QUESTION 186: OF THOSE THINGS IN WHICH THE RELIGIOUS STATE PROPERLY CONSISTS
We must now consider things pertaining to the religious state: which
consideration will be fourfold. In the first place we shall consider
those things in which the religious state consists chiefly; secondly,
those things which are lawfully befitting to religious; thirdly, the
different kinds of religious orders; fourthly, the entrance into the
Under the first head there are ten points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the religious state is perfect?
(2) Whether religious are bound to all the counsels?
(3) Whether voluntary poverty is required for the religious state?
(4) Whether continency is necessary?
(5) Whether obedience is necessary?
(6) Whether it is necessary that these should be the matter of a vow?
(7) Of the sufficiency of these vows;
(8) Of their comparison one with another;
(9) Whether a religious sins mortally whenever he transgresses a statute
of his rule?
(10) Whether, other things being equal, a religious sins more grievously
by the same kind of sin than a secular person?
Article 1: Whether religion implies a state of perfection?
Objection 1: It would seem that religion does not imply a state of perfection.
For that which is necessary for salvation does not seemingly pertain to
perfection. But religion is necessary for salvation, whether because
"thereby we are bound [religamur] to the one almighty God," as Augustine
says (De Vera Relig. 55), or because it takes its name from "our
returning [religimus] to God Whom we had lost by neglecting Him" [*Cf.
Question , Article ], according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei x, 3). Therefore it
would seem that religion does not denote the state of perfection.
Objection 2: Further, religion according to Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii, 53) is
that "which offers worship and ceremony to the Divine nature." Now the
offering of worship and ceremony to God would seem to pertain to the
ministry of holy orders rather than to the diversity of states, as
stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ). Therefore it would seem that
religion does not denote the state of perfection.
Objection 3: Further, the state of perfection is distinct from the state of
beginners and that of the proficient. But in religion also some are
beginners, and some are proficient. Therefore religion does not denote
the state of perfection.
Objection 4: Further, religion would seem a place of repentance; for it is
said in the Decrees (VII, qu. i, can. Hoc nequaquam): "The holy synod
orders that any man who has been degraded from the episcopal dignity to
the monastic life and a place of repentance, should by no means rise
again to the episcopate." Now a place of repentance is opposed to the
state of perfection; hence Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. vi) places penitents in
the lowest place, namely among those who are to be cleansed. Therefore it
would seem that religion is not the state of perfection.
On the contrary, In the Conferences of the Fathers (Collat. i, 7) abbot
Moses speaking of religious says: "We must recognize that we have to
undertake the hunger of fasting, watchings, bodily toil, privation,
reading, and other acts of virtue, in order by these degrees to mount to
the perfection of charity." Now things pertaining to human acts are
specified and denominated from the intention of the end. Therefore
religious belong to the state of perfection.
Moreover Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. vi) that those who are called
servants of God, by reason of their rendering pure service and subjection
to God, are united to the perfection beloved of Him.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ) that which is applicable
to many things in common is ascribed antonomastically to that to which it
is applicable by way of excellence. Thus the name of "fortitude" is
claimed by the virtue which preserves the firmness of the mind in regard
to most difficult things, and the name of "temperance," by that virtue
which tempers the greatest pleasures. Now religion as stated above (Question , Article ; Article , ad 2) is a virtue whereby a man offers something to the
service and worship of God. Wherefore those are called religious
antonomastically, who give themselves up entirely to the divine service,
as offering a holocaust to God. Hence Gregory says (Hom. xx in Ezech.):
"Some there are who keep nothing for themselves, but sacrifice to
almighty God their tongue, their senses, their life, and the property
they possess." Now the perfection of man consists in adhering wholly to
God, as stated above (Question , Article ), and in this sense religion denotes
the state of perfection.
Reply to Objection 1: To offer something to the worship of God is necessary for
salvation, but to offer oneself wholly, and one's possessions to the
worship of God belongs to perfection.
Reply to Objection 2: As stated above (Question , Article , ad 1; Article , ad 1,2; Question , Article ) when we were treating of the virtue of religion, religion has
reference not only to the offering of sacrifices and other like things
that are proper to religion, but also to the acts of all the virtues
which in so far as these are referred to God's service and honor become
acts of religion. Accordingly if a man devotes his whole life to the
divine service, his whole life belongs to religion, and thus by reason of
the religious life that they lead, those who are in the state of
perfection are called religious.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Articles ,6) religion denotes the
state of perfection by reason of the end intended. Hence it does not
follow that whoever is in the state of perfection is already perfect, but
that he tends to perfection. Hence Origen commenting on Mt. 19:21, "If
thou wilt be perfect," etc., says (Tract. viii in Matth.) that "he who
has exchanged riches for poverty in order to become perfect does not
become perfect at the very moment of giving his goods to the poor; but
from that day the contemplation of God will begin to lead him to all the
virtues." Thus all are not perfect in religion, but some are beginners,
Reply to Objection 4: The religious state was instituted chiefly that we might
obtain perfection by means of certain exercises, whereby the obstacles to
perfect charity are removed. By the removal of the obstacles of perfect
charity, much more are the occasions of sin cut off, for sin destroys
charity altogether. Wherefore since it belongs to penance to cut out the
causes of sin, it follows that the religious state is a most fitting
place for penance. Hence (XXXIII, qu. ii, cap. Admonere) a man who had
killed his wife is counseled to enter a monastery which is described as
"better and lighter," rather than to do public penance while remaining in
Article 2: Whether every religious is bound to keep all the counsels?
Objection 1: It would seem that every religious is bound to keep all the
counsels. For whoever professes a certain state of life is bound to
observe whatever belongs to that state. Now each religious professes the
state of perfection. Therefore every religious is bound to keep all the
counsels that pertain to the state of perfection.
Objection 2: Further, Gregory says (Hom. xx in Ezech.) that "he who renounces
this world, and does all the good he can, is like one who has gone out of
Egypt and offers sacrifice in the wilderness." Now it belongs specially
to religious to renounce the world. Therefore it belongs to them also to
do all the good they can. and so it would seem that each of them is bound
to fulfil all the counsels.
