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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[36] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF ENVY (FOUR ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] Out. Para. 1/1 - OF ENVY (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider envy, and under this head there are four points of
inquiry:

(1) What is envy?

(2) Whether it is a sin?

(3) Whether it is a mortal sin?

(4) Whether it is a capital sin, and which are its daughters?


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether envy is a kind of sorrow?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that envy is not a kind of sorrow. For the object
of envy is a good, for Gregory says (Moral. v, 46) of the envious man
that "self-inflicted pain wounds the pining spirit, which is racked by
the prosperity of another." Therefore envy is not a kind of sorrow.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, likeness is a cause, not of sorrow but rather of
pleasure. But likeness is a cause of envy: for the Philosopher says
(Rhet. ii, 10): "Men are envious of such as are like them in genus, in
knowledge, in stature, in habit, or in reputation." Therefore envy is not
a kind of sorrow.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, sorrow is caused by a defect, wherefore those who are in
great defect are inclined to sorrow, as stated above (FS, Q[47], A[3])
when we were treating of the passions. Now those who lack little, and who
love honors, and who are considered wise, are envious, according to the
Philosopher (Rhet. ii, 10). Therefore envy is not a kind of sorrow.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, sorrow is opposed to pleasure. Now opposite effects have
not one and the same cause. Therefore, since the recollection of goods
once possessed is a cause of pleasure, as stated above (FS, Q[32], A[3])
it will not be a cause of sorrow. But it is a cause of envy; for the
Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 10) that "we envy those who have or have had
things that befitted ourselves, or which we possessed at some time."
Therefore sloth is not a kind of sorrow.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 14) calls envy a species
of sorrow, and says that "envy is sorrow for another's good."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, The object of a man's sorrow is his own evil. Now it may
happen that another's good is apprehended as one's own evil, and in this
way sorrow can be about another's good. But this happens in two ways:
first, when a man is sorry about another's good, in so far as it
threatens to be an occasion of harm to himself, as when a man grieves for
his enemy's prosperity, for fear lest he may do him some harm: such like
sorrow is not envy, but rather an effect of fear, as the Philosopher
states (Rhet. ii, 9).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

Secondly, another's good may be reckoned as being one's own evil, in so
far as it conduces to the lessening of one's own good name or excellence.
It is in this way that envy grieves for another's good: and consequently
men are envious of those goods in which a good name consists, and about
which men like to be honored and esteemed, as the Philosopher remarks
(Rhet. ii, 10).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Nothing hinders what is good for one from being reckoned as
evil for another: and in this way it is possible for sorrow to be about
good, as stated above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Since envy is about another's good name in so far as it
diminishes the good name a man desires to have, it follows that a man is
envious of those only whom he wishes to rival or surpass in reputation.
But this does not apply to people who are far removed from one another:
for no man, unless he be out of his mind, endeavors to rival or surpass
in reputation those who are far above him. Thus a commoner does not envy
the king, nor does the king envy a commoner whom he is far above.
Wherefore a man envies not those who are far removed from him, whether
in place, time, or station, but those who are near him, and whom he
strives to rival or surpass. For it is against our will that these should
be in better repute than we are, and that gives rise to sorrow. On the
other hand, likeness causes pleasure in so far as it is in agreement with
the will.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: A man does not strive for mastery in matters where he is
very deficient; so that he does not envy one who surpasses him in such
matters, unless he surpass him by little, for then it seems to him that
this is not beyond him, and so he makes an effort; wherefore, if his
effort fails through the other's reputation surpassing his, he grieves.
Hence it is that those who love to be honored are more envious; and in
like manner the faint-hearted are envious, because all things are great
to them, and whatever good may befall another, they reckon that they
themselves have been bested in something great. Hence it is written (Job
5:2): "Envy slayeth the little one," and Gregory says (Moral. v, 46) that
"we can envy those only whom we think better in some respect than
ourselves."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[1] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: Recollection of past goods in so far as we have had them,
causes pleasure; in so far as we have lost them, causes sorrow; and in so
far as others have them, causes envy, because that, above all, seems to
belittle our reputation. Hence the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii) that the
old envy the young, and those who have spent much in order to get
something, envy those who have got it by spending little, because they
grieve that they have lost their goods, and that others have acquired
goods.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether envy is a sin?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that envy is not a sin. For Jerome says to Laeta
about the education of her daughter (Ep. cvii): "Let her have companions,
so that she may learn together with them, envy them, and be nettled when
they are praised." But no one should be advised to commit a sin.
Therefore envy is not a sin

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: Further, "Envy is sorrow for another's good," as Damascene says
(De Fide Orth. ii, 14). But this is sometimes praiseworthy: for it is
written (Prov. 29:2): "When the wicked shall bear rule, the people shall
mourn." Therefore envy is not always a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, envy denotes a kind of zeal. But there is a good zeal,
according to Ps. 68:10: "The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up."
Therefore envy is not always a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Obj. 4 Para. 1/1

