Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXV.: OF MUTILATION OF MEMBERS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
Return to Title Page for Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
QUESTION LXV.: OF MUTILATION OF MEMBERS. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
OF MUTILATION OF MEMBERS.
Article I.—Can mutilation in any case be lawful?
R. As by public authority one is lawfully deprived of life altogether for certain graver offences, so is he deprived of a member for lesser transgressions. This however is not lawful to any private person, even with the consent of the party whose member it is: because thereby an injury is done to the community, to whom the man belongs and all parts of him. But if a member by its unsoundness is in a way to corrupt the whole body, then it is lawful, at the wish of him whose member it is, to amputate the unsound member for the preservation of the body as a whole: for to every man is committed the care of his own preservation.
§ 1. There is no reason why what is against a particular nature may not be according to universal nature; as death and corruption in natural things are against the particular nature of the organism that is corrupted, but accord well with universal nature. And so to mutilate a man of a member, though it be against the particular nature of the body that suffers mutilation, is still according to natural reason in view of the common good.
§ 3. A member is not to be cut off for the bodily welfare of the person as a whole, except when there is no other way of succouring the body as a whole. But for spiritual welfare succour is always at hand by other means than by the cutting off of a member, seeing that sin is subject to the will. And therefore in no case is it lawful to cut off a member for the avoidance of any sin whatever. Hence Chrysostom says: “Not by cutting off of members, but by the breaking off of evil thoughts: for he is under a curse who cuts off the member: murderers they are who venture on such things.”
Article II.—Is it lawful for fathers to flog their sons?
R. By flogging hurt is done to the body of the person flogged, otherwise however than in the case of mutilation: for mutilation takes away the integrity of the person, but flogging merely gives pain to the sense. It is lawful to no one to do any hurt to another otherwise than by way of punishment for justice’ sake. But no one justly punishes another, unless he be subject to his jurisdiction. And therefore it is not lawful to beat another, except in him who has some authority over the person beaten. And because the son is subject to the authority of his father, the father may lawfully flog his son.
§ 1. Anger being a desire of vengeance, the passion is especially excited when a sufferer thinks himself ill-treated unjustly. And therefore the prohibition addressed to fathers,1 that they should not provoke their children to anger, does not forbid their flogging their sons by way of maintenance of discipline, but only forbids excessive floggings.
§ 2. The greater authority ought to have the greater power of coercion. Now as a State is a perfect community, so the ruler of the State has perfect coercive power; and therefore he can inflict the irreparable penalties of death or mutilation. But a father, being the head of a family, which is an imperfect community, has an imperfect power of coercion in the way of lighter penalties, which do no irreparable hurt; and such is flogging.
§ 3. To render discipline to one willing to receive it, is lawful to any man. But to apply discipline to an unwilling subject, belongs to him alone who has another entrusted to his charge.
Article III.—Is it lawful to put a man in prison?
R. Among goods of the body three are discernible in order. The first is the wholeness of the person, which is impaired by killing or mutilation. The second is pleasure, or repose of sense, with which repose beating, or anything that gives pain to sense, is inconsistent. The third is the movement and use of the limbs, which is hindered by bonds, or prison, or any detention. And therefore to imprison any one, or otherwise detain him, is unlawful except it be done in course of justice, either as a punishment, or as a precaution for the avoidance of some evil.
§ 1. A man who abuses the power given him, deserves to lose it; and therefore the man who has sinfully abused the free use of his limbs, is a suitable subject for imprisonment.
§ 3. It is lawful for any one to hold back a man for a time from doing there and then an unlawful act; as when one holds back another from casting himself headlong, or from committing assault. But absolutely to lock a man up, or put him in fetters, belongs to him alone who has general control over the life and actions of another: because thereby the party is hindered, not only from doing evil, but also from doing good.
[1 ]Ephes. vi. 4.