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Summa Theologica Part III (Secunda Secundae) Part 59

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Obj. 3: Further, when one man reproves another he moves him by his rebuke to something better. Now in the physical order the inferior is moved by the superior. Therefore in the order of virtue also, which follows the order of nature, it belongs to prelates alone to correct inferiors.

_On the contrary,_ It is written (Dist. xxiv, qu. 3, Can. Tam Sacerdotes): "Both priests and all the rest of the faithful should be most solicitous for those who perish, so that their reproof may either correct their sinful ways, or, if they be incorrigible, cut them off from the Church."

_I answer that,_ As stated above (A. 1), correction is twofold. One is an act of charity, which seeks in a special way the recovery of an erring brother by means of a simple warning: such like correction belongs to anyone who has charity, be he subject or prelate.

But there is another correction which is an act of justice purposing the common good, which is procured not only by warning one's brother, but also, sometimes, by punishing him, that others may, through fear, desist from sin. Such a correction belongs only to prelates, whose business it is not only to admonish, but also to correct by means of punishments.

Reply Obj. 1: Even as regards that fraternal correction which is common to all, prelates have a grave responsibility, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): "for just as a man ought to bestow temporal favors on those especially of whom he has temporal care, so too ought he to confer spiritual favors, such as correction, teaching and the like, on those who are entrusted to his spiritual care." Therefore Jerome does not mean that the precept of fraternal correction concerns priests only, but that it concerns them chiefly.

Reply Obj. 2: Just as he who has the means wherewith to give corporal a.s.sistance is rich in this respect, so he whose reason is gifted with a sane judgment, so as to be able to correct another's wrong-doing, is, in this respect, to be looked on as a superior.

Reply Obj. 3: Even in the physical order certain things act mutually on one another, through being in some respect higher than one another, in so far as each is somewhat in act, and somewhat in potentiality with regard to another. In like manner one man can correct another in so far as he has a sane judgment in a matter wherein the other sins, though he is not his superior simply.

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FOURTH ARTICLE [II-II, Q. 33, Art. 4]

Whether a Man Is Bound to Correct His Prelate?

Objection 1: It would seem that no man is bound to correct his prelate. For it is written (Ex. 19:12): "The beast that shall touch the mount shall be stoned," [*Vulg.: 'Everyone that shall touch the mount, dying he shall die.'] and (2 Kings 6:7) it is related that the Lord struck Oza for touching the ark. Now the mount and the ark signify our prelates. Therefore prelates should not be corrected by their subjects.

Obj. 2: Further, a gloss on Gal. 2:11, "I withstood him to the face,"

adds: "as an equal." Therefore, since a subject is not equal to his prelate, he ought not to correct him.

Obj. 3: Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxiii, 8) that "one ought not to presume to reprove the conduct of holy men, unless one thinks better of oneself." But one ought not to think better of oneself than of one's prelate. Therefore one ought not to correct one's prelate.

_On the contrary,_ Augustine says in his Rule: "Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger." But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.

_I answer that,_ A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circ.u.mstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Tim. 5:1): "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father." Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.

Reply Obj. 1: It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by G.o.d's condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.

Reply Obj. 2: To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: "Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [*Vulg.: 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.' Cf. 2 Tim. 4:5]." It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal.

2:11, "Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects."

Reply Obj. 3: To presume oneself to be simply better than one's prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault. We must also remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, "being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger," as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above.

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FIFTH ARTICLE [II-II, Q. 33, Art. 5]

Whether a Sinner Ought to Reprove a Wrongdoer?

Objection 1: It would seem that a sinner ought to reprove a wrongdoer. For no man is excused from obeying a precept by having committed a sin. But fraternal correction is a matter of precept, as stated above (A. 2). Therefore it seems that a man ought not to forbear from such like correction for the reason that he has committed a sin.

Obj. 2: Further, spiritual almsdeeds are of more account than corporal almsdeeds. Now one who is in sin ought not to abstain from administering corporal alms. Much less therefore ought he, on account of a previous sin, to refrain from correcting wrongdoers.

Obj. 3: Further, it is written (1 John 1:8): "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." Therefore if, on account of a sin, a man is hindered from reproving his brother, there will be none to reprove the wrongdoer. But the latter proposition is unreasonable: therefore the former is also.

_On the contrary,_ Isidore says (De Summo Bono iii, 32): "He that is subject to vice should not correct the vices of others." Again it is written (Rom. 2:1): "Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. For thou dost the same things which thou judgest."

_I answer that,_ As stated above (A. 3, ad 2), to correct a wrongdoer belongs to a man, in so far as his reason is gifted with right judgment. Now sin, as stated above (I-II, Q. 85, AA. 1, 2), does not destroy the good of nature so as to deprive the sinner's reason of all right judgment, and in this respect he may be competent to find fault with others for committing sin. Nevertheless a previous sin proves somewhat of a hindrance to this correction, for three reasons.

First because this previous sin renders a man unworthy to rebuke another; and especially is he unworthy to correct another for a lesser sin, if he himself has committed a greater. Hence Jerome says on the words, "Why seest thou the mote?" etc. (Matt. 7:3): "He is speaking of those who, while they are themselves guilty of mortal sin, have no patience with the lesser sins of their brethren."

Secondly, such like correction becomes unseemly, on account of the scandal which ensues therefrom, if the corrector's sin be well known, because it would seem that he corrects, not out of charity, but more for the sake of ostentation. Hence the words of Matt. 7:4, "How sayest thou to thy brother?" etc. are expounded by Chrysostom [*Hom.

xvii in the Opus Imperfectum falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom]

thus: "That is--'With what object?' Out of charity, think you, that you may save your neighbor?" No, "because you would look after your own salvation first. What you want is, not to save others, but to hide your evil deeds with good teaching, and to seek to be praised by men for your knowledge."

