QUESTION 65: OF OTHER INJURIES COMMITTED ON THE PERSON)
We must now consider other sinful injuries committed on the person.
Under this head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) The mutilation of members;
(4) Whether the sins that consist in inflicting such like injuries are
aggravated through being perpetrated on persons connected with others?
Article 1: Whether in some cases it may be lawful to maim anyone?
Objection 1: It would seem that in no case can it be lawful to maim anyone.
For Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv, 20) that "sin consists in departing
from what is according to nature, towards that which is contrary to
nature." Now according to nature it is appointed by God that a man's body
should be entire in its members, and it is contrary to nature that it
should be deprived of a member. Therefore it seems that it is always a
sin to maim a person.
Objection 2: Further, as the whole soul is to the whole body, so are the parts
of the soul to the parts of the body (De Anima ii, 1). But it is unlawful
to deprive a man of his soul by killing him, except by public authority.
Therefore neither is it lawful to maim anyone, except perhaps by public
Objection 3: Further, the welfare of the soul is to be preferred to the
welfare of the body. Now it is not lawful for a man to maim himself for
the sake of the soul's welfare: since the council of Nicea [*P. I, sect.
4, can. i] punished those who castrated themselves that they might
preserve chastity. Therefore it is not lawful for any other reason to
maim a person.
On the contrary, It is written (Ex. 21:24): "Eye for eye, tooth for
tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."
I answer that, Since a member is part of the whole human body, it is for
the sake of the whole, as the imperfect for the perfect. Hence a member
of the human body is to be disposed of according as it is expedient for
the body. Now a member of the human body is of itself useful to the good
of the whole body, yet, accidentally it may happen to be hurtful, as when
a decayed member is a source of corruption to the whole body. Accordingly
so long as a member is healthy and retains its natural disposition, it
cannot be cut off without injury to the whole body. But as the whole of
man is directed as to his end to the whole of the community of which he
is a part, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Articles ,5), it may happen
that although the removal of a member may be detrimental to the whole
body, it may nevertheless be directed to the good of the community, in so
far as it is applied to a person as a punishment for the purpose of
restraining sin. Hence just as by public authority a person is lawfully
deprived of life altogether on account of certain more heinous sins, so
is he deprived of a member on account of certain lesser sins. But this is
not lawful for a private individual, even with the consent of the owner
of the member, because this would involve an injury to the community, to
whom the man and all his parts belong. If, however, the member be decayed
and therefore a source of corruption to the whole body, then it is lawful
with the consent of the owner of the member, to cut away the member for
the welfare of the whole body, since each one is entrusted with the care
of his own welfare. The same applies if it be done with the consent of
the person whose business it is to care for the welfare of the person who
has a decayed member: otherwise it is altogether unlawful to maim anyone.
Reply to Objection 1: Nothing prevents that which is contrary to a particular
nature from being in harmony with universal nature: thus death and
corruption, in the physical order, are contrary to the particular nature
of the thing corrupted, although they are in keeping with universal
nature. In like manner to maim anyone, though contrary to the particular
nature of the body of the person maimed, is nevertheless in keeping with
natural reason in relation to the common good.
Reply to Objection 2: The life of the entire man is not directed to something
belonging to man; on the contrary whatever belongs to man is directed to
his life. Hence in no case does it pertain to a person to take anyone's
life, except to the public authority to whom is entrusted the procuring
of the common good. But the removal of a member can be directed to the
good of one man, and consequently in certain cases can pertain to him.
Reply to Objection 3: A member should not be removed for the sake of the bodily
health of the whole, unless otherwise nothing can be done to further the
good of the whole. Now it is always possible to further one's spiritual
welfare otherwise than by cutting off a member, because sin is always
subject to the will: and consequently in no case is it allowable to maim
oneself, even to avoid any sin whatever. Hence Chrysostom, in his
exposition on Mt. 19:12 (Hom. lxii in Matth.), "There are eunuchs who
have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven," says: "Not by
maiming themselves, but by destroying evil thoughts, for a man is
accursed who maims himself, since they are murderers who do such things."
