Liber Contra Impugnantes Dei Cultum et Religionem
John Procter, O.P.
AN APOLOGY FOR THE RELIGIOUS ORDERS
London: Sands & Co., 1902
English updated, some corrections, and chapters renumbered according to Latin, and html-edited by Joseph Kenny, O.P.
PART ONE: What is Meant by Religion? What Does its Perfection Consist In?
PART 2: CHAPTERS:
- Is it Lawful for A Religious to Teach?
- Can A Religious Lawfully Belong to A College of Secular Teachers?
- Is it Lawful for A Religious, Who Has Not the Care of Souls, to Preach and Hear Confessions?
- Are Religious Bound to Manual Labour?
- Is it Lawful For a Religious to Leave All That He Has, Reserving for Himself No Property, Either Private Or Common?
- Is it Lawful for Religious to Live on Alms?
PROLOGUE: How Religious Are Attacked by Their Enemies for Many Frivolous Reasons
- The Poverty of the Religious Habit is the First Point on Which They Are Assailed
- The Attacks Brought Against Religious on Account of Their Works of Charity
- How Religious Are Attacked on Account of the Journeys Which They Undertake for the Salvation of Souls
- Attacks Made on Religious Because They Study
- Attacks Brought Against Religious on Account of Their Systematic Method of Preaching
PART 4: CHAPTERS:
PROLOGUE: Accusations Levelled Against Religious, on the Grounds That They Recommend Themselves and the Orders to Which They Belong
- Accusations That Religious Procure Letters of Recommendation
- The Charges That Religious Resist Their Detractors
- Religious Are Condemned for Going to Law
- Religious Are Blamed for Causing Their Persecutors to Be Punished
- Religious Are Accused of Seeking to Find Favour with Men
- Objections Brought Against Religious, Because They Rejoice At the Good Works Which God Effects Through Their Instrumentality
- Religious Are Blamed for Frequenting the Courts of Sovereigns
PROLOGUE: The Enemies of Religious Seek, in Every Way, to Defame Them
- First of All by Exaggerating Any Evil That May Exist Among Them
- The Enemies of Religious Spread Abroad Against Them Reports of Which the Truth is Doubtful, for Instance, They Accuse Religious of Seeking Popularity and of Desiring to Gain Glory for Themselves, Instead of Labouring for the Glory of God
- The Enemies of Religious Propagate Distinct Falsehoods Concerning Them, Affirming, for Instance That Religious Are False Apostles, False Prophets, and False Christs
- The Enemies of Religious Impute to Them All the Evils From Which the Church Has Ever Suffered. They Also Accuse Them of Being Wolves and Robbers and of Creeping Into Houses
- The Enemies of Religious Attribute to Them the Evils Which Will Befall the Church in the Latter Days. They Try to Prove That the Times of Antichrist Are At Hand
- The Opponents of Religious Life Strive to Prove That Religious Are Antichrists
- The Enemies of Religious Endeavour to Cast Suspicion Upon Such of Their Works As Are Clearly Good: E.g., Prayer and Fasting
Lo, your enemies have made a noise: and those who hate you have lifted up the head. They have taken malicious counsel against your people, and have consulted against your Saints. They have said: “Come, and let us destroy them, so that they be not a nation; and let the name of Israel be remembered no more” (Ps. lxxxii.).
Almighty God, the Lover of mankind, makes use of us, as St. Augustine says (I De doctrina christiana), both for the sake of His own goodness, and for our advantage. He makes use of us for His own goodness, that man may glorify Him. “Every one who calls upon My name, I have created him for My glory” (Isa. xliii 3). He likewise makes use of us for our own advantage, in order that He may give salvation to all. “Who wishes all men to be saved” (1 Tim. ii. 4). At the birth of Our Lord, an angel proclaimed this harmony between God and man, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will” (Luke ii. 14).
But, although God, who is Almighty, could, of Himself alone, have caused man to glorify Him, and to obtain salvation, He has willed that a certain order should. be preserved in this work of salvation. Consequently He has appointed ministers, by whose labours the twofold end of man’s creation is to be accomplished. These ministers are rightly spoken of as God’s coadjutors” (1 Cor. iii. 9). But Satan strives, in his jealousy, to hinder both the Divine glory and the salvation of mankind. He, in like manner, endeavours to effect his purpose by means of his ministers, whom he incites to persecute the servants of God, The emissaries of Satan show clearly that they are the enemies both of God, whose glory they endeavour to frustrate, and, of man, against whose salvation they wage war. More especially do they show themselves hostile to the ministers of God, whom they persecute. “They, have persecuted us; and they do not please God; they are adversaries to all men (1 Thes, ii, 15). On this account, the Psalmist, in the verse which we have quoted, enumerates three points.