Objection 3: Further, if it is not requisite for the state of perfection to
fulfil all the counsels, it would seem enough to fulfil some of them. But
this is false, since some who lead a secular life fulfil some of the
counsels, for instance those who observe continence. Therefore it would
seem that every religious who is in the state of perfection is bound to
fulfil whatever pertains to perfection: and such are the counsels.
On the contrary, one is not bound, unless one bind oneself, to do works
of supererogation. But every religious does not bind himself to keep all
the counsels, but to certain definite ones, some to some, others to
others. Therefore all are not bound to keep all of them.
I answer that, A thing pertains to perfection in three ways. First,
essentially, and thus, as stated above (Question , Article ) the perfect
observance of the precepts of charity belongs to perfection. Secondly, a
thing belongs to perfection consequently: such are those things that
result from the perfection of charity, for instance to bless them that
curse you (Lk. 6:27), and to keep counsels of a like kind, which though
they be binding as regards the preparedness of the mind, so that one has
to fulfil them when necessity requires; yet are sometimes fulfilled,
without there being any necessity, through superabundance of charity.
Thirdly, a thing belongs to perfection instrumentally and dispositively,
as poverty, continence, abstinence, and the like.
Now it has been stated (Article ) that the perfection of charity is the end
of the religious state. And the religious state is a school or exercise
for the attainment of perfection, which men strive to reach by various
practices, just as a physician may use various remedies in order to heal.
But it is evident that for him who works for an end it is not necessary
that he should already have attained the end, but it is requisite that he
should by some means tend thereto. Hence he who enters the religious
state is not bound to have perfect charity, but he is bound to tend to
this, and use his endeavors to have perfect charity.
For the same reason he is not bound to fulfil those things that result
from the perfection of charity, although he is bound to intend to fulfil
them: against which intention he acts if he contemns them, wherefore he
sins not by omitting them but by contempt of them.
In like manner he is not bound to observe all the practices whereby
perfection may be attained, but only those which are definitely
prescribed to him by the rule which he has professed.
Reply to Objection 1: He who enters religion does not make profession to be
perfect, but he professes to endeavor to attain perfection; even as he
who enters the schools does not profess to have knowledge, but to study
in order to acquire knowledge. Wherefore as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei
viii, 2), Pythagoras was unwilling to profess to be a wise man, but
acknowledged himself, "a lover of wisdom." Hence a religious does not
violate his profession if he be not perfect, but only if he despises to
tend to perfection.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as, though all are bound to love God with their whole
heart, yet there is a certain wholeness of perfection which cannot be
omitted without sin, and another wholeness which can be omitted without
sin (Question , Article , ad 3), provided there be no contempt, as stated above
(ad 1), so too, all, both religious and seculars, are bound, in a certain
measure, to do whatever good they can, for to all without exception it is
said (Eccles. 9:10): "Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it
earnestly." Yet there is a way of fulfilling this precept, so as to avoid
sin, namely if one do what one can as required by the conditions of one's
state of life: provided there be no contempt of doing better things,
which contempt sets the mind against spiritual progress.
Reply to Objection 3: There are some counsels such that if they be omitted, man's
whole life would be taken up with secular business; for instance if he
have property of his own, or enter the married state, or do something of
the kind that regards the essential vows of religion themselves;
wherefore religious are bound to keep all such like counsels. Other
counsels there are, however, about certain particular better actions,
which can be omitted without one's life being taken up with secular
actions; wherefore there is no need for religious to be bound to fulfil
all of them.
Article 3: Whether poverty is required for religious perfection?
Objection 1: It would seem that poverty is not required for religious
perfection. For that which it is unlawful to do does not apparently
belong to the state of perfection. But it would seem to be unlawful for a
man to give up all he possesses; since the Apostle (2 Cor. 8:12) lays
down the way in which the faithful are to give alms saying: "If the will
be forward, it is accepted according to that which a man hath," i.e. "you
should keep back what you need," and afterwards he adds (2 Cor. 8:13):
"For I mean not that others should be eased, and you burthened," i.e.
"with poverty," according to a gloss. Moreover a gloss on 1 Tim. 6:8,
"Having food, and wherewith to be covered," says: "Though we brought
nothing, and will carry nothing away, we must not give up these temporal
things altogether." Therefore it seems that voluntary poverty is not
requisite for religious perfection.
Objection 2: Further, whosoever exposes himself to danger sins. But he who
renounces all he has and embraces voluntary poverty exposes himself to
danger---not only spiritual, according to Prov. 30:9, "Lest perhaps . . .
being compelled by poverty, I should steal and forswear the name of my
God," and Ecclus. 27:1, "Through poverty many have sinned"---but also
corporal, for it is written (Eccles. 7:13): "As wisdom is a defense, so
money is a defense," and the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "the
waste of property appears to be a sort of ruining of one's self, since
thereby man lives." Therefore it would seem that voluntary poverty is not
requisite for the perfection of religious life.
Objection 3: Further, "Virtue observes the mean," as stated in Ethic. ii, 6.
But he who renounces all by voluntary poverty seems to go to the extreme
rather than to observe the mean. Therefore he does not act virtuously:
and so this does not pertain to the perfection of life.
Objection 4: Further, the ultimate perfection of man consists in happiness.
Now riches conduce to happiness; for it is written (Ecclus. 31:8):
"Blessed is the rich man that is found without blemish," and the
Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 8) that "riches contribute instrumentally to
happiness." Therefore voluntary poverty is not requisite for religious
Objection 6: Further, almsgiving is a work most acceptable to God, and as
Chrysostom says (Hom. ix in Ep. ad Hebr.) "is a most effective remedy in
repentance." Now poverty excludes almsgiving. Therefore it would seem
that poverty does not pertain to religious perfection.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. viii, 26): "There are some of the
righteous who bracing themselves up to lay hold of the very height of
perfection, while they aim at higher objects within, abandon all things
without." Now, as stated above, (Articles ,2), it belongs properly to
religious to brace themselves up in order to lay hold of the very height
of perfection. Therefore it belongs to them to abandon all outward things
by voluntary poverty.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the religious state is an
exercise and a school for attaining to the perfection of charity. For
this it is necessary that a man wholly withdraw his affections from
worldly things; since Augustine says (Confess. x, 29), speaking to God:
"Too little doth he love Thee, who loves anything with Thee, which he
loveth not for Thee." Wherefore he says (Questions. lxxxiii, qu. 36) that
"greater charity means less cupidity, perfect charity means no cupidity."
