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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT FS Prologue Para. 1/1 - FIRST PART OF THE SECOND PART (FS) (QQ[1]-114)
      • Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CAUSE OF SIN, IN RESPECT OF ONE SIN BEING THE CAUSE OF ANOTHER (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF THE CAUSE OF SIN, IN RESPECT OF ONE SIN BEING THE CAUSE OF ANOTHER (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider the cause of sin, in so far as one sin can be the
cause of another. Under this head there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether covetousness is the root of all sins?

(2) Whether pride is the beginning of every sin?

(3) Whether other special sins should be called capital vices, besides
pride and covetousness?

(4) How many capital vices there are, and which are they?


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether covetousness is the root of all sins?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that covetousness is not the root of all sins. For
covetousness, which is immoderate desire for riches, is opposed to the
virtue of liberality. But liberality is not the root of all virtues.
Therefore covetousness is not the root of all sins.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the desire for the means proceeds from desire for the
end. Now riches, the desire for which is called covetousness, are not
desired except as being useful for some end, as stated in Ethic. i, 5.
Therefore covetousness is not the root of all sins, but proceeds from
some deeper root.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, it often happens that avarice, which is another name for
covetousness, arises from other sins; as when a man desires money through
ambition, or in order to sate his gluttony. Therefore it is not the root
of all sins.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Apostle says (1 Tim. 6:10): "The desire of money is
the root of all evil."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, According to some, covetousness may be understood in
different ways. First, as denoting inordinate desire for riches: and thus
it is a special sin. Secondly, as denoting inordinate desire for any
temporal good: and thus it is a genus comprising all sins, because every
sin includes an inordinate turning to a mutable good, as stated above
(Q[72], A[2]). Thirdly, as denoting an inclination of a corrupt nature to
desire corruptible goods inordinately: and they say that in this sense
covetousness is the root of all sins, comparing it to the root of a tree,
which draws its sustenance from earth, just as every sin grows out of the
love of temporal things.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

Now, though all this is true, it does not seem to explain the mind of
the Apostle when he states that covetousness is the root of all sins. For
in that passage he clearly speaks against those who, because they "will
become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil . . .
for covetousness is the root of all evils." Hence it is evident that he
is speaking of covetousness as denoting the inordinate desire for riches.
Accordingly, we must say that covetousness, as denoting a special sin, is
called the root of all sins, in likeness to the root of a tree, in
furnishing sustenance to the whole tree. For we see that by riches man
acquires the means of committing any sin whatever, and of sating his
desire for any sin whatever, since money helps man to obtain all manner
of temporal goods, according to Eccles. 10:19: "All things obey money":
so that in this desire for riches is the root of all sins.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Virtue and sin do not arise from the same source. For sin
arises from the desire of mutable good; and consequently the desire of
that good which helps one to obtain all temporal goods, is called the
root of all sins. But virtue arises from the desire for the immutable
God; and consequently charity, which is the love of God, is called the
root of the virtues, according to Eph. 3:17: "Rooted and founded in
charity."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: The desire of money is said to be the root of sins, not as
though riches were sought for their own sake, as being the last end; but
because they are much sought after as useful for any temporal end. And
since a universal good is more desirable than a particular good, they
move the appetite more than any individual goods, which along with many
others can be procured by means of money.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Just as in natural things we do not ask what always
happens, but what happens most frequently, for the reason that the nature
of corruptible things can be hindered, so as not always to act in the
same way; so also in moral matters, we consider what happens in the
majority of cases, not what happens invariably, for the reason that the
will does not act of necessity. So when we say that covetousness is the
root of all evils, we do not assert that no other evil can be its root,
but that other evils more frequently arise therefrom, for the reason
given.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether pride is the beginning of every sin?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that pride is not the beginning of every sin. For
the root is a beginning of a tree, so that the beginning of a sin seems
to be the same as the root of sin. Now covetousness is the root of every
sin, as stated above (A[1]). Therefore it is also the beginning of every
sin, and not pride.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, it is written (Ecclus. 10:14): "The beginning of the
pride of man is apostasy [Douay: 'to fall off'] from God." But apostasy
from God is a sin. Therefore another sin is the beginning of pride, so
that the latter is not the beginning of every sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the beginning of every sin would seem to be that which
causes all sins. Now this is inordinate self-love, which, according to
Augustine (De Civ. Dei xiv), "builds up the city of Babylon." Therefore
self-love and not pride, is the beginning of every sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Ecclus. 10:15): "Pride is the beginning
of all sin."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, Some say pride is to be taken in three ways. First, as
denoting inordinate desire to excel; and thus it is a special sin.
Secondly, as denoting actual contempt of God, to the effect of not being
subject to His commandment; and thus, they say, it is a generic sin.
Thirdly, as denoting an inclination to this contempt, owing to the
corruption of nature; and in this sense they say that it is the beginning
of every sin, and that it differs from covetousness, because covetousness
regards sin as turning towards the mutable good by which sin is, as it
were, nourished and fostered, for which reason covetousness is called the
"root"; whereas pride regards sin as turning away from God, to Whose
commandment man refuses to be subject, for which reason it is called the
"beginning," because the beginning of evil consists in turning away from
God.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Body Para. 2/3

