St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province

 

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OF VENIAL AND MORTAL SIN (SIX ARTICLES)

Deinde, quia peccatum veniale et mortale distinguuntur secundum reatum, considerandum est de eis. Et primo, considerandum est de veniali per comparationem ad mortale; secundo, de veniali secundum se.    In the next place, since venial and mortal sins differ in respect of the debt of punishment, we must consider them. First, we shall consider venial sin as compared with mortal sin; secondly, we shall consider venial sin in itself.
Circa primum quaeruntur sex.    Under the first head there are six points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum veniale peccatum convenienter dividatur contra mortale.     (1) Whether venial sin is fittingly condivided with mortal sin?
Secundo, utrum distinguantur genere.     (2) Whether they differ generically?
Tertio, utrum veniale peccatum sit dispositio ad mortale.     (3) Whether venial sin is a disposition to mortal sin?
Quarto, utrum veniale peccatum possit fieri mortale.     (4) Whether a venial sin can become mortal?
Quinto, utrum circumstantia aggravans possit de veniali peccato facere mortale.     (5) Whether a venial sin can become mortal by reason of an aggravating circumstance?
Sexto, utrum peccatum mortale possit fieri veniale.     (6) Whether a mortal sin can become venial?

 

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Whether venial sin is fittingly condivided with mortal sin?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod veniale peccatum non convenienter dividatur contra mortale. Dicit enim Augustinus, XXII libro contra Faustum, peccatum est dictum vel factum vel concupitum contra legem aeternam. Sed esse contra legem aeternam, dat peccato quod sit mortale. Ergo omne peccatum est mortale. Non ergo peccatum veniale dividitur contra mortale.   Objection 1: It would seem that venial sin is unfittingly condivided with mortal sin. For Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 27): "Sin is a word, deed or desire contrary to the eternal law." But the fact of being against the eternal law makes a sin to be mortal. Consequently every sin is mortal. Therefore venial sin is not condivided with mortal sin.
Praeterea, apostolus dicit, I Cor. X, sive manducatis, sive bibitis, sive aliquid aliud facitis, omnia in gloriam Dei facite. Sed contra hoc praeceptum facit quicumque peccat, non enim peccatum fit propter gloriam Dei. Cum ergo facere contra praeceptum sit peccatum mortale, videtur quod quicumque peccat, mortaliter peccet.   Objection 2: Further, the Apostle says (1 Cor. 10:31): "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do; do all to the glory of God." Now whoever sins breaks this commandment, because sin is not done for God's glory. Consequently, since to break a commandment is to commit a mortal sin, it seems that whoever sins, sins mortally.
Praeterea, quicumque amore alicui rei inhaeret, inhaeret ei vel sicut fruens, vel sicut utens; ut patet per Augustinum, in I de Doctr. Christ. Sed nullus peccans inhaeret bono commutabili quasi utens, non enim refert ipsum ad bonum quod nos beatos facit, quod proprie est uti, ut Augustinus dicit ibidem. Ergo quicumque peccat, fruitur bono commutabili. Sed frui rebus utendis est humana perversitas, ut Augustinus dicit, in libro octoginta trium quaest. Cum ergo perversitas peccatum mortale nominet, videtur quod quicumque peccat, mortaliter peccet.   Objection 3: Further, whoever cleaves to a thing by love, cleaves either as enjoying it, or as using it, as Augustine states (De Doctr. Christ. i, 3,4). But no person, in sinning, cleaves to a mutable good as using it: because he does not refer it to that good which gives us happiness, which, properly speaking, is to use, according to Augustine (De Doctr. Christ. i, 3,4). Therefore whoever sins enjoys a mutable good. Now "to enjoy what we should use is human perverseness," as Augustine again says (Qq. lxxxiii, qu. 30). Therefore, since "perverseness" [*The Latin 'pervertere' means to overthrow, to destroy, hence 'perversion' of God's law is a mortal sin.] denotes a mortal sin, it seems that whoever sins, sins mortally.
Praeterea, quicumque accedit ad unum terminum, ex hoc ipso recedit ab alio. Sed quicumque peccat, accedit ad bonum commutabile. Ergo recedit a bono incommutabili. Ergo peccat mortaliter. Non ergo convenienter peccatum veniale contra mortale dividitur.   Objection 4: Further, whoever approaches one term, from that very fact turns away from the opposite. Now whoever sins, approaches a mutable good, and, consequently turns away from the immutable good, so that he sins mortally. Therefore venial sin is unfittingly condivided with mortal sin.
Sed contra est quod Augustinus dicit, in Homil. XLI super Ioan., quod crimen est quod damnationem meretur, veniale autem est quod non meretur damnationem. Sed crimen nominat peccatum mortale. Ergo veniale peccatum convenienter dividitur contra mortale.   On the contrary, Augustine says (Tract. xli in Joan.), that "a crime is one that merits damnation, and a venial sin, one that does not." But a crime denotes a mortal sin. Therefore venial sin is fittingly condivided with mortal sin.
Respondeo dicendum quod aliqua, secundum quod proprie accipiuntur, non videntur esse opposita, quae si metaphorice accipiantur, opponi inveniuntur, sicut ridere non opponitur ei quod est arescere; sed secundum quod ridere metaphorice de prato dicitur propter eius floritionem et virorem, opponitur ei quod est arescere. Similiter si mortale proprie accipiatur, prout refertur ad mortem corporalem, non videtur oppositionem habere cum veniali, nec ad idem genus pertinere. Sed si mortale accipiatur metaphorice, secundum quod dicitur in peccatis, mortale opponitur ei quod est veniale.   I answer that, Certain terms do not appear to be mutually opposed, if taken in their proper sense, whereas they are opposed if taken metaphorically: thus "to smile" is not opposed to "being dry"; but if we speak of the smiling meadows when they are decked with flowers and fresh with green hues this is opposed to drought. In like manner if mortal be taken literally as referring to the death of the body, it does not imply opposition to venial, nor belong to the same genus. But if mortal be taken metaphorically, as applied to sin, it is opposed to that which is venial.
