QUESTION 151: OF CHASTITY
We must next consider chastity: (1) The virtue itself of chastity: (2) virginity, which is a part of chastity: (3) lust, which is the contrary vice. Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether chastity is a virtue?
(2) Whether it is a general virtue?
(3) Whether it is a virtue distinct from abstinence?
(4) Of its relation to purity.
Article 1: Whether chastity is a virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that chastity is not a virtue. For here we are
treating of virtues of the soul. But chastity, seemingly, belongs to the
body: for a person is said to be chaste because he behaves in a certain
way as regards the use of certain parts of the body. Therefore chastity
is not a virtue.
Objection 2: Further, virtue is "a voluntary habit," as stated in Ethic. ii,
6. But chastity, apparently, is not voluntary, since it can be taken away
by force from a woman to whom violence is done. Therefore it seems that
chastity is not a virtue.
Objection 3: Further, there is no virtue in unbelievers. Yet some unbelievers
are chaste. Therefore chastity is not a virtue.
Objection 4: Further, the fruits are distinct from the virtues. But chastity
is reckoned among the fruits (Gal. 5:23). Therefore chastity is not a
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Decem Chord. [*Serm. ix de
Tempore]): "Whereas thou shouldst excel thy wife in virtue, since
chastity is a virtue, thou yieldest to the first onslaught of lust, while
thou wishest thy wife to be victorious."
I answer that, Chastity takes its name from the fact that reason
"chastises" concupiscence, which, like a child, needs curbing, as the
Philosopher states (Ethic. iii, 12). Now the essence of human virtue
consists in being something moderated by reason, as shown above (FS,
Question , Article ). Therefore it is evident that chastity is a virtue.
Reply to Objection 1: Chastity does indeed reside in the soul as its subject,
though its matter is in the body. For it belongs to chastity that a man
make moderate use of bodily members in accordance with the judgment of
his reason and the choice of his will.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 18), "so long as her mind
holds to its purpose, whereby she has merited to be holy even in body,
not even the violence of another's lust can deprive her body of its
holiness, which is safeguarded by her persevering continency." He also
says (De Civ. Dei i, 18) that "in the mind there is a virtue which is the
companion of fortitude, whereby it is resolved to suffer any evil
whatsoever rather than consent to evil."
Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says (Contra Julian. iv, 3), "it is
impossible to have any true virtue unless one be truly just; nor is it
possible to be just unless one live by faith." Whence he argues that in
unbelievers there is neither true chastity, nor any other virtue,
because, to wit, they are not referred to the due end, and as he adds
(Contra Julian. iv, 3) "virtues are distinguished from vices not by their
functions," i.e. their acts, "but by their ends."
Reply to Objection 4: Chastity is a virtue in so far as it works in accordance
with reason, but in so far as it delights in its act, it is reckoned
among the fruits.
Article 2: Whether chastity is a general virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that chastity is a general virtue. For Augustine
says (De Mendacio xx) that "chastity of the mind is the well-ordered
movement of the mind that does not prefer the lesser to the greater
things." But this belongs to every virtue. Therefore chastity is a
Objection 2: Further, "Chastity" takes its name from "chastisement" [*Cf. Article 
]. Now every movement of the appetitive part should be chastised by
reason. Since, then, every moral virtue curbs some movement of the
appetite, it seems that every moral virtue is chastity.
Objection 3: Further, chastity is opposed to fornication. But fornication
seems to belong to every kind of sin: for it is written (Ps. 72:27):
"Thou shalt destroy [Vulg.: 'hast destroyed'] all them that go awhoring
from [Douay: 'are disloyal to'] Thee." Therefore chastity is a general
On the contrary, Macrobius [*In Somn. Scip. i, 8] reckons it to be a
part of temperance.
I answer that, The word "chastity" is employed in two ways. First,
properly; and thus it is a special virtue having a special matter, namely
the concupiscences relating to venereal pleasures. Secondly, the word
"chastity" is employed metaphorically: for just as a mingling of bodies
conduces to venereal pleasure which is the proper matter of chastity and
of lust its contrary vice, so too the spiritual union of the mind with
certain things conduces to a pleasure which is the matter of a spiritual
chastity metaphorically speaking, as well as of a spiritual fornication
likewise metaphorically so called. For if the human mind delight in the
spiritual union with that to which it behooves it to be united, namely
God, and refrains from delighting in union with other things against the
requirements of the order established by God, this may be called a
spiritual chastity, according to 2 Cor. 11:2, "I have espoused you to one
husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." If, on the
other hand, the mind be united to any other things whatsoever, against
the prescription of the Divine order, it will be called spiritual
fornication, according to Jer. 3:1, "But thou hast prostituted thyself
to many lovers." Taking chastity in this sense, it is a general virtue,
because every virtue withdraws the human mind from delighting in a union
with unlawful things. Nevertheless, the essence of this chastity consists
principally in charity and the other theological virtues, whereby the
human mind is united to God.
Reply to Objection 1: This argument takes chastity in the metaphorical sense.
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), the concupiscence of
that which gives pleasure is especially likened to a child, because the
desire of pleasure is connatural to us, especially of pleasures of touch
which are directed to the maintenance of nature. Hence it is that if the
concupiscence of such pleasures be fostered by consenting to it, it will
wax very strong, as in the case of a child left to his own will.
