Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XCIX.: OF SACRILEGE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION XCIX.: OF SACRILEGE. - 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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Article I.—Is sacrilege the violation of a sacred thing?
R. A thing is called sacred from its being ordained to divine worship. From the fact of a thing being set aside for the worship of God, it is rendered something divine; and thus there is due to it a certain reverence, which is referred to God. And therefore every piece of irreverence to sacred things is something of an injury to God, and bears the character of sacrilege.
Article II.—Is sacrilege a special sin?
R. Wherever there is found a special ground of deformity, there must needs be there a special sin; because the species of everything is fixed principally according to the formal character, not according to the matter or the subject. But in sacrilege there is found a special ground of deformity, by which a sacred thing is violated by irreverence; and therefore it is a special sin, and is opposed to religion. For as Damascene says: “The purple is honoured and glorified for being made the royal robe; and if any makes a rent in it, he is condemned to death,”—as acting against the King.
§ 2. One special character of sin may be found in many different kinds of sins, according as these different sins are directed to the end of one sin. The like is seen in different virtues, all commanded1 by one virtue. And thus whatever be the kind of sin by which one acts against the reverence due to sacred things, he formally commits sacrilege, though materially there be there different kinds of sin.
§ 3. Sacrilege is sometimes found separate from other sins, for that the act in question has no other deformity than being in violation of a sacred thing: as if a judge should arrest and carry off from a sacred place one whom he might lawfully arrest in other places.
Article III.—Are the species of sacrilege distinguished according to the distinction of sacred things?
R. The sin of sacrilege consists in irreverent behaviour towards a sacred thing. Now reverence is due to a sacred thing on account of its sanctity. And therefore according to difference in the character of sanctity attaching to the sacred things to which irreverence is done, we must distinguish different species of sacrilege. For the greater the sanctity that attaches to the sacred thing that is sinned against, the more grievous is the sacrilege. Now sanctity is attributed both to sacred persons, that is, persons dedicated to divine worship, and to sacred places, and to certain other sacred things. The sanctity of a place is referred to the sanctity of the man who pays worship to God in the sacred place. For it is said: “God did not choose the people for the place’s sake, but the place for the people’s sake.”1 And therefore the sacrilege that sins against a sacred person, is a graver sin than the sacrilege that sins against a sacred place. There are however in both these species of sacrilege different grades, according to differences of sacred persons and places. In like manner also the third species of sacrilege, that is committed on sacred things, admits of different grades according to the differences of sacred things. Among them the highest place is held by the sacraments, whereby man is sanctified, chief of which is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which contains Christ Himself. And therefore sacrilege against this Sacrament is the most grievous of all sacrileges. The second place after the sacraments is held by the vessels consecrated for the receiving of the sacraments, and by sacred images, and by the relics of the saints, in which in a manner the very persons of the saints are venerated or dishonoured; then by what belongs to the ornamentation of the church and of its ministers; lastly, by what is set aside for the sustenance of the ministers of religion, in the shape either of movable goods or of immovable. Whoever sins against any of the afore-mentioned objects, incurs the crime of sacrilege.
§ 3. Every sin that a sacred person commits is materially and incidentally a sacrilege. Hence Bernard says: “Trifles are trifles among seculars: in a priest’s mouth they are blasphemies.”1 But formally and properly that sin alone in a sacred person is a sacrilege, which is committed directly against the sanctity of the said person, as if a virgin dedicated to God should be guilty of fornication.
[1 ]Commanded, II-II. q. 26. art. 7. note. (Trl.)
[1 ]2 Mach. v. 19.
[1 ]These are the exact words of St. Bernard, De Consid. l. 2. c. 13. St. Thomas quotes from memory, not quite accurately. The sentiment must be checked by what is said below, q. 168. arts. 2 and 4. (Trl.)