First he mentions the hatred borne by the ministers of Satan to God. “Lo, your, enemies have made a noise,” i.e. they who formerly spoke secretly against You, do not fear now to oppose You publicly. The Gloss tells us, that these words refer to the days of Antichrist, when, the enemies of the Lord, being no longer subdued by fear, will cry out, against Him aloud. And, as their clamour will be an unreasoning tumult, it is spoken of as a noise, rather than a voice. They will not, however, manifest their hatred of God by sound only, but also by deeds. “Those who hate you have lifted up, their head,” ie., Antichrist, as the Gloss says. And not only Antichrist, the head himself, but likewise his members, who we heads under his head, and being governed by him as their head, are able so much the more efficaciously to persecute the saints of God.
Secondly, the Psalmist points out how Antichrist and his ministers wage war against the whole human race. Hence he adds, “They having taken malicious counsel against your people”; or, according to another version: “They have devised crafty things, that they may deceive them.” This reading agrees with the words of Isaiah (iii. 12), “O my people, those who call you blessed, the same deceive you.” They deceive, as the Gloss adds, “with flattering words.”
Thirdly, David shows how the ministers of Satan persecute the servants of God. For, he continues, “They have consulted against your saints,” “not” (as the Gloss points out) “against men of moderate virtue, but even against heavenly men.” Hence St. Gregory (Lib. Moral. XIII), expounding the words of Job (xvi. 11) “they have opened their mouths against me; they have reproached me,” etc. says: “The reprobate, chiefly, persecute those men in the Holy Church whom, they judge likely to be of service to many.” The Saint further adds, “These enemies of God deem themselves to have performed a great deed, if they can destroy the life of the preachers of the Gospel.” They nourish two designs against the Saints. First, they wish to sweep them from the face of the earth. “Our enemies resolve to destroy us, and extinguish your inheritance” (Esth. xiii. 15). Secondly, the ministers of Satan desire, if they cannot succeed in slaying the preachers of the Gospel, at least to ruin their good name among men, so that their words way produce no fruit. Do not the rich oppress you by might? Do they not blaspheme the good name that is invoked upon you? (James ii. 6). Now the Psalmist alludes to the first of these wicked designs in these words: “Come” (for, thus, as the Gloss says, these reprobates summon their accomplices), “let us destroy them” (i.e., the Saints”), “so that they be not a nation.” These words the Gloss understands to mean, “Let us destroy them, that they be not among the nations: i.e., let us destroy them from the world. This is the persecution of Antichrist.” David makes allusion to this second design of Satan against the preachers of the Gospel, in the words, “Let the name of Israel be remembered no more,” meaning by this, as the Gloss explains, let their name be held in no esteem by such as consider themselves the true children of Israel.
In former days, tyrants sought to rid the world of the Saints by violence. St. Paul writes that he saw the literal accomplishment of the verse of the Psalm, “for your sake we are put to death all the day long: we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. viii. 36). But in our day, the enemies of God’s work aim at this indeed, but rather by cunning counsels, devised especially against religious, who, by word and example, may spread throughout the world the perfection which they profess. Their persecutors refuse to furnish them with certain necessities of life. They, further, withdraw from them spiritual solace. They impose on them again, bodily hardship, in the hopes, that their condition may thus be rendered burdensome and ignominious, and that they may, finally, cease to exist.
First, their enemies endeavour, as far as they can, to deprive religious of the means of study and of becoming learned, in order that they may be unable either to confute the adversaxies of the truth, or to draw spiritual consolation from the Scriptures. This was the cunning practised by the Philistines. “The Philistines had taken this precaution; lest the Hebrews should make them swords or spears” (1 Sam xiii. 19). The Gloss interprets this passage as signifying the prohibition to study. This mode of persecution was first practised against the Christians by Julian the Apostate, as we read in Ecclesiastical history.
Secondly, the enemies of religious seek to prevent their consorting with learned men, in order that, thus, their life may fall into disrepute. “And that no man might buy or sell, but he that has the character or the name of the beast” (Apoc. xiii. 17), by consenting, that is, to their malice.
