QUESTION 14: OF THE QUALITY OF SATISFACTION
We must now consider the quality of satisfaction, under which head there
are five points of inquiry:
(1) Whether a man can satisfy for one sin without satisfying for another?
(2) Whether if a man fall into sin after being contrite for all his
sins, he can, now that he has lost charity, satisfy for his other sins
which were pardoned him through his contrition?
(3) Whether a man's previous satisfaction begins to avail when he
(4) Whether works done without charity merit any good?
(5) Whether such works avail for the mitigation of the pains of hell?
Article 1: Whether a man can satisfy for one sin without satisfying for another?
Objection 1: It would seem that a man can satisfy for one sin without
satisfying for another. Because when several things are not connected
together one can be taken away without another. Now sins are not
connected together, else whoever had one would have them all. Therefore
one sin can be expiated by satisfaction, without another.
Objection 2: Further, God is more merciful than man. But man accepts the
payment of one debt without the payment of another. Therefore God accepts
satisfaction for one sin without the other.
Objection 3: Further, as stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 15), "satisfaction
is to uproot the causes of sin, and give no opening to the suggestions
thereof." Now this can be done with regard to one sin and not another, as
when a mall curbs his lust and perseveres in covetousness. Therefore we
can make satisfaction for one sin without satisfying for another.
On the contrary, The fast of those who fasted "for debates and strifes"
(Is. 58:4,5) was not acceptable to God, though fasting be a work of
satisfaction. Now satisfaction cannot be made save by works that are
acceptable to God. Therefore he that has a sin on his conscience cannot
make satisfaction to God.
Further, satisfaction is a remedy for the healing of past sins, and for
preserving from future sins, as stated above (Question , Article ). But without
grace it is impossible to avoid sins. Therefore, since each sin excludes
grace, it is not possible to make satisfaction for one sin and not for
I answer that, Some have held that it is possible to make satisfaction
for one sin and not for another, as the Master states (Sent. iv, D, 15).
But this cannot be. For since the previous offense has to be removed by
satisfaction, the mode of satisfaction must needs be consistent with the
removal of the offense. Now removal of offense is renewal of friendship:
wherefore if there be anything to hinder the renewal of friendship there
can be no satisfaction. Since, therefore, every sin is a hindrance to
the friendship of charity, which is the friendship of man for God, it is
impossible for man to make satisfaction for one sin while holding to
another: even as neither would a man make satisfaction to another for a
blow, if while throwing himself at his feet he were to give him another.
Reply to Objection 1: As sins are not connected together in some single one, a
man can incur one without incurring another; whereas all sins are
remitted by reason of one same thing, so that the remissions of various
sins are connected together. Consequently satisfaction cannot be made for
one and not for another.
Reply to Objection 2: When a man is under obligation to another by reason of a
debt, the only inequality between them is that which is opposed to
justice, so that for restitution nothing further is required than that
the equality of justice should be reinstated, and this can be done in
respect of one debt without another. But when the obligation is based on
an offense, there is inequality not only of justice but also of
friendship, so that for the offense to be removed by satisfaction, not
only must the equality of justice be restored by the payment of a
punishment equal to the offense, but also the equality of friendship must
be reinstated, which is impossible so long as an obstacle to friendship
Reply to Objection 3: By its weight, one sin drags us down to another, as Gregory
says (Moral. xxv): so that when a man holds to one sin, he does not
sufficiently cut himself off from the causes of further sin.
Article 2: Whether, when deprived of charity, a man can make satisfaction for sins for which he was previously contrite?
Objection 1: It would seem that if a man fall into sin after being contrite
for all his sins, he can, now that he has lost charity, satisfy for his
other sins which were already pardoned him through his contrition. For
Daniel said to Nabuchodonosor (Dan. 4:24): "Redeem thou thy sins with
alms." Yet he was still a sinner, as is shown by his subsequent
punishment. Therefore a man can make satisfaction while in a state of sin.
Objection 2: Further, "Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred"
(Eccles. 9:1). If therefore one cannot make satisfaction unless one be in
a state of charity, it would be impossible to know whether one had made
satisfaction, which would be unseemly.
