The Virtue of Temperance and Contrary Vices

This treatise is divided into four chapters : 1. the nature of temperance ;

2. the parts of temperance in general ; 3. the subjective parts of temperance and their contrary vices ; 4. the potential parts of temperance and their contrary vices.


485. Definition. Temperance is the virtue which regulates the sensitive appetite in the pleasures of touch, viz. in the pleasures of food and sex.

Explanation. It is customary to distinguish four forms of pleasure :

1. purely spiritual pleasure arising from intellectual activity and concerned with spiritual objects, such as the Beatific Vision, or the joy experienced in the possession of theological knowledge ;

2. pleasure which is spiritual only in the wide sense of the term inasmuch as it arises from intellectual activity regarding material objects, such as the pleasure of the miser in his money ;

3. sense pleasures of the body arising from the sense perception of some pleasing object, such the pleasure resulting from hearing a pleasant melody, or the pleasure given to the eye by beautiful colours;

4. carnal or sensual pleasures caused by an intimate physical union of an object with the special nerves of the organs of taste and procreation, viz. the pleasures derived from food and sex.

Temperance may be understood a) in its widest sense to mean moderation in any action or passion ; b) in its wide sense to mean moderation in spiritual and sense pleasures ; c ) in its strict sense to mean moderation in sensual or carnal pleasures, viz. in food and sexual matters.

The proximate subject of the virtue of temperance understood in its strict sense is the concupiscible appetite as subject to the reason and will of man.

The object of this virtue is moderation in the pleasures of touch, viz. in food and sex. Other sense and intellectual pleasures are regulated incidentally by temperance, in so far as they affect the pleasures which derive from food and sex.

Natural temperance acquired by natural effort and guided by natural reason alone has no other purpose in view than man’s health, and therefore it differs specifically from supernatural temperance which is under the direction of faith and has as its chief effect man’s spiritual welfare. Indeed supernatural temperance sometimes advises fasting, virginity, etc. which are abhorrent to natural temperance.


486. i. There are two integral parts of temperance : the sense of shame and a love of propriety (honestas). The sense of shame is a fear of anything disgraceful ; it is not a virtue in the strict sense of the word but rather a praiseworthy feeling which makes men blush as soon as anything shameful touches them. These two — the feeling of shame and the love of what is fitting — are vigilant protectors of chastity and temperance and therefore to be highly cherished from one’s youngest days.

2. St. Thomas gives four subjective parts of the virtue of temperance : abstinence, which is temperance in food ; sobriety, which is temperance in drink — especially in the use of intoxicants ; chastity, which is temperance in the chief pleasure of the sexual act ; modesty, which is concerned with the attendant circumstances of the act, such as the pleasure arising from kissing or touching, etc.

3. The potential parts of temperance are : continence, meekness, clemency, modesty, which moderate man’s appetite in things less difficult than the pleasures of touch. Included under modesty are humility and other virtues. We shall discuss these various parts of temperance later.


Introduction. In this chapter we shall consider : 1. abstinence and fasting ; 2. the vice opposed to abstinence, viz. gluttony ; 3. sobriety and its contrary vice ; 4. chastity and virginity ; 5. the vice opposed to chastity, viz. impurity.

Art. 1. Abstinence and Fasting

§ 1. Definition and Obligation of Abstinence and Fasting

487. Definition. Abstinence is the moral virtue which inclines man to the moderate use of food as dictated by right reason (or by faith) for his own moral good.

The acts which proceed from this virtue are fasting and abstinence strictly so-called, viz. from definite kinds of food, such as meat.

Fasting is either a) complete, i.e. total abstinence from all food and drink, such as precedes the reception of Holy Communion ; or b) natural (ieiunium philosophicum), i.e. a partial abstinence from food and drink such as is demanded for reasons of health or for some other natural purpose ; or c) ecclesiastical (or arbitrary), which is commanded by laws of the Church. It is this latter type of fasting which we intend to consider here.

488. The essence of ecclesiastical fasting consists in taking only one full meal. It was the common opinion amongst older authors that the essence of the ecclesiastical fast was composed of three elements : one full meal, a definite hour for taking this meal, and abstinence from certain foods such as flesh meat, eggs, and milk-foods. Today the second and third conditions are no longer regarded essential to the ecclesiastical fast but simply add to its perfection. Therefore even if flesh meat or eggs or milk-foods are taken the fast is not broken. If the essence of the fast did consist of these three elements taken together, then to-day fasting as such would have disappeared, which is certainly untrue. In these days the Church allows one full meal, an evening collation, and some food at breakfast.

