirits of the known dead. These spirits sometimes produce what is called materialisation, when they appear in a sensible and visible form so that they can even be photographed. Mediums are usually employed — persons who have a special power of communicating with these spirits which they materialise by falling into an artificial sleep (a trance). On more than one occasion it has been proved that some of the most sensational mediums were impostors who exercised great skill in producing amazing effects but with purely natural powers. Therefore some authors are inclined to regard ail spiritualistic phenomena as frauds and inventions.

Morality. Spiritualism strictly so-called, viz. unnatural and useless communication with the spirits of another world, is forbidden.

The phenomena of spiritualism, whether genuine or not, always remain forbidden. For if the phenomena are genuine and the spirits of another world do appear, they are certainly not good spirits, who would never produce such frivolous and often irreligious and immoral effects. Therefore they proceed from the devil and thus spiritualism is merely one form of forbidden communication with the devil. If the phenomena of spiritualism are not genuine, spiritualism is still forbidden as giving rise to scandal, misconceptions, nothing useful, and dangers to religion. Therefore it is forbidden to be present at a stance and a fortiori to act as a medium. (Cf. Holy Office, April 17, 1917-)

So long as there is no scandal, co-operation or approval, it might be permissible for a trustworthy person to attend spiritualistic stances for the sole purpose of discovering the exact nature of spiritualism, which is frequently little more than a scries of deceptions practised by skilled persons.

Art. 7. Tempting God

  1. Definition. Tempting God consists in any word or deed whereby a person tries to discover whether God possesses or exercises a certain perfection, such as knowledge, power. Therefore to tempt God is the same as to hope for an unusual manifestation of God.

Kinds. Tempting God is formal (explicit, express) when there is an explicit intention to put one of God’s perfections to the test ; it is virtual (interpretative) when the intention is implicit in some action or omission.

  1. Morality. Formal tempting of God is a grave sin which does not admit of slight matter ; implicit tempting of God may be a venial sin.

Explicit tempting of God implies two sins — one against faith, and the other against religion, for it implies at least some doubt regarding one of the divine attributes. Virtual tempting of God is contrary to the virtue of religion and frequently is caused by excessive self-confidence. Sometimes the gravity of the sin has to be judged by the accompanying violation of other virtues. Thus, for example, a priest commits grave sin if he neglects to prepare for preaching, hoping to receive special help from God. Not only is he tempting God but also giving grave scandal.

Art. 8. Blasphemy

  1. Definition. Blasphemy is contumely against God.

It is primarily a sin of the tongue since blasphemy in its proper and strict sense is committed by words alone, but generally speaking other forms of contumely are included under blasphemy so that some authors speak of blasphemy of the heart (blasphemous thoughts), blasphemy of the tongue (blasphemous words) and blasphemy in action (such as spitting towards heaven).

Kinds, 1. Heretical blasphemy contains formal heresy, non-heretical blasphemy contains material heresy. Heretical blasphemy colours the calvinistic assertion that God is the cause of sin.

  1. Non-heretical blasphemy is simple when there is derision of God ; it is imprecatory when it contains a desire that evil should befall Him, v.g. may God perish. The former type of blasphemy was committed by the Jews when they said to Christ : “ Come now, thou who wouldst destroy the temple and build it up in three days, rescue thyself.”
  2. Blasphemy is immediate when it is directed against God Himself, mediate when it is directed primarily against sacred things or persons related to God.
  3. Its morality. Blasphemy is of its nature a grievous sin and only an imperfection in the act itself can render it venially sinful.

All blasphemy is a grave violation of charity towards God, frequently even of faith itself. The enormity of this sin can be realised by studying the serious punishments a) inflicted by God in the Old Testament (the punishment of death), b) inflicted by the Church (cf. c. 2323), c) inflicted by many civil laws (imprisonment). Frequently blasphemy is a venial sin — especially in the uneducated — because of imperfection in the act, that is to say through want of sufficient advertence and consent.

Practical rules for deciding in particular cases whether blasphemy is grievously sinful. There are three chief points to be considered :

  1. the intention of the person committing the blasphemy ;
  2. the natural meaning of the words ;
  3. the common opinion of the district.