Cum enim peccatum sit quaedam infirmitas animae, ut supra habitum est, peccatum aliquod mortale dicitur ad similitudinem morbi, qui dicitur mortalis ex eo quod inducit defectum irreparabilem per destitutionem alicuius principii, ut dictum est. Principium autem spiritualis vitae, quae est secundum virtutem, est ordo ad ultimum finem, ut supra dictum est. Qui quidem si destitutus fuerit, reparari non potest per aliquod principium intrinsecum, sed solum per virtutem divinam, ut supra dictum est, quia inordinationes eorum quae sunt ad finem, reparantur ex fine, sicut error qui accidit circa conclusiones, per veritatem principiorum. Defectus ergo ordinis ultimi finis non potest per aliquid aliud reparari quod sit principalius; sicut nec error qui est circa principia. Et ideo huiusmodi peccata dicuntur mortalia, quasi irreparabilia. Peccata autem quae habent inordinationem circa ea quae sunt ad finem, conservato ordine ad ultimum finem, reparabilia sunt. Et haec dicuntur venialia, tunc enim peccatum veniam habet, quando reatus poenae tollitur, qui cessat cessante peccato, ut dictum est.    For sin, being a sickness of the soul, as stated above (Question [71], Article [1], ad 3; Question [72], Article [5]; Question [74], Article [9], ad 2), is said to be mortal by comparison with a disease, which is said to be mortal, through causing an irreparable defect consisting in the corruption of a principle, as stated above (Question [72], Article [5]). Now the principle of the spiritual life, which is a life in accord with virtue, is the order to the last end, as stated above (Question [72], Article [5]; Question [87], Article [3]): and if this order be corrupted, it cannot be repaired by any intrinsic principle, but by the power of God alone, as stated above (Question [87], Article [3]), because disorders in things referred to the end, are repaired through the end, even as an error about conclusions can be repaired through the truth of the principles. Hence the defect of order to the last end cannot be repaired through something else as a higher principle, as neither can an error about principles. Wherefore such sins are called mortal, as being irreparable. On the other hand, sins which imply a disorder in things referred to the end, the order to the end itself being preserved, are reparable. These sins are called venial: because a sin receives its acquittal [veniam] when the debt of punishment is taken away, and this ceases when the sin ceases, as explained above (Question [87], Article [6]).
Secundum hoc ergo, mortale et veniale opponuntur sicut reparabile et irreparabile. Et hoc dico per principium interius, non autem per comparationem ad virtutem divinam, quae omnem morbum et corporalem et spiritualem potest reparare. Et propter hoc veniale peccatum convenienter dividitur contra mortale.    Accordingly, mortal and venial are mutually opposed as reparable and irreparable: and I say this with reference to the intrinsic principle, but not to the Divine power, which can repair all diseases, whether of the body or of the soul. Therefore venial sin is fittingly condivided with mortal sin.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod divisio peccati venialis et mortalis non est divisio generis in species, quae aequaliter participent rationem generis, sed analogi in ea de quibus praedicatur secundum prius et posterius. Et ideo perfecta ratio peccati, quam Augustinus ponit, convenit peccato mortali. Peccatum autem veniale dicitur peccatum secundum rationem imperfectam, et in ordine ad peccatum mortale, sicut accidens dicitur ens in ordine ad substantiam, secundum imperfectam rationem entis. Non enim est contra legem, quia venialiter peccans non facit quod lex prohibet, nec praetermittit id ad quod lex per praeceptum obligat; sed facit praeter legem, quia non observat modum rationis quem lex intendit.   Reply to Objection 1: The division of sin into venial and mortal is not a division of a genus into its species which have an equal share of the generic nature: but it is the division of an analogous term into its parts, of which it is predicated, of the one first, and of the other afterwards. Consequently the perfect notion of sin, which Augustine gives, applies to mortal sin. On the other hand, venial sin is called a sin, in reference to an imperfect notion of sin, and in relation to mortal sin: even as an accident is called a being, in relation to substance, in reference to the imperfect notion of being. For it is not "against" the law, since he who sins venially neither does what the law forbids, nor omits what the law prescribes to be done; but he acts "beside" the law, through not observing the mode of reason, which the law intends.
Ad secundum dicendum quod illud praeceptum apostoli est affirmativum, unde non obligat ad semper. Et sic non facit contra hoc praeceptum quicumque non actu refert in gloriam Dei omne quod facit. Sufficit ergo quod aliquis habitualiter referat se et omnia sua in Deum, ad hoc quod non semper mortaliter peccet, cum aliquem actum non refert in gloriam Dei actualiter. Veniale autem peccatum non excludit habitualem ordinationem actus humani in gloriam Dei, sed solum actualem, quia non excludit caritatem, quae habitualiter ordinat in Deum. Unde non sequitur quod ille qui peccat venialiter, peccet mortaliter.   Reply to Objection 2: This precept of the Apostle is affirmative, and so it does not bind for all times. Consequently everyone who does not actually refer all his actions to the glory of God, does not therefore act against this precept. In order, therefore, to avoid mortal sin each time that one fails actually to refer an action to God's glory, it is enough to refer oneself and all that one has to God habitually. Now venial sin excludes only actual reference of the human act to God's glory, and not habitual reference: because it does not exclude charity, which refers man to God habitually. Therefore it does not follow that he who sins venially, sins mortally.
Ad tertium dicendum quod ille qui peccat venialiter, inhaeret bono temporali non ut fruens, quia non constituit in eo finem; sed ut utens, referens in Deum non actu, sed habitu.   Reply to Objection 3: He that sins venially, cleaves to temporal good, not as enjoying it, because he does not fix his end in it, but as using it, by referring it to God, not actually but habitually.
Ad quartum dicendum quod bonum commutabile non accipitur ut terminus contrapositus incommutabili bono, nisi quando constituitur in eo finis. Quod enim est ad finem, non habet rationem termini.   Reply to Objection 4: Mutable good is not considered to be a term in contraposition to the immutable good, unless one's end is fixed therein: because what is referred to the end has not the character of finality.

