QUESTION 12: OF SATISFACTION, AS TO ITS NATURE
We must now consider satisfaction; about which four things have to be
considered: (1) Its nature; (2) Its possibility; (3) Its quality; (4) The
means whereby man offers satisfaction to God.
Under the first head there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether satisfaction is a virtue or an act of virtue?
(2) Whether it is an act of justice?
(3) Whether the definition of satisfaction contained in the text is
Article 1: Whether satisfaction is a virtue or an act of virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that satisfaction is neither a virtue nor an act of
virtue. For every act of virtue is meritorious; whereas, seemingly,
satisfaction is not, since merit is gratuitous, while satisfaction
answers to a debt. Therefore satisfaction is not an act of virtue.
Objection 2: Further, every act of virtue is voluntary. But sometimes a man
has to make satisfaction for something against his will, as when anyone
is punished by the judge for an offense against another. Therefore
satisfaction is not an act of virtue.
Objection 3: Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 13): "Choice
holds the chief place in moral virtue." But satisfaction is not an act of
choice but regards chiefly external works. Therefore it is not an act of
On the contrary, Satisfaction belongs to penance. Now penance is a
virtue. Therefore satisfaction is also an act of virtue.
Further, none but an act of virtue has the effect of blotting out sin,
for one contrary is destroyed by the other. Now satisfaction destroys
sin altogether. Therefore it is an act of virtue.
I answer that, An act is said to be the act of a virtue in two ways.
First, materially; and thus any act which implies no malice, or defect of
a due circumstance, may be called an act of virtue, because virtue can
make use of any such act for its end, e.g. to walk, to speak, and so
forth. Secondly, an act is said to belong to a virtue formally, because
its very name implies the form and nature of virtue; thus to suffer
courageously is an act of courage. Now the formal element in every moral
virtue is the observance of a mean. wherefore every act that implies the
observance of a mean is formally an act of virtue. And since equality is
the mean implied in the name of satisfaction (for a thing is said to be
satisfied by reason of an equal proportion to something), it is evident
that satisfaction also is formally an act of virtue.
Reply to Objection 1: Although to make satisfaction is due in itself, yet, in so
far as the deed is done voluntarily by the one who offers satisfaction,
it becomes something gratuitous on the part of the agent, so that he
makes a virtue of necessity. For debt diminishes merit through being
necessary and consequently against the will, so that if the will consent
to the necessity, the element of merit is not forfeited.
Reply to Objection 2: An act of virtue demands voluntariness not in the patient
but in the agent, for it is his act. Consequently since he on whom the
judge wreaks vengeance is the patient and not the agent as regards
satisfaction, it follows that satisfaction should be voluntary not in him
but in the judge as agent.
Reply to Objection 3: The chief element of virtue can be understood in two ways.
First, as being the chief element of virtue as virtue, and thus the chief
element of virtue denotes whatever belongs to the nature of virtue or is
most akin thereto; thus choice and other internal acts hold the chief
place in virtue. Secondly, the chief element of virtue may be taken as
denoting that which holds the first place in such and such a virtue; and
then the first place belongs to that which gives its determination. Now
the interior act, in certain virtues, is determined by some external act,
since choice, which is common to all virtues, becomes proper to such and
such a virtue through being directed to such and such an act. Thus it is
that external acts hold the chief place in certain virtues; and this is
the case with satisfaction.
Article 2: Whether satisfaction is an act of justice?
Objection 1: It would seem that satisfaction is not an act of justice. Because
the purpose of satisfaction is that one may be reconciled to the person
offended. But reconciliation, being an act of love, belongs to charity.
Therefore satisfaction is an act of charity and not of justice.
Objection 2: Further, the causes of sin in us are the passions of the soul,
which incline us to evil. But justice, according to the Philosopher
(Ethic. v, 2,3), is not about passions, but about operations. Since
therefore satisfaction aims at removing the causes of sin, as stated in
the text (Sent. iv, D, 15), it seems that it is not an act of justice.
Objection 3: Further, to be careful about the future is not an act of justice
but of prudence of which caution is a part. But it belongs to
satisfaction, "to give no opening to the suggestions of sin" [*Cf.