Remedies. I. The blasphemer should be earnestly advised to consider the gravity of the sin of blasphemy and the folly of directing contumely against the supreme God.

  1. In order to overcome his habit it is most useful to impose on himself small acts of ordinary penance or ejaculatory prayers to be used each time that he inadvertently resorts to blasphemy.

One should carefully distinguish from blasphemy cursing and taking the name of God in vain.

  1. To curse is to invoke evil »n someone. Imprecations of evil may be made against God or holy things or persons, against rational creatures, against irrational creatures, and against the devil.
  2. a) To curse God or holy things or persons is a form of blasphemy, as already stated.
  3. b) To curse rational creatures is normally contrary to charity or justice.
  4. c) To curse irrational creatures, such as the winds or horses, is generally a venial sin of impatience. If these imprecations are uttered for a morally good purpose (v.g. in the course of exorcism) they are not sinful.
  5. d) To curse the devil as the enemy of God and men is lawful. But exclamations which in themselves are not sinful may become unlawful for incidental reasons, such as the danger of scandal.
  6. Taking the name of God or sacred things in vain is in itself veniallv sinful, since it does not cause grave irreverence towards God.

Art. 9. Sacrilege

  1. Definition and Kinds. Sacrilege is the violation of sacred things. Sacred things include also sacred persons and places — anything set aside publicly and by the Church’s authority for the worship of God. Thus we distinguish between personal sacrilege which is the violation of a sacred person, local sacrilege which is the violation of a sacred place, and real sacrilege which is the violation of a sacred thing.

It is important to notice that sacrilege in the strict sense of the word is only committed when there is a grave violation of the sacred thing precisely in its sacred character. Thus, for example, a man who violates in secret the person of a priest commits sacrilege, but not if he violates his good name or his possessions, etc. Slight injury to sacred things, such as talking in a sacred place, are not usually considered acts of sacrilege.

Morality. Sacrilege is a grievous sin against the virtue of religion which admits of slight matter. This is evident from the very meaning of sacrilege. Personal, local and real sacrilege are three distinct species of sacrilege and must be clearly stated as such in confession.