Now the possession of worldly things draws a man's mind to the love of
them: hence Augustine says (Ep. xxxi ad Paulin. et Theras.) that "we are
more firmly attached to earthly things when we have them than when we
desire them: since why did that young man go away sad, save because he
had great wealth? For it is one thing not to wish to lay hold of what one
has not, and another to renounce what one already has; the former are
rejected as foreign to us, the latter are cut off as a limb." And
Chrysostom says (Hom. lxiii in Matth.) that "the possession of wealth
kindles a greater flame and the desire for it becomes stronger."
Hence it is that in the attainment of the perfection of charity the
first foundation is voluntary poverty, whereby a man lives without
property of his own, according to the saying of our Lord (Mt. 19:21), "If
thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all [Vulg.: 'what'] thou hast, and give to
the poor . . . and come, follow Me."
Reply to Objection 1: As the gloss adds, "when the Apostle said this (namely "not
that you should be burthened," i.e. with poverty)," he did not mean that
"it were better not to give: but he feared for the weak, whom he
admonished so to give as not to suffer privation." Hence in like manner
the other gloss means not that it is unlawful to renounce all one's
temporal goods, but that this is not required of necessity. Wherefore
Ambrose says (De Offic. i, 30): "Our Lord does not wish," namely does not
command us "to pour out our wealth all at once, but to dispense it; or
perhaps to do as did Eliseus who slew his oxen, and fed the poor with
that which was his own so that no household care might hold him back."
Reply to Objection 2: He who renounces all his possessions for Christ's sake
exposes himself to no danger, neither spiritual nor corporal. For
spiritual danger ensues from poverty when the latter is not voluntary;
because those who are unwillingly poor, through the desire of
money-getting, fall into many sins, according to 1 Tim. 6:9, "They that
will become rich, fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil."
This attachment is put away by those who embrace voluntary poverty, but
it gathers strength in those who have wealth, as stated above. Again
bodily danger does not threaten those who, intent on following Christ,
renounce all their possessions and entrust themselves to divine
providence. Hence Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 17): "Those
who seek first the kingdom of God and His justice are not weighed down by
anxiety lest they lack what is necessary."
Reply to Objection 3: According to the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 6), the mean of
virtue is taken according to right reason, not according to the quantity
of a thing. Consequently whatever may be done in accordance with right
reason is not rendered sinful by the greatness of the quantity, but all
the more virtuous. It would, however, be against right reason to throw
away all one's possessions through intemperance, or without any useful
purpose; whereas it is in accordance with right reason to renounce wealth
in order to devote oneself to the contemplation of wisdom. Even certain
philosophers are said to have done this; for Jerome says (Ep. xlviii ad
Paulin.): "The famous Theban, Crates, once a very wealthy man, when he
was going to Athens to study philosophy, cast away a large amount of
gold; for he considered that he could not possess both gold and virtue at
the same time." Much more therefore is it according to right reason for a
man to renounce all he has, in order perfectly to follow Christ.
Wherefore Jerome says (Ep. cxxv ad Rust. Monach.): "Poor thyself, follow
Reply to Objection 4: Happiness or felicity is twofold. One is perfect, to which
we look forward in the life to come; the other is imperfect, in respect
of which some are said to be happy in this life. The happiness of this
life is twofold, one is according to the active life, the other according
to the contemplative life, as the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. x, 7,8).
Now wealth conduces instrumentally to the happiness of the active life
which consists in external actions, because as the Philosopher says
(Ethic. i, 8) "we do many things by friends, by riches, by political
influence, as it were by instruments." On the other hand, it does not
conduce to the happiness of the contemplative life, rather is it an
obstacle thereto, inasmuch as the anxiety it involves disturbs the quiet
of the soul, which is most necessary to one who contemplates. Hence it is
that the Philosopher asserts (Ethic. x, 8) that "for actions many things
are needed, but the contemplative man needs no such things," namely
external goods, "for his operation; in fact they are obstacles to his
Man is directed to future happiness by charity; and since voluntary
poverty is an efficient exercise for the attaining of perfect charity, it
follows that it is of great avail in acquiring the happiness of heaven.
Wherefore our Lord said (Mt. 19:21): "Go, sell all [Vulg.: 'what'] thou
hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Now
riches once they are possessed are in themselves of a nature to hinder
the perfection of charity, especially by enticing and distracting the
mind. Hence it is written (Mt. 13:22) that "the care of this world and
the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word" of God, for as Gregory
says (Hom. xv in Ev.) by "preventing the good desire from entering into
the heart, they destroy life at its very outset." Consequently it is
difficult to safeguard charity amidst riches: wherefore our Lord said
(Mt. 19:23) that "a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
heaven," which we must understand as referring to one who actually has
wealth, since He says that this is impossible for him who places his
affection in riches, according to the explanation of Chrysostom (Hom.
lxiii in Matth.), for He adds (Mt. 19:24): "It is easier for a camel to
pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the
kingdom of heaven." Hence it is not said simply that the "rich man" is
blessed, but "the rich man that is found without blemish, and that hath
not gone after gold," and this because he has done a difficult thing,
wherefore the text continues (Mt. 19:9): "Who is he? and we will praise
him; for he hath done wonderful things in his life," namely by not loving
riches though placed in the midst of them.
Reply to Objection 5: The episcopal state is not directed to the attainment of
perfection, but rather to the effect that, in virtue of the perfection
which he already has, a man may govern others, by administering not only
spiritual but also temporal things. This belongs to the active life,
wherein many things occur that may be done by means of wealth as an
instrument, as stated (ad 4). Wherefore it is not required of bishops,
who make profession of governing Christ's flock, that they have nothing
of their own, whereas it is required of religious who make profession of
learning to obtain perfection.
