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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[72] Out. Para. 1/2 - (C) BY WORDS UTTERED EXTRAJUDICIALLY (QQ[72]-76)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] Out. Para. 1/2 - (C) BY WORDS UTTERED EXTRAJUDICIALLY (QQ[72]-76)


OF REVILING (FOUR ARTICLES)

We must now consider injuries inflicted by words uttered
extrajudicially. We shall consider (1) reviling, (2) backbiting, (3) tale
bearing, (4) derision, (5) cursing.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] Out. Para. 2/2

Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:

(1) What is reviling?

(2) Whether every reviling is a mortal sin?

(3) Whether one ought to check revilers?

(4) Of the origin of reviling.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether reviling consists in words?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that reviling does not consist in words. Reviling
implies some injury inflicted on one's neighbor, since it is a kind of
injustice. But words seem to inflict no injury on one's neighbor, either
in his person, or in his belongings. Therefore reviling does not consist
in words.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, reviling seems to imply dishonor. But a man can be
dishonored or slighted by deeds more than by words. Therefore it seems
that reviling consists, not in words but in deeds.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, a dishonor inflicted by words is called a railing or a
taunt. But reviling seems to differ from railing or taunt. Therefore
reviling does not consist in words.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Nothing, save words, is perceived by the hearing. Now
reviling is perceived by the hearing according to Jer. 20:10, "I heard
reviling [Douay: 'contumelies'] on every side." Therefore reviling
consists in words.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Reviling denotes the dishonoring of a person, and this
happens in two ways: for since honor results from excellence, one person
dishonors another, first, by depriving him of the excellence for which he
is honored. This is done by sins of deed, whereof we have spoken above
(Q[64], seqq.). Secondly, when a man publishes something against
another's honor, thus bringing it to the knowledge of the latter and of
other men. This reviling properly so called, and is done I some kind of
signs. Now, according to Augustine (De Doctr. Christ. ii, 3), "compared
with words all other signs are very few, for words have obtained the
chief place among men for the purpose of expressing whatever the mind
conceives." Hence reviling, properly speaking consists in words:
wherefore, Isidore says (Etym. x) that a reviler [contumeliosus] "is
hasty and bursts out [tumet] in injurious words." Since, however, things
are also signified by deeds, which on this account have the same
significance as words, it follows that reviling in a wider sense extends
also to deeds. Wherefore a gloss on Rm. 1:30, "contumelious, proud,"
says: "The contumelious are those who by word or deed revile and shame
others."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Our words, if we consider them in their essence, i.e. as
audible sound injure no man, except perhaps by jarring of the ear, as when a person speaks too loud. But, considered as signs conveying
something to the knowledge of others, they may do many kinds of harm.
Such is the harm done to a man to the detriment of his honor, or of the
respect due to him from others. Hence the reviling is greater if one man
reproach another in the presence of many: and yet there may still be
reviling if he reproach him by himself. in so far as the speaker acts
unjustly against the respect due to the hearer.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: One man slights another by deeds in so far as such deeds
cause or signify that which is against that other man's honor. In the
former case it is not a matter of reviling but of some other kind of
injustice, of which we have spoken above (QQ[64],65,66): where as in the
latter case there is reviling, in so far as deeds have the significant
force of words.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Railing and taunts consist in words, even as reviling,
because by all of them a man's faults are exposed to the detriment of his
honor. Such faults are of three kinds. First, there is the fault of
guilt, which is exposed by "reviling" words. Secondly, there is the fault
of both guilt and punishment, which is exposed by "taunts" [convicium],
because "vice" is commonly spoken of in connection with not only the soul
but also the body. Hence if one man says spitefully to another that he is
blind, he taunts but does not revile him: whereas if one man calls
another a thief, he not only taunts but also reviles him. Thirdly, a man
reproaches another for his inferiority or indigence, so as to lessen the
honor due to him for any kind of excellence. This is done by "upbraiding"
words, and properly speaking, occurs when one spitefully reminds a man
that one has succored him when he was in need. Hence it is written
(Ecclus. 20:15): "He will give a few things and upbraid much."
Nevertheless these terms are sometimes employed one for the other.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether reviling or railing is a mortal sin?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that reviling or railing is not a mortal sin. For
no mortal sin is an act of virtue. Now railing is the act of a virtue,
viz. of wittiness {eutrapelia} [*Cf. FS, Q[60], A[5]] to which it
pertains to rail well, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 8).
Therefore railing or reviling is not a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, mortal sin is not to be found in perfect men; and yet
these sometimes give utterance to railing or reviling. Thus the Apostle
says (Gal. 3:1): "O senseless Galatians!," and our Lord said (Lk. 24:25):
"O foolish and slow of heart to believe!" Therefore railing or reviling
is not a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, although that which is a venial sin by reason of its
genus may become mortal, that which is mortal by reason of its genus
cannot become venial, as stated above (FS, Q[88], AA[4],6). Hence if by
reason of its genus it were a mortal sin to give utterance to railing or
reviling, it would follow that it is always a mortal sin. But this is
apparently untrue, as may be seen in the case of one who utters a
reviling word indeliberately or through slight anger. Therefore reviling
or railing is not a mortal sin, by reason of its genus.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Nothing but mortal sin deserves the eternal punishment
of hell. Now railing or reviling deserves the punishment of hell,
according to Mt. 5:22, "Whosoever shall say to his brother . . . Thou
fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Therefore railing or reviling is