 

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Whether mortal and venial sin differ generically?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod peccatum veniale et mortale non differant genere, ita scilicet quod aliquod sit peccatum mortale ex genere, et aliquod veniale ex genere. Bonum enim et malum ex genere in actibus humanis accipitur per comparationem ad materiam sive ad obiectum, ut supra dictum est. Sed secundum quodlibet obiectum vel materiam, contingit peccare mortaliter et venialiter, quodlibet enim bonum commutabile potest homo diligere vel infra Deum, quod est peccare venialiter, vel supra Deum quod est peccare mortaliter. Ergo peccatum veniale et mortale non differunt genere.   Objection 1: It would seem that venial and mortal sin do not differ generically, so that some sins be generically mortal, and some generically venial. Because human acts are considered to be generically good or evil according to their matter or object, as stated above (Question [18], Article [2]). Now either mortal or venial sin may be committed in regard to any object or matter: since man can love any mutable good, either less than God, which may be a venial sin, or more than God, which is a mortal sin. Therefore venial and mortal sin do not differ generically.
Praeterea, sicut dictum est supra, peccatum mortale dicitur quod est irreparabile, peccatum autem veniale quod est reparabile. Sed esse irreparabile convenit peccato quod fit ex malitia, quod secundum quosdam irremissibile dicitur, esse autem reparabile convenit peccato quod fit per infirmitatem vel ignorantiam, quod dicitur remissibile. Ergo peccatum mortale et veniale differunt sicut peccatum quod est ex malitia commissum, vel ex infirmitate et ignorantia. Sed secundum hoc non differunt peccata genere, sed causa, ut supra dictum est. Ergo peccatum veniale et mortale non differunt genere.   Objection 2: Further, as stated above (Article [1]; Question [72], Article [5]; Question [87], Article [3]), a sin is called mortal when it is irreparable, venial when it can be repaired. Now irreparability belongs to sin committed out of malice, which, according to some, is irremissible: whereas reparability belongs to sins committed through weakness or ignorance, which are remissible. Therefore mortal and venial sin differ as sin committed through malice differs from sin committed through weakness or ignorance. But, in this respect, sins differ not in genus but in cause, as stated above (Question [77], Article [8], ad 1). Therefore venial and mortal sin do not differ generically.
Praeterea, supra dictum est quod subiti motus tam sensualitatis quam rationis, sunt peccata venialia. Sed subiti motus inveniuntur in quolibet peccati genere. Ergo non sunt aliqua peccata venialia ex genere.   Objection 3: Further, it was stated above (Question [74], Article [3], ad 3; Article [10]) that sudden movements both of the sensuality and of the reason are venial sins. But sudden movements occur in every kind of sin. Therefore no sins are generically venial.
Sed contra est quod Augustinus, in sermone de Purgatorio, enumerat quaedam genera peccatorum venialium, et quaedam genera peccatorum mortalium.   On the contrary, Augustine, in a sermon on Purgatory (De Sanctis, serm. xli), enumerates certain generic venial sins, and certain generic mortal sins.
Respondeo dicendum quod peccatum veniale a venia dicitur. Potest igitur aliquod peccatum dici veniale uno modo, quia est veniam consecutum, et sic dicit Ambrosius quod omne peccatum per poenitentiam fit veniale. Et hoc dicitur veniale ex eventu. Alio modo dicitur veniale, quia non habet in se unde veniam non consequatur vel totaliter vel in parte. In parte quidem, sicut cum habet in se aliquid diminuens culpam, ut cum fit ex infirmitate vel ignorantia. Et hoc dicitur veniale ex causa. In toto autem, ex eo quod non tollit ordinem ad ultimum finem, unde non meretur poenam aeternam, sed temporalem. Et de hoc veniali ad praesens intendimus.   I answer that, Venial sin is so called from "venia" [pardon]. Consequently a sin may be called venial, first of all, because it has been pardoned: thus Ambrose says that "penance makes every sin venial": and this is called venial "from the result." Secondly, a sin is called venial because it does not contain anything either partially or totally, to prevent its being pardoned: partially, as when a sin contains something diminishing its guilt, e.g. a sin committed through weakness or ignorance: and this is called venial "from the cause": totally, through not destroying the order to the last end, wherefore it deserves temporal, but not everlasting punishment. It is of this venial sin that we wish to speak now.
De primis enim duobus constat quod non habent genus aliquod determinatum. Sed veniale tertio modo dictum, potest habere genus determinatum, ita quod aliquod peccatum dicatur veniale ex genere, et aliquod mortale ex genere, secundum quod genus vel species actus determinantur ex obiecto. Cum enim voluntas fertur in aliquid quod secundum se repugnat caritati, per quam homo ordinatur in ultimum finem, peccatum ex suo obiecto habet quod sit mortale. Unde est mortale ex genere, sive sit contra dilectionem Dei, sicut blasphemia, periurium, et huiusmodi; sive contra dilectionem proximi, sicut homicidium, adulterium, et similia. Unde huiusmodi sunt peccata mortalia ex suo genere. Quandoque vero voluntas peccantis fertur in id quod in se continet quandam inordinationem, non tamen contrariatur dilectioni Dei et proximi, sicut verbum otiosum, risus superfluus, et alia huiusmodi. Et talia sunt peccata venialia ex suo genere.    For as regards the first two, it is evident that they have no determinate genus: whereas venial sin, taken in the third sense, can have a determinate genus, so that one sin may be venial generically, and another generically mortal, according as the genus or species of an act is determined by its object. For, when the will is directed to a thing that is in itself contrary to charity, whereby man is directed to his last end, the sin is mortal by reason of its object. Consequently it is a mortal sin generically, whether it be contrary to the love of God, e.g. blasphemy, perjury, and the like, or against the love of one's neighbor, e.g. murder, adultery, and such like: wherefore such sins are mortal by reason of their genus. Sometimes, however, the sinner's will is directed to a thing containing a certain inordinateness, but which is not contrary to the love of God and one's neighbor, e.g. an idle word, excessive laughter, and so forth: and such sins are venial by reason of their genus.
Sed quia actus morales recipiunt rationem boni et mali non solum ex obiecto, sed etiam ex aliqua dispositione agentis, ut supra habitum est; contingit quandoque quod id quod est peccatum veniale ex genere ratione sui obiecti, fit mortale ex parte agentis, vel quia in eo constituit finem ultimum, vel quia ordinat ipsum ad aliquid quod est peccatum mortale ex genere, puta cum aliquis ordinat verbum otiosum ad adulterium committendum. Similiter etiam ex parte agentis contingit quod aliquod peccatum quod ex suo genere est mortale, fit veniale, propter hoc scilicet quod actus est imperfectus, idest non deliberatus ratione, quae est principium proprium mali actus, sicut supra dictum est de subitis motibus infidelitatis.    Nevertheless, since moral acts derive their character of goodness and malice, not only from their objects, but also from some disposition of the agent, as stated above (Question [18], Articles [4],6), it happens sometimes that a sin which is venial generically by reason of its object, becomes mortal on the part of the agent, either because he fixes his last end therein, or because he directs it to something that is a mortal sin in its own genus; for example, if a man direct an idle word to the commission of adultery. In like manner it may happen, on the part of the agent, that a sin generically mortal because venial, by reason of the act being imperfect, i.e. not deliberated by reason, which is the proper principle of an evil act, as we have said above in reference to sudden movements of unbelief.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod ex hoc ipso quod aliquis eligit id quod repugnat divinae caritati, convincitur praeferre illud caritati divinae, et per consequens plus amare ipsum quam Deum. Et ideo aliqua peccata ex genere, quae de se repugnant caritati, habent quod aliquid diligatur supra Deum. Et sic sunt ex genere suo mortalia   Reply to Objection 1: The very fact that anyone chooses something that is contrary to divine charity, proves that he prefers it to the love of God, and consequently, that he loves it more than he loves God. Hence it belongs to the genus of some sins, which are of themselves contrary to charity, that something is loved more than God; so that they are mortal by reason of their genus.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de peccato veniali ex causa.   Reply to Objection 2: This argument considers those sins which are venial from their cause.
Ad tertium dicendum quod ratio illa procedit de peccato quod est veniale propter imperfectionem actus.   Reply to Objection 3: This argument considers those sins which are venial by reason of the imperfection of the act.