Objection 3: Further, a man's entire action takes its form from the intention
which he had at the beginning. But a penitent is in a state of charity
when he begins to repent. Therefore his whole subsequent satisfaction
will derive its efficacy from the charity which quickens his intention.
Objection 4: Further, satisfaction consists in a certain equalization of
guilt to punishment. But these things can be equalized even in one who is
devoid of charity. Therefore, etc.
On the contrary, "Charity covereth all sins" (Prov. 10:12). But
satisfaction has the power of blotting out sins. Therefore it is
powerless without charity.
Further, the chief work of satisfaction is almsdeeds. But alms given by
one who is devoid of charity avail nothing, as is clearly stated 1 Cor.
13:3, "If I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor . . . and
have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Therefore there can be no
satisfaction with mortal sin.
I answer that, Some have said that if, when all a man's sins have been
pardoned through contrition, and before he has made satisfaction for
them, he falls into sin, and then makes satisfaction, such satisfaction
will be valid, so that if he die in that sin, he will not be punished in
hell for the other sins.
But this cannot be, because satisfaction requires the reinstatement of
friendship and the restoration of the equality of justice, the contrary
of which destroys friendship, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. ix, 1,3).
Now in satisfaction made to God, the equality is based, not on
equivalence but rather on God's acceptation: so that, although the
offense be already removed by previous contrition, the works of
satisfaction must be acceptable to God, and for this they are dependent
on charity. Consequently works done without charity are not satisfactory.
Reply to Objection 1: Daniel's advice meant that he should give up sin and
repent, and so make satisfaction by giving alms.
Reply to Objection 2: Even as man knows not for certain whether he had charity
when making satisfaction, or whether he has it now, so too he knows not
for certain whether he made full satisfaction: wherefore it is written
(Ecclus. 5:5): "Be not without fear about sin forgiven." And yet man need
not, on account of that fear, repeat the satisfaction made, if he is not
conscious of a mortal sin. For although he may not have expiated his
punishment by that satisfaction, he does not incur the guilt of omission
through neglecting to make satisfaction; even as he who receives the
Eucharist without being conscious of a mortal sin of which he is guilty,
does not incur the guilt of receiving unworthily.
Reply to Objection 3: His intention was interrupted by his subsequent sin, so
that it gives no virtue to the works done after that sin.
Reply to Objection 4: Sufficient equalization is impossible both as to the Divine
acceptation and as to equivalence: so that the argument proves nothing.
Article 3: Whether previous satisfaction begins to avail after man is restored to charity?
Objection 1: It would seem that when a man has recovered charity his previous
satisfaction begins to avail, because a gloss on Lev. 25:25, "If thy
brother being impoverished," etc., says that "the fruit of a man's good
works should be counted from the time when he sinned." But they would not
be counted, unless they derived some efficacy from his subsequent
charity. Therefore they begin to avail after he recovers charity.
Objection 2: Further, as the efficacy of satisfaction is hindered by sin, so
the efficacy of Baptism is hindered by insincerity. Now Baptism begins to
avail when insincerity ceases. Therefore satisfaction begins to avail
when sin is taken away.
Objection 3: Further, if a man is given as a penance for the sins he has
committed, to fast for several days, and then, after falling again into
sin, he completes his penance, he is not told, when he goes to confession
a second time, to fast once again. But he would be told to do so, if he
did not fulfill his duty of satisfaction by them. Therefore his previous
works become valid unto satisfaction, through his subsequent repentance.
On the contrary, Works done without charity were not satisfactory,
through being dead works. But they are not quickened by penance.
Therefore they do not begin to be satisfactory.