  1. 1. Personal sacrilege may be committed in any of the four following ways :
  2. a) by violating the privilegium canonis — that is to say, by laying violent hands on clerics or religious of either sex at the instigation of the devil. It is necessary that the acts of violence should be in deed (and not merely in word) and that they be grievously sinful (not done merely in playfulness, or in the course of just correction or defence) ;
  3. b) by violating the privilegium fori— that is to say, by unlawful citation of clerics and religious before secular Courts. For it is forbidden to bring clerics and religious before such Courts without first obtaining the permission of the ecclesiastical superior which is granted in some countries in virtue of a Concordat, in other countries each time that it is required ;
  4. c) by violating the privilege of personal immunity — that is to say, by unlawfully demanding from clerics or religious taxes or military service. Many civil governments no longer recognise such immunity and the Church does not always press her claims for fear of causing greater evils;
  5. d) by violating the public vow of chastity— that is to say, by the commission of an act of impurity either by or with a person bound by this public vow. Therefore the sin of sacrilege is committed not only by the cleric or religious sinning against chastity but also by the accomplice.
  6. Local sacrilege which is the violation of a sacred place — a place permanently consecrated or blessed by authority of the Church for the worship of God (c. 1154) — may be committed in three ways :
  7. a) by defilement of a sacred place, such as by the serious and unjust shedding of human blood, homicide even without the shedding of blood (strangulation), putting the church to impious or unseemly use (v.g. using it for markets or secular trading), the burial of an infidel or sentenced excommunicate (c. 1172). These actions must be certain, notorious and committed in the church itself. Therefore the church has not been defiled if the acts were performed in the porch or tower, etc. The sinful wasting of human seed in a sacred place is no longer considered an art of defilement requiring an act of reconciliation since the Code of Canon law is silent on this point, but it still seems that local sacrilege is thereby committed. The same applies to all other external acts of impurity which are grievously sinful, since all such acts show grave irreverence for a sacred place ;
  8. b) by grave theft in a sacred place. Thus it is laid down in the Decretals of Gratian (c. 21, C. 17, q. 14) : “ Sacrilege is committed either by removing something sacred from a sacred place, or by removing something that is not sacred from a sacred place, or by removing something sacred from a place that is not sacred.” Many authors are of the opinion that theft in a sacred place is a grave act of sacrilege only if the stolen property belongs to the sacred place or has been committed to its keeping. St. Alphonsus regards that opinion as being more probable which maintains that every grave theft committed in a sacred place is grave sacrilege ;
  9. c) by violating the immunity of a place— a privilege granted to religious as well as to sacred places providing the right of sanctuary and preventing many forms of profane actions. Religious places are those in which works of piety and mercy are habitually and by appointment performed and which have been erected with the authority or express permission of the bishop, such as monasteries, religious hospitals, clerical seminaries, a bishop’s residence, etc.
  10. Note. Tire actions listed under a) and b) are not sacrilegious unless they are committed strictly within the sacred place itself, viz. within the perimeter of the sacred place or — so far as churches are concerned — within the space enclosed by walls, floor and ceiling. Thus sacrilege is not committed when, for example, human blood is shed in the sacristy or in the porch. On the other hand actions included under c) are sacrilegious even when committed in the immediate precincts of a sacred place. However this violation of the immunity of such places is not of great importance today owing to contrary customs.
  11. 3. Real sacrilege is the use of something sacred for an unworthy purpose. Such sacred things can be reduced to three categories :
  12. the Sacraments and the sacramentals, 2. sacred vessels and church decorations, 3. ecclesiastical property.
  13. The abuse of the Sacraments is the chief form of real sacrilege, such as the invalid reception of the Sacraments, the commission of grave irreverence towards the Blessed Eucharist, etc.
  14. It is gravely sacrilegious to use consecrated sacred vessels for any profane purpose unless there is most serious need. If there exists a reasonable cause it is permitted to use such things for a profane purpose provided that their form has first been completely destroyed, for then it is not the things themselves but rather the material out of which they are made which is being put to secular use. Thus, for example, it is not forbidden when there is reasonable cause to melt down consecrated chalices and use the molten metal for other purposes.
  15. Unlawful seizure of sacred things and Church property is everywhere regarded in Canon law as a form of sacrilege, which will be considered further in the treatise on censures.

Art. 10. Simony

  1. Definition. Simony is the express will of buying or selling ( for some temporal price) that which is spiritual or annexed to something spiritual.
  2. the express will, viz. a deliberate intention, because the sin of simony is already committed in intent, even if it is not practised externally.
  3. of buying and selling : and this includes not only the contract of buying and selling but also any form of onerous contract, such as that of lease or hire. Accordingly a gratuitous contract does not of itself lead to simony. — To determine still further the nature of simony some authors add the words “for some temporal price,” under which are included : i. money and anything which can be valued in money ( munus a maim) ; ii. patronage, praise, commendation, intercession, defence, and in general any form of patronage which is agreed to as a reward for obtaining some spiritual benefit ( munus a lingua) ; iii. any temporal service rendered in return for the acquisition of something spiritual, as happens when a cleric instructs the child of his patron on the understanding that he will be appointed to a parish {munus ab obsequio).
  4. something spiritual or what is annexed to that which is spiritual; this represents the subject-matter of simony. A spiritual thing is that which of its very nature or by ordinance of the Church is set aside for the supernatural welfare of the soul, such as grace, the Sacraments, the power of Orders or of jurisdiction, etc. What is temporal may be annexed to something spiritual in one of three ways : a) antecedently, when what is spiritual is added to some temporal article already in existence ; thus, for example, a chalice first exists as a temporal article before receiving its spiritual consecration ; b) concomitantly, when the temporal and the spiritual exist, so to speak, side by side, such as the effort expended in saying Mass ; c) consequently, when what is temporal is added to something spiritual already in existence ; v.g. the revenue of a benefice which is of a temporal character presupposes the existence of that which is spiritual, viz. the parochial care of souls.

