Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CLXXXVII.: OF THE THINGS PROPER FOR RELIGIOUS TO DO. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CLXXXVII.: OF THE THINGS PROPER FOR RELIGIOUS TO DO. - 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 THINGS PROPER FOR RELIGIOUS TO DO.
Article I.—Is it lawful for religious to preach and teach?
R. A thing is said to be unlawful for a person in two ways: in one way, because he has in his being some element contradicting and conflicting with that which is said to be unlawful for him. Thus it is lawful for no man to sin, because every man has within himself reason and an obligation to the law of God, elements with which sin is in conflict. And in this way it may be said to be unlawful for such and such a one to preach or teach, because he has something in himself inconsistent with these functions, the inconsistency arising either from a precept, as persons irregular by ecclesiastical enactment are not allowed to ascend to holy orders, or from sin, as the text has it: “To the sinner God hath said, Why dost thou declare my justices?”1 But preaching and teaching are not unlawful for religious in this way: both because there is nothing in their vows and precept of their rule obliging them to abstain from these functions, and also because they are not unfitted for them by any sin that they have committed, but rather are made fit and proper persons by the exercise of holiness which they have taken up. It is foolish to say that a person’s advance in holiness makes him less fit to exercise spiritual functions. Foolish therefore is the opinion of those who pretend that the religious state is of itself an impediment to the exercise of such employments.1
In another way a thing is said to be unlawful for a person, not on account of any contradictory or conflicting element in his being, but for the lack of power in him: thus it is not lawful for a deacon to celebrate mass, because he has not the order of priesthood; and it is not lawful for a simple priest to pass sentence, because he has not the authority of a bishop. But there is a difference here: for matters of order cannot be committed but to him who has the order; as the celebration of mass cannot be committed to a deacon unless he becomes a priest: but matters of jurisdiction can be committed to those who have not ordinary jurisdiction, as the pronouncing of sentence is committed by a bishop to a simple priest. And in this way it is said to be not lawful for monks and other religious to preach and teach, because the religious state does not empower them to do such things. They may however do them if they receive order or ordinary jurisdiction, or again if powers of jurisdiction be committed to them.1
Article III.—Are religious bound to work with their hands?
R. Manual labour is directed first and foremost to getting a livelihood: hence it was said to the first man, “In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread.”2 Secondly, it is directed to the removal of idleness: hence it is said, “Send him to work that he be not idle, for idleness hath taught much evil.”3 Thirdly, it is directed to the maceration of the body and the curbing of concupiscence: hence it is said: “In labours, in fastings, in watchings, in chastity.”4 So far then as manual labour is directed to gaining a livelihood, it falls under necessity of precept as a means necessary to the said end: for what is ordained to an end, has its necessity from the end, being necessary inasmuch as the end cannot be gained without it.1 And therefore he who has not anything else to live upon, is bound to manual labour, whatever be his condition,—understanding by manual labour all services to human society by which a man may lawfully make a livelihood, whether with hands, feet, or tongue. But so far forth as manual labour is ordained for the removal of idleness or the maceration of the body, it does not fall under necessity of itself, because the flesh may be reduced by other means, as by watchings and fastings; and idleness may be removed by meditations on Holy Scripture and praises of God.
§ 1. The precept set forth by the Apostle, “Work with your own hands as we commanded you,”2 is a precept of natural law; and all alike are bound by this precept, both religious and seculars, as by all other precepts of the natural law. Still not every man sins that does not work with his hands; because not all individuals are bound to those precepts of the law of nature which regard the good of many, but it is enough that one sets himself to one office, another to another,—some artisans, some husbandmen, some judges, some teachers, and the like, as the Apostle has it: “If the whole body were the eye, where would be the hearing? if the whole were the hearing, where would be the smelling?”1
§ 5. The Apostles’ working with their hands was sometimes a matter of necessity, sometimes of supererogation. Of necessity, when they could not find sustenance from others: hence on the text, “We labour working with our own hands,”2 the gloss says, “because nobody gives us anything.” Of supererogation, as appears by 1 Cor. ix. 12—15, where the Apostle says that he has not used the power that he had of living by the Gospel. This supererogation he practised, first, to take away the occasion of preaching from the false apostles, who preached for temporal profits only;3 secondly, to avoid burdening those to whom he preached;4 thirdly, to give an example of working to the idle.5 But the Apostle did not act thus in the places where he had opportunity of preaching every day, as at Athens, as Augustine notes. Religious are not bound to imitate the Apostle on this point, as they are not bound to all works of supererogation. Hence neither did the other Apostles work with their hands.
Article IV.—Is it lawful for religious to live on alms?
R. It is lawful for any man to live on what is his own, or on what is due to him. Now a thing becomes a person’s own by the liberality of a giver. And therefore the religious or clerics on whose monasteries or churches endowments are bestowed by the munificence of princes or other faithful, may live thereupon without labouring with their hands; and yet it is certain that they live by alms. Hence in like manner whatever movable goods are bestowed on religious by the faithful, they may lawfully live thereupon: for it is folly to say that one may receive great possessions in alms, and not a piece of bread or a little money. But because these benefits are considered to be bestowed on religious, to the end that they may be more free to apply to acts of religion, of which acts they who supply their temporal needs desire to have a share, the use of the above-mentioned gifts would be rendered unlawful to them if they were to desist from the acts of religion, because in that case, so far as in them lay, they would defraud the purpose of the donors.