Thirdly, on account of the rebuker's pride; when, for instance, a man thinks lightly of his own sins, and, in his own heart, sets himself above his neighbor, judging the latter's sins with harsh severity, as though he himself were a just man. Hence Augustine says (De Serm.

Dom. in Monte ii, 19): "To reprove the faults of others is the duty of good and kindly men: when a wicked man rebukes anyone, his rebuke is the latter's acquittal." And so, as Augustine says (De Serm. Dom.

in Monte ii, 19): "When we have to find fault with anyone, we should think whether we were never guilty of his sin; and then we must remember that we are men, and might have been guilty of it; or that we once had it on our conscience, but have it no longer: and then we should bethink ourselves that we are all weak, in order that our reproof may be the outcome, not of hatred, but of pity. But if we find that we are guilty of the same sin, we must not rebuke him, but groan with him, and invite him to repent with us." It follows from this that, if a sinner reprove a wrongdoer with humility, he does not sin, nor does he bring a further condemnation on himself, although thereby he proves himself deserving of condemnation, either in his brother's or in his own conscience, on account of his previous sin.

Hence the Replies to the Objections are clear.

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SIXTH ARTICLE [II-II, Q. 33, Art. 6]

Whether One Ought to Forbear from Correcting Someone, Through Fear Lest He Become Worse?

Objection 1: It would seem that one ought not to forbear from correcting someone through fear lest he become worse. For sin is weakness of the soul, according to Ps. 6:3: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak." Now he that has charge of a sick person, must not cease to take care of him, even if he be fractious or contemptuous, because then the danger is greater, as in the case of madmen. Much more, therefore should one correct a sinner, no matter how badly he takes it.

Obj. 2: Further, according to Jerome vital truths are not to be foregone on account of scandal. Now G.o.d's commandments are vital truths. Since, therefore, fraternal correction is a matter of precept, as stated above (A. 2), it seems that it should not be foregone for fear of scandalizing the person to be corrected.

Obj. 3: Further, according to the Apostle (Rom. 3:8) we should not do evil that good may come of it. Therefore, in like manner, good should not be omitted lest evil befall. Now fraternal correction is a good thing. Therefore it should not be omitted for fear lest the person corrected become worse.

_On the contrary,_ It is written (Prov. 9:8): "Rebuke not a scorner lest he hate thee," where a gloss remarks: "You must not fear lest the scorner insult you when you rebuke him: rather should you bear in mind that by making him hate you, you may make him worse." Therefore one ought to forego fraternal correction, when we fear lest we may make a man worse.

_I answer that,_ As stated above (A. 3) the correction of the wrongdoer is twofold. One, which belongs to prelates, and is directed to the common good, has coercive force. Such correction should not be omitted lest the person corrected be disturbed, both because if he is unwilling to amend his ways of his own accord, he should be made to cease sinning by being punished, and because, if he be incorrigible, the common good is safeguarded in this way, since the order of justice is observed, and others are deterred by one being made an example of. Hence a judge does not desist from p.r.o.nouncing sentence of condemnation against a sinner, for fear of disturbing him or his friends.

The other fraternal correction is directed to the amendment of the wrongdoer, whom it does not coerce, but merely admonishes.

Consequently when it is deemed probable that the sinner will not take the warning, and will become worse, such fraternal correction should be foregone, because the means should be regulated according to the requirements of the end.

Reply Obj. 1: The doctor uses force towards a madman, who is unwilling to submit to his treatment; and this may be compared with the correction administered by prelates, which has coercive power, but not with simple fraternal correction.

Reply Obj. 2: Fraternal correction is a matter of precept, in so far as it is an act of virtue, and it will be a virtuous act in so far as it is proportionate to the end. Consequently whenever it is a hindrance to the end, for instance when a man becomes worse through it, it is longer a vital truth, nor is it a matter of precept.

Reply Obj. 3: Whatever is directed to an end, becomes good through being directed to the end. Hence whenever fraternal correction hinders the end, namely the amendment of our brother, it is no longer good, so that when such a correction is omitted, good is not omitted lest evil should befall.

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SEVENTH ARTICLE [II-II, Q. 33, Art. 7]

Whether the Precept of Fraternal Correction Demands That a Private Admonition Should Precede Denunciation?

Objection 1: It would seem that the precept of fraternal correction does not demand that a private admonition should precede denunciation. For, in works of charity, we should above all follow the example of G.o.d, according to Eph. 5:1, 2: "Be ye followers of G.o.d, as most dear children, and walk in love." Now G.o.d sometimes punishes a man for a sin, without previously warning him in secret.

Therefore it seems that there is no need for a private admonition to precede denunciation.

Obj. 2: Further, according to Augustine (De Mendacio xv), we learn from the deeds of holy men how we ought to understand the commandments of Holy Writ. Now among the deeds of holy men we find that a hidden sin is publicly denounced, without any previous admonition in private. Thus we read (Gen. 37:2) that "Joseph accused his brethren to his father of a most wicked crime": and (Acts 5:4, 9) that Peter publicly denounced Ananias and Saphira who had secretly "by fraud kept back the price of the land," without beforehand admonishing them in private: nor do we read that Our Lord admonished Judas in secret before denouncing him. Therefore the precept does not require that secret admonition should precede public denunciation.

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Summa Theologica Part III (Secunda Secundae) Part 59 summary

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