Thirdly, these same malicious men seek to hinder religious from preaching, and from hearing Confessions, by which means they might effect much good to souls. “Prohibiting us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved” (1 Thes. ii. 16).
Fourthly, they seek to oblige religious to labour with their hands, that so they may become weary of, and be disgusted with, their state of life; and that they, may be impeded in the discharge of their spiritual functions. They were anticipated in this device by that King Pharaoh, who said, “See, the people of the children of Israel are numerous and stronger than we. Come let us wisely oppress them...” “Therefore,” it is added, “he set over them masters of the works “ (Exod . i. 9). According to the Gloss, “ Pharaoh means Zabulum who imposes a heavy yoke of earth, signifying the labour of tilling the soil.”
Fifthly, the enemies of religious malign them, and blaspheme against their perfection, i.e. the poverty of the Mendicant Orders. “Many shall follow their luxuries; through whom the way of truth shall be evilly spoken of” (2 Peter ii, 2). The Gloss understands by “the way of truth,” good works.
Sixthly, as far as they are able, they try to deprive religious of alms, and of all other means of subsistence. “And as if these things were not enough for him,” writes St. John, “neither does he himself receive the brethren; and those who receive them he forbids (3 Jn). The Gloss thus comments on, these words, “And, as if these things were not enough for him,” i.e., as if it did not suffice him to dissuade others from exercising hospitality, “neither does he himself receive the brethren,” ie. the indigent, “and those who receive them he forbids,” i.e., he forbids them to give assistance to those in want.
Seventhly, the ministers of Satan endeavour to tarnish the reputation of the Saints; and that, not only by word, but by letters, sent to all parts of the world. “From the prophets of Jerusalem, corruption is gone forth into all the land” (Jer. xxiii. 13). St. Jerome, expounding this text, says, “These words are our testimony against those who send forth into the world letters full of lies and deceit and perjury, wherewith to pollute the ears of those who hear them.” For it is not enough for the servants of the devil to nourish themselves with their own malice, or to injure those at hand, but they must strive to defame their enemies, and spread their blasphemies against them over the entire globe.
In our attempt to cheek the calumnies of these foul tongues, we shall proceed in the following order.
First, as their malice seems entirely directed against religious, we shall show what the religious life is, and wherein its perfection consists (ch. 1).
Secondly, we shall demonstrate the worthlessness and folly of the reasons which their enemies adduce against the religious (chs. 2-7).
Thirdly, we shall point out that the accusations brought against religious are calumnious (chs 8-28).
What is Meant by Religion? What Does its Perfection Consist In?
IN order to understand the meaning of religion, we must know the etymology of the word. St. Augustine, in his book De vera religione considers it to be derived from re-ligare (to re-bind). One thing is bound to another, when it is so joined to it, that it cannot separate from it, and unite itself to anything else. The word re-binding, however, implies that one thing, though united to another, has begun, in some degree, to disconnect itself from that other. Now every creature existed, originally, rather in God than in itself. By creation, however, it came forth from God, and, in a certain measure, it began, in its essence, to have an existence apart from Him. Hence every rational creature ought to be reunited to God, to whom it was united before it existed apart from Him, even as “unto the place whence the rivers come, they return to flow again” (Ecclesiast . i.). Therefore, St. Augustine says, (De vera religione), “ Religion reunites us to the one Almighty God.” We find the same idea expressed in the commentary of the Gloss, on the words, “for of Him, and by Him” (Rom. xi. 36).
The first bond whereby man is united to God, is that of Faith. For, “ he who comes to God must believe” (Heb. xi. 6). Latria, which is the worship of God as the Beginning of all things, is the duty of man in this life. Hence religion, primarily and chiefly, signifies latria, which renders worship to God by the expression of the true Faith. St. Augustine makes the same observation in his De civitate Dei (book 10), where he says, “Religion signifies not worship of any kind, but the worship of God.” Cicero in his ancient Rhetoric gives almost the same definition of religion. He says that “Religion is that which presents certain homage and ceremonies to a higher nature, which men call the Divine Nature.” Hence all that belongs to the true Faith, and the homage of latria which we owe to God, are the primary and chief elements of religion. But, religion is affected, in a secondary manner, by everything by which we manifest our service to God. For, as St. Augustine says in his Enchiridion, “God is worshipped not only by faith, but likewise by hope and charity. Hence all offices of charity may be called works of religion. In in this sense St. James says (i. 27), “Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and the widow in their tribulation,” etc.