Wherefore the concupiscence of these pleasures stands in very great need
of being chastised: and consequently chastity is applied antonomastically
to such like concupiscences, even as fortitude is about those matters
wherein we stand in the greatest need of strength of mind.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument considers spiritual fornication
metaphorically so called, which is opposed to spiritual chastity, as
Article 3: Whether chastity is a distinct virtue from abstinence?
Objection 1: It would seem that chastity is not a distinct virtue from
abstinence. Because where the matter is generically the same, one virtue
suffices. Now it would seem that things pertaining to the same sense are
of one genus. Therefore, since pleasures of the palate which are the
matter of abstinence, and venereal pleasures which are the matter of
chastity, pertain to the touch, it seems that chastity is not a distinct
virtue from abstinence.
Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher (Ethic. iii, 12) likens all vices of
intemperance to childish sins, which need chastising. Now "chastity"
takes its name from "chastisement" of the contrary vices. Since then
certain vices are bridled by abstinence, it seems that abstinence is
Objection 3: Further, the pleasures of the other senses are the concern of
temperance in so far as they refer to pleasures of touch; which are the
matter of temperance. Now pleasures of the palate, which are the matter
of abstinence, are directed to venereal pleasures, which are the matter
of chastity: wherefore Jerome says [*Ep. cxlvii ad Amand. Cf. Gratian,
Dist. xliv.], commenting on Titus 1:7, "Not given to wine, no striker,"
etc.: "The belly and the organs of generation are neighbors, that the
neighborhood of the organs may indicate their complicity in vice."
Therefore abstinence and chastity are not distinct virtues.
On the contrary, The Apostle (2 Cor. 6:5,6) reckons "chastity" together
with "fastings" which pertain to abstinence.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), temperance is properly
about the concupiscences of the pleasures of touch: so that where there
are different kinds of pleasure, there are different virtues comprised
under temperance. Now pleasures are proportionate to the actions whose
perfections they are, as stated in Ethic. ix, 4,5: and it is evident that
actions connected with the use of food whereby the nature of the
individual is maintained differ generically from actions connected with
the use of matters venereal, whereby the nature of the species is
preserved. Therefore chastity, which is about venereal pleasures, is a
distinct virtue from abstinence, which is about pleasures of the palate.
Reply to Objection 1: Temperance is chiefly about pleasures of touch, not as
regards the sense's judgment concerning the objects of touch. which
judgment is of uniform character concerning all such objects, but as
regards the use itself of those objects, as stated in Ethic. iii, 10. Now
the uses of meats, drinks, and venereal matters differ in character.
Wherefore there must needs be different virtues, though they regard the
Reply to Objection 2: Venereal pleasures are more impetuous, and are more
oppressive on the reason than the pleasures of the palate: and therefore
they are in greater need of chastisement and restraint, since if one
consent to them this increases the force of concupiscence and weakens the
strength of the mind. Hence Augustine says (Soliloq. i, 10): "I consider
that nothing so casts down the manly mind from its heights as the
fondling of women, and those bodily contacts which belong to the married
Reply to Objection 3: The pleasures of the other senses do not pertain to the
maintenance of man's nature, except in so far as they are directed to
pleasures of touch. Wherefore in the matter of such pleasures there is no
other virtue comprised under temperance. But the pleasures of the palate,
though directed somewhat to venereal pleasures, are essentially directed
to the preservation of man's life: wherefore by their very nature they
have a special virtue, although this virtue which is called abstinence
directs its act to chastity as its end.
Article 4: Whether purity belongs especially to chastity?
Objection 1: It would seem that purity does not belong especially to chastity.
For Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 18) that "purity is a virtue of the
soul." Therefore it is not something belonging to chastity, but is of
itself a virtue distinct from chastity.
Objection 2: Further, "pudicitia" [purity] is derived from "pudor," which is
equivalent to shame. Now shame, according to Damascene [*De Fide Orth.
ii, 15], is about a disgraceful act, and this is common to all sinful
acts. Therefore purity belongs no more to chastity than to the other
Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 12) that "every kind
of intemperance is most deserving of reproach." Now it would seem to
belong to purity to avoid all that is deserving of reproach. Therefore
purity belongs to all the parts of temperance, and not especially to
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Perseverantia xx): "We must give
praise to purity, that he who has ears to hear, may put to none but a
lawful use the organs intended for procreation." Now the use of these
organs is the proper matter of chastity. Therefore purity belongs
properly to chastity.
I answer that, As stated above (Objection ), "pudicitia" [purity] takes its
name from "pudor," which signifies shame. Hence purity must needs be
properly about the things of which man is most ashamed. Now men are most
ashamed of venereal acts, as Augustine remarks (De Civ. Dei xiv, 18), so
much so that even the conjugal act, which is adorned by the honesty [*Cf.
Question ] of marriage, is not devoid of shame: and this because the
movement of the organs of generation is not subject to the command of
reason, as are the movements of the other external members. Now man is
ashamed not only of this sexual union but also of all the signs thereof,
as the Philosopher observes (Rhet. ii, 6). Consequently purity regards
venereal matters properly, and especially the signs thereof, such as
impure looks, kisses, and touches. And since the latter are more wont to
be observed, purity regards rather these external signs, while chastity
regards rather sexual union. Therefore purity is directed to chastity,
not as a virtue distinct therefrom, but as expressing a circumstance of
chastity. Nevertheless the one is sometimes used to designate the other.
Reply to Objection 1: Augustine is here speaking of purity as designating
Reply to Objection 3: Among the vices of intemperance, venereal sins are most
deserving of reproach, both on account of the insubordination of the
genital organs, and because by these sins especially, the reason is