Corollary. It follows that simony consists essentially in establishing an equality between the temporal and the spiritual. Therefore simony is not committed when one spiritual thing is exchanged for another of the same nature.

  1. Kinds, 1. Simony against divine law (sometimes called simony against Natural law) is such as already described ; simony against ecclesiastical law is committed by exchanging ecclesiastical goods in a way contrary to the grave prohibitions of the Church, as, for instance, when one benefice is exchanged for another. Therefore this form of simony is nothing more than a contract made concerning something spiritual or that which is annexed to something spiritual to which the Church has attached a grave prohibition out of reverence for religion (cf. c. 727, § 2).
  2. Simony is either mental, contractual, or real.

Simony is mental when the agreement is purely mental and not revealed externally ; for instance, a cleric serves his patron for a small or practically no salary with the secret intent that his patron will confer a parish on him in return for services rendered. Such simony is a grave sin but in so tar as it is merely internal, it docs not incur any ecclesiastical penalty.

Simony is contractual when a contract has been entered into by both parties but not yet executed of exchanging something temporal for what is spiritual or for what is annexed to something spiritual.

Simony is real when the contract has been executed at least partially by both parties.

  1. Simony is confidential when it concerns ecclesiastical benefices ; it consists in obtaining, conferring or accepting an ecclesiastical benefice with some confidential reservation which may take one of the following forms : a) one person may confer a benefice of another on condition that the benefice will be handed back to the former or to someone else as soon as he becomes capable of holding the benefice which at present he is not (v.g. by reason of lack of age), so that the benefice remains open for himself ; b) when the beneficed cleric before taking possession of his benefice offers it to another on the understanding that once he has handed it over in one way or another he may be allowed to enter his former possession ; c) when one cleric resigns his benefice which he already possesses in favour of another on condition that afterwards either he himself or a third party may return to it ; d) when one person obtains a benefice for another on the understanding that he himself or a third party will receive part of the revenue.
  2. Sinfulness of simony, a) Simony against divine law is always a grave sin against religion ; b) simony against ecclesiastical law is ordinarily a grave sin but may be venial.

All forms of simony against divine law, even in small matters, imply grave contempt for sacred things and therefore for God Himself. The gravity of this sin can be estimated from the punishment inflicted upon Simon Magus and which is still inflicted by the Church on those guilty of the sin. — Simony against ecclesiastical law is a transgression of an ecclesiastical precept which although objectively speaking is grave, yet does allow of parvity of matter. When simony is contrary both to divine and ecclesiastical law it is always grievously sinful and does not admit of slight matter, as is evident.

  1. Principle. Simony against divine law is committed by selling or buying temporal things intrinsically annexed to something spiritual either consequently or concomitantly, but not by buying or selling temporal things which are annexed only extrinsically to something spiritual either antecedently or concomitantly.

Temporal things intrinsically annexed to something spiritual either consequently or concomitantly are inseparably joined to the spiritual and thus are regarded as possessing the same character and therefore are incapable of being sold. Although such things cannot be bought or sold, it is permissible to use them as an occasion for giving and accepting an alms or stipend ; thus, for instance, it is not forbidden to give a stipend for the upkeep of the priest offering Mass.

Temporal things extrinsically annexed to something spiritual cither antecedently or concomitantly arc separable from the spiritual and thus can be bought or sold. Therefore, for example, it is not forbidden to receive something even in the form of a genuine price for any special labour attached to the saying of Mass.