Further, charity does not quicken a work, unless in some way that work
proceeds therefrom. But works cannot be acceptable to God, and therefore
cannot be satisfactory, unless they be quickened by charity. Since then
the works done without charity, in no way proceeded from charity, nor
ever can proceed therefrom, they can by no means count towards
I answer that, Some have said that works done while in a state of
charity, which are called living works, are meritorious in respect of
eternal life, and satisfactory in respect of paying off the debt of
punishment; and that by subsequent charity, works done without charity
are quickened so as to be satisfactory, but not so as to be meritorious
of eternal life. But this is impossible, because works done in charity
produce both these effects for the same reason, viz. because they are
pleasing to God: wherefore just as charity by its advent cannot make
works done without charity to be pleasing in one respect, so neither can
it make them pleasing in the other respect.
Reply to Objection 1: This means that the fruits are reckoned, not from the time
when he was first in sin, but from the time when he ceased to sin, when,
to wit, he was last in sin; unless he was contrite as soon as he had
sinned, and did many good actions before he confessed. Or we may say that
the greater the contrition the more it alleviates the punishment, and the
more good actions a man does while in sin, the more he disposes himself
to the grace of contrition, so that it is probable that he owes a smaller
debt of punishment. For this reason the priest should use discretion in
taking them into account, so as to give him a lighter penance, according
as he finds him better disposed.
Reply to Objection 2: Baptism imprints a character on the soul, whereas
satisfaction does not. Hence on the advent of charity, which removes both
insincerity and sin, it causes Baptism to have its effect, whereas it
does not do this for satisfaction. Moreover Baptism confers justification
in virtue of the deed [ex opere operato] which is not man's deed but
God's, wherefore it does not become a lifeless deed as satisfaction does,
which is a deed of man.
Reply to Objection 3: Sometimes satisfaction is such as to leave an effect in the
person who makes satisfaction, even after the act of satisfaction has
been done; thus fasting leaves the body weak, and almsdeeds result in a
diminution of a person's substance, and so on. In such cases there is no
need to repeat the works of satisfaction if they have been done while in
a state of sin, because through penance they are acceptable to God in the
result they leave behind. But when a work of satisfaction leaves behind
no effect in the person that does satisfaction, it needs to be repeated,
as in the case of prayer and so forth. Interior works, since they pass
away altogether, are nowise quickened, and must be repeated.
Article 4: Whether works done without charity merit any, at least temporal, good?
Objection 1: It would seem that works done without charity merit some, at
least a temporal, good. For as punishment is to the evil act, so is
reward to a good act. Now no evil deed is unpunished by God the just
judge. Therefore no good deed is unrewarded, and so every good deed
merits some good.
Objection 2: Further, reward is not given except for merit. Now some reward is
given for works done without charity, wherefore it is written (Mt. 6:2,5,16) of those who do good actions for the sake of human glory, that
"they have received their reward." Therefore those works merit some good.
Objection 3: Further, if there be two men both in sin, one of whom does many
deeds that are good in themselves and in their circumstances, while the
other does none, they are not equally near to the reception of good
things from Gods else the latter need not be advised to do any good
deeds. Now he that is nearer to God receives more of His good things.
Therefore the former, on account of his good works, merits some good from
On the contrary, Augustine says that "the sinner is not worthy of the
bread he eats." Therefore he cannot merit anything from God.
Further, he that is nothing, can merit nothing. But a sinner, through
not having charity, is nothing in respect of spiritual being, according
to 1 Cor. 13:2. Therefore he can merit nothing.
I answer that, Properly speaking a merit is an action on account of
which it is just that the agent should be given something. Now justice is
twofold: first, there is justice properly so called, which regards
something due on the part of the recipient. Secondly, there is
metaphorical justice, so to speak, which regards something due on the
part of the giver, for it may be right for the giver to give something to
which the receiver has no claim. In this sense the "fitness of the Divine
goodness" is justice; thus Anselm says (Proslog. x) that "God is just
when He spares the sinner, because this is befitting." And in this way
merit is also twofold. The first is an act in respect of which the agent
himself has a claim to receive something, and this is called merit of
"condignity." The second is an act the result of which is that there is a
duty of giving in the giver by reason of fittingness, wherefore it is
called merit of "congruity." Now since in all gratuitous givings, the
primary reason of the giving is love, it is impossible for anyone,
properly speaking, to lay claim to a gift, if he lack friendship.
