Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXIII.: OF THE RESPECTING OF PERSONS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXIII.: OF THE RESPECTING OF PERSONS. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
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 THE RESPECTING OF PERSONS.
Article I.—Is the respecting of persons a sin?
R. The respecting of persons1 is opposed to distributive justice. For the equality of distributive justice consists in this, that to different persons different things are assigned in proportion to their several dignities and deserts. If therefore one has regard to that attribute in a person, which makes the thing conferred due to him, that is no respecting of the person but a regard for the cause. For instance, if one promotes a person to the degree of master on account of his sufficiency of learning, there the cause of the thing being due2 is regarded, not the person. But if in the person on whom you bestow some emolument you consider, not the reason that makes the bestowal appropriate or due to him, but only the fact of his being this man, Peter, or Martin, that is a respecting of persons, because the honour is awarded, not for any cause that makes the receiver worthy, but it is awarded simply to the person. That consideration must be held to be a purely personal consideration, which is not in respect of any cause rendering the party worthy of the gift in question. Thus if one promotes another to a prelacy, or to a master’s degree, because he is rich, or because he is a relation of his, that is a respecting of the person.
§ 3. There are two manners of giving: one appertaining to justice, whereby one gives to another what is due to him; and about such gifts the respecting of persons has place. There is another manner of giving appertaining to liberality, whereby that is given gratuitously to another which is not due to him. Such is the bestowal of the gifts of grace, by which sinners are taken into favour by God. In this bestowal the respecting of persons has no place, because without injustice every one may give of his own as much as he wills, and to whom he wills, according to the text: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Take what is thine and go thy way.”1
Article II.—Is there room for the respecting of persons in the dispensation of spiritualities?
R. Seeing that it is a respecting of persons when something is assigned to a person beyond the proportion in which he is worthy, we may observe that the worthiness of a person may be determined from two points of view. One way it may be determined absolutely and in itself; and in that way he is the more worthy, who abounds more in spiritual gifts of grace. Another way is in reference to the common good; for sometimes the less holy and the less learned may be more available for the common good, by reason of worldly ability or business capacity, or some other such advantage. And because the dispensing of spiritualities has place principally in view the profit of the community, according to the text: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit:”1 therefore at times, without any respecting of persons, the absolutely less good are preferred to the better in the dispensation of spiritualities,2 as also God at times grants to the less good the graces that are graciously given.3
§ 1. Concerning a Prelate’s kindred a distinction must be drawn. For sometimes they are less worthy both absolutely and in regard of the common good; and in that case, if they are preferred to others more worthy, it is a sin of respecting of persons in the dispensing of spiritual goods, goods of which the Prelate is not master, to be able to give them as he likes, but only dispenser.1 Sometimes on the other hand the Prelate’s kindred are equally worthy with the rest; and in that case he may lawfully prefer his kindred without respecting of persons; because in this at least they are superior, that he can trust them more to be of one mind with him in the handling of ecclesiastical affairs. Still this advantage should be foregone on the ground of scandal, if others would take example thence of giving the goods of the Church to their kinsmen even apart from worthiness.
§ 3. For the election to be unexceptionable before a judicial tribunal, it is enough to choose a good man, and there is no need to choose the better man; otherwise every election would be open to cavil. But for the conscience of the elector it is necessary to choose him who is the better man, either absolutely, or in respect of the common good. The reason is, because if a more fit and proper person can be found for the dignity, and another is preferred to it, this must be for some cause: now if that cause be germane to the matter, then the more fit and proper person will be the person elected; but if it be not germane to the matter, that which is had in view as the cause will be manifestly a respecting of persons.
§ 4. He who is taken from the bosom of the local church to which he is appointed, usually proves more useful for the common good, because he has a greater love for the church in which he has been brought up. And therefore the command is given, “Thou shalt not make a man of another nation king, that is not thy brother.”1
Article III.—Has the sin of respecting of persons any place in the showing of honour and reverence?
R. Honour is a testimony to the virtue of him who is honoured; and therefore virtue alone is a due cause of honour. But it must be observed that a person must be honoured, not only for his own virtue, but also for the virtue of another; as Princes and Prelates are honoured, though they be of evil life, inasmuch as they bear the person of God, and of the community over whom they are set, according to the text: “As he that casteth a stone into the heap of Mercury,2 so is he that giveth honour to a fool.”3 For because the Gentiles assigned the keeping of accounts to Mercury, a heap of Mercury means a heap of pebbles used for keeping accounts, in which a merchant sometimes puts one pebble or counter in place of a hundred dollars. Thus also the fool is honoured, who is set in place of God and in place of the whole community.
[1 ]Deut. i. 17.
[2 ]Read causa debiti. (Trl.)
[1 ]St. Matt. xx. 14, 15.
[1 ]1 Cor. xii. 7.
[2 ]An example of the holier as distinguished from the more capable Pontiff, might perhaps be found in Celestine V. (St. Peter Celestine), in comparison with his successor, Boniface VIII. (Trl.)
[3 ]The priestly powers of absolving, consecrating, &c., are called by theologians graces graciously given. “There is one grace whereby the man himself is united to God, which is called grace making gracious: another grace by which one man co-operates with another to the end that the latter may be brought under God. Such a gift is called a grace graciously given, because it is granted above the power of nature and above the merit of the person. But because it is not given to the end that the man himself may be justified by it, but rather that he may co-operate towards the justification of another, therefore it is not called making gracious.” I-II. q. 111. art. 1. (not translated).
[1 ]1 Cor. iv. 1.
[1 ]Deut. xvii. 15.
[2 ]The Anglican version of this obscure text is, “As he that bindeth a stone in a sling:” which is taken to mean that, as the stone cast from a sling is lost, so the honour paid to a fool is thrown away. (Trl.)
[3 ]Prov. xxvi. 8.