Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION LXXIX.: OF THE INTEGRAL PARTS OF JUSTICE, WHICH ARE TO DO GOOD AND TURN AWAY FROM EVIL. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION LXXIX.: OF THE INTEGRAL PARTS OF JUSTICE, WHICH ARE TO DO GOOD AND TURN AWAY FROM EVIL. - 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 INTEGRAL PARTS OF JUSTICE, WHICH ARE TO DO GOOD AND TURN AWAY FROM EVIL.
Article I.—Are turning away from evil, and doing good, parts of justice?
R. If we speak of good and evil in general, to do good and to avoid evil are points that belong to all virtue; and at that rate they cannot be set down as parts of justice, unless perchance justice be taken in the sense in which it is identical with all virtue; though even in that sense justice regards a certain special feature of good, inasmuch as goodness is something due in order of law divine or human. But considered as a special virtue, justice regards good under the aspect of something due to our neighbour; and at that rate it belongs to the special virtue of justice to do good under the aspect of something due to our neighbour, and to avoid evil on the other hand as hurtful to our neighbour: while to the general virtue of justice it belongs to do good as something due to society and to God, and to avoid evil as the opposite of that. These two points are called parts of general or particular justice, and integral1 parts, because both of them are requisite to the perfect act of justice. For it belongs to justice to establish equality in the dealings of one man with another. But here to establish and to maintain what is established are functions of the same. A man establishes the equality of justice by doing good, that is, by rendering to another his due: he maintains the equality of justice, once established, by turning away from evil, that is, by doing no hurt to his neighbour.
§ 1. Other moral virtues are in regard of the passions, in which to do good is to come to the golden mean, that is, to turn away from extremes as from evils; and so in other virtues it comes to the same thing to do good and to turn away from evil. But justice is about actions and exterior businesses, in which it is one thing to make equality, and another thing to avoid spoiling the equality made.
§ 2. Turning away from evil, as it is reckoned a part of justice, means no mere negation, or not doing evil; for that merits not the palm, but merely escapes punishment. But it means a motion of the will refusing evil, as the very name of turning away shows; and that is meritorious, especially when one is assailed with temptation to do evil, and resists.
Article II.—Is transgression a special sin?
R. The name of transgression is derived from bodily movements to moral acts. A man is said in bodily movement to transgress or trespass, in that he passes beyond the bounds assigned to him. Now in moral matters it is by a negative precept that bounds are assigned to a man, for him not to pass beyond. And therefore transgression properly means acting against a negative precept. It is distinguished from omission, which is against an affirmative precept.
§ 3. Affirmative precepts do not bind for always, but for a specified time; and as that time comes, the sin of omission begins to have place. But it may happen that a man is unable just then to do what he ought; and if the inability is without any fault of his, he is not omitting what he ought to be doing. But if it is through his own fault going before, as when one has got drunk over-night and cannot rise for Matins as he ought, some say that the sin of omission then begins, when the man applies himself to the unlawful act that is incompatible with the act to which he is bound. But this does not seem true; for supposing that he were roused from his bed by force and went to Matins, he would not omit them: hence it is clear that the drunkenness going before was not the omission, but the cause of the omission. Hence it is to be said that the omission begins to be imputed to him as a fault,1 when the time for action has come; nevertheless it is by the cause going before that the omission which follows is rendered voluntary.
§ 4. More is required for a meritorious act of virtue than for the demerit of a fault: because one single defect makes evil, but good supposes the soundness of the entire case. And therefore an act is required for the merit of justice, but not for an omission.
Article IV.—Is the sin of omission graver than the sin of transgression?
R. A sin is grave in proportion as it is removed from virtue. Now the furthest remove is that of logical contrariety. Contrary is further removed from contrary than a simple negation of the thing, as black is further removed from white than simple not white. But manifestly transgression is the contrary to an act of virtue, while omission carries a mere negation with it. Thus it is a sin of omission if one does not pay due reverence to parents; but a sin of transgression, if one puts upon them contumely or any injury. Whence it is clear that, simply and absolutely speaking, transgression is a graver sin than omission; though some omission may be graver than some transgression.
[1 ]See above, q. 48. art. 1. (Trl.)
[1 ]In the exterior court, doubtless. But in the interior court of conscience—supposing the man too drunk to rise—the fault of omitting Matins must be judged to have been all committed in causa, when the drunkenness was committed. See Ethics and Natural Law, p. 39, n. 17. (Trl.)