Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXIX.: OF SINS AGAINST JUSTICE ON THE PART OF THE ACCUSED. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXIX.: OF SINS AGAINST JUSTICE ON THE PART OF THE ACCUSED. - 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 SINS AGAINST JUSTICE ON THE PART OF THE ACCUSED.
Article I.—Is an accused party guiltless of mortal sin, in denying the truth that would lead to his condemnation?
R. Whoever acts against a duty binding in justice, sins mortally.1 But the duty of obedience to a superior in matters to which the right of his superiority extends, is a duty binding in justice.2 Now a judge is superior over him who is judged. And therefore the accused is in duty bound to declare to the judge the truth that is required of him according to form of law; and if he will not confess the truth that he is bound to tell, or gives a lying denial of it, he sins mortally. But if the judge asks a question that he cannot ask according to order of law, the accused is not bound to answer him, but may evade the question by appeal, or by any other lawful subterfuge. A lie however he is not allowed to tell.1
Article II.—Is it lawful for an accused party to set up a fraudulent defence?
R. Suppression of truth is one thing; the putting forward of falsehood another. The former is in some cases lawful: for an accused is not bound to confess the whole truth, but that only which the judge can ask and ought to ask of him according to the order of law: that is, when there has been an antecedent evil report commonly current about the man, pointing to some crime; or when some express indications have appeared; or when some semicomplete proof has gone before.2 But in no case is it lawful for any one to plead what is false. Now to a lawful end a man may proceed either by lawful ways, and ways suitable to the end intended, which method is the part of prudence; or by unlawful ways, and ways out of keeping with the end in view, which is the part of cunning, fraud, and guile. Thus then it is lawful for the accused party to adopt any suitable methods, as not answering, to conceal such part of the truth as he is not bound to confess. This is not a fraudulent defence, but a prudent evasion. But it is not lawful for him either to tell a falsehood, or to conceal the truth which he is bound to confess, nor again to employ any trickery or fraud, because trickery and fraud are equivalent to a lie; and this is the meaning of a fraudulent defence.
Article III.—Is it lawful to escape sentence by an appeal?
R. There are two motives that may move a man to appeal. One is confidence in the justice of his cause; and on that motive it is lawful to appeal. Another is desire to throw delays in the way of a just sentence being pronounced against him; and that is a fraudulent defence, which is unlawful: for it wrongs both the judge, whose office it impedes, and the adversary, whose just claim it does its best to upset. And therefore, as is said, “by all means he is to be punished, whose appeal is pronounced unjust.”
Article IV.—Is it lawful for a condemned criminal to take what steps he can in the way of self-defence?
R. It is not lawful for one justly condemned to death to defend himself, for it is lawful to the judge to use armed force to overcome his resistance; hence it remains that on the criminal’s part the conflict is unjust: hence undoubtedly he sins. But an unjust condemnation is like the violence of robbers. And therefore it is lawful in such a case to resist, except haply for the avoidance of scandal, when grave disturbance might be apprehended from such resistance.
§ 1. For this purpose is reason given to man, that he may fulfil the things to which nature inclines him, not indiscriminately, but according to the order of reason. And therefore not every self-defence is lawful, but that defence only which has place with due moderation.
§ 2. The tenor of no man’s sentence is that he should put himself to death, but that he should suffer death; and therefore a criminal is not bound to do that whence death is apt to follow, namely, remain in a place whence he is to be led to death; though he is bound not to use resistance to escape what is just for him to suffer. Thus if one is condemned to die by starvation, he does not sin in taking food secretly supplied to him; for not to take it would be to kill himself.
[1 ]That is to say, the sin is mortal of its kind, for the meaning of which phrase see I-II. q. 88. art. 2. with note. (Trl.)
[2 ]In legal justice (Ethics and Natural Law, p. 103, n. 3), the violation of which is mortal, where the matter is of consequence. (Trl.)
[1 ]See note to Article following This Article has its bearing on the matter of Lying and Mental Reservation; also on those interrogatories that may be put by parent to child, or by one who holds the place of a parent. It is important in such interrogations to make quite sure whether the question, as you put it, is “according to form of law,” or within the bounds of your parental right. (Trl.)
[2 ]These were the conditions under which the Roman Law prescribed that a prisoner should be judicially interrogated as to his guilt, and expected him to incriminate himself. (Trl.)