a mortal sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As stated above (A[1]), words are injurious to other
persons, not as sounds, but as signs, and this signification depends on
the speaker's inward intention. Hence, in sins of word, it seems that we
ought to consider with what intention the words are uttered. Since then
railing or reviling essentially denotes a dishonoring, if the intention
of the utterer is to dishonor the other man, this is properly and
essentially to give utterance to railing or reviling: and this is a
mortal sin no less than theft or robbery, since a man loves his honor no
less than his possessions. If, on the other hand, a man says to another a
railing or reviling word, yet with the intention, not of dishonoring him,
but rather perhaps of correcting him or with some like purpose, he utters
a railing or reviling not formally and essentially, but accidentally and
materially, in so far to wit as he says that which might be a railing or
reviling. Hence this may be sometimes a venial sin, and sometimes without
any sin at all. Nevertheless there is need of discretion in such matters,
and one should use such words with moderation, because the railing might
be so grave that being uttered inconsiderately it might dishonor the
person against whom it is uttered. In such a case a man might commit a
mortal sin, even though he did not intend to dishonor the other man: just
as were a man incautiously to injure grievously another by striking him
in fun, he would not be without blame.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: It belongs to wittiness to utter some slight mockery, not
with intent to dishonor or pain the person who is the object of the
mockery, but rather with intent to please and amuse: and this may be
without sin, if the due circumstances be observed. on the other hand if a
man does not shrink from inflicting pain on the object of his witty
mockery, so long as he makes others laugh, this is sinful, as stated in
the passage quoted.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Just as it is lawful to strike a person, or damnify him in
his belongings for the purpose of correction, so too, for the purpose of
correction, may one say a mocking word to a person whom one has to
correct. It is thus that our Lord called the disciples "foolish," and the
Apostle called the Galatians "senseless." Yet, as Augustine says (De
Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 19), "seldom and only when it is very necessary
should we have recourse to invectives, and then so as to urge God's
service, not our own."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Since the sin of railing or reviling depends on the
intention of the utterer, it may happen to be a venial sin, if it be a
slight railing that does not inflict much dishonor on a man, and be
uttered through lightness of heart or some slight anger, without the
fixed purpose of dishonoring him, for instance when one intends by such a
word to give but little pain.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether one ought to suffer oneself to be reviled?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that one ought not to suffer oneself to be reviled.
For he that suffers himself to be reviled, encourages the reviler. But
one ought not to do this. Therefore one ought not to suffer oneself to be
reviled, but rather reply to the reviler.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, one ought to love oneself more than another. Now one
ought not to suffer another to be reviled, wherefore it is written (Prov.
26:10): "He that putteth a fool to silence appeaseth anger." Therefore
neither should one suffer oneself to be reviled.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, a man is not allowed to revenge himself, for it is said:
"Vengeance belongeth to Me, I will repay" [*Heb. 10:30]. Now by
submitting to be reviled a man revenges himself, according to Chrysostom
(Hom. xxii, in Ep. ad Rom.): "If thou wilt be revenged, be silent; thou
hast dealt him a fatal blow." Therefore one ought not by silence to
submit to reviling words, but rather answer back.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 37:13): "They that sought evils to
me spoke vain things," and afterwards (Ps. 37:14) he says: "But I as a
deaf man, heard not; and as a dumb man not opening his mouth."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Just as we need patience in things done against us, so do
we need it in those said against us. Now the precepts of patience in
those things done against us refer to the preparedness of the mind,
according to Augustine's (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 19) exposition on our
Lord's precept, "If one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also
the other" [*The words as quoted by St. Thomas are a blending of Mt. 5:39
and Lk. 6:29]: that is to say, a man ought to be prepared to do so if
necessary. But he is not always bound to do this actually: since not even
did our Lord do so, for when He received a blow, He said: "Why strikest
thou Me?" (Jn. 18:23). Consequently the same applies to the reviling
words that are said against us. For we are bound to hold our minds
prepared to submit to be reviled, if it should be expedient. Nevertheless
it sometimes behooves us to withstand against being reviled, and this
chiefly for two reasons. First, for the good of the reviler; namely, that
his daring may be checked, and that he may not repeat the attempt,
according to Prov. 26:5, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he
imagine himself to be wise." Secondly, for the good of many who would be
prevented from progressing in virtue on account of our being reviled.
Hence Gregory says (Hom. ix, Super Ezech.): "Those who are so placed that
their life should be an example to others, ought, if possible, to silence
their detractors, lest their preaching be not heard by those who could
have heard it, and they continue their evil conduct through contempt of a
good life."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The daring of the railing reviler should be checked with
moderation, i.e. as a duty of charity, and not through lust for one's own
honor. Hence it is written (Prov. 26:4): "Answer not a fool according to
his folly, lest thou be like him."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: When one man prevents another from being reviled there is
not the danger of lust for one's own honor as there is when a man defends
himself from being reviled: indeed rather would it seem to proceed from a
sense of charity.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: It would be an act of revenge to keep silence with the
intention of provoking the reviler to anger, but it would be praiseworthy
to be silent, in order to give place to anger. Hence it is written
(Ecclus. 8:4): "Strive not with a man that is full of tongue, and heap
not wood upon his fire."