 

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Whether venial sin is a disposition to mortal sin?

Ad tertium sic proceditur. Videtur quod peccatum veniale non sit dispositio ad mortale. Unum enim oppositum non disponit ad aliud. Sed peccatum veniale et mortale ex opposito dividuntur, ut dictum est. Ergo peccatum veniale non est dispositio ad mortale.   Objection 1: It would seem that venial sin is not a disposition to mortal sin. For one contrary does not dispose to another. But venial and mortal sin are condivided as contrary to one another, as stated above (Article [1]). Therefore venial sin is not a disposition to mortal sin.
Praeterea, actus disponit ad aliquid simile in specie sibi, unde in II Ethic. dicitur quod ex similibus actibus generantur similes dispositiones et habitus. Sed peccatum mortale et veniale differunt genere seu specie, ut dictum est. Ergo peccatum veniale non disponit ad mortale.   Objection 2: Further, an act disposes to something of like species, wherefore it is stated in Ethic. ii, 1,2, that "from like acts like dispositions and habits are engendered." But mortal and venial sin differ in genus or species, as stated above (Article [2]). Therefore venial sin does not dispose to mortal sin.
Praeterea, si peccatum dicatur veniale quia disponit ad mortale, oportebit quod quaecumque disponunt ad mortale peccatum, sint peccata venialia. Sed omnia bona opera disponunt ad peccatum mortale, dicit enim Augustinus, in regula, quod superbia bonis operibus insidiatur, ut pereant. Ergo etiam bona opera erunt peccata venialia, quod est inconveniens.   Objection 3: Further, if a sin is called venial because it disposes to mortal sin, it follows that whatever disposes to mortal sin is a venial sin. Now every good work disposes to mortal sin; wherefore Augustine says in his Rule (Ep. ccxi) that "pride lies in wait for good works that it may destroy them." Therefore even good works would be venial sins, which is absurd.
Sed contra est quod dicitur Eccli. XIX, qui spernit minima, paulatim defluit. Sed ille qui peccat venialiter, videtur minima spernere. Ergo paulatim disponitur ad hoc quod totaliter defluat per peccatum mortale.   On the contrary, It is written (Ecclus. 19:1): "He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little." Now he that sins venially seems to contemn small things. Therefore by little and little he is disposed to fall away together into mortal sin.
Respondeo dicendum quod disponens est quodammodo causa. Unde secundum duplicem modum causae, est duplex dispositionis modus. Est enim causa quaedam movens directe ad effectum, sicut calidum calefacit. Est etiam causa indirecte movens, removendo prohibens, sicut removens columnam dicitur removere lapidem superpositum. Et secundum hoc, actus peccati dupliciter ad aliquid disponit. Uno quidem modo, directe, et sic disponit ad actum similem secundum speciem. Et hoc modo, primo et per se peccatum veniale ex genere non disponit ad mortale ex genere, cum differant specie. Sed per hunc modum peccatum veniale potest disponere, per quandam consequentiam, ad peccatum quod est mortale ex parte agentis. Augmentata enim dispositione vel habitu per actus peccatorum venialium, intantum potest libido peccandi crescere, quod ille qui peccat, finem suum constituet in peccato veniali, nam unicuique habenti habitum, inquantum huiusmodi, finis est operatio secundum habitum. Et sic, multoties peccando venialiter, disponetur ad peccatum mortale. Alio modo actus humanus disponit ad aliquid removendo prohibens. Et hoc modo peccatum veniale ex genere potest disponere ad peccatum mortale ex genere. Qui enim peccat venialiter ex genere, praetermittit aliquem ordinem, et ex hoc quod consuescit voluntatem suam in minoribus debito ordini non subiicere, disponitur ad hoc quod etiam voluntatem suam non subiiciat ordini ultimi finis, eligendo id quod est peccatum mortale ex genere.   I answer that, A disposition is a kind of cause; wherefore as there is a twofold manner of cause, so is there a twofold manner of disposition. For there is a cause which moves directly to the production of the effect, as a hot thing heats: and there is a cause which moves indirectly, by removing an obstacle, as he who displaces a pillar is said to displace the stone that rests on it. Accordingly an act of sin disposes to something in two ways. First, directly, and thus it disposes to an act of like species. In this way, a sin generically venial does not, primarily and of its nature, dispose to a sin generically mortal, for they differ in species. Nevertheless, in this same way, a venial sin can dispose, by way of consequence, to a sin which is mortal on the part of the agent: because the disposition or habit may be so far strengthened by acts of venial sin, that the lust of sinning increases, and the sinner fixes his end in that venial sin: since the end for one who has a habit, as such, is to work according to that habit; and the consequence will be that, by sinning often venially, he becomes disposed to a mortal sin. Secondly, a human act disposes to something by removing an obstacle thereto. In this way a sin generically venial can dispose to a sin generically mortal. Because he that commits a sin generically venial, turns aside from some particular order; and through accustoming his will not to be subject to the due order in lesser matters, is disposed not to subject his will even to the order of the last end, by choosing something that is a mortal sin in its genus.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod peccatum veniale et mortale non dividuntur ex opposito, sicut duae species unius generis, ut dictum est, sed sicut accidens contra substantiam dividitur. Unde sicut accidens potest esse dispositio ad formam substantialem, ita et veniale peccatum ad mortale.   Reply to Objection 1: Venial and mortal sin are not condivided in contrariety to one another, as though they were species of one genus, as stated above (Article [1], ad 1), but as an accident is condivided with substance. Wherefore an accident can be a disposition to a substantial form, so can a venial sin dispose to mortal.
Ad secundum dicendum quod peccatum veniale non est simile mortali in specie, est tamen simile ei in genere, inquantum utrumque importat defectum debiti ordinis, licet aliter et aliter, ut dictum est.   Reply to Objection 2: Venial sin is not like mortal sin in species; but it is in genus, inasmuch as they both imply a defect of due order, albeit in different ways, as stated (Articles [1],2).
Ad tertium dicendum quod opus bonum non est per se dispositio ad mortale peccatum, potest tamen esse materia vel occasio peccati mortalis per accidens. Sed peccatum veniale per se disponit ad mortale, ut dictum est.   Reply to Objection 3: A good work is not, of itself, a disposition to mortal sin; but it can be the matter or occasion of mortal sin accidentally; whereas a venial sin, of its very nature, disposes to mortal sin, as stated.