  1. Simony against ecclesiastical law may be committed in various ways of which the following are the more noteworthy :
  2. by giving or taking even when, spontaneously offered the smallest thing on the occasion of an examination tor the obtaining of a parochial benefice (Council of Trent, Sess. 24, c. 18 do reform.) ;
  3. by accepting even spontaneous offerings for the conferment of Orders and the clerical tonsure, for dismissorial or testimonial letters (Council of Trent, Sess. 21, c. 1 de reform.), for testimonial letters of those desiring to enter the religious state (c. 543) ;
  4. by selling ecclesiastical burial (c. 13, X 3, 28). However one may demand some money if a person wishes to be buried in a particular place (but cf. c. 1209, § 1) ;
  5. by selling oil that has been blessed or sacred chrism, even in respect of its mere physical value (Benedict XIV, Const. “ Apostolica,” Feb. 17, 1742) ;
  6. by accepting money for the erection, institution or amalgamation of confraternities, and the acts themselves are thereby rendered invalid (Clement VIII, Const. “ Quaecumque,” Dec. 8, 1604) ; .

by selling rosaries, medals or anything else blessed and enriched ‘• with indulgences ; if such articles are sold they lose all their indulgences (S.C. Indulg. July 10, 1896, and c. 924, § 2). Consequently such articles must be bought or sold before they are blessed. It is likewise sinful to sell relics (c. 1289) ;

  1. by practising any form of sale or exchange of Mass stipends, whether it be genuine or disguised (c. 827, 2324) ;
  2. by selling the right of patronage (c. 1470, § 1, n. 6). It is not forbidden to sell something, such as a castle, to which the right of patronage is attached, provided that the selling price is not increased because of the additional right.
  3. Penalties for simony.
  4. No penalty is incurred by mental simony since this is internal.
  5. The following penalties are attached by law to real simony :
  6. a) The simoniacal contract is null and void and therefore even before judicial sentence the thing given and received must be restored if this is possible and if restitution is not contrary to the reverence due to a spiritual thing. Similarly the revenue obtained from any benefice or office so accepted must be restored ; however the judge or Ordinary may condone wholly or in part the fruits received in good faith (c. 729).
  7. b) Those who are guilty of simony in any ecclesiastical office, benefice or dignity incur excommunication reserved simply to the Holy See ; moreover they are ipso facto deprived of the right of election, presentation, nomination (if they possessed such rights), and, if they are clerics, they are suspended (c. 2392) ;
  8. c) All persons (even of episcopal dignity) who have knowingly promoted others simoniacally to Orders or themselves been so promoted or have thus administered or received the other Sacraments are suspect of heresy ; in addition clerics incur suspension reserved to the Holy See (c. 2371).
  9. d) Those who traffic in indulgences incur ipso facto excommunication reserved simply to the Holy See (c. 2327).
  10. e) Those who act contrary to the statutes regarding Mass stipends and Church taxes incur certain penalties ferendae sententiae (cc. 23 24 and 2408).


The Virtues of Piety, Reverence and Obedience — the Fourth Commandment


  1. Definition. The Latin word pietas is used in three different senses : 1. for religion or divine worship, in which sense it is found used in 1 Tim. iv, 8 : “ Holiness (pietas) is all-availing, since it promises well both for this life and for the next ” ; 2. for kindness and mercy, so that God and the Saints are referred to as “ pii ” : “A gracious and a merciful God” (Eccles. ii, 13) ; 3 . for that moral virtue whereby man honours his parents and his country as the principles of his existence. It is in this sense that piety is defined by St. Thomas : “ Piety consists in a profession of charity for parents and country ” (S.T. II II, q. 101, a. 3, ad 1). There are two acts proceeding from the virtue : loyalty and reverence towards parents and country as joint principles of our existence. Consequently the basis and motive of piety is the close union existing between those united by blood or country. — Piety is a distinct virtue since it possesses its own object and motive, as is evident from previous remarks.
  2. Sins opposed to piety are specifically distinct sins from those which offend against charity or justice. Therefore they must be given distinct mention in confession ; thus, for example, to strike one’s own father and to strike another man are specifically distinct sins. Any offence contrary to piety between those who are distantly related to each other, such as hatred or blows, is an aggravating circumstance which does not change the moral species of the sin.

Piety towards one’s country can be violated both by excess and by defect. Excess is shown in this virtue by those who cultivate excessive nationalism in word and deed with consequent injury to other nations ; the virtue is violated by defect by those who boast that their attitude is cosmopolitan and adopt as their motto the old pagan saying : ubi bene, ibi patria.