Now though all this is true, nevertheless it does not explain the mind
of the wise man who said (Ecclus. 10:15): "Pride is the beginning of all
sin." For it is evident that he is speaking of pride as denoting
inordinate desire to excel, as is clear from what follows (verse 17):
"God hath overturned the thrones of proud princes"; indeed this is the
point of nearly the whole chapter. We must therefore say that pride, even
as denoting a special sin, is the beginning of every sin. For we must
take note that, in voluntary actions, such as sins, there is a twofold
order, of intention, and of execution. In the former order, the principle
is the end, as we have stated many times before (Q[1], A[1], ad 1; Q[18],
A[7], ad 2; Q[15], A[1], ad 2; Q[25], A[2]). Now man's end in acquiring
all temporal goods is that, through their means, he may have some
perfection and excellence. Therefore, from this point of view, pride,
which is the desire to excel, is said to be the "beginning" of every sin.
On the other hand, in the order of execution, the first place belongs to
that which by furnishing the opportunity of fulfilling all desires of
sin, has the character of a root, and such are riches; so that, from this
point of view, covetousness is said to be the "root" of all evils, as
stated above (A[1]).

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] Body Para. 3/3

This suffices for the Reply to the First Objection.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Apostasy from God is stated to be the beginning of pride,
in so far as it denotes a turning away from God, because from the fact
that man wishes not to be subject to God, it follows that he desires
inordinately his own excellence in temporal things. Wherefore, in the
passage quoted, apostasy from God does not denote the special sin, but
rather that general condition of every sin, consisting in its turning
away from God. It may also be said that apostasy from God is said to be
the beginning of pride, because it is the first species of pride. For it
is characteristic of pride to be unwilling to be subject to any superior,
and especially to God; the result being that a man is unduly lifted up,
in respect of the other species of pride.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: In desiring to excel, man loves himself, for to love
oneself is the same as to desire some good for oneself. Consequently it
amounts to the same whether we reckon pride or self-love as the beginning
of every evil.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether any other special sins, besides pride and avarice, should be
called capital?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that no other special sins, besides pride and
avarice, should be called capital. Because "the head seems to be to an
animal, what the root is to a plant," as stated in De Anima ii, text. 38:
for the roots are like a mouth. If therefore covetousness is called the
"root of all evils," it seems that it alone, and no other sin, should be
called a capital vice.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the head bears a certain relation of order to the other
members, in so far as sensation and movement follow from the head. But
sin implies privation of order. Therefore sin has not the character of
head: so that no sins should be called capital.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, capital crimes are those which receive capital
punishment. But every kind of sin comprises some that are punished thus.
Therefore the capital sins are not certain specific sins.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 17) enumerates certain special
vices under the name of capital.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, The word capital is derived from "caput" [a head]. Now
the head, properly speaking, is that part of an animal's body, which is
the principle and director of the whole animal. Hence, metaphorically
speaking, every principle is called a head, and even men who direct and
govern others are called heads. Accordingly a capital vice is so called,
in the first place, from "head" taken in the proper sense, and thus the
name "capital" is given to a sin for which capital punishment is
inflicted. It is not in this sense that we are now speaking of capital
sins, but in another sense, in which the term "capital" is derived from
head, taken metaphorically for a principle or director of others. In this
way a capital vice is one from which other vices arise, chiefly by being
their final cause, which origin is formal, as stated above (Q[72], A[6]).
Wherefore a capital vice is not only the principle of others, but is also
their director and, in a way, their leader: because the art or habit, to
which the end belongs, is always the principle and the commander in
matters concerning the means. Hence Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 17) compares
these capital vices to the "leaders of an army."

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The term "capital" is taken from "caput" and applied to
something connected with, or partaking of the head, as having some
property thereof, but not as being the head taken literally. And
therefore the capital vices are not only those which have the character
of primary origin, as covetousness which is called the "root," and pride
which is called the beginning, but also those which have the character
of proximate origin in respect of several sins.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Sin lacks order in so far as it turns away from God, for in
this respect it is an evil, and evil, according to Augustine (De Natura
Boni iv), is "the privation of mode, species and order." But in so far as
sin implies a turning to something, it regards some good: wherefore, in
this respect, there can be order in sin.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: This objection considers capital sin as so called from the
punishment it deserves, in which sense we are not taking it here.


Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the seven capital vices are suitably reckoned?

