Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CLIII.: OF THE VICE OF LUXURY. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CLIII.: OF THE VICE OF LUXURY. - 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 VICE OF LUXURY.
Article II.—Can there be no sexual act without sin?
R. Sin in human acts is what is against the order of reason. Now it is the function of that order to refer everything suitably to its own proper end. And therefore it is not a sin for man to make a reasonable use of things for the end to which they were made, in due mode and order, provided that end be something truly good. But as the preservation of the corporal nature of an individual is something truly good, so also is the preservation of the nature of the human species an excellent good thing. Now as the use of food is directed to the preservation of the life of one man, so is the use of sexual intercourse directed to the preservation of the whole race of mankind. And therefore as the use of food can be without sin, when it is done in due mode and order as is proper for the welfare of the body, so the use of sexual intercourse can be without sin, done in due mode and order as is proper to the end of human generation.
§ 2. Abundance of pleasure in an act, when the act is directed according to reason, is not contrary to the golden mean of virtue. And besides, it matters not to virtue how much pleasure the exterior sense feels: that depends upon bodily disposition: what does matter is, how the inward desire stands affected to such pleasure. Nor from the fact that simultaneously with such pleasure reason can have no free play for the consideration of spiritual things, can it be shown that the act in question is contrary to virtue. Mere occasional interruption of the act of reason for some purpose according to reason, is not contrary to virtue: otherwise it would be contrary to virtue to go to sleep.
Article III.—Can the luxury that is about sexual acts be a sin?
R. The more necessary a thing is, the greater the need of the order of reason being observed in its regard; and consequently, the greater the vice, if the order of reason be there set aside. But the use of sexual intercourse is very necessary to the common good, being the preservation of the human race; and therefore here the observance of the order of reason is especially to be insisted on, and anything contrary to the order of reason in this matter will be vicious. But it is the nature of luxury to exceed the mode and order of reason in the matter of sexual pleasures; and therefore without doubt luxury is a sin.
Article IV.—Is luxury a capital vice?
R. A capital vice is a vice which has an end highly provocative of desire, so that by desire thereof a man is led to the commission of many sins, all of which are said to arise from that vice as from their main and principal source. But the end of luxury is a pleasure most attractive to the sensitive appetite, as well for the quantity of the pleasure as for the connaturalness of the desire. Hence plainly luxury is a capital vice.
Article V.—Are the daughters of luxury duly stated to be—blindness of mind, inconsiderateness, head-long haste, inconstancy, self-love, hatred of God, affection for the present world, horror or despair of the world to come?
R. When the inferior powers are strongly affected towards their objects, the consequence is that the superior powers are interfered with and thrown into disorder in their acts. But the vice of luxury strongly moves the inferior or concupiscible appetite to its object, that is, to pleasure, and consequently throws the higher powers, the reason and will, into very great disorder. Now there are four acts of reason when anything has to be done. The first is simple understanding, apprehending some end as good; and this act is hindered by luxury, according to the text: “Beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thy heart.”1 And to this account is set down blindness of mind. The second act is counsel of the means to be taken to the end; and this also is hindered by lustful desire. Hence Terence says, speaking of lustful love: “You cannot guide by counsel a thing that admits neither of counsel nor of any restraint.” And to this account is set down headlong haste, which means the withdrawal of counsel. The third act is judgment of the thing to be done; and this is hindered by luxury: for it is said of the licentious old men: “They perverted their own mind, that they might not remember just judgments.”2 And to this account is set down inconsiderateness. The fourth act is the command of reason for the thing to be done, which also is hindered by luxury, inasmuch as the assault of passion prevents the man from executing what he formerly resolved to do. Hence Terence says of some one who gave out that he was going to leave his mistress: “These words one little false tear will quench.” There follow two inordinate acts on the part of the will. One of them is the desire of the end; and to this account is set down self-love in the matter of the pleasure that is inordinately sought, and on the other hand, hatred of God, as forbidding the coveted pleasure. The other act is the desire of the means to the end; and to this account is set down affection for the present world, in which one wishes to enjoy his pleasure; and on the other hand is set down despair of the world to come, because the man too much engrossed in carnal pleasures has no care to arrive at spiritual joys, but loathes them.
§ 1. As the Philosopher says: “Intemperance most of all destroys prudence;” and therefore it is the vices opposed to prudence that most of all arise from luxury, which is the chief species of intemperance.
[1 ]Daniel xiii. 56.
[2 ]Daniel xiii. 9.