Religion then bears a twofold meaning. its first signification is that re-binding, which the word implies, whereby a man unites himself to God, by faith and fitting worship. Every Christian, at his Baptism, when he renounces Satan and all his pomps, is made partaker of the true religion. The second meaning of religion is the obligation whereby a man binds himself to serve God in a peculiar manner, by specified works of charity, and by renunciation of the world. It is in this sense that we intend to use the word religion at, present. By charity, befitting homage is rendered to God. This homage may be paid to Him by the exercise of either te active or the contemplative life. Homage is paid to Him by the various duties of the active life, whereby works of charity are performed towards our neighbour. Therefore, some religious orders, such as the monastic and hermetical, are instituted for the worship of God by contemplation. Others have been established to serve God in His members, by action. Such are the Orders wherein the brethren devote themselves to assisting the sick, redeeming captives, and to similar works of mercy. There is no work of mercy for the performance of which a religious order may not be instituted; even though one be not as yet established for that specific purpose.
As by Baptism man is re-united to God by the religion of faith, and dies to sin; so, by the vows of the religious life, he dies, not only to sin, but also to the world, in order to live solely for God in that work in which he has dedicated himself to the Divine service. As the life of the soul is destroyed by sin; so likewise the service of Christ is hindered by worldly occupations. For, as St, Paul says (2 Tim. ii. 4), “No man being a soldier to God, entangles himself with secular businesses.” It is on this account, that, by the vows of religion, sacrifice is made of all those things in which the heart of man is wont to be especially absorbed, and which are, consequently, his chief obstacles in the service of God.
That which, first and chiefly, engrosses man is marriage. Hence St. Paul writes (1 Cor. vii. 23). “I would have you to be without solicitude. He who is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he who is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife; and he is divided.”
The second thing that fills man’s heart, is the possession of earthly riches. “The care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the word, and he becomes fruitless” (Mat xiii. 22). Hence the Gloss, commenting on the words of Luke (viii.), “But that which fell among thorns,” etc., says, “Riches, although men seem to take pleasure in them, become as thorns to their possessors. They pierce the hearts of such as covetously desire, and avariciously hoard them.”
The third thing on which man is inclined to centre his heart, is his own will. He who is his own master has the care of directing his life. Therefore, we are counselled to commit the disposal of ourselves to Divine Providence, “casting all your care upon Him, for He has care of you” (1 Peter v. 7). “Have confidence in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not upon, your own prudence” (Prov. iii. 5).
Hence perfect religion is consecrated to God by a three-fold vow: by the vow of chastity whereby marriage is renounced, by the vow of poverty, whereby riches are sacrificed, and by the vow of obedience, whereby self-will is immolated. By these three vows man offers to God the sacrifice of all that he possesses. By the vow of chastity, he offers his body, according, to the words of St. Paul, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. xii. 1). By the vow of poverty, he makes an offering to God of all his external possessions, as did St. Paul, who says, “that the oblation of my service may be acceptable in Jerusalem to the Saints” (Rom. xv. 31). By the vow of obedience, he offers to God that sacrifice of the spirit of which David says, “the sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit” etc. (Ps. l. 19).
But these three vows are, in the sight of God, not a sacrifice only, but also a holocaust. This, in the Old Law, was the most acceptable form of sacrifice. St. Gregory says (8 Homil. II. part. on Ezech.), “When a man vows to God one part only of his possessions, he offers a sacrifice. When, however, he offers all that he has, all that he loves, and his entire life to the Almighty, he presents to Him a holocaust.” Hence religion, understood in its secondary sense, in so far as it presents a sacrifice to God, imitates religion taken in its primary sense. There are some who renounce a part of the things which are sacrificed by the religious vows; but this partial renunciation is not perfect religion. The observances customary in religious orders are intended to be helps, either to the avoidance of what has been renounced by the vows, or to the accomplishment of the promises which religious make to God.
