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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[1] Out. Para. 1/4 - SECOND PART OF THE SECOND PART (SS) (QQ[1]-189)
      • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider in particular blasphemy against the Holy Ghost:
under which head there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether blasphemy or the sin against the Holy Ghost is the same as
the sin committed through certain malice?

(2) Of the species of this sin;

(3) Whether it can be forgiven?

(4) Whether it is possible to begin by sinning against the Holy Ghost
before committing other sins?


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the sin against the Holy Ghost is the same as the sin committed
through certain malice?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the sin against the Holy Ghost is not the same
as the sin committed through certain malice. Because the sin against the
Holy Ghost is the sin of blasphemy, according to Mt. 12:32. But not every
sin committed through certain malice is a sin of blasphemy: since many
other kinds of sin may be committed through certain malice. Therefore the
sin against the Holy Ghost is not the same as the sin committed through
certain malice.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the sin committed through certain malice is condivided
with sin committed through ignorance, and sin committed through weakness:
whereas the sin against the Holy Ghost is condivided with the sin against
the Son of Man (Mt. 12:32). Therefore the sin against the Holy Ghost is
not the same as the sin committed through certain malice, since things
whose opposites differ, are themselves different.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the sin against the Holy Ghost is itself a generic sin,
having its own determinate species: whereas sin committed through certain
malice is not a special kind of sin, but a condition or general
circumstance of sin, which can affect any kind of sin at all. Therefore
the sin against the Holy Ghost is not the same as the sin committed
through certain malice.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, The Master says (Sent. ii, D, 43) that "to sin against
the Holy Ghost is to take pleasure in the malice of sin for its own
sake." Now this is to sin through certain malice. Therefore it seems that
the sin committed through certain malice is the same as the sin against
the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Body Para. 1/4

I answer that, Three meanings have been given to the sin against the
Holy Ghost. For the earlier doctors, viz. Athanasius (Super Matth. xii,
32), Hilary (Can. xii in Matth.), Ambrose (Super Luc. xii, 10), Jerome
(Super Matth. xii), and Chrysostom (Hom. xli in Matth.), say that the sin
against the Holy Ghost is literally to utter a blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit, whether by Holy Spirit we understand the essential name
applicable to the whole Trinity, each Person of which is a Spirit and is
holy, or the personal name of one of the Persons of the Trinity, in which
sense blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is distinct from the blasphemy
against the Son of Man (Mt. 12:32), for Christ did certain things in
respect of His human nature, by eating, drinking, and such like actions,
while He did others in respect of His Godhead, by casting out devils,
raising the dead, and the like: which things He did both by the power of
His own Godhead and by the operation of the Holy Ghost, of Whom He was
full, according to his human nature. Now the Jews began by speaking
blasphemy against the Son of Man, when they said (Mt. 11:19) that He was
"a glutton . . . a wine drinker," and a "friend of publicans": but
afterwards they blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, when they ascribed to
the prince of devils those works which Christ did by the power of His own
Divine Nature and by the operation of the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Body Para. 2/4

Augustine, however (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi), says that blasphemy or
the sin against the Holy Ghost, is final impenitence when, namely, a man
perseveres in mortal sin until death, and that it is not confined to
utterance by word of mouth, but extends to words in thought and deed, not
to one word only, but to many. Now this word, in this sense, is said to
be uttered against the Holy Ghost, because it is contrary to the
remission of sins, which is the work of the Holy Ghost, Who is the
charity both of the Father and of the Son. Nor did Our Lord say this to
the Jews, as though they had sinned against the Holy Ghost, since they
were not yet guilty of final impenitence, but He warned them, lest by
similar utterances they should come to sin against the Holy Ghost: and it
is in this sense that we are to understand Mark 3:29,30, where after Our
Lord had said: "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost," etc.
the Evangelist adds, "because they said: He hath an unclean spirit."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Body Para. 3/4

But others understand it differently, and say that the sin of blasphemy
against the Holy Ghost, is a sin committed against that good which is
appropriated to the Holy Ghost: because goodness is appropriated to the
Holy Ghost, just a power is appropriated to the Father, and wisdom to the
Son. Hence they say that when a man sins through weakness, it is a sin
"against the Father"; that when he sins through ignorance, it is a sin
"against the Son"; and that when he sins through certain malice, i.e.
through the very choosing of evil, as explained above (FS, Q[78], AA[1]
,3), it is a sin "against the Holy Ghost."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] Body Para. 4/4