 

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Whether a venial sin can become mortal?

Ad quartum sic proceditur. Videtur quod peccatum veniale possit fieri mortale. Dicit enim Augustinus, exponens illud Ioan. III, qui incredulus est filio, non videbit vitam, peccata minima (idest venialia), si negligantur, occidunt. Sed ex hoc dicitur peccatum mortale, quod spiritualiter occidit animam. Ergo peccatum veniale potest fieri mortale.   Objection 1: It would seem that a venial sin can become a mortal sin. For Augustine in explaining the words of Jn. 3:36: "He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life," says (Tract. xii in Joan.): "The slightest," i.e. venial, "sins kill if we make little of them." Now a sin is called mortal through causing the spiritual death of the soul. Therefore a venial sin can become mortal.
Praeterea, motus sensualitatis ante consensum rationis est peccatum veniale, post consensum vero est peccatum mortale, ut supra dictum est. Ergo peccatum veniale potest fieri mortale.   Objection 2: Further, a movement in the sensuality before the consent of reason, is a venial sin, but after consent, is a mortal sin, as stated above (Question [74], Article [8], ad 2). Therefore a venial sin can become mortal.
Praeterea, peccatum veniale et mortale differunt sicut morbus curabilis et incurabilis, ut dictum est. Sed morbus curabilis potest fieri incurabilis. Ergo peccatum veniale potest fieri mortale.   Objection 3: Further, venial and mortal sin differ as curable and incurable disease, as stated above (Article [1]). But a curable disease may become incurable. Therefore a venial sin may become mortal.
Praeterea, dispositio potest fieri habitus. Sed peccatum veniale est dispositio ad mortale, ut dictum est. Ergo veniale peccatum potest fieri mortale.   Objection 4: Further, a disposition may become a habit. Now venial sin is a disposition to mortal, as stated (Article [3]). Therefore a venial sin can become mortal.
Sed contra, ea quae differunt in infinitum, non transmutantur in invicem. Sed peccatum mortale et veniale differunt in infinitum, ut ex praedictis patet. Ergo veniale non potest fieri mortale.   Things that differ infinitely are not changed into one another. Now venial and mortal sin difer infinitely, as is evident from what has been said above (Q. 72, a. 5, ad 1; Q. 87, a.5, ad 1). Therefore a venial sin cannot become mortal.
Respondeo dicendum quod peccatum veniale fieri mortale, potest tripliciter intelligi. Uno modo sic quod idem actus numero, primo sit peccatum veniale, et postea mortale. Et hoc esse non potest. Quia peccatum principaliter consistit in actu voluntatis, sicut et quilibet actus moralis. Unde non dicitur unus actus moraliter, si voluntas mutetur, quamvis etiam actio secundum naturam sit continua. Si autem voluntas non mutetur, non potest esse quod de veniali fiat mortale.   I answer that, The fact of a venial sin becoming a mortal sin may be understood in three ways. First, so that the same identical act be at first a venial, and then a mortal sin. This is impossible: because a sin, like any moral act, consists chiefly in an act of the will: so that an act is not one morally, if the will be changed, although the act be continuous physically. If, however, the will be not changed, it is not possible for a venial sin to become mortal.
Alio modo potest intelligi ut id quod est veniale ex genere, fiat mortale. Et hoc quidem possibile est, inquantum constituitur in eo finis, vel inquantum refertur ad mortale peccatum sicut ad finem, ut dictum est.    Secondly, this may be taken to mean that a sin generically venial, becomes mortal. This is possible, in so far as one may fix one's end in that venial sin, or direct it to some mortal sin as end, as stated above (Article [2]).
Tertio modo potest intelligi ita quod multa venialia peccata constituant unum peccatum mortale. Quod si sic intelligatur quod ex multis peccatis venialibus integraliter constituatur unum peccatum mortale, falsum est. Non enim omnia peccata venialia de mundo, possunt habere tantum de reatu, quantum unum peccatum mortale. Quod patet ex parte durationis, quia peccatum mortale habet reatum poenae aeternae, peccatum autem veniale reatum poenae temporalis, ut dictum est. Patet etiam ex parte poenae damni, quia peccatum mortale meretur carentiam visionis divinae, cui nulla alia poena comparari potest ut Chrysostomus dicit. Patet etiam ex parte poenae sensus, quantum ad vermem conscientiae, licet forte quantum ad poenam ignis, non sint improportionales poenae. Si vero intelligatur quod multa peccata venialia faciunt unum mortale dispositive, sic verum est, sicut supra ostensum est, secundum duos modos dispositionis, quo peccatum veniale disponit ad mortale.    Thirdly, this may be understood in the sense of many venial sins constituting one mortal sin. If this be taken as meaning that many venial sins added together make one mortal sin, it is false, because all the venial sins in the world cannot incur a debt of punishment equal to that of one mortal sin. This is evident as regards the duration of the punishment, since mortal sin incurs a debt of eternal punishment, while venial sin incurs a debt of temporal punishment, as stated above (Question [87], Articles [3],5). It is also evident as regards the pain of loss, because mortal sins deserve to be punished by the privation of seeing God, to which no other punishment is comparable, as Chrysostom states (Hom. xxiv in Matth.). It is also evident as regards the pain of sense, as to the remorse of conscience; although as to the pain of fire, the punishments may perhaps not be improportionate to one another.
   If, however, this be taken as meaning that many venial sins make one mortal sin dispositively, it is true, as was shown above (Article [3]) with regard to the two different manners of disposition, whereby venial sin disposes to mortal sin.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod Augustinus loquitur in illo sensu, quod multa peccata venialia dispositive causant mortale.   Reply to Objection 1: Augustine is referring to the fact of many venial sins making one mortal sin dispositively.
Ad secundum dicendum quod ille idem motus sensualitatis qui praecessit consensum rationis nunquam fiet peccatum mortale, sed ipse actus rationis consentientis.   Reply to Objection 2: The same movement of the sensuality which preceded the consent of reason can never become a mortal sin; but the movement of the reason in consenting is a mortal sin.
Ad tertium dicendum quod morbus corporalis non est actus, sed dispositio quaedam permanens, unde eadem manens, potest mutari. Sed peccatum veniale est actus transiens, qui resumi non potest. Et quantum ad hoc, non est simile.   Reply to Objection 3: Disease of the body is not an act, but an abiding disposition; wherefore, while remaining the same disease, it may undergo change. On the other hand, venial sin is a transient act, which cannot be taken up again: so that in this respect the comparison fails.
Ad quartum dicendum quod dispositio quae fit habitus, est sicut imperfectum in eadem specie, sicut imperfecta scientia, dum perficitur, fit habitus. Sed veniale peccatum est dispositio alterius generis, sicut accidens ad formam substantialem, in quam nunquam mutatur.   Reply to Objection 4: A disposition that becomes a habit, is like an imperfect thing in the same species; thus imperfect science, by being perfected, becomes a habit. On the other hand, venial sin is a disposition to something differing generically, even as an accident which disposes to a substantial form, into which it is never changed.