Hence we see that in a certain sense (secundum quid) one religious Order may be judged more perfect than another. The complete perfection of anything consists in its prosecution of the end to which it is ordained. The perfection of a religious Order depends, chiefly, upon two things. First, it depends upon the purpose for which the Order was instituted. That Order is the most perfect which is destined to the noblest work. Thus a comparison may be made between the active and contemplative Orders, according to the comparative utility and dignity of the active and contemplative life. Secondly, a religious Order is more or less perfect in proportion as it fulfils the end whereto it was instituted. It is not enough for an order to be established for a specific purpose, unless its customs and observances be adapted to the attainment of that purpose. It two Orders be founded for the sake of contemplation, that one in which contemplation is chiefly facilitated, must be considered the more perfect of the two. But because, in the words of St. Augustine, “ None can begin a new life, unless he repent of his old life,” any religious Order, in which a man begins to lead a new life, must be a state of penance, whereby he may be purged of his old life.
For this reason, a third comparison may be made between religious Orders. That one being reputed the most perfect, wherein the most austerities and penitential exercises, such as fasts and poverty, are practised. But the first points which we have mentioned are the most essential to religious life. A conclusion as to the perfection of an Order, must, therefore, be based upon the perfection with which these points are observed. For perfection of religious life depends more upon interior justice, than upon external abstinence.
We see then what is the nature of religion; or the religious life, and in what religious perfection consists. Our next task will be to repeat the arguments adduced by the adversaries of Religion, and then to refute them.
We shall proceed, therefore, in the following order. We shall enquire:
1. Whether it be lawful for a religious to teach.
2. Whether a religious may lawfully belong to a college of secular teachers.
3. Whether a religious, not charged with the care of souls, may lawfully preach and hear Confessions.
4. Whether a religious be bound to manual labour.
5. Whether a religious may lawfully renounce all that he possesses, retaining no property, either private or common.
6. Whether a religious, especially one belonging to a Mendicant Order, may, lawfully, live on alms.
Is it Lawful for A Religious to Teach?
CONSTANT efforts have been made to hinder religious from becoming learned, and thereby, to ensure their inability to teach. The words of our Lord, “But be not ‘you called, Rabbi” (Matt. xxiii. 8), have been quoted in defence of these measures. It has been maintained, that, as, these words are a counsel to be observed by the perfect, Religious, as professors of perfection, ought in deference to them, to abstain from, teaching. St. Jerome, likewise has been brought forward as an advocate against the propriety of teaching being undertaken by religious. This saint, in his epistle to Riparius and Desiderius against Vigilantius (and the words are quoted in Gratian, xvi. Quaest. I), writes thus: “The office of a monk is to mourn, not to teach.” Again, in VII. Quaest. I, cap. Hoc nequaquam, it is said, “The life of monks is one of subjection and discipline, not of teaching, nor ruling, nor of being pastors over others.” And as canons regular and other religious are classed as monks (as it is stated in Extra de postulando, ex parte, and Quod Dei timor), it follows that no religious way lawfully teach.
It is further argued, that teaching is contrary to the vow of a religious, whereby he renounces the world. “For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” by which we understand riches, pleasures, and honour. Now teaching is considered to be an honour; and this theory is thought to be supported by the Gloss upon the words of St, Matthew (iv. 5), “He set Him upon the pinnacle.” “In Palestine,” says the Gloss, “ the roofs were flat, and the Doctors sat thereon, and spoke to the people. The devil seduced many of them with vainglory. For they were puffed up by the honour of teaching.” On these words is based the conclusion that teaching is contrary to the vow of religious.
Again, it is urged, that, Religious are bound as stringently, to practise perfect humility, as they are obliged to observe perfect poverty. As their vow of poverty forbids them to possess anything of their own, so the humility, to which they are bound, does not permit them to enjoy any honour. Teaching is, as has been proved, an honour. It is not lawful, consequently, for religious to teach.
A passage from Dionysius (V. cap. Eccles. hierarch), is quoted as a proof that religious ought not to teach. This writer divides the hierarchy into three classes, those who perform sacred functions; those who share in these functions; and those who merely, receive the benefit of them. In the same chapter, he divides these functions likewise into three classes, viz., that of cleansing, which is the office of deacons; that of enlightening, which is, the office of priests; and that of making others perfect, which is the office of bishops. Those that receive the benefit of these sacred functions are also, again, divided into three classes, Of these, the first consists of the unclean, who are purified by the deacons; the second is composed of the holy people of God who are enlightened by priests; and, the third class is formed by monks, who are of a higher rank than the other classes), and these are perfected by bishops. Hence the function of monks is to receive holiness, not to impart it to others. And as they who teach must instruct their pupils in sacred science, teaching is not the lawful work of monks.