Reply to Objection 6: The renouncement of one's own wealth is compared to
almsgiving as the universal to the particular, and as the holocaust to
the sacrifice. Hence Gregory says (Hom. xx in Ezech.) that those who
assist "the needy with the things they possess, by their good deeds offer
sacrifice, since they offer up something to God and keep back something
for themselves; whereas those who keep nothing for themselves offer a
holocaust which is greater than a sacrifice." Wherefore Jerome also says
(Contra Vigilant.): "When you declare that those do better who retain the
use of their possessions, and dole out the fruits of their possessions to
the poor, it is not I but the Lord Who answers you; If thou wilt be
perfect," etc., and afterwards he goes on to say: "This man whom you
praise belongs to the second and third degree, and we too commend him:
provided we acknowledge the first as to be preferred to the second and
third." For this reason in order to exclude the error of Vigilantius it
is said (De Eccl. Dogm. xxxviii): "It is a good thing to give away one's
goods by dispensing them to the poor: it is better to give them away once
for all with the intention of following the Lord, and, free of
solicitude, to be poor with Christ."
Article 4: Whether perpetual continence is required for religious perfection?
Objection 1: It would seem that perpetual continence is not required for
religious perfection. For all perfection of the Christian life began with
Christ's apostles. Now the apostles do not appear to have observed
continence, as evidenced by Peter, of whose mother-in-law we read Mt.
8:14. Therefore it would seem that perpetual continence is not requisite
for religious perfection.
Objection 2: Further, the first example of perfection is shown to us in the
person of Abraham, to whom the Lord said (Gn. 17:1): "Walk before Me, and
be perfect." Now the copy should not surpass the example. Therefore
perpetual continence is not requisite for religious perfection.
Objection 3: Further, that which is required for religious perfection is to be
found in every religious order. Now there are some religious who lead a
married life. Therefore religious perfection does not require perpetual
On the contrary, The Apostle says (2 Cor. 7:1): "Let us cleanse
ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting
sanctification in the fear of God." Now cleanness of flesh and spirit is
safeguarded by continence, for it is said (1 Cor. 7:34): "The unmarried
woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord that she may be
holy both in spirit and in body [Vulg.: 'both in body and in spirit']."
Therefore religious perfection requires continence.
I answer that, The religious state requires the removal of whatever
hinders man from devoting himself entirely to God's service. Now the use
of sexual union hinders the mind from giving itself wholly to the service
of God, and this for two reasons. First, on account of its vehement
delectation, which by frequent repetition increases concupiscence, as
also the Philosopher observes (Ethic. iii, 12): and hence it is that the
use of venery withdraws the mind from that perfect intentness on tending
to God. Augustine expresses this when he says (Solil. i, 10): "I consider
that nothing so casts down the manly mind from its height as the
fondling of women, and those bodily contacts which belong to the married
state." Secondly, because it involves man in solicitude for the control
of his wife, his children, and his temporalities which serve for their
upkeep. Hence the Apostle says (1 Cor. 7:32,33): "He that is without a
wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may
please God: but he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of
the world, how he may please his wife."
Therefore perpetual continence, as well as voluntary poverty, is
requisite for religious perfection. Wherefore just as Vigilantius was
condemned for equaling riches to poverty, so was Jovinian condemned for
equaling marriage to virginity.
Reply to Objection 1: The perfection not only of poverty but also of continence
was introduced by Christ Who said (Mt. 19:12): "There are eunuchs who
have made themselves eunuchs, for the kingdom of heaven," and then added:
"He that can take, let him take it." And lest anyone should be deprived
of the hope of attaining perfection, he admitted to the state of
perfection those even who were married. Now the husbands could not
without committing an injustice forsake their wives, whereas men could
without injustice renounce riches. Wherefore Peter whom He found married,
He severed not from his wife, while "He withheld from marriage John who
wished to marry" [*Prolog. in Joan. among the supposititious works of St.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (De Bono Conjug. xxii), "the chastity of
celibacy is better than the chastity of marriage, one of which Abraham
had in use, both of them in habit. For he lived chastely, and he might
have been chaste without marrying, but it was not requisite then."
Nevertheless if the patriarchs of old had perfection of mind together
with wealth and marriage, which is a mark of the greatness of their
virtue, this is no reason why any weaker person should presume to have
such great virtue that he can attain to perfection though rich and
married; as neither does a man unarmed presume to attack his enemy,
because Samson slew many foes with the jaw-bone of an ass. For those
fathers, had it been seasonable to observe continence and poverty, would
have been most careful to observe them.
Reply to Objection 3: Such ways of living as admit of the use of marriage are not
the religious life simply and absolutely speaking, but in a restricted
sense, in so far as they have a certain share in those things that belong
to the religious state.
Article 5: Whether obedience belongs to religious perfection?
Objection 1: It would seem that obedience does not belong to religious
perfection. For those things seemingly belong to religious perfection,
which are works of supererogation and are not binding upon all. But all
are bound to obey their superiors, according to the saying of the Apostle
(Heb. 13:17), "Obey your prelates, and be subject to them." Therefore it
would seem that obedience does not belong to religious perfection.
Objection 2: Further, obedience would seem to belong properly to those who
have to be guided by the sense of others, and such persons are lacking in
discernment. Now the Apostle says (Heb. 5:14) that "strong meat is for
the perfect, for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the
discerning of good and evil." Therefore it would seem that obedience does
not belong to the state of the perfect.
Objection 3: Further, if obedience were requisite for religious perfection, it
would follow that it is befitting to all religious. But it is not
becoming to all; since some religious lead a solitary life, and have no
superior whom they obey. Again religious superiors apparently are not
bound to obedience. Therefore obedience would seem not to pertain to
Objection 4: Further, if the vow of obedience were requisite for religion, it
would follow that religious are bound to obey their superiors in all
things, just as they are bound to abstain from all venery by their vow of
continence. But they are not bound to obey them in all things, as stated
above (Question , Article ), when we were treating of the virtue of obedience.
Therefore the vow of obedience is not requisite for religion.
Objection 5: Further, those services are most acceptable to God which are done
freely and not of necessity, according to 2 Cor. 9:7, "Not with sadness
or of necessity." Now that which is done out of obedience is done of
necessity of precept. Therefore those good works are more deserving of
praise which are done of one's own accord. Therefore the vow of obedience
is unbecoming to religion whereby men seek to attain to that which is
On the contrary, Religious perfection consists chiefly in the imitation
of Christ, according to Mt. 19:21, "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell all
[Vulg.: 'what'] thou hast, and give to the poor, and follow Me." Now in
Christ obedience is commended above all according to Phil. 2:8, "He
became [Vulg.: 'becoming'] obedient unto death." Therefore seemingly
obedience belongs to religious perfection.