489. The full meal on days of fasting only.

a) According to modern discipline the hour when this one full meal is taken is left to the choice of the individual and therefore he is free to interchange the times of the evening collation and the full meal (c. 1251, § 2). However this meal must have a moral continuity and not be unduly protracted, for if there is a notable interruption (c.g. an interruption of half an hour) it would develop into two distinct meals. Authors are sufficiently agreed that oil fast days the meal cannot lawfully be extended beyond two hours.

490. b) The quality of the food to be taken was formerly laid down by law, but not 011 days of fasting which are not also days of abstinence any kind of food is allowed by general ecclesiastical law (although particular laws may determine otherwise) ; it is even permitted to eat both meat and fish at the same meal (c. 1251, § 2).

491. The evening collation.

The hour of this evening meal is left to the choice of the individual. The quantity of food permitted nowadays is commonly put at eight ounces or about half a pound, and the food itself must not be exceedingly nutritious.

The quality of the food permitted at the evening meal is determined by custom and local law.

492. Breakfast.

There has now grown up the legitimate custom of taking in the morning a small amount of bread or other light food to the extent of two ounces

*In England two or three ounces of bread with a little butter may be taken by virtue of a papal indult (June, 1923).

The Code of Canon law, c. 1251, expressly permits the taking of some food, morning and evening.

493. Days of fasting. The days of fasting prescribed by common law are :

a) the days of Lent, except Sundays, until noon on Holy Saturday (c. 1252) ;

b ) Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the Ember Weeks ;

c) the vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints and Christmas ;

d) on the day previous to the consecration of a church both the Bishop and the people who ask for the church to be consecrated must fast. This is laid down in the Roman Pontifical.

494. Subjects of the law of fasting are all baptized persons from the completion of their twenty-first year until the beginning of their sixtieth year (c. 1254).

Although strictly speaking Protestants and all baptized non-Catholics are obliged by the law of fasting inasmuch as they are subject to the laws of the Church, the Church does not seem to urge this obligation; consequently these non-Catholics are not to be accused, generally speaking, of grave sin caused by the violation of the ecclesiastical fasts or abstinence.

495. Nature of the obligation, i. The law of fasting binds under pain of grave sin but admits of slight matter.

Thus the following proposition (23) was condemned by Alexander VII: “He who breaks a fast of the Church to which he is obliged commits grave sin only if he does so through contempt or disobedience — that is to say, because he does not wish to subject himself to the precept.” However the precept does admit of parvity of matter which seems to exist when the quantity of extra food eaten docs not amount to another full meal.

2. It is the common opinion that the precept of abstinence from flesh meat is a negative precept, whereas the law of fasting is an affirmative precept.

Therefore anyone who eats meat several times on forbidden days commits as many mortal sins as the number of occasions of which the meat is eaten ; on the other hand a man who has broken his fast by taking two full meals, whether through his own fault or not, does not commit a new sin by taking a third or fourth meal — at least according to the common opinion.

496. Scholium. Liquids. There is a common saying that drinks do not break the fast, but only those things are to be classified as liquids which normally aid the digestion of food : therefore any drink which has a notable nutritive value cannot be regarded as a pure liquid, such as milk, chocolate made with milk. But wine, beer, coffee and tea are all permissible. Sweets are not forbidden so long as they are taken in small quantity.

497. The law of abstinence from flesh meat.

1. The law of abstinence forbids the eating of flesh meat and meal soup, but not of eggs, milk foods and condiments made from animal fats (c. 1250).

By flesh meat is meant a) the flesh of animals which live and breathe on land and possess warm blood ; b ) blood, lard, broth, suet, the marrow of bones, brains, kidneys. In case of doubt whether something is meat or not, one is permitted to eat it since the law does not bind when doubt exists.

Under fish are included all animals whose blood is cold, such as reptiles and amphibians ; e.g. frogs, tortoises, oysters, crabs, lobsters, roe. In some regions at least even such animals as otters, beavers and water-fowl are regarded as fish.

2. The law of abstinence must be observed on all Fridays throughout the year, except those which are holy days of obligation outside Lent (c. 1252, § 4).

