Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CI.: OF NATURAL AFFECTION. - 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 CI.: OF NATURAL AFFECTION. - 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 NATURAL AFFECTION.
Article I.—Are there certain definite persons who come within the range of natural affection?
R. A man comes to stand in the debt of others in various ways, according to their various excellences and various benefits received from them. In both these respects God holds the chief place: for He is at once most excellent, and is to us the first principle of being and of government. In the second place our parents and our country, of whom and in which we were born and reared, are the principles of our being and government. And therefore, after God, man is most in debt to his parents and to his country. Hence as it belongs to religion to worship God, so in a secondary degree it belongs to natural affection to worship parents and country. In the cultus of parents is included the cultus of all kinsmen who are sprung of the same parents. Again, in the cultus of country is included the cultus of all fellow-citizens and friends of our country. And these are mainly the bounds of natural affection.
Article II.—Does natural affection find sustenance for parents?
R. There are two ways in which a thing is due to parents and fellow-countrymen: in one way a thing is due ordinarily, in another way incidentally. Ordinarily there is due to them that which becomes a father, inasmuch as he is a father: now a father being the superior, and as it were the origin and principle of his son, there is due to him from the son reverence and service. A thing is due to a father incidentally, when it becomes him to receive it in respect of some accident that has befallen him: for instance, if he is sick, it is becoming that he should be visited and endeavour made to cure him; if he is poor, it is becoming that he should receive sustenance—and so of the rest, all which attentions come under the head of due service.
§ 1. Under the honouring of parents is understood all the support that ought to be rendered to parents, as our Lord interprets the commandment;1 and this because support is rendered to a father as a tribute due to a superior.
§ 2. To the text, “Neither ought the children to lay up for the parents,”2 it is to be said that because a father stands for a source and originating principle, and a child for that which has being of that originating principle, therefore it is ordinarily proper for a father to support his child; and therefore he ought to support him not for a season only, but for the whole course of his life, and this is the meaning of “laying up.” But as for the son bestowing anything on his father, that happens incidentally, on account of some need of the hour, in which he is bound to give him support; but he is not bound to lay up for a distant day, because in the natural course of things parents are not the successors of their children, but children of their parents.
Article III.—Is natural affection a special virtue distinct from others?
R. A virtue is special by regarding some object in some special light. But since it belongs to the notion of justice to give another his due, there is a special virtue wherever there is found a special way in which anything is due to any person. Now there is something specially due to a person for being a connatural originating principle, productive of existence and governing the same. This is the principle that natural affection regards in paying duty and worship to parents and country and their adjuncts. And therefore natural affection is a special virtue.
§ 1. As religion is a protestation of faith, hope, and charity, by which virtues a man is primarily referred to God, so natural affection is a protestation of the charity which one has to his parents and his country.
Article IV.—Is religion an occasion for laying aside the offices of natural affection to parents?
R. Religion and natural affection are two virtues. Now no virtue is contrary to or inconsistent with any other virtue, because according to the Philosopher, “good is not contrary to good.” Hence religion and natural affection cannot possibly get in one another’s way, so that the act of the one should be excluded by the act of the other. But the act of every virtue is limited by due circumstances, transgressing which it will cease to be an act of virtue, and become vicious. Hence it is the part of natural affection to render duty and worship to parents according to the manner due. But it is not the manner due, that a man should lay himself out more for worshipping his father than for worshipping God; but as Ambrose says, “The piety of divine worship is preferred to the tie of kindred.”
If therefore the worship of parents were to withdraw us from the worship of God, it would no longer be the part of natural affection to go on with the worship of parents against God. Hence Jerome says: “Go your way, pass over father and mother; fly with dry eyes to the standard of the Cross; it is the highest kind of natural affection in this matter to have been cruel.” And therefore in such a case the offices of natural affection for parents are to be dropped for the sake of worshipping God in religion. But if it be that by paying due services to parents we are not withdrawn from the worship of God, then such services will belong to natural affection; and in that case there will be no need to abandon natural affection for the sake of religion.
§ 1. Gregory on that word of our Lord1 says: “We ought to ignore our parents, hating them and flying from them when they are an obstacle to us in the way of the Lord.” For if our parents incite us to sin, and withdraw us from worshipping God, we ought in that respect to abandon and hate them. And in this way the Levites are said1 not to have known their kinsmen, because according to the command of the Lord2 they spared not the idolaters.
§ 4. A different tone must be taken in speaking of one who is still in the world, and of one who is already professed in religion. For he who is still in the world, if he has parents who cannot be supported without him, ought not to leave them and enter religion, because in so doing he would be transgressing the commandment of honouring parents. Some indeed say that even in this case he may lawfully abandon them and commit the care of them to God. But looking at the matter rightly, we see that it would be tempting God, for a man who has human means at his command, to go and expose his parents to danger in the hope of divine assistance. But if his parents could contrive to live without him, it would be lawful for him to leave his parents and enter religion: because children are not bound to support their parents except in case of necessity. But he who is already professed in religion, counts as one dead to the world: hence he ought not, on any plea of supporting his parents, to quit the cloister in which he is buried with Christ, and entangle himself again in worldly business. He is bound however, saving his obedience to his superior and his state as a religious, to make pious efforts to get relief for his parents.
[1 ]St. Matt. xv. 3—6.
[2 ]2 Cor. xii. 14.
[1 ]St. Luke xiv. 26.
[1 ]Deut. xxxiii. 9.
[2 ]Exodus xxxii. 27.