I answer that, As stated above (Articles ,3) the religious state is a school
and exercise for tending to perfection. Now those who are being
instructed or exercised in order to attain a certain end must needs
follow the direction of someone under whose control they are instructed
or exercised so as to attain that end as disciples under a master. Hence
religious need to be placed under the instruction and command of someone
as regards things pertaining to the religious life; wherefore it is said
(VII, qu. i, can. Hoc nequaquam): "The monastic life denotes subjection
and discipleship." Now one man is subjected to another's command and
instruction by obedience: and consequently obedience is requisite for
Reply to Objection 1: To obey one's superiors in matters that are essential to
virtue is not a work of supererogation, but is common to all: whereas to
obey in matters pertaining to the practice of perfection belongs properly
to religious. This latter obedience is compared to the former as the
universal to the particular. For those who live in the world, keep
something for themselves, and offer something to God; and in the latter
respect they are under obedience to their superiors: whereas those who
live in religion give themselves wholly and their possessions to God, as
stated above (Articles ,3). Hence their obedience is universal.
Reply to Objection 2: As the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 1,2), by performing
actions we contract certain habits, and when we have acquired the habit
we are best able to perform the actions. Accordingly those who have not
attained to perfection, acquire perfection by obeying, while those who
have already acquired perfection are most ready to obey, not as though
they need to be directed to the acquisition of perfection, but as
maintaining themselves by this means in that which belongs to perfection.
Reply to Objection 3: The subjection of religious is chiefly in reference to
bishops, who are compared to them as perfecters to perfected, as
Dionysius states (Eccl. Hier. vi), where he also says that the "monastic
order is subjected to the perfecting virtues of the bishops, and is
taught by their godlike enlightenment." Hence neither hermits nor
religious superiors are exempt from obedience to bishops; and if they be
wholly or partly exempt from obedience to the bishop of the diocese, they
are nevertheless bound to obey the Sovereign Pontiff, not only in matters
affecting all in common, but also in those which pertain specially to
Reply to Objection 4: The vow of obedience taken by religious, extends to the
disposition of a man's whole life, and in this way it has a certain
universality, although it does not extend to all individual acts. For
some of these do not belong to religion, through not being of those
things that concern the love of God and of our neighbor, such as rubbing
one's beard, lifting a stick from the ground and so forth, which do not
come under a vow nor under obedience; and some are contrary to religion.
Nor is there any comparison with continence whereby acts are excluded
which are altogether contrary to religion.
Reply to Objection 5: The necessity of coercion makes an act involuntary and
consequently deprives it of the character of praise or merit; whereas the
necessity which is consequent upon obedience is a necessity not of
coercion but of a free will, inasmuch as a man is willing to obey,
although perhaps he would not be willing to do the thing commanded
considered in itself. Wherefore since by the vow of obedience a man lays
himself under the necessity of doing for God's sake certain things that
are not pleasing in themselves, for this very reason that which he does
is the more acceptable to God, though it be of less account, because man
can give nothing greater to God, than by subjecting his will to another
man's for God's sake. Hence in the Conferences of the Fathers (Coll.
xviii, 7) it is stated that "the Sarabaitae are the worst class of
monks, because through providing for their own needs without being
subject to superiors, they are free to do as they will; and yet day and
night they are more busily occupied in work than those who live in
Article 6: Whether it is requisite for religious perfection that poverty, continence, and obedience should come under a vow?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not requisite for religious perfection
that the three aforesaid, namely poverty, continence, and obedience,
should come under a vow. For the school of perfection is founded on the
principles laid down by our Lord. Now our Lord in formulating perfection
(Mt. 19:21) said: "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all [Vulg.: 'what']
thou hast, and give to the poor," without any mention of a vow. Therefore
it would seem that a vow is not necessary for the school of religion.
Objection 2: Further, a vow is a promise made to God, wherefore (Eccles. 5:3)
the wise man after saying: "If thou hast vowed anything to God, defer not
to pay it," adds at once, "for an unfaithful and foolish promise
displeaseth Him." But when a thing is being actually given there is no
need for a promise. Therefore it suffices for religious perfection that
one keep poverty, continence, and obedience without. vowing them.
Objection 3: Further, Augustine says (Ad Pollent., de Adult. Conjug. i, 14):
"The services we render are more pleasing when we might lawfully not
render them, yet do so out of love." Now it is lawful not to render a
service which we have not vowed, whereas it is unlawful if we have vowed
to render it. Therefore seemingly it is more pleasing to God to keep
poverty, continence, and obedience without a vow. Therefore a vow is not
requisite for religious perfection.
On the contrary, In the Old Law the Nazareans were consecrated by vow
according to Num. 6:2, "When a man or woman shall make a vow to be
sanctified and will consecrate themselves to the Lord," etc. Now these
were a figure of those "who attain the summit of perfection," as a gloss
[*Cf. Moral. ii] of Gregory states. Therefore a vow is requisite for
I answer that, It belongs to religious to be in the state of perfection, as shown above (Question , Article ). Now the state of perfection requires an obligation to whatever belongs to perfection: and this obligation consists in binding oneself to God by means of a vow. But it is evident from what has been said (Articles ,4,5) that poverty, continence, and obedience belong to the perfection of the Christian life. Consequently the religious state requires that one be bound to these three by vow. Hence Gregory says (Hom. xx in Ezech.): "When a man vows to God all his possessions, all his life, all his knowledge, it is a holocaust"; and afterwards he says that this refers to those who renounce the present world.
Reply to Objection 1: Our Lord declared that it belongs to the perfection of life
that a man follow Him, not anyhow, but in such a way as not to turn back.
Wherefore He says again (Lk. 9:62): "No man putting his hand to the
plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." And though some
of His disciples went back, yet when our Lord asked (Jn. 6:68,69), "Will
you also go away?" Peter answered for the others: "Lord, to whom shall we
go?" Hence Augustine says (De Consensu Ev. ii, 17) that "as Matthew and
Mark relate, Peter and Andrew followed Him after drawing their boats on
to the beach, not as though they purposed to return, but as following Him
at His command." Now this unwavering following of Christ is made fast by
a vow: wherefore a vow is requisite for religious perfection.