Again, the scholastic office is more remote from the monastic life than is the ecclesiastical. But we find (XVI, quaest. I), that “no one can exercise the priestly functions, and persevere in the due observance of monastic rules.” Much less then can a monk devote himself to the scholastic office, by teaching or listening.
It is likewise supposed to be contrary to the doctrine of the Apostles for religious to teach. For St. Paul says (2 Cor. x. 13), “We will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which, God has measured to us.” On these words, the Gloss thus comments: “We use power in-so-far as it has been given to us by the Author of our being: but we do not go beyond the limit, or measure, of our power.” The argument, drawn from these words, is that any religious, overstepping the measure of power assigned by the author of his rule, contravenes ths Apostolic doctrine. An no religious order originally included teachers, no monk ought to be promoted to the scholastic office.
Some enemies of religion, however, failing in their attempt to completely prevent religious from teaching, try to prove, that no religious community ought to have many teachers. In support of this theory they quote the words of St. James (iii. 1), “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren.” These words the Gloss explains to mean, “Do not desire to have many teachers in the Church.” Now one community of religious is one Church. Hence there ought not to be many masters in a religious community. St. Jerome writes thus to Rusticus—and the words are quoted in VII. quaest. 1.—“Bees have one queen. Cranes follow one leader. There is one captain to a vessel. And one lord in a house.” Hence in one community of religious, it is argued, there ought to be only one master.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that there are many religious communities. If each college has more than one teacher, there will be so many religions teachers, that secular masters will, from dearth of pupils, be altogether shut out from the profession. There ought, also, to be a definite number of teachers for every branch of learning; but this great multiplicity of religious professors will cause sacred science to be held in low esteem.
These advocates of half measures, commit, in reality, as great an error, as those who desire to see religious totally excluded from the office of teaching. For, all who go astray and cannot keep on the beaten track of truth, fall, in their efforts to avoid one mistake, into the opposite error. Thus, Sabellius, as St. Augustine remarks, striving to keep clear of the Arian heresy of the division of the Divine Essence, fell into the error of confusing the Divine Persons. Boethius also observes that Eutyches, although avoiding the Nestorian heresy of dividing the Person of Christ, fell into the error of teaching that in Him there is unity of nature. The same observation applies to Pelagius, to Manichaeus and to other heretics. On this account St. Paul speaks (2 Tim iii. 8) of “men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith.” On which text the Gloss enlarges, by saying, that such men “do not stay in the faith, but walk round about it, never remaining on the mean line.”
The, passages quoted from the Decretals and the writings of the Fathers against the right of religious to teach owe their origin to the following fact. There existed, formerly, among certain presumptuous monks a mistaken idea, that, because they were monks, they, had a right to usurp the office of teachers. This assumption of authority, on their part, gave rise to considerable disturbance to the Church. We find this fact stated in XVI quaest. I, “Certain monks, bearing no commission from their own bishop, come to Constantinople, and cause confusion to arise in the church of that city.” This statement is fully corroborated in ecclesiastical history. The Fathers used every effort, both by arguments and decrees, to suppress these presumptuous monks.
But certain men of our own day, being “unlearned and unstable, wrest” these decrees, “as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter iii. 16). They, thus, fall into an opposite error to that which the Fathers strove to rectify. For, it is now asserted by the enemies of religion, that no religions has any right to exercise, or to undertake, the function of teaching; and that such an office. ought not to be open to religious orders. We will produce proofs that such a conclusion is utterly unfounded. We will then proceed to confute the arguments adduced in its support.
First, we quote the authority of St. Jerome, who writes thus to Rusticus (the words are cited in XVI, quaest. I), “Lead such a life in your monastery, that you may deserve to become a cleric. Learn, for a long time, that which, hereafter, you may teach,” Again he continues in the following, chapter, “If the desire for the priesthood attract you, learn what you can teach.” From these words it is plain that monks may accept the office of teaching. The same fact is proved by the example of the Saints, who taught while living in religious orders. We read in the History of the Church, that St. Gregory of Nazianzen, a monk, was sent to Constantinople, in order to teach Holy Scripture. St. Damasus, likewise a monk; instructed his scholars, not only in Scripture, but in liberal arts, We have proof of this in the book De miraculis beatae Virginis. St. Jerome, also, although a monk, promises, in his prologue to the Bible, to instruct Paulinus, (also a monk), in Holy Scripture, and he exhorts him to its study. St. Augustine, knew, we are told, after he had founded the monastery in which he lived by the rule drawn up by the Apostles, wrote books and instructed the unlearned. In fact, some of the greatest Doctors of the Church—such as Sts. Gregory, Basil, Chrysostom, and many others—were religious.