The law of abstinence and fasting binds on :

a) Ash Wednesday ;

b) Fridays and Saturdays of Lent ;

c) Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the Ember Weeks ;

d) the four vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption, All Saints and Christmas (c. 1252, §§ 1 and 2). If these vigils fall on a Sunday the law of abstinence and fasting is dispensed and they are not to be anticipated.

3. All persons under seven years of age and those who have never come to the use of reason are excused from the law of abstinence from meat. The obligation to abstain binds under pain of grievous sin but it admits of slight matter — equal to the size of a walnut = about four grams.

§ 2. Causes Excusing from Fasting and Abstinence

498. All causes which excuse from fasting and abstinence can be reduced to two : dispensation, and moral or physical impossibility. a) A dispensation in the ecclesiastical law of fasting and abstinence can be granted by the Pope for the universal Church ; local Ordinaries can dispense the entire diocese or any part of it for the special reason of a great gathering of people or for reasons of public health. Not only bishops but also parish priests can in individual cases and for a just cause

“The law of fasting and abstinence binds on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and The Vigils of the Assumption and Christmas. (S.C.C, 28 January, 1949),

dispense their subjects severally and individual families (and that even outside their territory) and also strangers within their territory. Superiors in a clerical exempt Order can dispense all their subjects in the same way as a parish priest can dispense his parishioners (c. 1245). By common law confessors have no power to dispense but provided they are lawfully delegated they can dispense in the law of fasting and abstinence even outside the confessional, unless this is expressly forbidden.— All who possess prudent judgement, such as superiors of nuns, priests, or in fact anyone at all, can state in a particular case that the law of fasting and abstinence does not bind owing to grave obstacles. b) Impossibility exempts from the law whenever there would result considerable harm from the observance of the law of fasting or abstinence.

Thus, exemption extends to the sick and the convalescent, to the poor who lack sufficient food, those engaged on heavy work incompatible with fasting. Generally speaking, reasons are more easily found for the law of fasting than for the law of abstinence rendering it incapable of observance. Consequently persons of sixty years of age are excused from fasting, but are not normally excused from abstaining from flesh meat. Similarly the law of fasting ceases to bind those who must undertake heavy and tiring mental work, such as students who apply themselves to their studies earnestly, confessors who sit for six or eight hours in the confessional with consequent fatigue.

499 . Note. 1. A confessor should not be excessively rigorous in granting dispensations from fasting since in these days there are not so many of the faithful who can keep the fast perfectly for one reason or another, v.g. shortage of food, feeble health, strenuous work. However the faithful should be encouraged to undertake special works of mortification or spirituality during times of fasting.

2. Anyone who avails himself of a dispensation granted by mandate of the Bishop is bound to recite the prescribed prayer or give the prescribed alms ; however the obligation is not grave since the dispensation was granted unconditionally, and the Bishop is not presumed to impose a grave obligation unless he expressly says so.

Art. 1. The Vice Contrary to the Virtue of Abstinence —Gluttony

500 . Definition. Gluttony is the inordinate indulgence in food or drink. This lack of moderation may be due to eating or drinking too soon, too expensively, too much, voraciously, or too daintily.

Moral evil of gluttony. Since gluttony consists in an excessive use of something in itself perfectly lawful, it is of its nature a venial sin ; but for incidental reasons it may become grievously sinful, v.g. because of ensuing scandal or other evil effects.

The effects of gluttony are given by St. Thomas as five : unreasonable hilarity, loquacity, dullness of mind, buffoonery, uncleanness.

Art. 2. Sobriety and its Contrary Vice — Drunkenness

501. Sobriety is the virtue regulating man’s desire for and his use of intoxicating drink. It is a distinct virtue since it has its own object which is most necessary for an upright moral life, viz. the moderate use of alcoholic drink. The need for this virtue becomes even more evident from the consideration of its contrary vice, drunkenness.

502. Drunkenness is a deliberate excess in the use of intoxicating drink or drugs to the point of forcibly depriving oneself of the use of reason for the sake of gratifying an inordinate desire for such drink and not for the sake of promoting health.

