QUESTION 13: OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SATISFACTION
We must now consider the possibility of satisfaction, under which head
there are two points of inquiry:
(1) Whether man can make satisfaction to God?
(2) Whether one man can make satisfaction for another?
Article 1: Whether man can make satisfaction to God?
Objection 1: It would seem that man cannot make satisfaction to God. For
satisfaction should balance the offense, as shown above (Question , Articles ,3).
But an offense against God is infinite, since it is measured by the
person against whom it is committed, for it is a greater offense to
strike a prince than anyone else. Therefore, as no action of man can be
infinite, it seems that he cannot make satisfaction to God.
Objection 2: Further, a slave cannot make compensation for a debt, since all
that he has is his master's. But we are the slaves of God, and whatever
good we have, we owe to Him. Therefore, as satisfaction is compensation
for a past offense, it seems that we cannot offer it to God.
Objection 3: Further, if all that a man has suffices not to pay one debt, he
cannot pay another debt. Now all that man is, all that he can do, and all
that he has, does not suffice to pay what he owes for the blessing of
creation, wherefore it is written (Is. 40:16) that "the wood of Libanus
shall not be enough for a burnt offering [*Vulg.: 'Libanus shall not be
enough to burn, nor the beasts thereof for a burnt offering']." Therefore
by no means can he make satisfaction for the debt resulting from the
Objection 4: Further, man is bound to spend all his time in the service of
God. Now time once lost cannot be recovered, wherefore, as Seneca
observes (Lib. i, Ep. i, ad Lucilium) loss of time is a very grievous
matter. Therefore man cannot make compensation to God, and the same
conclusion follows as before.
Objection 5: Further, mortal actual sin is more grievous than original sin.
But none could satisfy for original sin unless he were both God and man.
Neither, therefore, can he satisfy for actual sin.
On the contrary, Jerome [*Pelagius, Expos. Fidei ad Damasum] says:
"Whoever maintains that God has commanded anything impossible to man, let
him be anathema." But satisfaction is commanded (Lk. 3:8): "Bring forth .
. . fruits worthy of penance." Therefore it is possible to make
satisfaction to God.
Further, God is more merciful than any man. But it is possible to make
satisfaction to a man. Therefore it is possible to make satisfaction to
Further, there is due satisfaction when the punishment balances the
fault, since "justice is the same as counterpassion," as the Pythagoreans
said [*Aristotle, Ethic. v, 5; Cf. SS, Question , Article ]. Now punishment may
equal the pleasure contained in a sin committed. Therefore satisfaction
can be made to God.
I answer that, Man becomes God's debtor in two ways; first, by reason of
favors received, secondly, by reason of sin committed: and just as
thanksgiving or worship or the like regard the debt for favors received,
so satisfaction regards the debt for sin committed. Now in giving honor
to one's parents or to the gods, as indeed the Philosopher says (Ethic.
viii, 14), it is impossible to repay them measure for measure, but it
suffices that man repay as much as he can, for friendship does not demand
measure for measure, but what is possible. Yet even this is equal
somewhat, viz. according to proportion, for as the debt due to God is, in
comparison with God, so is what man can do, in comparison with himself,
so that in another way the form of justice is preserved. It is the same
as regards satisfaction. Consequently man cannot make satisfaction to God
if "satis" [enough] denotes quantitative equality; but he can, if it
denote proportionate equality, as explained above, and as this suffices
for justice, so does it suffice for satisfaction.
Reply to Objection 1: Just as the offense derived a certain infinity from the
infinity of the Divine majesty, so does satisfaction derive a certain
infinity from the infinity of Divine mercy, in so far as it is quickened
by grace, whereby whatever man is able to repay becomes acceptable.
Others, however, say that the offense is infinite as regards the
aversion, and in this respect it is pardoned gratuitously, but that it is
finite as turning to a mutable good, in which respect it is possible to
make satisfaction for it. But this is not to the point, since
satisfaction does not answer to sin, except as this is an offense against
God, which is a matter, not of turning to a creature but of turning away
from God. Others again say that even as regards the aversion it is
possible to make satisfaction for sin in virtue of Christ's merit, which
was, in a way, infinite. And this comes to the same as what we said
before, since grace is given to believers through faith in the Mediator.
If, however, He were to give grace otherwise, satisfaction would suffice
in the way explained above.
Reply to Objection 2: Man, who was made to God's image, has a certain share of
liberty, in so far as he is master of his actions through his free-will;
so that, through acting by his free-will, he can make satisfaction to
God, for though it belongs to God, in so far as it was bestowed on him by
God, yet it was freely bestowed on him, that he might be his own master,
which cannot be said of a slave.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument proves that it is impossible to make
equivalent satisfaction to God, but not that it is impossible to make
sufficient satisfaction to Him. For though man owes God all that he is
able to give Him, yet it is not necessary for his salvation that he
should actually do the whole of what he is able to do, for it is
impossible for him, according to his present state of life, to put forth
his whole power into any one single thing, since he has to be heedful
about many things. And so his conduct is subject to a certain measure,
viz. the fulfillment of God's commandments, over and above which he can
offer something by way of satisfaction.