Now this may happen in two ways. First by reason of the very inclination
of a vicious habit which we call malice, and, in this way, to sin through
malice is not the same as to sin against the Holy Ghost. In another way
it happens that by reason of contempt, that which might have prevented
the choosing of evil, is rejected or removed; thus hope is removed by
despair, and fear by presumption, and so on, as we shall explain further
on (QQ[20],21). Now all these things which prevent the choosing of sin
are effects of the Holy Ghost in us; so that, in this sense, to sin
through malice is to sin against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Just as the confession of faith consists in a protestation
not only of words but also of deeds, so blasphemy against the Holy Ghost
can be uttered in word, thought and deed.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: According to the third interpretation, blasphemy against
the Holy Ghost is condivided with blasphemy against the Son of Man,
forasmuch as He is also the Son of God, i.e. the "power of God and the
wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). Wherefore, in this sense, the sin against
the Son of Man will be that which is committed through ignorance, or
through weakness.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Sin committed through certain malice, in so far as it
results from the inclination of a habit, is not a special sin, but a
general condition of sin: whereas, in so far as it results from a special
contempt of an effect of the Holy Ghost in us, it has the character of a
special sin. According to this interpretation the sin against the Holy
Ghost is a special kind of sin, as also according to the first
interpretation: whereas according to the second, it is not a species of
sin, because final impenitence may be a circumstance of any kind of sin.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether it is fitting to distinguish six kinds of sin against the Holy
Ghost?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem unfitting to distinguish six kinds of sin against
the Holy Ghost, viz. despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy,
resisting the known truth, envy of our brother's spiritual good, which
are assigned by the Master (Sent. ii, D, 43). For to deny God's justice
or mercy belongs to unbelief. Now, by despair, a man rejects God's mercy,
and by presumption, His justice. Therefore each of these is a kind of
unbelief rather than of the sin against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, impenitence, seemingly, regards past sins, while
obstinacy regards future sins. Now past and future time do not diversify
the species of virtues or vices, since it is the same faith whereby we
believe that Christ was born, and those of old believed that He would be
born. Therefore obstinacy and impenitence should not be reckoned as two
species of sin against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17).
Therefore it seem that resistance of the known truth, and envy of a
brother's spiritual good, belong to blasphemy against the Son rather than
against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, Bernard says (De Dispens. et Praecept. xi) that "to
refuse to obey is to resist the Holy Ghost." Moreover a gloss on Lev.
10:16, says that "a feigned repentance is a blasphemy against the Holy
Ghost." Again, schism is, seemingly, directly opposed to the Holy Ghost
by Whom the Church is united together. Therefore it seems that the
species of sins against the Holy Ghost are insufficiently enumerated.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Augustine [*Fulgentius] (De Fide ad Petrum iii) says
that "those who despair of pardon for their sins, or who without merits
presume on God's mercy, sin against the Holy Ghost," and (Enchiridion
lxxxiii) that "he who dies in a state of obstinacy is guilty of the sin
against the Holy Ghost," and (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi) that
"impenitence is a sin against the Holy Ghost," and (De Serm. Dom. in
Monte xxii), that "to resist fraternal goodness with the brands of envy
is to sin against the Holy Ghost," and in his book De unico Baptismo (De
Bap. contra Donat. vi, 35) he says that "a man who spurns the truth, is either envious of his brethren to whom the truth is revealed, or
ungrateful to God, by Whose inspiration the Church is taught," and
therefore, seemingly, sins against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, The above species are fittingly assigned to the sin
against the Holy Ghost taken in the third sense, because they are
distinguished in respect of the removal of contempt of those things
whereby a man can be prevented from sinning through choice. These things
are either on the part of God's judgment, or on the part of His gifts, or
on the part of sin. For, by consideration of the Divine judgment, wherein
justice is accompanied with mercy, man is hindered from sinning through
choice, both by hope, arising from the consideration of the mercy that
pardons sins and rewards good deeds, which hope is removed by "despair";
and by fear, arising from the consideration of the Divine justice that
punishes sins, which fear is removed by "presumption," when, namely, a
man presumes that he can obtain glory without merits, or pardon without
repentance.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Body Para. 2/3

God's gifts whereby we are withdrawn from sin, are two: one is the
acknowledgment of the truth, against which there is the "resistance of
the known truth," when, namely, a man resists the truth which he has
acknowledged, in order to sin more freely: while the other is the
assistance of inward grace, against which there is "envy of a brother's
spiritual good," when, namely, a man is envious not only of his brother's
person, but also of the increase of Divine grace in the world.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] Body Para. 3/3

