Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CXIX.: OF PRODIGALITY. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CXIX.: OF PRODIGALITY. - 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 prodigality the opposite of covetousness?
R. In affection to riches the miser superabounds, loving them to excess: while the prodigal falls short, not taking due care of them. In exterior behaviour it belongs to the prodigal to exceed in giving, but to fail in keeping or acquiring: while it belongs to the miser to come short in giving, but to superabound in getting and in keeping.
§ 1. Opposite qualities may be found in the same subject in different respects. Sometimes one fails in giving who yet does not exceed in getting. In like manner also sometimes one goes to excess in giving, and therein is prodigal, and at the same time runs to excess in getting,—either from necessity, because his superabundant giving exhausts his resources and forces him to undue acquiring, which is the part of covetousness; or again through the inordination of his affections: for as he gives not for any good motive, setting virtue to scorn, so neither does he care whence and how he acquires; and thus, though not under the same respect, he is at once a prodigal and a miser.
§ 3. On what is said of the prodigal son, that “he wasted his substance living riotously,”1 —it is to be observed that prodigals generally fall into sins of dissipation and debauchery, because as they run into idle expenses on other accounts, so also they do not shrink from lavishing money on their pleasures; and also because, having no delight in virtuous good, they seek for themselves bodily delights.
Article II.—Is prodigality a sin?
R. Prodigality is opposed to covetousness as superabundance to defect. But by those extremes the good of virtue is destroyed; and a thing is vicious and sinful by destroying the good of virtue: hence it remains that prodigality is a sin.
§ 1. Covetousness is said to be “the root of all evils,”2 not that all evils always spring from covetousness, but that there is no evil which does not sometimes spring from covetousness. Hence even prodigality at times is born of covetousness: as when one prodigally expends large sums with the intention of currying favour with persons of whom he may get money.3
Article III.—Is prodigality a more grievous sin than covetousness?
R. Prodigality considered in itself is a less sin than avarice, for three reasons. First, because avarice differs more from the opposite virtue: for it belongs more to the liberal man to give, in which matter the prodigal superabounds, than to get or keep, in which the miser superabounds. Secondly, because the prodigal is useful to many, to whom he gives; but the miser to none, not even to himself. Thirdly, because the prodigal is easy to cure, as well by the approach of old age, which is contrary to prodigality, as by his easily sinking into poverty through his many useless expenses, and thus impoverished, he cannot run to excess in giving; and also because he is easily brought to virtue by the likeness that he bears to it. But the miser’s is no easy cure.
§ 1. The prodigal sins against himself, squandering his own goods on which he ought to live: he also sins against his neighbour, squandering the goods out of which he ought to provide for others. And this appears most of all in clerics, who are dispensers of the goods of the Church, which belong to the poor, and the poor they defraud by their prodigal expenditure.
§ 3. All vices are opposed to prudence, as all virtues are directed to prudence; and therefore a vice is accounted so much the less grave for the fact of its being opposed to prudence only.
[1 ]St. Luke xv. 13.
[2 ]1 Timothy vi. 10.
[3 ]Cf. the Earl of Leicester’s entertainment of Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth. (Trl.)