Theological Hope and Contrary Vices

This treatise is divided into three chapters : i. the nature of theological hope ; 2. its necessity ; 3- vices contrary to hope.


209. Definition. Theological hope is a habit divinely infused and residing in the will which enables man with perfect confidence based on God’s almighty help to await and obtain eternal happiness and the means necessary for obtaining it.

In order to explain this definition better we must discover the object, subject, and properties of hope.

The primary material object of hope is eternal happiness ; its secondary material object is the means leading to that happiness.

The formal object of hope is God Himself attained in everlasting happiness, since hope as one of the theological virtues has God for its immediate object.

The motive of hope is the almighty power of God providing help to His creatures. This is the view expressed by St. Thomas. Other theologians (the Scotists, Suarez) teach that the motive of hope is the goodness of God ; others consider it to be the fidelity of God, and yet

another school think it to be the omnipotence, goodness and fidelity of God combined.

The proximate subject of hope is man’s will ; the remote subject comprises : a) all believers, including sinners (with the sole exception of those who have fallen into formal heresy or presumption or despair) ; b ) the souls in Purgatory. The virtue of hope in the sinner is true hope, although deformed. Hope is destroyed : 1. by formal heresy which destroys faith, the foundation of hope ; 2. by presumption and despair, since these vices are directly contrary to hope.

2×0. The properties of hope are : its supernatural character and its steadfastness.

a) Hope is supernatural, since it is a theological virtue that has for its material and formal object and for its motive something supernatural.

b) Hope is steadfast, in so far as it is based on the help of God ; there is, however, some fear and uncertainty in the virtue inasmuch as it supposes our own co-operation. It is evident from the words of the Council of Trent that hope is completely steadfast : “ Everyone must place and put the most steadfast hope in the help of God” (Sess. 6, c. 13 de iustif.).

However, Sacred Scripture points to the uncertainty and fear present in hope because of man’s uncertain co-operation : “ Man does not know whether he is deserving of love or of hatred” (Eccles. ix, 1).


21 1 . Principle, a) The habit oj hope is a necessary means of salvation for everyone ; b) the act of hope is a necessary means of salvation and is commanded by God for all who have come to the use of reason.

The reason for the first part of the principle is that no one can be saved without sanctifying grace, and the virtue of hope is infused at the same time as grace.

The reason for the second part of the principle is that all who come to the use of their reason must obtain everlasting life through their deeds. But no one will make the necessary effort to strive for something if he lacks a genuine hope of attaining it. Therefore we are commanded in Sacred Scripture : “ Israelites one and all, put your confidence in God ” (Ps. lxi, 9).

The divine precept of hope obliges of its very nature :

1. at the outset of man’s moral life ;

2. at the hour of death ;

3. frequently in life.

The same precept obliges man incidentally :

1 . when he is oppressed by a serious temptation which he cannot overcome without an act of hope ;

2. when he is bound to fulfil some precept which presupposes hope, such as the precept of receiving the Sacrament of Penance.


Sins are committed against the virtue of hope, 1. by omitting the act of hope, 2. by despair, 3. by presumption.

212. 1. The omission of an act of hope which one ought to elicit is sinful, as is evident from the preceding chapter. Such an omission exists in an excessive affection for things of earth whereby one shows so great a preference for temporal possessions over eternal joys that one desires to live on earth for ever.

213. 2. Despair is a sin against hope by defect. Despair is either privative (imperfect) or positive (perfect). The first consists in a certain pusillanimity of soul in which state as the result of a diabolical temptation or melancholy or some other morbid emotion a person oppresses and tortures his soul excessively with the fear of losing eternal salvation. Positive despair is a voluntary apathy towards obtaining happiness — or better : it is a withdrawal of the will away from eternal happiness which is judged to be impossible of attainment.

Privative despair, in the firm in which it most frequently occurs, is not a sin hut a temptation or a form of scrupulosity ; positive despair is a mortal sin which admits of no slight matter.

It is evident that privative despair is not a. sin since it is involuntary, whereas positive despair implies a serious injury to God since it denies or calls into question the mercy of God.

The causes of despair are usually : 1. lust and other long-established evil desires; 2. sloth; 3- lack of faith; 4. melancholy.

The remedy for despair is the removal of its causes.

214. 3. Presumption is a sin against hope by excess for it is a rash confidence of obtaining eternal happiness by means other than those determined by God. Often it goes hand in hand with tempting God or even with formal heresy.

The presumption of the heretic is a mortal sin allowing no parvity of matter because it is not only contrary to faith and hope but also entails a serious injury to the justice of God.

Ordinary presumption is a mortal sin which admits of slight matter, since it violates the virtue of hope and causes grave damage to man. The causes of presumption are, in addition to errors in faith : pride and vainglory.

Remedies for presumption are all those mentioned in n. 172 as remedies for pride.