Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXVIII.: OF WHAT RELATES TO AN UNJUST ACCUSATION. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXVIII.: OF WHAT RELATES TO AN UNJUST ACCUSATION. - 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 WHAT RELATES TO AN UNJUST ACCUSATION.
Article I.—Is accusation a duty?
R. This is the difference between denunciation and accusation, that in denunciation the object is the amendment of a brother, but in accusation the punishment of a crime. Now the punishments of the present life are not ends in themselves, because the final time and place of retribution is not here; but punishments as at present inflicted are things medicinal, tending either to the amendment of the offender or to the good of the commonwealth, the peace whereof is procured by the punishment of offenders. The former of these objects is aimed at in denunciation; the latter properly belongs to accusation. And therefore if the crime has been such as to tend to injure the commonwealth, a man is bound to accusation, provided he can furnish sufficient proof, as belongs to the office of an accuser. But if the crime has not been such as to affect the community at large, or if he cannot furnish sufficient proof, he is not bound to lay an accusation, because no one is bound to that which he cannot duly go through with.
§ 3. To reveal secrets to the evil of an individual is against fidelity, but not if they are revealed for the sake of the public good, which is always to be preferred to private good. And therefore it is not lawful to accept any communication as secret, contrary to the public good.1 However that is not altogether a secret, which is capable of proof by sufficient witness.
§ 1. It is difficult to remember a statement word for word on account of the multitude and variety of words. A number of persons hearing the same words would not repeat them alike even after a short interval. And since a slight difference of words alters the sense, therefore, although the judge’s sentence has to be pronounced almost forthwith, still the sentence gains in exactitude and reliability by the accusation being drawn up in writing.2
§ 3. A denouncer does not bind himself to proof: hence neither is he punished, if he fail to prove what he has said. And therefore in denunciation no writing is needed, but it is enough if one verbally denounces the matter to the Church, who according to her office will take steps for the amendment of the erring brother.
§ 1. A man ought not to proceed to accusation except upon a point that he is altogether sure of, so that ignorance of fact can have no place there. Still it is not every one that falsely imputes a crime to another that is a malicious accuser, but he only who breaks out into false accusation from malice. For sometimes one proceeds to accusation from mere levity of mind, too easily believing what one hears, and that is rashness. Sometimes again one is moved to accuse by a justifiable error. All these several cases should be distinguished according to the prudence of the judge, so that he should not pronounce him guilty of malicious accusation, who has broken out into false accusation from levity of mind or from justifiable error.
[1 ]See Ethics and Natural Law, p. 232 (Trl.)
[2 ]The absence of written testimonies and oaths in an ordinary domestic quarrel, renders it impossible for inquiry to make certain what the aggrieved and aggrieving parties have severally said and done. (Trl.)