Note. The virtue of piety is violated only when parents or children are injured in their personal possessions — for instance, in their body, honour, good name — but not in those goods which depend on chance ; such sins are not so serious as similar ones committed against those who are not related, since goods which depend on chance are to some extent the common property of relatives.


  1. Definition. Reverence is the virtue which inclines man to show worship and honour for persons who enjoy some dignity. There are three forms of reverence depending on three forms of dignity : a) civil reverence displayed towards civil dignitaries, such as the king or a commander or national hero ; b) religious reverence due to ecclesiastical dignitaries, such as the Pope, a bishop, or a priest ; c) supernatural reverence reserved for the Saints on account of their supernatural virtues ( dulia ). Reverence is a distinct virtue having its own specific object and motive ; the acts which proceed from this virtue are reverence and obedience.

Sins contrary to reverence are disobedience and lack of reverence towards those deserving of reverence. Such sins are less serious than those against piety which is the source of a more compelling union and obligation.


  1. Definition. Obedience is the moral virtue which inclines the will to comply with the will of another who commands. Such is the definition given by St. Thomas. There are two types of obedience : material obedience which is the mere physical fulfilment of a commanded act, and formal obedience which consists in doing some act precisely because it is commanded by a superior.

The extent of obedience is as wide as the authority of the person commanding. Thus obedience to God knows no limit, whereas obedience to men is limited a) by higher law which must not be transgressed by commands issued by superiors to their subjects, and b) by the limited competency of superiors.

Obedience is a noble virtue since it sacrifices to God a noble good, viz. the will of the individual.

  1. Sins contrary to obedience are, a) by excess : servility or indiscriminate obedience which is prepared to obey even in unlawful matters ; b) by defect : disobedience, which is either material — the violation of any virtue — or formal — formal contempt for the command or for the person commanding. Formal contempt of the command is a grave sin which admits of slight matter, but formal contempt of the person commanding is always and in all circumstances a grave sin since it involves grave harm not only to the superior but also to God in whose place the superior stands.


  1. 1. The obligation of children towards their parents. Children are bound to show a) love, b) reverence, c) obedience towards their parents. This threefold obligation is of its nature serious.

The love which is due must be both affective and effective.

Reverence must be evident in word, deed and sign.

Obedience must be shown to parents in everything which is part of their care. It is difficult to determine what constitutes grave matter in the violation of due obedience. However, if the act of disobedience is the cause of notable harm to parents or to child, the sin is certainly grave. There are two limits to be placed to the obedience due to parents even in lawful matters : 1 ) one of duration, in so far as the duty ceases once the child after attaining his majority or emancipation begins to live away from the parental home ; b) in the choice of a state of life, and therefore even minors are free to choose in this matter and parents commit sin by compelling their children to embrace any particular state of life.

  1. 2. Duties of parents towards their children.

Parents are obliged to love their children and to provide for their physical and spiritual education . 1

The love that they are bound to show must be both affective and effective so that parents must not only avoid all hatred and ill-will but also wish their children well, act well in their regard and help them in their need. The physical education of children requires that parents should sedulously protect their bodily welfare from the moment of their conception. Thus a pregnant mother should avoid everything which threatens to harm the foetus ; parents commit sin if they do not provide for their children sufficient food, clothing, shelter, or who neglect their medical care when they are ill, who do not trouble whether their children obtain a suitable state in life.

The spiritual education of children is most necessary as the means of fostering their eternal salvation. Thus they must take especial care that their children are baptized without delay, that they grow accustomed to works of religion and piety not only by words of encouragement but more especially by the example of their parents, that they are sent to good schools.

  1. Duties of the married.

There are certain duties which are mutual and others which are peculiar to husband or wife.

