Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XX.: OF DESPAIR. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XX.: OF DESPAIR. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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Article I.—Is despair a sin?
R. What affirmation or negation is in the intellect, that courting or avoidance is in the appetite; and what is in the intellect true or false, is in the appetite good or bad. And therefore every movement of appetite formed upon a true understanding is in itself good; and every movement of appetite formed upon a false understanding is in itself evil and sinful. Now the true estimate of the understanding regarding God is this, that men’s salvation comes of God, and that pardon is given to sinners; whilst it is a false opinion that He denies pardon to a penitent sinner, or does not convert sinners to Himself by justifying grace. And therefore the movement of despair, which is formed upon a false estimate of God, is vicious and sinful.
§ 1. In every mortal sin there is some turning away from the good that perishes not, and some turning to the good that perishes; but the manner of this is different in different sins. The sins opposed to the theological virtues, as hatred of God, despair, and unbelief, primarily consist in the turning away from the good that perishes not; the reason being that the theological virtues have God for their object; but consequently they imply a turning to the good that perishes, inasmuch as the soul abandoning God must consequently of necessity turn to other things. Other sins primarily consist in a turning to the good that perishes, and consequently in a turning away from the good that perishes not. For the fornicator does not intend to fall away from God, but to enjoy the delight of his flesh, upon which enjoyment his falling away from God ensues.
§ 3. The damned are not in a state to hope, on account of the impossibility of their return to happiness; and therefore their not hoping is not imputed to them as a fault, but is part of their damnation, as though in this world a man were not to hope for that which he was never born to enjoy.
Article II.—Can there be despair without unbelief?
R. Unbelief belongs to the intellect, despair to the appetitive faculty. The intellect deals with universals, but the appetitive faculty is conversant with particular things. Now one who looks at a thing rightly in the general, may be wrong in the movement of his appetite from the warping of his judgment in a particular instance; as he who commits fornication has a warped judgment in a particular instance, choosing fornication as a good thing for himself here and now, while he still keeps his universal judgment right according to faith, that fornication is a mortal sin. In like manner, while keeping in the general a right judgment of faith, that there is forgiveness of sins in the Church, one may still suffer a movement of despair, to the effect that for himself in his state there is no hope of pardon, his judgment being warped in this particular instance. And thus there may be despair without unbelief, as also there may be other mortal sins.1
Article III.—Is despair the greatest of sins?
R. The sins that are opposed to the theological virtues, are of their kind more grievous than other sins. For whereas the theological virtues have God for their object, the sins opposed to them imply directly and primarily a turning away from God. Now in every mortal sin the principal root of evil and grievousness of the act comes from this, that it is a turning away from God: for if there could be a turning to the good that perishes, without a turning away from God, though that would be an inordinate proceeding, yet it would not be a mortal sin.2 And therefore that which of its own ordinary nature in the first place involves a turning away from God, is the most grievous sin of all mortal sins.
Now the opposites of the theological virtues are unbelief, despair, and hatred of God. Of these, hatred and unbelief in themselves, that is, in their own specific nature, prove on comparison to be more grievous than despair. For unbelief comes of a man not believing the truth of God; hatred of God comes of man’s will being contrary to the divine goodness; but despair comes of man not hoping that he has any share in the goodness of God. Evidently therefore unbelief and hatred of God are against God as He is in Himself; but despair is against Him, in so far as we are sharers in His goodness. Hence of itself it is a greater sin not to believe God’s truth, or to hate God, than not to hope to obtain glory of Him.
But if we make the comparison of despair with the other two sins so far as they affect ourselves, in that light despair is the more dangerous; because, as it is by hope that we are held back from evil-doing and led on to goodness, so the taking away of hope plunges men headlong into vice, and disgusts them with the labour of doing good. Hence Isidore says: “A guilty deed is the death of the soul; but to despair is to go down to hell.”
[1 ]Cf. I-II. q lxxvii. art 2. (Trl.)
[2 ]That is to say, if sin were no more than philosophical sin, we should never have mortal sin, I-II. q. 71. art. 6. § 5.; Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 119, 125; and no eternal punishment, I-II. q. 87. art. 4 (Trl.)