Our Lord Himself has set the same example. For, as we read (Acts i. 1), “Jesus began to do and to teach.” The Gloss thus comments on these words, “Christ, by beginning to do and to teach, shows that a good teacher must do what he teaches.” The Gospels contain not only doctrine, but likewise counsels. Therefore, he who not only instructs others in the Evangelical precepts, but likewise himself observes the counsels (as do religious) are the most fit exponents of the Scriptures.
Again, when a man dies, he passes away from the works belonging to the life which he quits. When he begins a new life, those works best beseem him which belong to the life on which he enters. Dionysius (2 cap. Eccles. Hierarch.)shows that before Baptism, whereby man receives Divine life, he is incapable of any Divine operation; for life must precede work. In like manner a religious, by his vows, dies to, the world in order to live to God. Hence he is excluded from any share in secular business, such as commerce; but he is not forbidden to perform those Divine functions which require for their exercise life in God. Among such offices, is that of giving praise to God, which is only rightly done by those who have knowledge of sacred things. “The dead shall not praise you, O Lord... But we who live” (Ps. cxiii. 17).
Another office from which religious are not excluded by their vows is that of teaching. On the contrary, being rendered by contemplation capable of understanding Divine things, they are certainly the most fit to impart them to others. Hence St. Gregory says (6, Moral.), “Those who contemplate with undistracted mind, drink in that knowledge, which they afterwards, when they are busied in speech, communicate to others.” Now religious are chiefly set apart for contemplation. Thus then we see, that religious become, by their vocation, more, rather than less, fit for teaching.
It is ridiculous to assert, that a man is rendered incapable of teaching, because he has adopted a life which gives him more quiet and greater facility for study and learning. It would be as reasonable to say that a person is debarred from running, because he avoids the obstacles on his course. Now religious, as we have already seen, renounce by their vows all those things that chiefly disquiet the human heart. They, therefore, are the men beat adapted for study and for teaching. “Write wisdom (i.e., Divine wisdom, according to the Gloss) upon the tables of your heart” (Prov. vii. 3). “The wisdom of a scribe, comes by his time of leisure and he who is less in action, shall receive wisdom (Eccli. xxxviii. 25).
St. Jerome teaches, that the poor of Christ have a special claim to the knowledge of the Scripture. They know,” he says, (in prol. Hebraicarum quaestionum, super Gen.), “that we are poor and lowly, and do not own property nor accept alms. They know likewise that none can possess the treasure of Christ, i.e., the knowledge of the Scriptures, together with the riches of the world.” But it behoves those to teach, who have knowledge of the Scripture. Hence religious, who profess poverty, are peculiarly fitted to teach.
We have already pointed out that religious Orders may be founded for the prosecution of any work of charity. Now teaching is numbered amongst the spiritual works of mercy. Therefore a religious Order may be instituted for the purpose of teaching.
Certain religious Orders exist in the Church for the purpose of defending her against her enemies by force of arms, although there is no dearth of secular princes who are her official champions. Surely, warfare with sword and shield, must appear less consonant with a religious life, than is that spiritual combat waged against heresy by sacred writings, and suchlike intellectual weapons against heresy. It is of this spiritual armour that St. Paul says, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but powerful through God,” etc. (2 Cor. x. 4). Why then may not Orders be lawfully founded for the purpose of teaching, and thus of defending the Church against her enemies, although she has other defenders who are not religious?
We must remember, once more, that he who is fit for a greater thing in which a lesser is included ought to be accounted fit for the lesser, included in the greater one. Now a religious, even if he does not belong to an order founded for teaching, may, as we know (De monachis, cap. XVI. quaest. I), be promoted to the office of a prelate. As, therefore, the office of prelate is greater than that of a doctor (which is exercised by the masters who hold professorships in the schools), and, as a prelate is bound to be versed in sacred learning, it ought not to appear unseemly for a monk, by permission of lawful authority, to undertake the function of teaching.