XP/Question /Article /Objection ]. Therefore satisfaction is not an act of justice.
On the contrary, No virtue but justice considers the notion of that
which is due. But satisfaction gives due honor to God, as Anselm states
(Cur Deus Homo i). Therefore satisfaction is an act of justice.
Further, no virtue save justice establishes equality between external
things. But this is done by satisfaction which establishes equality
between amendment and the previous offense. Therefore satisfaction is an
act of justice.
I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 3,4), the mean of
justice is considered with regard to an equation between thing and thing
according to a certain proportion. Wherefore, since the very name of
satisfaction implies an equation of the kind, because the adverb "satis"
[enough] denotes an equality of proportion, it is evident that
satisfaction is formally an act of justice. Now the act of justice,
according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 2,4), is either an act done by
one man to another, as when a man pays another what he owes him, or an
act done by one man between two others, as when a judge does justice
between two men. When it is an act of justice of one man to another, the
equality is set up in the agent, while when it is something done between
two others, the equality is set up in the subject that has suffered an
injustice. And since satisfaction expresses equality in the agent, it
denotes, properly speaking, an act of justice of one man to another. Now
a man may do justice to another either in actions and passions or in
external things; even as one may do an injustice to another, either by
taking something away, or by a hurtful action. And since to give is to
use an external thing, the act of justice, in so far as it establishes
equality between external things, signifies, properly speaking, a giving
back: but to make satisfaction clearly points to equality between
actions, although sometimes one is put for the other. Now equalization
concerns only such things as are unequal, wherefore satisfaction
presupposes inequality among actions, which inequality constitutes an
offense; so that satisfaction regards a previous offense. But no part of
justice regards a previous offense, except vindictive justice, which
establishes equality indifferently, whether the patient be the same
subject as the agent, as when anyone punishes himself, or whether they be
distinct, as when a judge punishes another man, since vindictive justice
deals with both cases. The same applies to penance, which implies
equality in the agent only, since it is the penitent who holds to the
penance [poenam tenet], so that penance is in a way a species of
vindictive justice. This proves that satisfaction, which implies equality
in the agent with respect to a previous offense, is a work of justice, as
to that part which is called penance.
Reply to Objection 1: Satisfaction, as appears from what has been said, is
compensation for injury inflicted. Wherefore as the injury inflicted
entailed of itself an inequality of justice, and consequently an
inequality opposed to friendship, so satisfaction brings back directly
equality of justice, and consequently equality of friendship. And since
an act is elicited by the habit to whose end it is immediately directed,
but is commanded by that habit to whose end it is directed ultimately,
hence satisfaction is elicited by justice but is commanded by charity.
Reply to Objection 2: Although justice is chiefly about operations, yet it is
consequently about passions, in so far as they are the causes of
operations. Wherefore as justice curbs anger, lest it inflict an unjust
injury on another, and concupiscence from invading another's marriage
right, so satisfaction removes the causes of other sins.
Reply to Objection 3: Each moral virtue shares in the act of prudence, because
this virtue completes in it the conditions essential to virtue, since
each moral virtue takes its mean according to the ruling of prudence, as
is evident from the definition of virtue given in Ethic. ii, 6.
Article 3: Whether the definition of satisfaction given in the text is suitable?
Objection 1: It would seem that the definition of satisfaction given in the
text (Sent. iv, D, 15) and quoted from Augustine [*Gennadius
Massiliensis, De Eccl. Dogm. liv] is unsuitable---viz. that "satisfaction
is to uproot the causes of sins, and to give no opening to the
suggestions thereof." For the cause of actual sin is the fomes. [*"Fomes"
signifies literally "fuel," and metaphorically, "incentive." As used by
the theologian, it denotes the quasi-material element and effect of
original sin, and sometimes goes under the name of "concupiscence," Cf.
FS, Question , Article .] But we cannot remove the "fomes" in this life.
Therefore satisfaction does not consist in removing the causes of sins.
Objection 2: Further, the cause of sin is stronger than sin itself. But man by
himself cannot remove sin. Much less therefore can he remove the cause of
sin; and so the same conclusion follows.