Reply to Objection 2: As Gregory says (Moral. ii) religious perfection requires
that a man give "his whole life" to God. But a man cannot actually give
God his whole life, because that life taken as a whole is not
simultaneous but successive. Hence a man cannot give his whole life to
God otherwise than by the obligation of a vow.
Reply to Objection 3: Among other services that we can lawfully give, is our
liberty, which is dearer to man than aught else. Consequently when a man
of his own accord deprives himself by vow of the liberty of abstaining
from things pertaining to God's service, this is most acceptable to God.
Hence Augustine says (Ep. cxxvii ad Paulin. et Arment.): "Repent not of
thy vow; rejoice rather that thou canst no longer do lawfully, what thou
mightest have done lawfully but to thy own cost. Happy the obligation
that compels to better things."
Article 7: Whether it is right to say that religious perfection consists in these three vows?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not right to say that religious
perfection consists in these three vows. For the perfection of life
consists of inward rather than of outward acts, according to Rm. 14:17,
"The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but justice and peace and joy
in the Holy Ghost." Now the religious vow binds a man to things belonging
to perfection. Therefore vows of inward actions, such as contemplation,
love of God and our neighbor, and so forth, should pertain to the
religious state, rather than the vows of poverty, continence, and
obedience which refer to outward actions.
Objection 2: Further, the three aforesaid come under the religious vow, in so
far as they belong to the practice of tending to perfection. But there
are many other things that religious practice, such as abstinence,
watchings, and the like. Therefore it would seem that these three vows
are incorrectly described as pertaining to the state of perfection.
Objection 3: Further, by the vow of obedience a man is bound to do according
to his superior's command whatever pertains to the practice of
perfection. Therefore the vow of obedience suffices without the two other
Objection 4: Further, external goods comprise not only riches but also honors.
Therefore, if religious, by the vow of poverty, renounce earthly riches,
there should be another vow whereby they may despise worldly honors.
On the contrary, It is stated (Extra, de Statu Monach., cap. Cum ad
monasterium) that "the keeping of chastity and the renouncing of property
are affixed to the monastic rule."
I answer that, The religious state may be considered in three ways.
First, as being a practice of tending to the perfection of charity:
secondly, as quieting the human mind from outward solicitude, according
to 1 Cor. 7:32: "I would have you to be without solicitude": thirdly, as
a holocaust whereby a man offers himself and his possessions wholly to
God; and in corresponding manner the religious state is constituted by
these three vows.
First, as regards the practice of perfection a man is required to remove
from himself whatever may hinder his affections from tending wholly to
God, for it is in this that the perfection of charity consists. Such
hindrances are of three kinds. First, the attachment to external goods,
which is removed by the vow of poverty; secondly, the concupiscence of
sensible pleasures, chief among which are venereal pleasures, and these
are removed by the vow of continence; thirdly, the inordinateness of the
human will, and this is removed by the vow of obedience. In like manner
the disquiet of worldly solicitude is aroused in man in reference
especially to three things. First, as regards the dispensing of external
things, and this solicitude is removed from man by the vow of poverty;
secondly, as regards the control of wife and children, which is cut away
by the vow of continence; thirdly, as regards the disposal of one's own
actions, which is eliminated by the vow of obedience, whereby a man
commits himself to the disposal of another.
Again, "a holocaust is the offering to God of all that one has,"
according to Gregory (Hom. xx in Ezech.). Now man has a threefold good,
according to the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 8). First, the good of external
things, which he wholly offers to God by the vow of voluntary poverty:
secondly, the good of his own body, and this good he offers to God
especially by the vow of continence, whereby he renounces the greatest
bodily pleasures. the third is the good of the soul, which man wholly
offers to God by the vow of obedience, whereby he offers God his own will
by which he makes use of all the powers and habits of the soul. Therefore
the religious state is fittingly constituted by the three vows.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Article ), the end whereunto the religious vow
is directed is the perfection of charity, since all the interior acts of
virtue belong to charity as to their mother, according to 1 Cor. 13:4,
"Charity is patient, is kind," etc. Hence the interior acts of virtue,
for instance humility, patience, and so forth, do not come under the
religious vow, but this is directed to them as its end.
Reply to Objection 2: All other religious observances are directed to the three
aforesaid principal vows; for if any of them are ordained for the purpose
of procuring a livelihood, such as labor, questing, and so on, they are
to be referred to poverty; for the safeguarding of which religious seek a
livelihood by these means. Other observances whereby the body is
chastised, such as watching, fasting, and the like, are directly ordained
for the observance of the vow of continence. And such religious
observances as regard human actions whereby a man is directed to the end
of religion, namely the love of God and his neighbor (such as reading,
prayer, visiting the sick, and the like), are comprised under the vow of
obedience that applies to the will, which directs its actions to the end
according to the ordering of another person. The distinction of habit
belongs to all three vows, as a sign of being bound by them: wherefore
the religious habit is given or blessed at the time of profession.
Reply to Objection 3: By obedience a man offers to God his will, to which though
all human affairs are subject, yet some are subject to it alone in a
special manner, namely human actions, since passions belong also to the
sensitive appetite. Wherefore in order to restrain the passions of carnal
pleasures and of external objects of appetite, which hinder the
perfection of life, there was need for the vows of continence and
poverty; but for the ordering of one's own actions accordingly as the
state of perfection requires, there was need for the vow of obedience.
Reply to Objection 4: As the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3), strictly and truly
speaking honor is not due save to virtue. Since, however, external goods
serve instrumentally for certain acts of virtue, the consequence is that
a certain honor is given to their excellence especially by the common
people who acknowledge none but outward excellence. Therefore since
religious tend to the perfection of virtue it becomes them not to
renounce the honor which God and all holy men accord to virtue, according
to Ps. 138:17, "But to me Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly
honorable." On the other hand, they renounce the honor that is given to
outward excellence, by the very fact that they withdraw from a worldly
life: hence no special vow is needed for this.
Article 8: Whether the vow of obedience is the chief of the three religious vows?
Objection 1: It would seem that the vow of obedience is not the chief of the
three religious vows. For the perfection of the religious life was
inaugurated by Christ. Now Christ gave a special counsel of poverty;
whereas He is not stated to have given a special counsel of obedience.