  1. a) The following obligations are mutual : i) mutual love both affective and effective ; ii) the rendering of the marriage debt ; iii) life in common (mutual companionship).
  2. b) The husband is obliged i) as head of the family to guide his wife, children and servants ; ii) to provide for his wife and family sufficient food, clothing and maintenance ; iii) to administer family property wisely.
  3. c) The wife is obliged : 1) to show due obedience to her husband ; ii) to pay careful attention to the home and to the education of her children.
  4. Scholium. The emancipation of women. Although this question does not fall within the province of the virtue of piety, however since it affects relationships between husband and wife it may be useful to mention

1 The Code of Canon law (c. 1113) has this to say on the question : “ Parents are bound by a most serious obligation to provide for the religious and moral as well as the physical and civil education of their children and to care for their temporal welfare.”

a few points which moral theologians ought to keep in mind regarding this question which is agitating the minds of men and States to-day.

  1. So far as their souls, supernatural grace, and destiny are concerned, men and women are equal.
  2. Although in general woman is weaker than man in her physical and intellectual powers, nevertheless there are many women who can do exactly the same work as men. Therefore there is nothing in the work itself to prevent such works and duties being given to capable women, such as the office of doctor, teacher, etc.
  3. God created woman as man’s helper and formed her from Adam’s rib ; furthermore He has excluded her from the priesthood. All this would seem to indicate clearly that it was never God’s intention for complete equality to exist between man and woman. Therefore the radical emancipation of women and their complete equality with men seem to be alien to the Creator’s intention.
  4. A woman’s chief duty is care for the home and therefore any form of emancipation which disrupts family life must be rejected.
  5. So far as Catholicism is concerned, there is nothing to prevent (at least in itself) capable women from possessing the right to vote even in political matters. But it is an entirely different question whether any useful purpose is served either in respect of the State or Church by granting women the right to vote in any particular district.
  6. 4. Duties of masters and servants.
  7. a) Masters and employers are obliged i) to treat their servants and employees with kindness ; ii) to instruct and correct them and to induce them to fulfil their religious duties ; iii) to pay them a just wage.
  8. b) Servants and employees are bound to render to their masters and employers, i) due obedience, ii) due reverence, iii) faithful service.
  9. 5. Duties of teachers and pupils.
  10. a) Teachers occupy the place of parents in matters relating to the spiritual education of children and therefore they have the same obligations in this matter as parents. Therefore they are bound to provide by word and example suitable knowledge and good behaviour for their pupils.
  11. b) Pupils in their turn are bound to love, reverence and obey their teachers in all matters relating to their studies and behaviour.
  12. 6. Duties of rulers and their subjects.
  13. a) Rulers must strenuously pursue legal, distributive and vindictive justice.
  14. b) Their subjects are bound i) to show reverence, obedience and loyalty towards their rulers ; ii) to elect good representatives ; iii) to pay just taxes ; iv) in certain circumstances to render military service. Subjects must obey their rulers in all lawful matters in which their rulers have the right to command. It is always forbidden to rebel against a lawful ruler, even if he is a tyrant. However passive resistance is permitted in certain circumstances, when his demands are unjust. In itself it is a grave sin against legal justice to elect bad representatives for government, since the voters themselves must be held responsible in part for the harm caused to the State by such representatives. But there may be excusing causes which permit the choice of such persons. Thus, for instance, a worker would be justified in voting for a bad representative if otherwise he would lose his post and be unable to find another. It is also permitted to elect a bad representative in preference to one who is worse, which may frequently occur in so-called second ballots. The reason which permits a person to cast his vote for this evil candidate is that such a vote is no more than material co-operation in another’s sin.


Virtues Related to Justice : Gratitude, Revenge, Politeness, Generosity, Epikeia

Since sufficient has been said previously (n. 261 sqq.) regarding lies and other acts contrary to the virtue of truth, there is no necessity to devote a special treatise to this virtue “ which inclines man to display in his life and words the sort of man that he is ” (S.T .,11 II q. 109, a. 3, ad 3.) The following will suffice as a brief summary : three duties proceed from this noble virtue — 1. the duty of loving truth in everything said or done ; 2. the duty of preventing oneself from saying or signifying anything contrary to one’s own mind : 3. the duty of revealing sincerely the judgement of the mind in words or in other signs, unless there is need to preserve a secret or conceal the truth.


  1. Definition. Gratitude is the virtue which inclines man to acknowledge (mentally and in words) gifts received and to make at least some return for the gift.