 

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Whether a circumstance can make a venial sin to be mortal?

Ad quintum sic proceditur. Videtur quod circumstantia possit de veniali peccato facere mortale. Dicit enim Augustinus, in sermone de Purgatorio, quod si diu teneatur iracundia, et ebrietas si assidua sit, transeunt in numerum peccatorum mortalium. Sed ira et ebrietas non sunt ex suo genere peccata mortalia, sed venialia, alioquin semper essent mortalia. Ergo circumstantia facit peccatum veniale esse mortale.   Objection 1: It would seem that a circumstance can make a venial sin mortal. For Augustine says in a sermon on Purgatory (De Sanctis, serm. xli) that "if anger continue for a long time, or if drunkenness be frequent, they become mortal sins." But anger and drunkenness are not mortal but venial sins generically, else they would always be mortal sins. Therefore a circumstance makes a venial sin to be mortal.
Praeterea, Magister dicit, XXIV dist. II libri Sent., quod delectatio, si sit morosa, est peccatum mortale; si autem non sit morosa, est peccatum veniale. Sed morositas est quaedam circumstantia. Ergo circumstantia facit de peccato veniali mortale.   Objection 2: Further, the Master says ( Sentent. ii, D, 24) that delectation, if morose [*See Question [74], Article [6]], is a mortal sin, but that if it be not morose, it is a venial sin. Now moroseness is a circumstance. Therefore a circumstance makes a venial sin to be mortal.
Praeterea, plus differunt malum et bonum quam veniale peccatum et mortale, quorum utrumque est in genere mali. Sed circumstantia facit de actu bono malum, sicut patet cum quis dat eleemosynam propter inanem gloriam. Ergo multo magis potest facere de peccato veniali mortale.   Objection 3: Further, evil and good differ more than venial and mortal sin, both of which are generically evil. But a circumstance makes a good act to be evil, as when a man gives an alms for vainglory. Much more, therefore, can it make a venial sin to be mortal.
Sed contra est quod, cum circumstantia sit accidens, quantitas eius non potest excedere quantitatem ipsius actus, quam habet ex suo genere, semper enim subiectum praeeminet accidenti. Si igitur actus ex suo genere sit peccatum veniale, non poterit per circumstantiam fieri peccatum mortale, cum peccatum mortale in infinitum quodammodo excedat quantitatem venialis, ut ex dictis patet.   On the contrary, Since a circumstance is an accident, its quantity cannot exceed that of the act itself, derived from the act's genus, because the subject always excels its accident. If, therefore, an act be venial by reason of its genus, it cannot become mortal by reason of an accident: since, in a way, mortal sin infinitely surpasses the quantity of venial sin, as is evident from what has been said (Question [72], Article [5], ad 1; Question [87], Article [5], ad 1).
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, cum de circumstantiis ageretur, circumstantia, inquantum huiusmodi, est accidens actus moralis, contingit tamen circumstantiam accipi ut differentiam specificam actus moralis, et tunc amittit rationem circumstantiae, et constituit speciem moralis actus. Hoc autem contingit in peccatis quando circumstantia addit deformitatem alterius generis sicut cum aliquis accedit ad non suam, est actus deformis deformitate opposita castitati; sed si accedat ad non suam quae est alterius uxor, additur deformitas opposita iustitiae, contra quam est ut aliquis usurpet rem alienam; et secundum hoc huiusmodi circumstantia constituit novam speciem peccati, quae dicitur adulterium.   I answer that, As stated above (Question [7], Article [1]; Question [18], Article [5], ad 4; Articles [10],11), when we were treating of circumstances, a circumstance, as such, is an accident of the moral act: and yet a circumstance may happen to be taken as the specific difference of a moral act, and then it loses its nature of circumstance, and constitutes the species of the moral act. This happens in sins when a circumstance adds the deformity of another genus; thus when a man has knowledge of another woman than his wife, the deformity of his act is opposed to chastity; but if this other be another man's wife, there is an additional deformity opposed to justice which forbids one to take what belongs to another; and accordingly this circumstance constitutes a new species of sin known as adultery.
Impossibile est autem quod circumstantia de peccato veniali faciat mortale, nisi afferat deformitatem alterius generis. Dictum est enim quod peccatum veniale habet deformitatem per hoc quod importat deordinationem circa ea quae sunt ad finem, peccatum autem mortale habet deformitatem per hoc quod importat deordinationem respectu ultimi finis. Unde manifestum est quod circumstantia non potest de veniali peccato facere mortale, manens circumstantia, sed solum tunc quando transfert in aliam speciem, et fit quodammodo differentia specifica moralis actus.    It is, however, impossible for a circumstance to make a venial sin become mortal, unless it adds the deformity of another species. For it has been stated above (Article [1]) that the deformity of a venial sin consists in a disorder affecting things that are referred to the end, whereas the deformity of a mortal sin consists in a disorder about the last end. Consequently it is evident that a circumstance cannot make a venial sin to be mortal, so long as it remains a circumstance, but only when it transfers the sin to another species, and becomes, as it were, the specific difference of the moral act.