And further on he says: "Nor is lust tamed thereby, on the contrary it
becomes more importunate, for the seed springs in us from other sources,
and chiefly from an incontinent purpose and a careless mind: and
temptation is curbed not so much by cutting off a member as by curbing
Article 2: Whether it is lawful for parents to strike their children, or masters their slaves?
Objection 1: It would seem unlawful for parents to strike their children, or
masters their slaves. For the Apostle says (Eph. 6:4): "You, fathers,
provoke not your children to anger"; and further on (Eph. 9:6): "And you,
masters, do the same thing to your slaves [Vulg.: 'to them'] forbearing
threatenings." Now some are provoked to anger by blows, and become more
troublesome when threatened. Therefore neither should parents strike
their children, nor masters their slaves.
Objection 2: Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 9) that "a father's
words are admonitory and not coercive." Now blows are a kind of coercion.
Therefore it is unlawful for parents to strike their children.
Objection 3: Further, everyone is allowed to impart correction, for this
belongs to the spiritual almsdeeds, as stated above (Question , Article ). If,
therefore, it is lawful for parents to strike their children for the sake
of correction, for the same reason it will be lawful for any person to
strike anyone, which is clearly false. Therefore the same conclusion
On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 13:24): "He that spareth the rod
hateth his son," and further on (Prov. 23:13): "Withhold not correction
from a child, for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou
shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell." Again it is
written (Ecclus. 33:28): "Torture and fetters are for a malicious slave."
I answer that, Harm is done a body by striking it, yet not so as when it
is maimed: since maiming destroys the body's integrity, while a blow
merely affects the sense with pain, wherefore it causes much less harm
than cutting off a member. Now it is unlawful to do a person a harm,
except by way of punishment in the cause of justice. Again, no man justly
punishes another, except one who is subject to his jurisdiction.
Therefore it is not lawful for a man to strike another, unless he have
some power over the one whom he strikes. And since the child is subject
to the power of the parent, and the slave to the power of his master, a
parent can lawfully strike his child, and a master his slave that
instruction may be enforced by correction.
Reply to Objection 1: Since anger is a desire for vengeance, it is aroused
chiefly when a man deems himself unjustly injured, as the Philosopher
states (Rhet. ii). Hence when parents are forbidden to provoke their
children to anger, they are not prohibited from striking their children
for the purpose of correction, but from inflicting blows on them without
moderation. The command that masters should forbear from threatening
their slaves may be understood in two ways. First that they should be
slow to threaten, and this pertains to the moderation of correction;
secondly, that they should not always carry out their threats, that is
that they should sometimes by a merciful forgiveness temper the judgment
whereby they threatened punishment.
Reply to Objection 2: The greater power should exercise the greater coercion. Now
just as a city is a perfect community, so the governor of a city has
perfect coercive power: wherefore he can inflict irreparable punishments
such as death and mutilation. On the other hand the father and the master
who preside over the family household, which is an imperfect community,
have imperfect coercive power, which is exercised by inflicting lesser
punishments, for instance by blows, which do not inflict irreparable harm.
Reply to Objection 3: It is lawful for anyone to impart correction to a willing
subject. But to impart it to an unwilling subject belongs to those only
who have charge over him. To this pertains chastisement by blows.
Article 3: Whether it is lawful to imprison a man?
Objection 1: It would seem unlawful to imprison a man. An act which deals with
undue matter is evil in its genus, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Now
man, having a free-will, is undue matter for imprisonment which is
inconsistent with free-will. Therefore it is unlawful to imprison a man.
Objection 2: Further, human justice should be ruled by Divine justice. Now
according to Ecclus. 15:14, "God left man in the hand of his own
counsel." Therefore it seems that a man ought not to be coerced by chains
Objection 3: Further, no man should be forcibly prevented except from doing an
evil deed; and any man can lawfully prevent another from doing this. If,
therefore, it were lawful to imprison a man, in order to restrain him
from evil deeds, it would be lawful for anyone to put a man in prison;
and this is clearly false. Therefore the same conclusion follows.
On the contrary, We read in Lev. 24 that a man was imprisoned for the
sin of blasphemy.