Objection 3: Further, since satisfaction is a part of Penance, it regards the
past and not the future. Now "to give no opening to the suggestions of
sin" regards the future. Therefore it should not be put in the definition
Objection 4: Further, satisfaction regards a past offense. Yet no mention is
made of this. Therefore the definition of satisfaction is unsuitable.
Objection 5: Further, Anselm gives another definition (Cur Deus homo i):
"Satisfaction consists in giving God due honor," wherein no reference is
made to the things mentioned by Augustine [*Gennadius, Objection ] in this
definition. Therefore one or the other is unsuitable.
Objection 6: Further, an innocent man can give due honor to God: whereas
satisfaction is not compatible with innocence. Therefore Anselm's
definition is faulty.
I answer that, Justice aims not only at removing inequality already
existing, by punishing the past fault, but also at safeguarding equality
for the future, because according to the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 3)
"punishments are medicinal." Wherefore satisfaction which is the act of
justice inflicting punishment, is a medicine healing past sins and
preserving from future sins: so that when one man makes satisfaction to
another, he offers compensation for the past, and takes heed for the
future. Accordingly satisfaction may be defined in two ways, first with
regard to past sin, which it heals by making compensation, and thus it is
defined as "compensation for an inflicted injury according to the
equality of justice." The definition of Anselm amounts to the same, for
he says that "satisfaction consists in giving God due honor"; where duty
is considered in respect of the sin committed. Secondly, satisfaction may
be defined, considered as preserving us from future sins; and as
Augustine (Cf. Objection ) defines it. Now preservation from bodily sickness
is assured by removing the causes from which the sickness may ensue, for
if they be taken away the sickness cannot follow. But it is not thus in
spiritual diseases, for the free-will cannot be forced, so that even in
the presence of their causes, they can, though with difficulty, be
avoided, while they can be incurred even when their causes are removed.
Hence he puts two things in the definition of satisfaction, viz. removal
of the causes, as to the first, and the free-will's refusal to sin.
Reply to Objection 1: By "causes" we must understand the proximate causes of
actual sin, which are twofold: viz. the lust of sin through the habit or
act of a sin that has been given up, and those things which are called
the remnants of past sin; and external occasions of sin, such as place,
bad company and so forth. Such causes are removed by satisfaction in this
life, albeit the "fomes," which is the remote cause of actual sin, is not
entirely removed by satisfaction in this life though it is weakened.
Reply to Objection 2: Since the cause of evil or of privation (according as it
has a cause) is nothing else than a defective good, and since it is
easier to destroy good than to set it up, it follows that it is easier to
uproot the causes of privation and of evil than to remove the evil
itself, which can only be removed by setting up good, as may be seen in
the case of blindness and its causes. Yet the aforesaid are not
sufficient causes of sin, for sin does not, of necessity, ensue
therefrom, but they are occasions of sin. Nor again can satisfaction be
made without God's help, since it is not possible without charity, as we
shall state further on (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: Although Penance was primarily instituted and intended with
a view to the past, yet, as a consequence, it regards the future, in so
far as it is a safeguarding remedy; and the same applies to satisfaction.
Reply to Objection 4: Augustine [*Gennadius Massiliensis, De Eccl. Dogm. liv]
defined satisfaction, as made to God, from Whom, in reality, nothing can
be taken, though the sinner, for his own part, takes something away.
Consequently in such like satisfaction, amendment for future time is of
greater weight than compensation for the past. Hence Augustine defines
satisfaction from this point of view. And yet it is possible to gauge the
compensation for the past from the heed taken for the future, for the
latter regards the same object as the former, but in the opposite way:
since when looking at the past we detest the causes of sins on account of
the sins themselves, which are the starting-point of the movement of
detestation: whereas when taking heed of the future, we begin from the
causes, that by their removal we may avoid sins the more easily.
Reply to Objection 5: There is no reason why the same thing should not be
described in different ways according to the various things found in it:
and such is the case here, as explained above.
Reply to Objection 6: By debt is meant the debt we owe to God by reason of the
sins we have committed, because Penance regards a debt, as stated above