Explanation. The duty of gratitude arises from the acceptance of a gift which represents a voluntary and useful payment freely made to a person through the feeling of benevolence. If the gift is given by a superior, v.g. by God or one’s parents, the act of gratitude to which it gives rise belongs to other virtues also, such as religion, piety, etc. Gratitude consists in an internal state — viz. in a grateful heart — rather than in any external effect, i.e. a real return for the gift. Therefore everyone, including the poor, is capable of gratitude.

There are three duties of gratitude : 1. to acknowledge the receipt of the gift ; 2. to express gratitude in words, such as by praising the benefactor, by expressing thankfulness to him ; 3- to make some return in deed for the gift, in so far as that is possible.

The qualities of gratitude. Gratitude must be:

  1. prompt— that is to say, it must be shown as soon as possible after receiving the gift ;
  2. internal and not merely external— viz. it must proceed from the heart and not be expressed merely in words devoid of all feeling ;
  3. humble, with an acknowledgment that the gift is something useful ;
  4. free from all covetousness— that is to say that gratitude must not be expressed with the principal purpose of receiving further gifts from the benefactor.

The vice opposed to gratitude is ingratitude which is either formal (contempt of the benefactor or his gift), or material — the omission of due thanks without any implication of contempt.


  1. Definition. Revenge consists in inflicting punishment on a private person for the evil which he has voluntarily committed, in order to make reparation for the injury committed and obtain satisfaction for the injured party.

Since man of his nature is only too ready to take revenge tor injuries received, some virtue is necessary to prevent excess in this matter. Punishment inflicted by a superior for the good of society is an act of legal justice, not of revenge. If any private individual takes due vengeance in order to correct his brother who has sinned, this is an act of charity ; if he does it in order to make reparation for the violated honour of God, it is an act of religion. — In practice it is often advisable for a private individual to refrain from seeking or taking revenge because under the pretext of obtaining justice there may lurk excessive love of self or even hatred of the neighbour.

Vices contrary to revenge are : 1. by excess , cruelty or savagery ; 2 . by defect, excessive laxity in punishment.


  1. Definition. Politeness (courteousness, affability, friendliness) is the virtue whereby each man in consequence of the duty of living in society conducts himself agreeably and fittingly in his companionship with others.

The chief acts of this virtue are : 1. to be a courteous listener to all and to converse with them willingly and cheerfully ; 2. to show signs of courtesy befitting each person’s station and the custom of the country ; 3. to have internal and external charity for one’s neighbour and to subdue excessive love of self.

There are two vices opposed to politeness : one by excess, viz. flattery which inclines man to display excessive and inordinate zeal in word and deed in pleasing another for the sake of obtaining some favour, the other by defect, viz. quarrelling or peevishness which makes a man difficult in society, rarely agreeing with anyone and frequently contradicting what is said by another with the intention of hurting him or at least of not pleasing him.


  1. Definition. Generosity or liberality is the virtue which regulates love of money and makes man ready to distribute his money according to the dictates of right reason.

Accordingly the proximate and immediate object of this virtue is not the money itself but the desire for money which must be controlled. Therefore even the poor without money can possess this virtue if they moderate their love of money in accordance with right reason.

There are two vices opposed to generosity : one by excess, viz. extravagance which is found in the man who gives his money away unnecessarily and without reason ; the other by defect, viz. avarice, about which we have already spoken, n. 173.


  1. Definition. Epikeia or equity is the reasonable moderation of a strict right. It may be an act of legal justice, when it consists in a benign interpretation not of the law itself but of the mind of the legislator. This form of equity has been discussed already in the section on law, n. 105. But it may also be the act of a distinct virtue which some authors prefer to call natural justice and which St. Cyprian describes as justice tempered with the sweetness of mercy. This virtue of epikeia is exercised, for instance, by a creditor who allows his debtor to postpone the payment of his debt. The violation of this virtue, since it imposes so slight an obligation, is a venial sin.

This virtue resides in the will and is nothing more than the exercise of the virtue of gnome, which is part of prudence, residing in the practical reason.