Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XXXIII.: OF FRATERNAL CORRECTION. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XXXIII.: OF FRATERNAL CORRECTION. - 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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OF FRATERNAL CORRECTION.
Article I.—Is fraternal correction an act of charity?
R. Sin may be looked at in one way as hurtful to him who sins; in another way as tending to the hurt of others, who take harm from the sin, or scandal, and also as being to the prejudice of the public good, the due course and order whereof is troubled by the sin of an individual. There is then a twofold correction of an offender: one that applies a remedy to the sin inasmuch as that is the evil of the sinner himself, and this is properly fraternal correction, which is directed to the amendment of the offender. Fraternal correction is an act of charity, because by it we remove the evil of our brother, namely, sin, the removal whereof belongs more to charity than even the removal of exterior loss or bodily hurt, inasmuch as the contrary good of virtue is more allied to charity than the good of the body or of exterior things. Hence fraternal correction is an act of charity, more so than the cure of bodily infirmity, or the relief of exterior distress. But there is another correction that applies a remedy to the sin of an offender, inasmuch as that makes towards the evil estate of others, and particularly towards the prejudice of the public good; and such correction is an act of justice; it being the property of that virtue to maintain the right order of justice in one man towards another.
Article II.—Is fraternal correction matter of precept?
R. As the negative precepts of the law forbid acts of sin, so the affirmative precepts induce to acts of virtue. Now acts of sin are evil in themselves, and can in no way become good, nor at any time or place, because of themselves they are conjoined to an evil end; and therefore the negative precepts bind always and for always. But acts of virtue ought not to be done anyhow, but with observance of due circumstances requisite to the act being virtuous, so that it be done where it ought, and when it ought, and as it ought. In these circumstances of a virtuous act, regard must be had specially to the end in view. Now fraternal correction is directed to the amendment of our brother, and therefore it falls under precept inasmuch as it is necessary to this end, but not so that an erring brother should be corrected in every place, or at every time.
§ 4. That which is due to a definite and fixed person, whether it be a corporal or a spiritual good, we must pay him, not waiting for him to come in our way, but taking proper trouble to seek him out. Hence as he who owes money to a creditor ought to look for him, when it is time to pay him his due; so he who has special care of any one ought to seek him to correct him of sin. But as for those good services that are not due to any definite individual, but to all our neighbours in common, be they corporal or spiritual good offices, we need not seek for persons to render them to, but it is enough that we render them to those who come in our way. And therefore Augustine says: “The Lord admonishes us not to pass over one another’s sins, nor yet to go looking for something to rebuke; but when we do see something, to give correction.” Otherwise we should become spies on the lives of other people, contrary to what is said in Prov. xxiv. 15: “Seek not after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest.”
Article III.—Does fraternal correction belong only to superiors?
R. There are two sorts of correction. One is an act of charity, tending to the amendment of an erring brother by way of simple admonition; and such correction belongs to every one that has charity, be he subject or superior. But there is another correction that is an act of justice, with intent of the common good, which is not only procured by admonishing a brother, but sometimes also by chastising him, that others in fear may cease their offending; and such correction belongs to superiors alone, who are competent not only to admonish, but also to correct by chastisement.
Article VI.—Should correction be withheld for fear of the offender becoming worse?
R. The correction that belongs to superiors, and is directed to the public good, and is borne out by coercive power, should not be omitted for any uproar made by the receiver of it. For if he will not amend himself, he must be compelled by penalties to cease from offending. And even though he be incorrigible, yet the public good is hereby secured, the order of justice is kept, and others are deterred by the example made of one. Hence a judge does not omit to pass sentence of condemnation on an offender for any fear of his uproar or of that of his friends. But fraternal correction is a different thing, having for its end the amendment of the offender, and is not borne out by coercion, but by mere admonition. And therefore where in all likelihood it may be reckoned that the sinner is not in a state to receive an admonition, but to go from bad to worse, fraternal correction is to be given up: because means must be regulated as the nature of the end requires.
Article VII.—In fraternal correction, is it of necessity of precept that secret admonition should precede denunciation?
R. If the sins are public, a remedy is to be applied to the sinner, not merely for his personal improvement, but also for the sake of others, under whose notice his sin has come, that they may not be scandalized. And therefore such sins are to be publicly reprehended, according to the saying of the Apostle: “Them that sin reprove before all, that the rest also may have fear;”1 which is to be understood of public sins, as Augustine says. But if the sins are hidden, the saying of our Lord appears to have place: “If thy brother shall offend against thee.”2 For he who offends you in public before others, does not sin against you alone, but also against the rest of the company, whom he shocks. But because even secret sins may be an offence against our neighbour, there seems to be need of yet a further distinction. Some secret sins are to our neighbour’s hurt in body or in soul; say, if one should secretly negotiate the betrayal of the city to the enemy, or if a heretic should privately turn men away from the faith. And since he who sins secretly in this way, does not sin against you alone, but also against others, the right course is to proceed immediately to denounce him, that the harm may be stopped; unless indeed you are firmly convinced that you can put an immediate stop to these evils by a secret admonition. Other sins there are that tend only to the prejudice of the sinner; and then all our effort must be to succour our sinful brother. And as a physician of the body gives help to his patient, if he can, without amputation of any limb; but if he cannot, he amputates the limb that is less necessary, that the life of the whole may be preserved: so he who aims at the amendment of his brother ought, if he can, so to amend his brother’s conscience as to save his good name. For good name is useful to the sinner, not only in his temporal, but even in his spiritual interest: because many are withdrawn from sin by fear of infamy; hence when they see themselves become infamous, they sin without check or bridle. But because a good conscience is preferable to a good name, our Lord has willed that at the cost of his good name, if it cannot be otherwise, our brother’s conscience be cleared of guilt by a public denunciation. Hence it is clearly of necessity of precept that secret admonition should precede public denunciation.
[1 ]1 Timothy v. 20.
[2 ]St. Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.