Wherefore, as all things, whether temporal or eternal, are bestowed on us
by the bounty of God, no one can acquire a claim to any of them, save
through charity towards God: so that works done without charity are not
condignly meritorious of any good from God either eternal or temporal.
But since it is befitting the goodness of God, that wherever He finds a
disposition He should grant the perfection, a man is said to merit
congruously some good by means of good works done without charity.
Accordingly suchlike works avail for a threefold good, acquisition of
temporal goods, disposition to grace, habituation to good works. Since,
however, this is not merit properly so called, we should grant that such
works are not meritorious of any good, rather than that they are.
Reply to Objection 1: As the Philosopher states (Ethic. viii, 14), since no
matter what a son may do, he can never give back to his father the equal
of what he has received from him a father can never become his son's
debtor: and much less can man make God his debtor on account of
equivalence of work. Consequently no work of ours can merit a reward by
reason of its measure of goodness, but it can by reason of charity, which
makes friends hold their possessions in common. Therefore, no matter how
good a work may be, if it be done without charity, it does not give man a
claim to receive anything from God. On the other hand, an evil deed
deserves an equivalent punishment according to the measure of its malice,
because no evil has been done to us on the part of God, like the good
which He has done. Therefore, although an evil deed deserves condign
punishment, nevertheless a good deed without charity does not merit
Reply to Objection 2:and 3: These arguments consider merit of congruity; while
the other arguments consider merit of condignity.
Article 5: Whether the aforesaid works avail for the mitigation of the pains of hell?
Objection 1: It would seem that the aforesaid works do not avail for the
mitigation of the pains of hell. For the measure of punishment in hell
will answer to the measure of guilt. But works done without charity do
not diminish the measure of guilt. Neither, therefore, do they lessen the
pains of hell.
Objection 2: Further, the pain of hell, though infinite in duration, is
nevertheless finite in intensity. Now anything finite is done away with
by finite subtraction. If therefore works done without charity canceled
any of the punishment due for sins, those works might be so numerous,
that the pain of hell would be done away with altogether: which is false.
Objection 3: Further, the suffrages of the Church are more efficacious than
works done without charity. But, according to Augustine (Enchiridion cx),
"the suffrages of the Church do not profit the damned in hell." Much less
therefore are those pains mitigated by works done without charity.
On the contrary, Augustine also says (Enchiridion cx): "Whomsoever they
profit, either receive a full pardon, or at least find damnation itself
Further, it is a greater thing to do a good deed than to omit an evil
deed. But the omission of an evil deed always avoids a punishment, even
in one who lacks charity. Much more, therefore, do good deeds void
I answer that, Mitigation of the pains of hell can be understood in two
ways: first, as though one were delivered from the punishment which he
already deserved, and thus, since no one is delivered from punishment
unless he be absolved from guilt, (for an effect is not diminished or
taken away unless its cause be diminished or taken away), the pain of
hell cannot be mitigated by works done without charity, since they are
unable to remove or diminish guilt. Secondly, so that the demerit of
punishment is hindered; and thus the aforesaid works diminish the pain of
hell---first because he who does such works escapes being guilty of
omitting them---secondly, because such works dispose one somewhat to
good, so that a man sins from less contempt, and indeed is drawn away
from many sins thereby.
These works do, however merit a diminution or postponement of temporal
punishment, as in the case of Achab (3 Kgs. 21:27, seqq.), as also the
acquisition of temporal goods.
Some, however, say that they mitigate the pains of hell, not by
subtracting any of their substance, but by strengthening the subject, so
that he is more able to bear them. But this is impossible, because there
is no strengthening without a diminution of passibility. Now passibility
is according to the measure of guilt, wherefore if guilt is not removed,
neither can the subject be strengthened.
Some again say that the punishment is mitigated as to the remorse of
conscience, though not as to the pain of fire. But neither will this
stand, because as the pain of fire is equal to the guilt, so also is the
pain of the remorse of conscience: so that what applies to one applies to
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.