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether reviling arises from anger?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that reviling does not arise from anger. For it is
written (Prov. 11:2): "Where pride is, there shall also be reviling
[Douay: 'reproach']." But anger is a vice distinct from pride. Therefore
reviling does not arise from anger.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, it is written (Prov. 20:3): "All fools are meddling with
revilings [Douay: 'reproaches']." Now folly is a vice opposed to wisdom,
as stated above (Q[46], A[1]); whereas anger is opposed to meekness.
Therefore reviling does not arise from anger.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, no sin is diminished by its cause. But the sin of
reviling is diminished if one gives vent to it through anger: for it is a
more grievous sin to revile out of hatred than out of anger. Therefore
reviling does not arise from anger.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45) that "anger gives rise
to revilings."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, While one sin may arise from various causes, it is
nevertheless said to have its source chiefly in that one from which it is
wont to arise most frequently, through being closely connected with its
end. Now reviling is closely connected with anger's end, which is
revenge: since the easiest way for the angry man to take revenge on
another is to revile him. Therefore reviling arises chiefly from anger.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Reviling is not directed to the end of pride which is
excellency. Hence reviling does not arise directly from pride.
Nevertheless pride disposes a man to revile, in so far as those who think
themselves to excel, are more prone to despise others and inflict
injuries on them, because they are more easily angered, through deeming
it an affront to themselves whenever anything is done against their will.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: According to the Philosopher (Ethic. vii, 6) "anger listens
imperfectly to reason": wherefore an angry man suffers a defect of
reason, and in this he is like the foolish man. Hence reviling arises
from folly on account of the latter's kinship with anger.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[72] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: According to the Philosopher (Rhet. ii, 4) "an angry man
seeks an open offense, but he who hates does not worry about this." Hence
reviling which denotes a manifest injury belongs to anger rather than to
hatred.





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