Explanation, 1. A deliberate excess in the use of such drinks or drugs, for if it is not voluntary, it is not a human act ; there must also be an excessive use of the drink or drug which is harmful to health. God intended drink to minister to bodily health and therefore a man commits sin by using it to such an excess as to cause harm to his health and to deprive himself of the use of his reason. This excess may be practised not merely in the use of intoxicating drinks but also in the use of other things with similar effects. Therefore the excessive use of morphia, or opium, etc., to the point of forcibly depriving oneself of the use of reason is included under the sin of drunkenness.

2. To the point of forcibly depriving man of the use of his reason. If one docs not forcibly deprive oneself of the use of reason, the sin of drunkenness is not committed. Thus natural sleep deprives man of the use of reason in a natural manner. The signs of perfect intoxication are : acts totally contrary to normal behaviour, incapability of distinguishing between good and evil, forgetfulness on the morrow of everything done in the state of drunkenness, etc.

3. For the sake of gratifying man’s inordinate desire for alcoholic drink. It is not necessary that the drink be taken with great satisfaction, so that a man who drinks to excess when he is goaded by others commits the sin of drunkenness ; all that is required is that the drink or drug is not intended for the restoration of health. Thus, for example, anyone who drinks large quantities of Cognac in order to avoid typhoid fever which is already imminent does not commit the sin of drunkenness, even though he may lose the use of his reason for a while.

503. The moral evil of drunkenness. 1. Complete drunkenness is a grave sin which admits of slight matter.

This is the most common opinion to-day. The reason given is that it is seriously contrary to right reason, a) for a man to deprive himself knowingly and willingly of the use of his reason for the sake of gratifying his desire for intoxicants for no sufficient reasons of health ; b ) for a man to expose himself to a grave danger of sin through his manner of acting ; c) for a man to expose himself to many other dangers as the result of drunkenness, such as ill-health, domestic troubles, damage to his property.

2. Any state short of complete drunkenness is of itself venially sinful.

If there is a sufficient cause, such as the desire to rid oneself of the feeling of depression, there is no sin provided that it does not give rise to scandal or to other evils.

Note. A man is responsible for the sins committed in a state of complete intoxication to the extent that he could and ought to have foreseen them.

504. The use of morphia and other remedial drugs. It is not permissible to use such remedies unless there exists sufficient reason conducive to bodily health. Unless such remedies are used with great care, they can cause grave harm to one’s health and very often they lead to evil moral effects, as is evident in those addicted to the use of morphia.

Art. 3. Chastity and Virginity

505. Definitions, 1. Chastity is the virtue which moderates the desire for venereal pleasure in accordance with the dictates of right reason. Whereas the chastity of married persons moderates the desire, the chastity of widows and virgins excludes the desire entirely. Modesty is a special aspect of chastity, for it concerns itself with external behaviour, such as suggestive looks, words, touches, etc.

Chastity’ is a distinct virtue since it has its own object — and a difficult one at that — viz. the moderation of venereal pleasure.

506. 2. Virginity is a firm resolution of abstaining from all venereal pleasure made by one who has never been a partner to the sexual act.

Virginity is sometimes understood as referring to bodily integrity which is lost in men by voluntary pollution, in women by the lustful rupture of the virginal hymen or vagina ; sometimes the word is used for the state of celibacy. But in so far as virginity is a distinct moral virtue, bodily integrity is only accidental to it. Therefore if a person loses this integrity through a surgical operation or by involuntary attack, the virtue of virginity remains intact, unless the act is accompanied by voluntary and lustful pollution. For the virtue of virginity in its proper sense voluntary integrity is insufficient ; otherwise we must assert that all young persons living chaste lives, even though they intend to enter upon marriage at the proper time, possess the virtue of virginity as distinct from the virtue of chastity, which seems unlikely to be true. Therefore it is the teaching of theologians that there is also required a firm resolve of preserving chastity always through reverence for God, since the virginity of the Vestal virgins and of others for non-religious motives is not a distinct virtue. According to St. Thomas and other theologians virginity is not to be considered a distinct virtue unless confirmed by vow.

The excellence of the state and virtue of virginity is extolled in Sacred Scripture (1 Cor. vii, 25 sqq. ; Apoc. xiv, 4), by the Fathers of the Church, and by reason herself. For virgins refrain from all venereal pleasure with the express intention of devoting themselves more freely and perfectly to the service of God which is not only lawful but exceedingly praiseworthy. The objections raised against virginity on the grounds that it is unnatural and injurious to bodily health are of no value.