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod diuturnitas non est circumstantia trahens in aliam speciem, similiter nec frequentia vel assiduitas, nisi forte per accidens ex aliquo supervenienti. Non enim aliquid acquirit novam speciem ex hoc quod multiplicatur vel protelatur, nisi forte in actu protelato vel multiplicato superveniat aliquid quod variet speciem, puta inobedientia vel contemptus, vel aliquid huiusmodi.   Reply to Objection 1: Length of time is not a circumstance that draws a sin to another species, nor is frequency or custom, except perhaps by something accidental supervening. For an action does not acquire a new species through being repeated or prolonged, unless by chance something supervene in the repeated or prolonged act to change its species, e.g. disobedience, contempt, or the like.
Dicendum est ergo quod, cum ira sit motus animi ad nocendum proximo, si sit tale nocumentum in quod tendit motus irae, quod ex genere suo sit peccatum mortale, sicut homicidium vel furtum, talis ira ex genere suo est peccatum mortale. Sed quod sit peccatum veniale, habet ex imperfectione actus, inquantum est motus subitus sensualitatis. Si vero sit diuturna, redit ad naturam sui generis per consensum rationis. Si vero nocumentum in quod tendit motus irae, esset veniale ex genere suo, puta cum aliquis in hoc irascitur contra aliquem, quod vult ei dicere aliquod verbum leve et iocosum, quod modicum ipsum contristet; non erit ira peccatum mortale, quantumcumque sit diuturna; nisi forte per accidens, puta si ex hoc grave scandalum oriatur, vel propter aliquid huiusmodi.    We must therefore reply to the objection by saying that since anger is a movement of the soul tending to the hurt of one's neighbor, if the angry movement tend to a hurt which is a mortal sin generically, such as murder or robbery, that anger will be a mortal sin generically: and if it be a venial sin, this will be due to the imperfection of the act, in so far as it is a sudden movement of the sensuality: whereas, if it last a long time, it returns to its generic nature, through the consent of reason. If, on the other hand, the hurt to which the angry movement tends, is a sin generically venial, for instance, if a man be angry with someone, so as to wish to say some trifling word in jest that would hurt him a little, the anger will not be mortal sin, however long it last, unless perhaps accidentally; for instance, if it were to give rise to great scandal or something of the kind.
De ebrietate vero dicendum est quod secundum suam rationem habet quod sit peccatum mortale, quod enim homo absque necessitate reddat se impotentem ad utendum ratione, per quam homo in Deum ordinatur et multa peccata occurrentia vitat, ex sola voluptate vini, expresse contrariatur virtuti. Sed quod sit peccatum veniale, contingit propter ignorantiam quandam vel infirmitatem, puta cum homo nescit virtutem vini, aut propriam debilitatem, unde non putat se inebriari, tunc enim non imputatur ei ebrietas ad peccatum, sed solum superabundantia potus. Sed quando frequenter inebriatur, non potest per hanc ignorantiam excusari quin videatur voluntas eius eligere magis pati ebrietatem, quam abstinere a vino superfluo. Unde redit peccatum ad suam naturam.    With regard to drunkenness we reply that it is a mortal sin by reason of its genus; for, that a man, without necessity, and through the mere lust of wine, make himself unable to use his reason, whereby he is directed to God and avoids committing many sins, is expressly contrary to virtue. That it be a venial sin, is due some sort of ignorance or weakness, as when a man is ignorant of the strength of the wine, or of his own unfitness, so that he has no thought of getting drunk, for in that case the drunkenness is not imputed to him as a sin, but only the excessive drink. If, however, he gets drunk frequently, this ignorance no longer avails as an excuse, for his will seems to choose to give way to drunkenness rather than to refrain from excess of wine: wherefore the sin returns to its specific nature.
Ad secundum dicendum quod delectatio morosa non dicitur esse peccatum mortale, nisi in his quae ex suo genere sunt peccata mortalia; in quibus si delectatio non morosa sit, peccatum veniale est ex imperfectione actus, sicut et de ira dictum est. Dicitur enim ira diuturna, et delectatio morosa, propter approbationem rationis deliberantis.   Reply to Objection 2: Morose delectation is not a mortal sin except in those matters which are mortal sins generically. In such matters, if the delectation be not morose, there is a venial sin through imperfection of the act, as we have said with regard to anger (ad 1): because anger is said to be lasting, and delectation to be morose, on account of the approval of the deliberating reason.
Ad tertium dicendum quod circumstantia non facit de bono actu malum, nisi constituens speciem peccati, ut supra etiam habitum est.   Reply to Objection 3: A circumstance does not make a good act to be evil, unless it constitute the species of a sin, as we have stated above (Question [18], Article [5], ad 4).

 

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Whether a mortal sin can become venial?