OBJ 4: Further, punishment is condivided with fault. But envy is a kind
of punishment: for Gregory says (Moral. v, 46): "When the foul sore of
envy corrupts the vanquished heart, the very exterior itself shows how
forcibly the mind is urged by madness. For paleness seizes the
complexion, the eyes are weighed down, the spirit is inflamed, while the
limbs are chilled, there is frenzy in the heart, there is gnashing with
the teeth." Therefore envy is not a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Gal. 5:26): "Let us not be made desirous
of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), envy is sorrow for another's
good. Now this sorrow may come about in four ways. First, when a man
grieves for another's good, through fear that it may cause harm either to
himself, or to some other goods. This sorrow is not envy, as stated above
(A[1]), and may be void of sin. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xxii, 11): "It
very often happens that without charity being lost, both the destruction
of an enemy rejoices us, and again his glory, without any sin of envy,
saddens us, since, when he falls, we believe that some are deservedly set
up, and when he prospers, we dread lest many suffer unjustly."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] Body Para. 2/2

Secondly, we may grieve over another's good, not because he has it, but
because the good which he has, we have not: and this, properly speaking,
is zeal, as the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 9). And if this zeal be about
virtuous goods, it is praiseworthy, according to 1 Cor. 14:1: "Be zealous
for spiritual gifts": while, if it be about temporal goods, it may be
either sinful or sinless. Thirdly, one may grieve over another's good,
because he who happens to have that good is unworthy of it. Such sorrow
as this cannot be occasioned by virtuous goods, which make a man
righteous, but, as the Philosopher states, is about riches, and those
things which can accrue to the worthy and the unworthy; and he calls this
sorrow {nemesis} [*The nearest equivalent is "indignation." The use of
the word "nemesis" to signify "revenge" does not represent the original
Greek.], saying that it belongs to good morals. But he says this because
he considered temporal goods in themselves, in so far as they may seem
great to those who look not to eternal goods: whereas, according to the
teaching of faith, temporal goods that accrue to those who are unworthy,
are so disposed according to God's just ordinance, either for the
correction of those men, or for their condemnation, and such goods are as
nothing in comparison with the goods to come, which are prepared for good
men. Wherefore sorrow of this kind is forbidden in Holy Writ, according
to Ps. 36:1: "Be not emulous of evil doers, nor envy them that work
iniquity," and elsewhere (Ps. 72:2,3): "My steps had well nigh slipped,
for I was envious of the wicked, when I saw the prosperity of sinners
[*Douay: 'because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the
prosperity of sinners']." Fourthly, we grieve over a man's good, in so
far as his good surpasses ours; this is envy properly speaking, and is
always sinful, as also the Philosopher states (Rhet. ii, 10), because to
do so is to grieve over what should make us rejoice, viz. over our
neighbor's good.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Envy there denotes the zeal with which we ought to strive
to progress with those who are better than we are.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This argument considers sorrow for another's good in the
first sense given above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Envy differs from zeal, as stated above. Hence a certain
zeal may be good, whereas envy is always evil.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[2] R.O. 4 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 4: Nothing hinders a sin from being penal accidentally, as
stated above (FS, Q[87], A[2]) when we were treating of sins.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether envy is a mortal sin?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that envy is not a mortal sin. For since envy is a
kind of sorrow, it is a passion of the sensitive appetite. Now there is
no mortal sin in the sensuality, but only in the reason, as Augustine
declares (De Trin. xii, 12) [*Cf. FS, Q[74], A[4]]. Therefore envy is not
a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, there cannot be mortal sin in infants. But envy can be
in them, for Augustine says (Confess. i): "I myself have seen and known
even a baby envious, it could not speak, yet it turned pale and looked
bitterly on its foster-brother." Therefore envy is not a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, every mortal sin is contrary to some virtue. But envy is
contrary, not to a virtue but to {nemesis}, which is a passion, according
to the Philosopher (Rhet. ii, 9). Therefore envy is not a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Job 5:2): "Envy slayeth the little one."
Now nothing slays spiritually, except mortal sin. Therefore envy is a
mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Envy is a mortal sin, in respect of its genus. For the
genus of a sin is taken from its object; and envy according to the aspect
of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its
spiritual life, according to 1 Jn. 3:14: "We know that we have passed
from death to life, because we love the brethren." Now the object both of
charity and of envy is our neighbor's good, but by contrary movements,
since charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over
it, as stated above (A[1]). Therefore it is evident that envy is a mortal
sin in respect of its genus.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] Body Para. 2/2