Art. 4. The Vice Contrary to Chastity — Impurity

This article is divided into five paragraphs : 1. impurity in general ; 2. internal sins of impurity ; 3. unconsummated sins of impurity ; 4. natural consummated sins of impurity ; 5. unnatural consummated sins of impurity.

§ 1. Imparity in General

507. Definition. Impurity is an inordinate desire for venereal pleasure. Venereal pleasure arises from the movement of those organs and secretions which aid the act of procreation, and reaches its summit in a healthy man in the pleasure accompanying the emission of seed, or, in women and youths below the age of puberty, in the diffusion of some secretion from the sexual glands.

Principle. Directly voluntary sexual pleasure outside marriage is grievously sinful and never admits of slight matter ; indirectly voluntary sexual pleasure may be either a mortal or venial sin or no sin at all.

The first part of this principle is admitted by everyone, since all venereal pleasure is in some way related to the act of procreation which for the highest reasons has been forbidden by God outside the state of marriage. Accordingly He has issued a grave prohibition against any form of venereal pleasure that is directly voluntary, and not merely the highest pleasure accompanying the act of pollution. And indeed anyone who directly wills even the slightest degree of venereal pleasure is in proximate danger of proceeding further, and it is always grievously sinful to expose oneself without sufficient reason to the proximate danger of falling into sin.

The second part of the principle follows from what has been said already regarding acts that are indirectly voluntary. Venereal pleasure that is voluntary in its cause implies that the pleasure is not sought in itself but is the accompaniment of some other action performed by the agent, for instance, a young person reading a book may foresee that sexual pleasure will be caused by such reading. In this form of pleasure there is not always present a proximate danger of consenting to the complete act, and thus it is not always grievously sinful.— -To judge in practice whether venereal pleasure that is voluntary in its cause is grievously sinful or not, one must consider to what extent the action tends of its very nature towards producing such pleasure and whether there exists a proportionately grave reason for doing the act. Practical examples will be considered below when discussing looks, touches, etc.

§ 2. Internal Sins of Impurity

There are three internal sins of impurity : taking pleasure in immodest imaginations, taking pleasure in previous sins of impurity, unchaste desires.

508. 1. Taking pleasure in imaginative representations of impure actions is grievously sinful since it represents a deliberate desire for the impure action itself, even though this is not performed externally. Unless these impure thoughts are accompanied by evil desires they receive their specific character from the object alone, not from the circumstances. At least this is the opinion to be followed in practice. Therefore it is quite sufficient for the penitent to accuse himself of taking pleasure in so many impure thoughts, without giving an accurate description of the objects of such thoughts.

509. 2. Deliberate complacency in previous sins of impurity, such as an act of adultery, receives its specific character both from the object and from the differentiating circumstances of the sinful object ; consequently it would not be sufficient for the penitent to accuse himself of taking pleasure in previous sinful acts of impurity ; he must state what those acts were. Such complacency manifests approval of the previous act and thus possesses the same specific morality as the act itself.

510. 3. Unchaste desires are acts of complacency in the performance of some future sinful act of impurity. They are of two types : efficacious desires present in one who genuinely intends to commit the evil contemplated ; inefficacious desires which represent a mere wish to do the act. Such desires receive their specific sinfulness both from their object and the differentiating circumstances of the object ; therefore in the confessional the penitent should state the object of his evil desires, at least if this is morally possible.

§ 3. Unconsummated External Sins of Impurity

Unconsummated sins of impurity are those which fall short of the full sexual act ; they include a) sexual motions, and b ) acts of immodesty.

511. a) Sexual or venereal motions are disturbances of the genital organs and the fluids in these organs ; they are usually accompanied by some slight external distillation.

Moral nature of such motions. 1. If they are directly willed they are grievously sinful since they are a form of venereal pleasure directly willed. 2. If they are completely involuntary, no sin is committed. 3. If they are voluntary in their cause their sinfulness must be judged from the principles governing acts that are indirectly voluntary. — Such sexual movements are generally controlled easily and effectively if their cause is removed, so far as that is possible, and the mind turns to other matters.

512. b) External acts of immodesty arc those which normally have some close connection with or some influence on sexual pleasure, such as immodest looks, touches, etc.