I answer that, In the goods three things may be considered in due order. First, the substantial integrity of the body, and this is injured by death or maiming. Secondly, pleasure or rest of the senses, and to this striking or anything causing a sense of pain is opposed. Thirdly, the movement or use of the members, and this is hindered by binding or imprisoning or any kind of detention.
Therefore it is unlawful to imprison or in any way detain a man, unless
it be done according to the order of justice, either in punishment, or as
a measure of precaution against some evil.
Reply to Objection 1: A man who abuses the power entrusted to him deserves to
lose it, and therefore when a man by sinning abuses the free use of his
members, he becomes a fitting matter for imprisonment.
Reply to Objection 2: According to the order of His wisdom God sometimes
restrains a sinner from accomplishing a sin, according to Job 5:12: "Who
bringeth to nought the designs of the malignant, so that their hand
cannot accomplish what they had begun, while sometimes He allows them to
do what they will." In like manner, according to human justice, men are
imprisoned, not for every sin but for certain ones.
Reply to Objection 3: It is lawful for anyone to restrain a man for a time from
doing some unlawful deed there and then: as when a man prevents another
from throwing himself over a precipice, or from striking another. But to
him alone who has the right of disposing in general of the actions and of
the life of another does it belong primarily to imprison or fetter,
because by so doing he hinders him from doing not only evil but also good
Article 4: Whether the sin is aggravated by the fact that the aforesaid injuries are perpetrated on those who are connected with others?
Objection 1: It would seem that the sin is not aggravated by the fact that the
aforesaid injuries are perpetrated on those who are connected with
others. Such like injuries take their sinful character from inflicting an
injury on another against his will. Now the evil inflicted on a man's own
person is more against his will than that which is inflicted on a person
connected with him. Therefore an injury inflicted on a person connected
with another is less grievous.
Objection 2: Further, Holy Writ reproves those especially who do injuries to
orphans and widows: hence it is written (Ecclus. 35:17): "He will not
despise the prayers of the fatherless, nor the widow when she poureth out
her complaint." Now the widow and the orphan are not connected with other
persons. Therefore the sin is not aggravated through an injury being
inflicted on one who is connected with others.
Objection 3: Further, the person who is connected has a will of his own just as the principal person has, so that something may be voluntary for him and yet against the will of the principal person, as in the case of adultery which pleases the woman but not the husband. Now these injuries are sinful in so far as they consist in an involuntary commutation. Therefore such like injuries are of a less sinful nature.
On the contrary, It is written (Dt. 28:32) as though indicating an
aggravating circumstance: "Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given to
another people, thy eyes looking on [*Vulg.: 'May thy sons and thy
daughters be given,' etc.]."
I answer that, Other things being equal, an injury is a more grievous
sin according as it affects more persons; and hence it is that it is a
more grievous sin to strike or injure a person in authority than a
private individual, because it conduces to the injury of the whole
community, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Now when an injury is
inflicted on one who is connected in any way with another, that injury
affects two persons, so that, other things being equal, the sin is
aggravated by this very fact. It may happen, however, that in view of
certain circumstances, a sin committed against one who is not connected
with any other person, is more grievous, on account of either the dignity
of the person, or the greatness of the injury.
Reply to Objection 1: An injury inflicted on a person connected with others is
less harmful to the persons with whom he is connected, than if it were
perpetrated immediately on them, and from this point of view it is a less
grievous sin. But all that belongs to the injury of the person with whom
he is connected, is added to the sin of which a man is guilty through
injuring the other one in himself.
Reply to Objection 2: Injuries done to widows and orphans are more insisted upon
both through being more opposed to mercy, and because the same injury
done to such persons is more grievous to them since they have no one to
turn to for relief.
Reply to Objection 3: The fact that the wife voluntarily consents to the
adultery, lessens the sin and injury, so far as the woman is concerned,
for it would be more grievous, if the adulterer oppressed her by
violence. But this does not remove the injury as affecting her husband,
since "the wife hath not power of her own body; but the husband" (1 Cor. 7:4). The same applies to similar cases. of adultery, however, as it is
opposed not only to justice but also to chastity, we shall speak in the
treatise on Temperance (Question , Article ).