As for a thing being due to another, that comes to be in two ways. In one way by necessity, which makes all things common, as Ambrose says. Therefore if religious suffer necessity, they may lawfully live on alms. This necessity may be from bodily weakness, preventing them from gaining a livelihood by manual labour; or because what they do so gain is insufficient; or because in their former life they were not accustomed to manual labour, delicately nurtured persons being unable to stand such toil. In another way a thing becomes a man’s due, because he renders some service to bodies or to souls. And on this count religious may live on alms as their due in four ways: first, if they preach by the authority of prelates empowering them to do so; secondly, if they are ministers of the altar,1 because the Sacrifice of the Altar, wherever it is celebrated, is common to the whole people of the faithful; thirdly, if they are students of Holy Scripture for the common benefit of the whole Church; fourthly, if they give to the monastery the temporal goods that they had, they may live on the alms offered to the monastery. But if there be any religious who without necessity, and without doing any good, want to live in ease and idleness upon the alms that are given to the poor, that is an unlawful line to take.
Article V.—Is it lawful for religious to beg?
R. If we consider begging as it is on the part of the agent, the act has a certain abjection attaching to it. For they count as the most abject of mankind, who are not merely poor, but so needy as to be obliged to receive their living from others. Thus for humility’s sake some laudably beg, as others take up other works that carry a certain abjection with them, taking this to be the most effectual remedy against pride, which they wish to extinguish, either in themselves, or in others by their example. In another way we may consider begging in regard of what is got by begging; and thus there may be two inducements to the practice: one, the desire of having riches, or a livelihood without working for it, and in that way begging is unlawful. The other inducement is necessity or utility: necessity, when one cannot live otherwise; utility, when one wants to carry out some useful work which cannot be carried out without the alms of the faithful, as a bridge, or a church, or as we see scholars begging that they may be able to apply to the study of wisdom for the public good. And thus it is lawful for religious, as for seculars, to beg.
§ 3. According to our Lord’s teaching,1 in works of holiness men ought to do nothing for display. Now display comes easiest when one does something new and strange. Hence the advice: “Let him who is at prayer do nothing strange to fix the gaze of men, crying out, or smiting his breast, or stretching out his hands.” Still not every novelty that fixes men’s eyes upon the doer of it, is reprehensible: for it may be even well done. Hence Augustine says: “When a man in the profession of Christianity fixes the eyes of all the world upon himself by an unusual squalor and meanness in his dress, supposing him to do so of choice and not of necessity, then from the rest of his works we may know whether he does it from contempt of toilet luxuries or from a desire of notoriety.” But this desire of notoriety seems especially removed from the thoughts of religious, who wear a mean habit as a sign of their profession, which is to despise the world.
[1 ]Psalm xlix. 16.
[1 ]Pius VI in 1794, in his Bull Auctorem Fidei, nn. 80—84, condemns as “false, pernicious, scandalous,” various utterances of the Jansenist Synod of Pistoia in opposition to this portion of St. Thomas, e.g., that “the state of Regulars from its nature cannot be reconciled with the care of souls;” that “it could be wished that St. Thomas in defending them had written with less heat and greater accuracy:” that members of the one religious order which these reformers would still tolerate in the Church, were “not to be admitted to holy orders:” that among their occupations there should be “a due portion kept inviolate for labour of the hands:” that “vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience shall not be admitted as a general and standing rule: if any one wishes to make those vows, all or some of them, he shall ask advice and leave of the Bishop, who shall never permit the vows to be perpetual, nor to be made for more than one year at a time,” &c. (Trl.)
[1 ]This last sentence must mean “if they receive holy orders, and jurisdiction whether ordinary or delegated.” (Trl.)
[2 ]Genesis iii. 19.
[3 ]Ecclus. xxxiii. 28, 29.
[4 ]2 Cor. vi. 5, 6.
[1 ]The necessity here described would be spoken of by a modern theologian as necessitas medii in contradistinction to necessitas præcepti. I do not find in St. Thomas the convenient word medium, “means,” which figures so much in modern school Latin. He says always, with Aristotle, ea quæ sunt ad finem. However (I-II. q. 8. art. 3 § 3.) we read: “In the execution of a work, what makes for the end (ea quæ sunt ad finem) is as the intervening ground (media), and the end as the terminus.” (Trl.)
[2 ]1 Thess. iv. 11.
[1 ]1 Cor. xii. 17.
[2 ]1 Cor. iv. 12.
[3 ]2 Cor. xi. 12.
[4 ]2 Cor. xii. 13.
[5 ]2 Thess. iii. 8.
[1 ]1 Cor. ix. 14.
[1 ]St. Matt. vi. 16, 18.