Nevertheless, as stated above (Q[35], A[4]; FS, Q[72], A[5], ad 1), in
every kind of mortal sin we find certain imperfect movements in the
sensuality, which are venial sins: such are the first movement of
concupiscence, in the genus of adultery, and the first movement of anger,
in the genus of murder, and so in the genus of envy we find sometimes
even in perfect men certain first movements, which are venial sins.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The movement of envy in so far as it is a passion of the
sensuality, is an imperfect thing in the genus of human acts, the
principle of which is the reason, so that envy of that kind is not a
mortal sin. The same applies to the envy of little children who have not
the use of reason: wherefore the Reply to the Second Objection is
manifest.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: According to the Philosopher (Rhet. ii, 9), envy is
contrary both to {nemesis} and to pity, but for different reasons. For it
is directly contrary to pity, their principal objects being contrary to
one another, since the envious man grieves over his neighbor's good,
whereas the pitiful man grieves over his neighbor's evil, so that the
envious have no pity, as he states in the same passage, nor is the
pitiful man envious. On the other hand, envy is contrary to {nemesis} on
the part of the man whose good grieves the envious man, for {nemesis} is
sorrow for the good of the undeserving according to Ps. 72:3: "I was
envious of the wicked, when I saw the prosperity of sinners" [*Douay:
'because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of
sinners'], whereas the envious grieves over the good of those who are
deserving of it. Hence it is clear that the former contrariety is more
direct than the latter. Now pity is a virtue, and an effect proper to
charity: so that envy is contrary to pity and charity.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether envy is a capital vice?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that envy is not a capital vice. For the capital
vices are distinct from their daughters. Now envy is the daughter of vainglory; for the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 10) that "those who love
honor and glory are more envious." Therefore envy is not a capital vice.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, the capital vices seem to be less grave than the other
vices which arise from them. For Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45): "The
leading vices seem to worm their way into the deceived mind under some
kind of pretext, but those which follow them provoke the soul to all
kinds of outrage, and confuse the mind with their wild outcry." Now envy
is seemingly a most grave sin, for Gregory says (Moral. v, 46): "Though
in every evil thing that is done, the venom of our old enemy is infused
into the heart of man, yet in this wickedness the serpent stirs his whole
bowels and discharges the bane of spite fitted to enter deep into the
mind." Therefore envy is not a capital sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, it seems that its daughters are unfittingly assigned by
Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45), who says that from envy arise "hatred,
tale-bearing, detraction, joy at our neighbor's misfortunes, and grief
for his prosperity." For joy at our neighbor's misfortunes and grief for
his prosperity seem to be the same as envy, as appears from what has been
said above (A[3]). Therefore these should not be assigned as daughters of
envy.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary stands the authority of Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) who
states that envy is a capital sin and assigns the aforesaid daughters
thereto.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Just as sloth is grief for a Divine spiritual good, so
envy is grief for our neighbor's good. Now it has been stated above
(Q[35], A[4]) that sloth is a capital vice for the reason that it incites
man to do certain things, with the purpose either of avoiding sorrow or
of satisfying its demands. Wherefore envy is accounted a capital vice for
the same reason.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: As Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45), "the capital vices are
so closely akin to one another that one springs from the other. For the
first offspring of pride is vainglory, which by corrupting the mind it
occupies begets envy, since while it craves for the power of an empty
name, it repines for fear lest another should acquire that power."
Consequently the notion of a capital vice does not exclude its
originating from another vice, but it demands that it should have some
principal reason for being itself the origin of several kinds of sin.
However it is perhaps because envy manifestly arises from vainglory, that
it is not reckoned a capital sin, either by Isidore (De Summo Bono) or by
Cassian (De Instit. Caenob. v, 1).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/2

Reply OBJ 2: It does not follow from the passage quoted that envy is the
greatest of sins, but that when the devil tempts us to envy, he is
enticing us to that which has its chief place in his heart, for as quoted
further on in the same passage, "by the envy of the devil, death came
into the world" (Wis. 2:24).

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 2/2

There is, however, a kind of envy which is accounted among the most
grievous sins, viz. envy of another's spiritual good, which envy is a
sorrow for the increase of God's grace, and not merely for our neighbor's
good. Hence it is accounted a sin against the Holy Ghost, because thereby
a man envies, as it were, the Holy Ghost Himself, Who is glorified in His
works.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[36] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: The number of envy's daughters may be understood for the
reason that in the struggle aroused by envy there is something by way of
beginning, something by way of middle, and something by way of term. The
beginning is that a man strives to lower another's reputation, and this
either secretly, and then we have "tale-bearing," or openly, and then we
have "detraction." The middle consists in the fact that when a man aims
at defaming another, he is either able to do so, and then we have "joy at
another's misfortune," or he is unable, and then we have "grief at
another's prosperity." The term is hatred itself, because just as good which delights causes love, so does sorrow cause hatred, as stated above
(Q[34], A[6]). Grief at another's prosperity is in one way the very same
as envy, when, to Wit, a man grieves over another's prosperity, in so far
as it gives the latter a good name, but in another way it is a daughter
of envy, in so far as the envious man sees his neighbor prosper
notwithstanding his efforts to prevent it. On the other hand, "joy at
another's misfortune" is not directly the same as envy, but is a result thereof, because grief over our neighbor's good which is envy, gives rise
to joy in his evil.




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