Such acts are not immodest in themselves and therefore are permissible for a sufficient and reasonable cause, such as when they are performed by doctors or midwives, etc. But it follows with certainty from what has been said previously that such acts are evil when done for the sake of exciting sexual pleasure. However, the further question arises whether such acts are sinful when performed not for the sake of exciting unlawful pleasure nor for any just reason but solely from curiosity, or playfulness, etc.

Moral theologians usually distinguish between those parts of the body which are becoming and which are exposed to the sight of all, such as the face and hands ; parts of the body which are less becoming and usually covered by clothing, such as the breast and arms ; and those parts of the body which are indecent, viz. the organs of generation and adjacent parts.

513. General Rule. All acts of immodesty which are done without sufficient reason and with evil intent are sinful to the extent that they cause a proximate danger of venereal pleasure.

The gravity of this danger must be determined a) from the nature of the act, b ) from the disposition of the agent. — The following points should be borne in mind regarding particular types of acts :

514. 1. Normal kissing which follows the custom of the country is lawful ; abnormal or ardent kissing usually gives rise to grave danger of sexual pleasure and is therefore gravely unlawful.

515. 2. Touching the indecent parts of another adult for an evil purpose and without necessity is gravely forbidden ; casually touching the same parts of one’s own body or the less becoming parts of another’s body would seem to be venially sinful, since the danger of unlawful venereal pleasure is not grave — at least in normal circumstances. If these touches are inspired by an evil intention, then these acts are impure and therefore grievously sinful. — Touching animals indecently must be judged according to the intention and disposition of the agent.

The immodest touching of another is determined in its moral aspect by the character of the person who is touched immodestly with die evil intention of incest, or of adultery, etc. ; this is not true of immodest looks, unless accompanied by the evil desire of touching the person.

516. 3. Looks are less likely to cause danger of venereal pleasure than touching. Nevertheless to look at the indecent parts of an adult of the opposite sex with evil intent is grievously sinful. One can be less severe in one’s judgement of looking at statues or pictures of the nude, since artificial things do not usually excite a person so much as natural objects. However it is self-evident that even such looks can often give rise to severe temptations and therefore are to be avoided unless there exists sufficient reason. It does not seem grievously sinful to look at the indecent parts of oneself or at those of a person of the same sex without sufficient reason, provided there is no impure desire.

517. 4. Immodest conversation regarding obscene matters with the intention of exciting to lust or with the danger of grave scandal is grievously sinful. However it is often difficult to decide whether such bad conversation is grievously sinful or not, since the danger of sexual pleasure arising depends so much on the varied circumstances both of the speaker and of his audience. — The same applies to reading bad books, attending the theatre or opera, etc.

Scholium. Familiarity between persons of different sex. Such behaviour is common between persons contemplating marriage and is frequently the source of sexual pleasure. The confessor should keep the following general rules before him.

1. If sexual pleasure is intended, such behaviour is grievously sinful and therefore to be forbidden. This is clear from what has been said already.

2. If venereal pleasure is not merely not intended but also strenuously avoided, mutual signs of affection are permissible, such as kissing, embracing, words of affection, etc.

3. If this familiar behaviour is occasionally but not always a proximate occasion of sin, it should not be forbidden immediately under pain of denying absolution, but the confessor should first enquire whether such acts are morally necessary. In these circumstances the confessor should warn the penitent to refrain from anything which is the proximate cause of lust and to take the necessary precautions. If such behaviour which gives rise to occasional sin is neither necessary nor really useful, the confessor should strictly forbid it.

§ 4. Natural Consummated Sins of Impurity

It is normal to list six natural consummated sins of impurity : fornication, rape, abduction, incest, adultery, sacrilege.

518. 1. Fornication is voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and woman who is no longer virgo intacta. The act is intrinsically evil, as is evident from the proposition (48) condemned by Innocent XI : “ It appears so evident that fornication in itself contains no evil and is only evil because it is forbidden, that the contrary seems opposed to reason.” The internal reason for the sinfulness of fornication is that of itself it causes grave injury to the welfare of the child and to the welfare of society, notwithstanding that sometimes for accidental reasons such injuries do not arise.

Under fornication are included concubinage and prostitution as adding aggravating circumstances to the sin.

519. 2. Rape is understood in three different senses : 1. for the unlawful ravishing of a virgin with her consent ; 2. for the ravishing of a virgin contrary to her will ; 3. for the complete sexual act with any woman contrary to her will. It is in this latter sense that the word is used in civil codes of law.