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that we ought not to reckon seven capital vices,
viz. vainglory, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, lust. For
sins are opposed to virtues. But there are four principal virtues, as
stated above (Q[61], A[2]). Therefore there are only four principal or
capital vices.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the passions of the soul are causes of sin, as stated
above (Q[77]). But there are four principal passions of the soul; two of
which, viz. hope and fear, are not mentioned among the above sins,
whereas certain vices are mentioned to which pleasure and sadness belong,
since pleasure belongs to gluttony and lust, and sadness to sloth and
envy. Therefore the principal sins are unfittingly enumerated.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, anger is not a principal passion. Therefore it should not be placed among the principal vices.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, just as covetousness or avarice is the root of sin, so
is pride the beginning of sin, as stated above (A[2]). But avarice is
reckoned to be one of the capital vices. Therefore pride also should be
placed among the capital vices.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Obj. 5 Para. 1/1

OBJ 5: Further, some sins are committed which cannot be caused through
any of these: as, for instance, when one sins through ignorance, or when
one commits a sin with a good intention, e.g. steals in order to give an
alms. Therefore the capital vices are insufficiently enumerated.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, stands the authority of Gregory who enumerates them in
this way (Moral. xxxi, 17).

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Body Para. 1/5

I answer that, As stated above (A[3]), the capital vices are those which
give rise to others, especially by way of final cause. Now this kind of
origin may take place in two ways. First, on account of the condition of
the sinner, who is disposed so as to have a strong inclination for one
particular end, the result being that he frequently goes forward to other
sins. But this kind of origin does not come under the consideration of
art, because man's particular dispositions are infinite in number.
Secondly, on account of a natural relationship of the ends to one
another: and it is in this way that most frequently one vice arises from another, so that this kind of origin can come under the consideration of
art.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Body Para. 2/5

Accordingly therefore, those vices are called capital, whose ends have
certain fundamental reasons for moving the appetite; and it is in respect
of these fundamental reasons that the capital vices are differentiated.
Now a thing moves the appetite in two ways. First, directly and of its
very nature: thus good moves the appetite to seek it, while evil, for the
same reason, moves the appetite to avoid it. Secondly, indirectly and on
account of something else, as it were: thus one seeks an evil on account
of some attendant good, or avoids a good on account of some attendant
evil.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Body Para. 3/5

Again, man's good is threefold. For, in the first place, there is a
certain good of the soul, which derives its aspect of appetibility,
merely through being apprehended, viz. the excellence of honor and
praise, and this good is sought inordinately by "vainglory." Secondly,
there is the good of the body, and this regards either the preservation
of the individual, e.g. meat and drink, which good is pursued
inordinately by "gluttony," or the preservation of the species, e.g.
sexual intercourse, which good is sought inordinately by "lust." Thirdly,
there is external good, viz. riches, to which "covetousness" is referred.
These same four vices avoid inordinately the contrary evils.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Body Para. 4/5

Or again, good moves the appetite chiefly through possessing some
property of happiness, which all men seek naturally. Now in the first
place happiness implies perfection, since happiness is a perfect good, to
which belongs excellence or renown, which is desired by "pride" or
"vainglory." Secondly, it implies satiety, which "covetousness" seeks in
riches that give promise thereof. Thirdly, it implies pleasure, without
which happiness is impossible, as stated in Ethic. i, 7; x, 6,7,[8] and
this "gluttony" and "lust" pursue.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] Body Para. 5/5

On the other hand, avoidance of good on account of an attendant evil
occurs in two ways. For this happens either in respect of one's own good,
and thus we have "sloth," which is sadness about one's spiritual good, on
account of the attendant bodily labor: or else it happens in respect of
another's good, and this, if it be without recrimination, belongs to
"envy," which is sadness about another's good as being a hindrance to
one's own excellence, while if it be with recrimination with a view to
vengeance, it is "anger." Again, these same vices seek the contrary evils.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Virtue and vice do not originate in the same way: since
virtue is caused by the subordination of the appetite to reason, or to
the immutable good, which is God, whereas vice arises from the appetite
for mutable good. Wherefore there is no need for the principal vices to
be contrary to the principal virtues.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Fear and hope are irascible passions. Now all the passions
of the irascible part arise from passions of the concupiscible part; and
these are all, in a way, directed to pleasure or sorrow. Hence pleasure
and sorrow have a prominent place among the capital sins, as being the
most important of the passions, as stated above (Q[25], A[4]).

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Although anger is not a principal passion, yet it has a
distinct place among the capital vices, because it implies a special kind
of movement in the appetite, in so far as recrimination against another's
good has the aspect of a virtuous good, i.e. of the right to vengeance.

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: Pride is said to be the beginning of every sin, in the
order of the end, as stated above (A[2]): and it is in the same order
that we are to consider the capital sin as being principal. Wherefore
pride, like a universal vice, is not counted along with the others, but
is reckoned as the "queen of them all," as Gregory states (Moral. xxxi,
27). But covetousness is said to be the root from another point of view,
as stated above (AA[1],2).

Aquin.: SMT FS Q[84] A[4] R.O. 5 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 5: These vices are called capital because others, most
frequently, arise from them: so that nothing prevents some sins from
arising out of other causes. Nevertheless we might say that all the sins
which are due to ignorance, can be reduced to sloth, to which pertains
the negligence of a man who declines to acquire spiritual goods on
account of the attendant labor; for the ignorance that can cause sin, is
due to negligence, as stated above (Q[76], A[2]). That a man commit a sin
with a good intention, seems to point to ignorance, in so far as he knows
not that evil should not be done that good may come of it.




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