Ad sextum sic proceditur. Videtur quod peccatum mortale possit fieri veniale. Aequaliter enim distat peccatum veniale a mortali, et e contrario. Sed peccatum veniale fit mortale, ut dictum est. Ergo etiam peccatum mortale potest fieri veniale.   Objection 1: It would seem that a mortal sin can become venial. Because venial sin is equally distant from mortal, as mortal sin is from venial. But a venial sin can become mortal, as stated above (Article [5]). Therefore also a mortal sin can become venial.
Praeterea, peccatum veniale et mortale ponuntur differre secundum hoc, quod peccans mortaliter diligit creaturam plus quam Deum, peccans autem venialiter diligit creaturam infra Deum. Contingit autem quod aliquis committens id quod est ex genere suo peccatum mortale, diligat creaturam infra Deum, puta si aliquis, nesciens fornicationem simplicem esse peccatum mortale et contrariam divino amori, fornicetur, ita tamen quod propter divinum amorem paratus esset fornicationem praetermittere, si sciret fornicando se contra divinum amorem agere. Ergo peccabit venialiter. Et sic peccatum mortale potest fieri veniale.   Objection 2: Further, venial and mortal sin are said to differ in this, that he who sins mortally loves a creature more than God, while he who sins venially loves the creature less than God. Now it may happen that a person in committing a sin generically mortal, loves a creature less than God; for instance, if anyone being ignorant that simple fornication is a mortal sin, and contrary to the love of God, commits the sin of fornication, yet so as to be ready, for the love of God, to refrain from that sin if he knew that by committing it he was acting counter to the love of God. Therefore his will be a venial sin; and accordingly a mortal sin can become venial.
Praeterea, sicut dictum est, plus differt bonum a malo quam veniale a mortali. Sed actus qui est de se malus, potest fieri bonus, sicut homicidium potest fieri actus iustitiae, sicut patet in iudice qui occidit latronem. Ergo multo magis peccatum mortale potest fieri veniale.   Objection 3: Further, as stated above (Article [5], Objection [3]), good is more distant from evil, than venial from mortal sin. But an act which is evil in itself, can become good; thus to kill a man may be an act of justice, as when a judge condemns a thief to death. Much more therefore can a mortal sin become venial.
Sed contra est quod aeternum nunquam potest fieri temporale. Sed peccatum mortale meretur poenam aeternam, peccatum autem veniale poenam temporalem. Ergo peccatum mortale nunquam potest fieri veniale   On the contrary, An eternal thing can never become temporal. But mortal sin deserves eternal punishment, whereas venial sin deserves temporal punishment. Therefore a mortal sin can never become venial.
Respondeo dicendum quod veniale et mortale differunt sicut perfectum et imperfectum in genere peccati, ut dictum est. Imperfectum autem per aliquam additionem potest ad perfectionem venire. Unde et veniale, per hoc quod additur ei deformitas pertinens ad genus peccati mortalis, efficitur mortale, sicut cum quis dicit verbum otiosum ut fornicetur. Sed id quod est perfectum, non potest fieri imperfectum per additionem.   I answer that, Venial and mortal differ as perfect and imperfect in the genus of sin, as stated above (Article [1], ad 1). Now the imperfect can become perfect, by some sort of addition: and, consequently, a venial sin can become mortal, by the addition of some deformity pertaining to the genus of mortal sin, as when a man utters an idle word for the purpose of fornication. On the other hand, the perfect cannot become imperfect, by addition; and so a mortal sin cannot become venial, by the addition of a deformity pertaining to the genus of venial sin, for the sin is not diminished if a man commit fornication in order to utter an idle word; rather is it aggravated by the additional deformity.
Et ideo peccatum mortale non fit veniale per hoc quod additur ei aliqua deformitas pertinens ad genus peccati venialis, non enim diminuitur peccatum eius qui fornicatur ut dicat verbum otiosum, sed magis aggravatur propter deformitatem adiunctam. Potest tamen id quod est ex genere mortale, esse veniale propter imperfectionem actus, quia non perfecte pertingit ad rationem actus moralis, cum non sit deliberatus sed subitus, ut ex dictis patet. Et hoc fit per subtractionem quandam, scilicet deliberatae rationis. Et quia a ratione deliberata habet speciem moralis actus, inde est quod per talem subtractionem solvitur species.    Nevertheless a sin which is generically mortal, can become venial by reason of the imperfection of the act, because then it does not completely fulfil the conditions of a moral act, since it is not a deliberate, but a sudden act, as is evident from what we have said above (Article [2]). This happens by a kind of subtraction, namely, of deliberate reason. And since a moral act takes its species from deliberate reason, the result is that by such a subtraction the species of the act is destroyed.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod veniale differt a mortali sicut imperfectum a perfecto, ut puer a viro. Fit autem ex puero vir, sed non convertitur. Unde ratio non cogit.   Reply to Objection 1: Venial differs from mortal as imperfect from perfect, even as a boy differs from a man. But the boy becomes a man and not vice versa. Hence the argument does not prove.
Ad secundum dicendum quod, si sit talis ignorantia quae peccatum omnino excuset, sicut est furiosi vel amentis, tunc ex tali ignorantia fornicationem committens nec mortaliter nec venialiter peccat. Si vero sit ignorantia non invincibilis, tunc ignorantia ipsa est peccatum, et continet in se defectum divini amoris, inquantum negligit homo addiscere ea per quae potest se in divino amore conservare.   Reply to Objection 2: If the ignorance be such as to excuse sin altogether, as the ignorance of a madman or an imbecile, then he that commits fornication in a state of such ignorance, commits no sin either mortal or venial. But if the ignorance be not invincible, then the ignorance itself is a sin, and contains within itself the lack of the love of God, in so far as a man neglects to learn those things whereby he can safeguard himself in the love of God.
Ad tertium dicendum quod, sicut Augustinus dicit, in libro contra mendacium, ea quae sunt secundum se mala, nullo fine bene fieri possunt. Homicidium autem est occisio innocentis, et hoc nullo modo bene fieri potest. Sed iudex qui occidit latronem, vel miles qui occidit hostem reipublicae, non appellantur homicidae, ut Augustinus dicit, in libro de libero arbitrio.   Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says (Contra Mendacium vii), "those things which are evil in themselves, cannot be well done for any good end." Now murder is the slaying of the innocent, and this can nowise be well done. But, as Augustine states (De Lib. Arb. i, 4,5), the judge who sentences a thief to death, or the soldier who slays the enemy of the common weal, are not murderers.

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