Reply to Objection 4: Though man cannot recover the time that is past, he can in
the time that follows make compensation for what he should have done in
the past, since the commandment did not exact from him the fulfillment of
his whole power, as stated above (ad 3).
Reply to Objection 5: Though original sin has less of the nature of sin than
actual sin has, yet it is a more grievous evil, because it is an
infection of human nature itself, so that, unlike actual sin, it could
not be expiated by the satisfaction of a mere man.
Article 2: Whether one man can fulfill satisfactory punishment for another?
Objection 1: It would seem that one man cannot fulfill satisfactory punishment
for another. Because merit is requisite for satisfaction. Now one man
cannot merit or demerit for another, since it is written (Ps. 61:12):
"Thou wilt render to every man according to his works." Therefore one man
cannot make satisfaction for another.
Objection 2: Further, satisfaction is condivided with contrition and
confession. But one man cannot be contrite or confess for another.
Neither therefore can one make satisfaction for another.
Objection 3: Further, by praying for another one merits also for oneself. If
therefore a man can make satisfaction for another, he satisfies for
himself by satisfying for another, so that if a man satisfy for another
he need not make satisfaction for his own sins.
Objection 4: Further, if one can satisfy for another, as soon as he takes the
debt of punishment on himself, this other is freed from his debt.
Therefore the latter will go straight to heaven, if he die after the
whole of his debt of punishment has been taken up by another; else, if he
be punished all the same, a double punishment will be paid for the same
sin, viz. by him who has begun to make satisfaction, and by him who is
punished in Purgatory.
On the contrary, It is written (Gal. 6:2): "Bear ye one another's
burdens." Therefore it seems that one can bear the burden of punishment
laid upon another.
Further, charity avails more before God than before man. Now before man,
one can pay another's debt for love of him. Much more, therefore, can
this be done before the judgment seat of God.
I answer that, Satisfactory punishment has a twofold purpose, viz. to
pay the debt, and to serve as a remedy for the avoidance of sin.
Accordingly, as a remedy against future sin, the satisfaction of one does
not profit another, for the flesh of one man is not tamed by another's
fast; nor does one man acquire the habit of well-doing, through the
actions of another, except accidentally, in so far as a man, by his good
actions, may merit an increase of grace for another, since grace is the
most efficacious remedy for the avoidance of sin. But this is by way of
merit rather than of satisfaction. on the other hand, as regards the
payment of the debt, one man can satisfy for another, provided he be in a
state of charity, so that his works may avail for satisfaction. Nor is it
necessary that he who satisfies for another should undergo a greater
punishment than the principal would have to undergo (as some maintain,
who argue that a man profits more by his own punishment than by
another's), because punishment derives its power of satisfaction chiefly
from charity whereby man bears it. And since greater charity is evidenced
by a man satisfying for another than for himself, less punishment is
required of him who satisfies for another, than of the principal:
wherefore we read in the Lives of the Fathers (v, 5) of one who for love
of his brother did penance for a sin which his brother had not
committed, and that on account of his charity his brother was released
from a sin which he had committed. Nor is it necessary that the one for
whom satisfaction is made should be unable to make satisfaction himself,
for even if he were able, he would be released from his debt when the
other satisfied in his stead. But this is necessary in so far as the
satisfactory punishment is medicinal: so that a man is not to be allowed
to do penance for another, unless there be evidence of some defect in the
penitent, either bodily, so that he is unable to bear it, or spiritual,
so that he is not ready to undergo it.
Reply to Objection 1: The essential reward is bestowed on a man according to his
disposition, because the fulness of the sight of God will be according to
the capacity of those who see Him. Wherefore just as one man is not
disposed thereto by another's act, so one man does not merit the
essential reward for another, unless his merit has infinite efficacy, as
the merit of Christ, whereby children come to eternal life through
Baptism. On the other hand, the temporal punishment due to sin after the
guilt has been forgiven is not measured according to the disposition of
the man to whom it is due, since sometimes the better man owes a greater
debt of punishment. Consequently one man can merit for another as regards
release from punishment, and one man's act becomes another's, by means of
charity whereby we are "all one in Christ" (Gal. 3:28).
Reply to Objection 2: Contrition is ordained against the guilt which affects a
man's disposition to goodness or malice, so that one man is not freed
from guilt by another's contrition. In like manner by confession a man
submits to the sacraments of the Church: nor can one man receive a
sacrament instead of another, since in a sacrament grace is given to the
recipient, not to another. Consequently there is no comparison between
satisfaction and contrition and confession.
Reply to Objection 3: In the payment of the debt we consider the measure of the
punishment, whereas in merit we regard the root which is charity:
wherefore he that, through charity, merits for another, at least
congruously, merits more for himself; yet he that satisfies for another
does not also satisfy for himself, because the measure of the punishment
does not suffice for the sins of both, although by satisfying for another
he merits something greater than the release from punishment, viz.
Reply to Objection 4: If this man bound himself to undergo a certain punishment,
he would not be released from the debt before paying it: wherefore he
himself will suffer the punishment, as long as the other makes
satisfaction for him: and if he do not this, then both are debtors in
respect of fulfilling this punishment, one for the sin committed, the
other for his omission, so that it does not follow that one sin is twice