On the part of sin, there are two things which may withdraw man
therefrom: one is the inordinateness and shamefulness of the act, the
consideration of which is wont to arouse man to repentance for the sin he
has committed, and against this there is "impenitence," not as denoting
permanence in sin until death, in which sense it was taken above (for
thus it would not be a special sin, but a circumstance of sin), but as
denoting the purpose of not repenting. The other thing is the smallness
or brevity of the good which is sought in sin, according to Rm. 6:21:
"What fruit had you therefore then in those things, of which you are now
ashamed?" The consideration of this is wont to prevent man's will from
being hardened in sin, and this is removed by "obstinacy," whereby man
hardens his purpose by clinging to sin. Of these two it is written (Jer.
8:6): "There is none that doth penance for his sin, saying: What have I
done?" as regards the first; and, "They are all turned to their own
course, as a horse rushing to the battle," as regards the second.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The sins of despair and presumption consist, not in
disbelieving in God's justice and mercy, but in contemning them.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Obstinacy and impenitence differ not only in respect of
past and future time, but also in respect of certain formal aspects by
reason of the diverse consideration of those things which may be
considered in sin, as explained above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Grace and truth were the work of Christ through the gifts
of the Holy Ghost which He gave to men.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[2] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: To refuse to obey belongs to obstinacy, while a feigned
repentance belongs to impenitence, and schism to the envy of a brother's
spiritual good, whereby the members of the Church are united together.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the sin against the Holy Ghost can be forgiven?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the sin against the Holy Ghost can be
forgiven. For Augustine says (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi): "We should
despair of no man, so long as Our Lord's patience brings him back to
repentance." But if any sin cannot be forgiven, it would be possible to
despair of some sinners. Therefore the sin against the Holy Ghost can be
forgiven.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, no sin is forgiven, except through the soul being healed
by God. But "no disease is incurable to an all-powerful physician," as a
gloss says on Ps. 102:3, "Who healeth all thy diseases." Therefore the
sin against the Holy Ghost can be forgiven.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the free-will is indifferent to either good or evil.
Now, so long as man is a wayfarer, he can fall away from any virtue,
since even an angel fell from heaven, wherefore it is written (Job
4:18,19): "In His angels He found wickedness: how much more shall they
that dwell in houses of clay?" Therefore, in like manner, a man can
return from any sin to the state of justice. Therefore the sin against
the Holy Ghost can be forgiven.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 12:32): "He that shall speak against
the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor
in the world to come": and Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 22)
that "so great is the downfall of this sin that it cannot submit to the
humiliation of asking for pardon."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Body Para. 1/3

I answer that, According to the various interpretations of the sin
against the Holy Ghost, there are various ways in which it may be said that it cannot be forgiven. For if by the sin against the Holy Ghost we
understand final impenitence, it is said to be unpardonable, since in no
way is it pardoned: because the mortal sin wherein a man perseveres until
death will not be forgiven in the life to come, since it was not remitted
by repentance in this life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Body Para. 2/3

According to the other two interpretations, it is said to be
unpardonable, not as though it is nowise forgiven, but because,
considered in itself, it deserves not to be pardoned: and this in two
ways. First, as regards the punishment, since he that sins through
ignorance or weakness, deserves less punishment, whereas he that sins
through certain malice, can offer no excuse in alleviation of his
punishment. Likewise those who blasphemed against the Son of Man before
His Godhead was revealed, could have some excuse, on account of the
weakness of the flesh which they perceived in Him, and hence, they
deserved less punishment; whereas those who blasphemed against His very
Godhead, by ascribing to the devil the works of the Holy Ghost, had no
excuse in diminution of their punishment. Wherefore, according to
Chrysostom's commentary (Hom. xlii in Matth.), the Jews are said not to
be forgiven this sin, neither in this world nor in the world to come,
because they were punished for it, both in the present life, through the
Romans, and in the life to come, in the pains of hell. Thus also
Athanasius adduces the example of their forefathers who, first of all,
wrangled with Moses on account of the shortage of water and bread; and
this the Lord bore with patience, because they were to be excused on
account of the weakness of the flesh: but afterwards they sinned more grievously when, by ascribing to an idol the favors bestowed by God Who
had brought them out of Egypt, they blasphemed, so to speak, against the
Holy Ghost, saying (Ex. 32:4): "These are thy gods, O Israel, that have
brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Therefore the Lord both inflicted
temporal punishment on them, since "there were slain on that day about
three and twenty thousand men" (Ex. 32:28), and threatened them with
punishment in the life to come, saying, (Ex. 32:34): "I, in the day of
revenge, will visit this sin . . . of theirs."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] Body Para. 3/3

Secondly, this may be understood to refer to the guilt: thus a disease
is said to be incurable in respect of the nature of the disease, which
removes whatever might be a means of cure, as when it takes away the
power of nature, or causes loathing for food and medicine, although God
is able to cure such a disease. So too, the sin against the Holy Ghost is
said to be unpardonable, by reason of its nature, in so far as it removes
those things which are a means towards the pardon of sins. This does not,
however, close the way of forgiveness and healing to an all-powerful and
merciful God, Who, sometimes, by a miracle, so to speak, restores
spiritual health to such men.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: We should despair of no man in this life, considering God's
omnipotence and mercy. But if we consider the circumstances of sin, some
are called (Eph. 2:2) "children of despair" [*'Filios diffidentiae,'
which the Douay version renders 'children of unbelief.'].