Therefore the vow of poverty is greater than the vow of obedience.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (Ecclus. 26:20) that "no price is worthy
of a continent soul." Now the vow of that which is more worthy is itself
more excellent. Therefore the vow of continence is more excellent than
the vow of obedience.
Objection 3: Further, the greater a vow the more indispensable it would seem
to be. Now the vows of poverty and continence "are so inseparable from
the monastic rule, that not even the Sovereign Pontiff can allow them to
be broken," according to a Decretal (De Statu Monach., cap. Cum ad
monasterium): yet he can dispense a religious from obeying his superior.
Therefore it would seem that the vow of obedience is less than the vow of
poverty and continence.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxxv, 14): "Obedience is rightly
placed before victims, since by victims another's flesh, but by obedience
one's own will, is sacrificed." Now the religious vows are holocausts, as
stated above (Articles ,3, ad 6). Therefore the vow of obedience is the chief
of all religious vows.
I answer that, The vow of obedience is the chief of the three religious
vows, and this for three reasons.
First, because by the vow of obedience man offers God something greater,
namely his own will; for this is of more account than his own body, which
he offers God by continence, and than external things, which he offers
God by the vow of poverty. Wherefore that which is done out of obedience
is more acceptable to God than that which is done of one's own will,
according to the saying of Jerome (Ep. cxxv ad Rustic Monach.): "My words
are intended to teach you not to rely on your own judgment": and a little
further on he says: "You may not do what you will; you must eat what you
are bidden to eat, you may possess as much as you receive, clothe
yourself with what is given to you." Hence fasting is not acceptable to
God if it is done of one's own will, according to Is. 58:3, "Behold in
the day of your fast your own will is found."
Secondly, because the vow of obedience includes the other vows, but not
vice versa: for a religious, though bound by vow to observe continence
and poverty, yet these also come under obedience, as well as many other
things besides the keeping of continence and poverty.
Thirdly, because the vow of obedience extends properly to those acts
that are closely connected with the end of religion; and the more closely
a thing is connected with the end, the better it is.
It follows from this that the vow of obedience is more essential to the
religious life. For if a man without taking a vow of obedience were to
observe, even by vow, voluntary poverty and continence, he would not
therefore belong to the religious state, which is to be preferred to
virginity observed even by vow; for Augustine says (De Virgin. xlvi): "No
one, methinks, would prefer virginity to the monastic life." [*St.
Augustine wrote not 'monasterio' but 'martyrio'---to 'martyrdom'; and St.
Thomas quotes the passage correctly above, Question , Article  and Question , Article ].
Reply to Objection 1: The counsel of obedience was included in the very following
of Christ, since to obey is to follow another's will. Consequently it is
more pertinent to perfection than the vow of poverty, because as Jerome,
commenting on Mt. 19:27, "Behold we have left all things," observes,
"Peter added that which is perfect when he said: And have followed Thee."
Reply to Objection 2: The words quoted mean that continence is to be preferred,
not to all other acts of virtue, but to conjugal chastity, or to external
riches of gold and silver which are measured by weight [*'Pondere,'
referring to the Latin 'ponderatio' in the Vulgate, which the Douay
version renders 'price.']. Or again continence is taken in a general
sense for abstinence from ali evil, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1).
Reply to Objection 3: The Pope cannot dispense a religious from his vow of
obedience so as to release him from obedience to every superior in
matters relating to the perfection of life, for he cannot exempt him from
obedience to himself. He can, however, exempt him from subjection to a
lower superior, but this is not to dispense him from his vow of obedience.
Article 9: Whether a religious sins mortally whenever he transgresses the things contained in his rule?
Objection 1: It would seem that a religious sins mortally whenever he
transgresses the things contained in his rule. For to break a vow is a
sin worthy of condemnation, as appears from 1 Tim. 5:11,12, where the
Apostle says that widows who "will marry have [Vulg.: 'having']
damnation, because they have made void their first faith." But religious
are bound to a rule by the vows of their profession. Therefore they sin
mortally by transgressing the things contained in their rule.
Objection 2: Further, the rule is enjoined upon a religious in the same way as
a law. Now he who transgresses a precept of law sins mortally. Therefore
it would seem that a monk sins mortally if he transgresses the things
contained in his rule.
Objection 3: Further, contempt involves a mortal sin. Now whoever repeatedly
does what he ought not to do seems to sin from contempt. Therefore it
would seem that a religious sins mortally by frequently transgressing the
things contained in his rule.
On the contrary, The religious state is safer than the secular state;
wherefore Gregory at the beginning of his Morals [*Epist. Missoria, ad
Leand. Episc. i] compares the secular life to the stormy sea, and the
religious life to the calm port. But if every transgression of the things
contained in his rule were to involve a religious in mortal sin, the
religious life would be fraught with danger of account of its multitude
of observances. Therefore not every transgression of the things contained
in the rule is a mortal sin.
I answer that, As stated above (Article , ad 1,2), a thing is contained in
the rule in two ways. First, as the end of the rule, for instance things
that pertain to the acts of the virtues; and the transgression of these,
as regards those which come under a common precept, involves a mortal
sin; but as regards those which are not included in the common obligation
of a precept, the transgression thereof does not involve a mortal sin,
except by reason of contempt, because, as stated above (Article ), a
religious is not bound to be perfect, but to tend to perfection, to which
the contempt of perfection is opposed.
Secondly, a thing is contained in the rule through pertaining to the
outward practice, such as all external observances, to some of which a
religious is bound by the vow of his profession. Now the vow of
profession regards chiefly the three things aforesaid, namely poverty,
continence, and obedience, while all others are directed to these.
Consequently the transgression of these three involves a mortal sin,
while the transgression of the others does not involve a mortal sin,
except either by reason of contempt of the rule (since this is directly
contrary to the profession whereby a man vows to live according to the
rule), or by reason of a precept, whether given orally by a superior, or
expressed in the rule, since this would be to act contrary to the vow of
Reply to Objection 1: He who professes a rule does not vow to observe all the
things contained in the rule, but he vows the regular life which consists
essentially in the three aforesaid things. Hence in certain religious
orders precaution is taken to profess, not the rule, but to live
according to the rule, i.e. to tend to form one's conduct in accordance
with the rule as a kind of model; and this is set aside by contempt. Yet
greater precaution is observed in some religious orders by professing
obedience according to the rule, so that only that which is contrary to a
precept of the rule is contrary to the profession, while the
transgression or omission of other things binds only under pain of venial
sin, because, as stated above (Article , ad 2), such things are dispositions
to the chief vows. And venial sin is a disposition to mortal, as stated
above (FS, Question , Article ), inasmuch as it hinders those things whereby a
man is disposed to keep the chief precepts of Christ's law, namely the
precepts of charity.