Rape understood in its first meaning is an aggravating circumstance added to the sin of fornication but ordinarily speaking it does not involve the commission of an additional mortal sin which must be mentioned in confession, as was the opinion of former theologians. Rape understood in the second and third meanings of the word listed above includes in addition to the evil of fornication a grievous sin of injustice, since it is an act of unjust violence.

520. 3. Abduction is the forcible removal of a person for the purpose of committing a sin against chastity. Abduction is a grave sin both against justice (because of the unjust force used) and against chastity. Those who commit this act are punished both by civil and by canonical law (cf. c. 2353 sq).

521. 4. Incest is sexual intercourse between persons related to each other who are unable to enter into marriage. There are four ways in which persons may be related to each other : relationship by blood, spiritual relationship, legal relationship, affinity. Incest committed between persons related to each other in the first or second degrees involves the commission of two grave sins, both of which must be confessed : one against chastity, another against piety. Incest committed between persons related to each other in more distant degrees adds an aggravating aspect.

522. 5. Carnal sacrilege is the violation of a sacred person, place or by an act contrary to chastity

Sufficient explanation has been given already of personal sacrilege, carnal sacrilege, and real sacrilege, 446 sqq. An example of real sacrilege committed by an unchaste act is solicitation in the confessional. Carnal sacrilege is grievously sinful on two counts ; it is a serious sin against chastity and a serious sin against religion.

323. 6 . Adultery is sexual intercourse between two persons at least one of whom is married. Two serious sins are committed— one against chastity and the other against justice, since the adulterer seriously injures the right of his spouse. The specific sinfulness of adultery is to be found also in the acts of a married person who touches another immodestly, who acts unnaturally with that person, or who has evil desires towards that person.

§ Unnatural Consummated Sins of Impurity

The unnatural consummated sins against purity are : pollution, sodomy, and bestiality. These are regarded as unnatural acts since they are contrary to the natural purpose of the sexual act, viz. the procreation of children. Therefore as sins of impurity they are more serious than others.

524. 1. Sexual pollution (also termed by doctors onanism, masturbation — manu stupratio) is the emission of seed or its equivalent outside sexual intercourse.

We say—the emission of seed or its equivalent. Pollution strictly so-called is to be found only m men who have reached the age of puberty, since these alone are capable of secreting seed in the proper sense of the word that in its wider meaning pollution is a word applied to the emission of what is equivalent to seed, i.e. the emission of any fluid which is accompanied by venereal pleasure and which may occur in women, eunuchs or those who have not yet reached the age of puberty. -The moral evil of either form of pollution seems almost the same. However, in pollution strictly so-called there is the additional evil of a useless emission of seed contrary to the natural order.

a) Pollution which is directly willed is always grievously sinful.

Why ? Because it is the direct willing of sexual pleasure. The way in which it is procured has little bearing on its moral character, provided that there is no desire for sodomy, bestiality, co-operation, or any other means which is of its nature forbidden.

b) The sinfulness of pollution which is voluntary in its cause must be judged according to the principles which apply to acts that are indirectly voluntary. Therefore one has to consider 1. whether the action resulting in pollution is in itself morally good, such as washing, swimming, riding ; 2. whether the purpose of this action is morally good ; 3. whether there is sufficient reason for performing the action.

c) Pollution which occurs during sleep is not sinful unless it is willed in some way.

In practice men of upright life need not be disturbed by these nocturnal emissions, even if they occur when they are half-awake.

Scholium. Remedies for pollution. It is evident from experience that the sin of pollution is widespread amongst young persons of both sexes and cannot be easily checked. It is of supreme importance that the confessor save from despondency anyone who habitually falls into this sin ; he must be encouraged to persevere in the firm conviction that victory is possible and to remain faithful to all the means suggested by the confessor. Such remedies are a) supernatural and moral ; b ) natural and hygienic.

a) The supernatural and moral remedies are frequent reception of the Sacraments, daily exercises of piety, avoidance of the occasions of sin and idleness, horror and loathing of this vice.

b) Natural and hygienic remedies are : bodily exercise causing moderate physical fatigue, cold baths, a hard bed which is not too warm, sleep on one’s right side with the hands resting on the breast, prompt rising in the morning at the stated hour, the avoidance of any food or drink which is too rich or stimulating, the use of medicines which quieten the nerves. If pollution is frequent as the result of bodily unhealthiness, a doctor should be consulted who is known to be a man of upright conscience.