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This argument considers the question on the part of God's
omnipotence, not on that of the circumstances of sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: In this life the free-will does indeed ever remain subject
to change: yet sometimes it rejects that whereby, so far as it is
concerned, it can be turned to good. Hence considered in itself this sin
is unpardonable, although God can pardon it.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether a man can sin first of all against the Holy Ghost?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that a man cannot sin first of all against the Holy
Ghost, without having previously committed other sins. For the natural
order requires that one should be moved to perfection from imperfection.
This is evident as regards good things, according to Prov. 4:18: "The
path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increases even
to perfect day." Now, in evil things, the perfect is the greatest evil,
as the Philosopher states (Metaph. v, text. 21). Since then the sin
against the Holy Ghost is the most grievous sin, it seems that man comes
to commit this sin through committing lesser sins.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, to sin against the Holy Ghost is to sin through certain
malice, or through choice. Now man cannot do this until he has sinned
many times; for the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 6,9) that "although a man
is able to do unjust deeds, yet he cannot all at once do them as an
unjust man does," viz. from choice. Therefore it seems that the sin
against the Holy Ghost cannot be committed except after other sins.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, repentance and impenitence are about the same object.
But there is no repentance, except about past sins. Therefore the same
applies to impenitence which is a species of the sin against the Holy
Ghost. Therefore the sin against the Holy Ghost presupposes other sins.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, "It is easy in the eyes of God on a sudden to make a
poor man rich" (Ecclus. 11:23). Therefore, conversely, it is possible for
a man, according to the malice of the devil who tempts him, to be led to
commit the most grievous of sins which is that against the Holy Ghost.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Body Para. 1/4

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), in one way, to sin against the
Holy Ghost is to sin through certain malice. Now one may sin through
certain malice in two ways, as stated in the same place: first, through
the inclination of a habit; but this is not, properly speaking, to sin
against the Holy Ghost, nor does a man come to commit this sin all at
once, in as much as sinful acts must precede so as to cause the habit
that induces to sin. Secondly, one may sin through certain malice, by
contemptuously rejecting the things whereby a man is withdrawn from sin.
This is, properly speaking, to sin against the Holy Ghost, as stated
above (A[1]); and this also, for the most part, presupposes other sins,
for it is written (Prov. 18:3) that "the wicked man, when he is come into
the depth of sins, contemneth."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Body Para. 2/4

Nevertheless it is possible for a man, in his first sinful act, to sin
against the Holy Ghost by contempt, both on account of his free-will, and
on account of the many previous dispositions, or again, through being
vehemently moved to evil, while but feebly attached to good. Hence never
or scarcely ever does it happen that the perfect sin all at once against
the Holy Ghost: wherefore Origen says (Peri Archon. i, 3): "I do not
think that anyone who stands on the highest step of perfection, can fail
or fall suddenly; this can only happen by degrees and bit by bit."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Body Para. 3/4

The same applies, if the sin against the Holy Ghost be taken literally
for blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. For such blasphemy as Our Lord
speaks of, always proceeds from contemptuous malice.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] Body Para. 4/4

If, however, with Augustine (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi) we understand
the sin against the Holy Ghost to denote final impenitence, it does not
regard the question in point, because this sin against the Holy Ghost
requires persistence in sin until the end of life.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Movement both in good and in evil is made, for the most
part, from imperfect to perfect, according as man progresses in good or
evil: and yet in both cases, one man can begin from a greater (good or
evil) than another man does. Consequently, that from which a man begins
can be perfect in good or evil according to its genus, although it may be
imperfect as regards the series of good or evil actions whereby a man
progresses in good or evil.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This argument considers the sin which is committed through
certain malice, when it proceeds from the inclination of a habit.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[14] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: If by impenitence we understand with Augustine (De Verb.
Dom., Serm. lxxi) persistence in sin until the end, it is clear that it
presupposes sin, just as repentance does. If, however, we take it for
habitual impenitence, in which sense it is a sin against the Holy Ghost,
it is evident that it can precede sin: for it is possible for a man who
has never sinned to have the purpose either of repenting or of not
repenting, if he should happen to sin.





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