There is also a religious order, that of the Friars Preachers, where
such like transgressions or omissions do not, by their very nature,
involve sin, either mortal or venial; but they bind one to suffer the
punishment affixed thereto, because it is in this way that they are bound
to observe such things. Nevertheless they may sin venially or mortally
through neglect, concupiscence, or contempt.
Reply to Objection 2: Not all the contents of the law are set forth by way of
precept; for some are expressed under the form of ordinance or statute
binding under pain of a fixed punishment. Accordingly, just as in the
civil law the transgression of a legal statute does not always render a
man deserving of bodily death, so neither in the law of the Church does
every ordinance or statute bind under mortal sin; and the same applies to
the statutes of the rule.
Reply to Objection 3: An action or transgression proceeds from contempt when a
man's will refuses to submit to the ordinance of the law or rule, and
from this he proceeds to act against the law or rule. on the other hand,
he does not sin from contempt, but from some other cause, when he is led
to do something against the ordinance of the law or rule through some
particular cause such as concupiscence or anger, even though he often
repeat the same kind of sin through the same or some other cause. Thus
Augustine says (De Nat. et Grat. xxix) that "not all sins are committed
through proud contempt." Nevertheless the frequent repetition of a sin
leads dispositively to contempt, according to the words of Prov. 18:3,
"The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth."
Article 10: Whether a religious sins more grievously than a secular by the same kind of sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that a religious does not sin more grievously than
a secular by the same kind of sin. For it is written (2 Paralip
30:18,19): "The Lord Who is good will show mercy to all them who with
their whole heart seek the Lord the God of their fathers, and will not
impute it to them that they are not sanctified." Now religious apparently
follow the Lord the God of their fathers with their whole heart rather
than seculars, who partly give themselves and their possessions to God
and reserve part for themselves, as Gregory says (Hom. xx in Ezech.).
Therefore it would seem that it is less imputed to them if they fall
short somewhat of their sanctification.
Objection 2: Further, God is less angered at a man's sins if he does some good
deeds, according to 2 Paralip 19:2,3, "Thou helpest the ungodly, and thou
art joined in friendship with them that hate the Lord, and therefore thou
didst deserve indeed the wrath of the Lord: but good works are found in
thee." Now religious do more good works than seculars. Therefore if they
commit any sins, God is less angry with them.
Objection 3: Further, this present life is not carried through without sin, according to James 3:2, "In many things we all offend." Therefore if the sins of religious were more grievous than those of seculars it would follow that religious are worse off than seculars: and consequently it would not be a wholesome counsel to enter religion.
On the contrary, The greater the evil the more it would seem to be
deplored. But seemingly the sins of those who are in the state of
holiness and perfection are the most deplorable, for it is written (Jer. 23:9): "My heart is broken within me," and afterwards (Jer. 23:11): "For
the prophet and the priest are defiled; and in My house I have found
their wickedness." Therefore religious and others who are in the state of
perfection, other things being equal, sin more grievously.
I answer that, A sin committed by a religious may be in three ways more
grievous than a like sin committed by a secular. First, if it be against
his religious vow; for instance if he be guilty of fornication or theft,
because by fornication he acts against the vow of continence, and by
theft against the vow of poverty; and not merely against a precept of the
divine law. Secondly, if he sin out of contempt, because thereby he would
seem to be the more ungrateful for the divine favors which have raised
him to the state of perfection. Thus the Apostle says (Heb. 10:29) that
the believer "deserveth worse punishments" who through contempt tramples
under foot the Son of God. Hence the Lord complains (Jer. 11:15): "What
is the meaning that My beloved hath wrought much wickedness in My house?"
Thirdly, the sin of a religious may be greater on account of scandal,
because many take note of his manner of life: wherefore it is written
(Jer. 23:14): "I have seen the likeness of adulterers, and the way of
lying in the Prophets of Jerusalem; and they strengthened the hands of
the wicked, that no man should return from his evil doings."
On the other hand, if a religious, not out of contempt, but out of
weakness or ignorance, commit a sin that is not against the vow of his
profession, without giving scandal (for instance if he commit it in
secret) he sins less grievously in the same kind of sin than a secular,
because his sin if slight is absorbed as it were by his many good works,
and if it be mortal, he more easily recovers from it. First, because he
has a right intention towards God, and though it be intercepted for the
moment, it is easily restored to its former object. Hence Origen
commenting on Ps. 36:24, "When he shall fall he shall not be bruised,"
says (Hom. iv in Ps. 36): "The wicked man, if he sin, repents not, and
fails to make amends for his sin. But the just man knows how to make
amends and recover himself; even as he who had said: 'I know not the
man,' shortly afterwards when the Lord had looked on him, knew to shed
most bitter tears, and he who from the roof had seen a woman and desired
her knew to say: 'I have sinned and done evil before Thee.'" Secondly, he
is assisted by his fellow-religious to rise again, according to Eccles.
4:10, "If one fall he shall be supported by the other: woe to him that is
alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up."
Reply to Objection 1: The words quoted refer to things done through weakness or
ignorance, but not to those that are done out of contempt.
Reply to Objection 2: Josaphat also, to whom these words were addressed, sinned
not out of contempt, but out of a certain weakness of human affection.
Reply to Objection 3: The just sin not easily out of contempt; but sometimes they
fall into a sin through ignorance or weakness from which they easily
arise. If, however, they go so far as to sin out of contempt, they become
most wicked and incorrigible, according to the word of Jeremias 2:20:
"Thou hast broken My yoke, thou hast burst My bands, and thou hast said:
'I will not serve.' For on every high hill and under every green tree
thou didst prostitute thyself." Hence Augustine says (Ep. lxxviii ad
Pleb. Hippon.): "From the time I began to serve God, even as I scarcely
found better men than those who made progress in monasteries, so have I
not found worse than those who in the monastery have fallen."