525. 2. Sodomy (sometimes called paederasty or the unnatural vice) is unnatural carnal intercourse between a male and another person (immissio penis in vas posterum alterius personae). If this other person is a male, sodomy is said to be perfect ; if the person is a female, it is imperfect sodomy. Sodomy is a sin which cries to heaven for vengeance ; cf. the following section on sexual perversion.

526. 3. Bestiality is sexual intercourse with an animal. It is the most grievous of all the sins against chastity. The sin is not committed if, while touching an animal, pollution takes place without performing or willing the full sexual act.

Scholium. Sexual perversion. In practice, the confessor should acquaint himself with the teaching of recent authors on sexual perversion which consists in unnatural acts against chastity and easily becomes almost a pathological condition which is not easily remedied. The more important forms of sexual perversion are :

a) sadism (so called from the pervert Count de Sade), which consists in the infliction of cruelty on another in order to excite in oneself venereal pleasure ; it may consist in striking, wounding, or killing another, etc. ;

b) masochism (so called from the seductive novelist Sacher-Masoch), which is the voluntary infliction of cruelty on oneself by another in order to arouse sexual pleasure ; for instance, a woman may ask another to beat her so that her sex passions may be aroused ;

c) fetishism (from the Spanish word feitico), which consists in the lustful affection for some thing, such as exciting sexual pleasure by touching a woman’s dress, or shoes, or hair. This form of perversion is frequently a pathological state ;

d) homosexuality, which is a strong sexual inclination towards persons of the same sex, viz. the attraction of one man for another, or one female for another. Such perversion when existing in females used to be called the lesbian vice, or sapphism, or tribadism.

In some instances sexual perversion seems almost innate, in others it is acquired by acts of gross impurity, in others it is the cause of a genuine pathological condition. However it is most rare that such perversion completely disturbs the balance of the mind, and thus the agent must be regarded as responsible for the consequent acts of impurity. The confessor must show great patience and prudence in the guidance of such persons if they desire to escape from their evil habit.


527. 1. Continence is a disposition of the will inclining it to resist evil desires concerned with touch. It affords valuable assistance to the virtue of temperance.

2. Meekness is the moral virtue which moderates anger in accord with right reason. Humility and fortitude are extremely useful for acquiring meekness.

3. Clemency is a moral virtue inclining superiors to moderate or even to remit due punishment in so far as this is reasonable. The contrary vice is cruelty which demands and inflicts excessive punishment.

4. Modesty is the virtue which moderates all the internal and external movements and appearance of a person within the bounds and limits proper to his state in life, intellectual ability, and wealth. There are four virtues included under modesty : humility, studiousness, modesty in external behaviour, modesty in dress.

a) Humility is the virtue which curbs man’s inordinate desire for personal excellence and inclines him to recognise his own worth in its true light. Consequently this virtue has two functions : 1. to restrain the inordinate desire for personal excellence ; 2. to subject man to God by the recognition that all the good he possesses comes from his Creator. This second function of humility is its chief, although not always sufficiently recognised as such by ascetical writers. — Humility is a most necessary virtue since it removes the poison of pride which obstructs the effectiveness of divine grace.

Its contraries are inordinate self-depreciation by excess and pride by defect.

b) Studiousness is the virtue which moderates the desire and pursuit of truth in accordance with the principles of right reason. Its contrary vices are curiosity which is an excessive desire for knowledge, and negligence which is the voluntary omission of knowledge essential to one’s state and condition in life.

c) Modesty in external behaviour is the virtue inclining man to observe reasonable decorum in externals, which include : 1. his bodily movements, 2. recreation, 3. dress and adornments.

Modesty in bodily behaviour is most essential for the preservation of pleasant intercourse amongst men, and thus St. Augustine in his Rule for the servants of God gives the following advice : “ In all your movements let nothing be evident which would offend the eyes of another.” Modesty in recreation or the right use of recreation is called eutrapely. Modesty in dress and bodily adornments inclines a person to avoid not merely everything that is offensive and insufficient but also everything unnecessary. By excess the virtue is violated especially by women through excessive or even indecent adornment. Women who are gravely indecent in dress or make-up should be turned away from receiving Holy Communion, but in this matter careful consideration must be given to local custom and great prudence must be exercised.