“Lesser goods may be sacrificed for greater ones,” the Gloss remarks on the words, “Go, and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke ix. 60); but the common welfare must always be preferred to any private advantage. Now while a monk is observing his rule in his cloister, he is working only for his personal advantage, i.e., for his own salvation. When, however, he is instructing many, his efforts redound to the profit of the whole Church. Hence it is not unseemly for a religious to live outside his monastery, in order, by permission of lawful authority, to exercise the office of teaching.
Neither is it a valid objection to urge, that monks ought not to act thus at present, while there is no dearth of secular teachers. For, the common welfare ought not to be sought by any means that may offer, but by the surest means possible. Now a plurality of teachers is greatly to the public advantage; for one will be well versed in subjects of which another is ignorant. Hence we read in Wisdom vi., 26, “The multitude of the wise is the welfare of the whole world.” “O that all the people might prophesy,” Moses cried out in his zeal for knowledge (Numb. xi. 29). The Gloss remarks upon his words, that, “a faithful preacher would have all men utter the truth, which he himself does not suffice to declare.” And, in another place, the Gloss continues, in the same strain, “He” (i.e., Moses) “wished all men to prophesy; for he was not jealous of the gift bestowed upon him.”
It matters little whether teaching be conveyed by the word of a master who is present, or by the writing of one who is absent. To quote St. Paul (2 Cor. x. 11), “Such as we are in word by epistles when absent; such we will be in deed when present.” Now no one has seen the libraries of books, composed by monks, for the instruction of the Church, doubts that they can teach by writing, when absent. Therefore, it is lawful for them to teach by word, when present.
We will now proceed to the easy task of confuting the objections brought against the right of religious to teach.
The first argument, namely, that Our Lord gave a counsel to His disciples not to be masters, is, for several reasons, misleading. First, because the works of supererogation, concerning which the counsels are given, are rewarded by a peculiar recompense. “Whatever you spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay you” (Luke x. 33). These words are applied by the Gloss to works of supererogation. Hence it cannot be a counsel to abstain from works that are to be specially rewarded. Now teachers, like virgins, are promised a peculiar recompense. For we read in Daniel xii. 3, “Those who instruct” (ie., by word and example, as the Gloss explains) “many to justice, (shall shine) as stars for all eternity.” Hence there is no better ground for saying that it is a counsel to refrain from the function of teaching, than there is for maintaining that it is a matter of counsel to abstain from virginity, or from martyrdom.
Again, there cannot be a counsel which is contradictory either by another counsel, or by a precept. But teaching is a matter both of precept and of counsel. For our Lord said: “ Go, therefore, teach all nations” (Matt. viii. 19). St. Paul also writes: “You, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. vi. 1). Hence there can be no counsel forbidding us to teach.
Again, our Lord willed that His Apostles, should themselves put, His counsels in practice, in order that by their example, others should be led to their observance. Hence St. Paul, giving the counsel of virginity, says, (1 Cor. vii. 7), “I wish all were as I myself am.” But the Apostles certainly did not observe the so-called counsel not to teach. For they themselves were sent forth to teach over the whole world. Thus, there can be no counsel against teaching.
It is unreasonable to say that it is a counsel to abstain from those things that embrace the dignity of teaching. Solemnities pertaining to an office are not a cause of personal elation. Otherwise all men would be bound to shun them; since it is the duty of all to avoid pride. External insignia merely demonstrate the exalted character of an office. Hence as it is not imperfect for a priest to sit above a deacon, or to wear costly vestments, it can certainly be no imperfection to make use of the insignia pertaining to the scholastic office. Our Lord said of the Pharisees, “They love the first places at feasts” (Matt. iii. 6); but “He did not” (as the Gloss remarks) “forbid masters to occupy the first seats; he merely reproved the desire to have or not to have them.” It is truly absurd to say that, though it be not a counsel to refrain from teaching, it is a counsel to refuse the name of master. There cannot be a counsel or a precept regarding what is not in ourselves but in another. To teach or not to teach is our own concern, and we have shown that it is not a matter of counsel. But the fact that we are called master or doctor, is no affair of ours. It regards those who give us these names. Therefore, to refrain from being called master, cannot be a counsel.
Further, as names are used to mean certain things, it is foolish to say that a name is forbidden, while the thing signified by it is allowed. Likewise, the observance of the Counsels was primarily the duty of the Apostles. It is only through their instrumentality that they are observed by any other persons. Now the name of Master cannot be forbidden by any counsel, since the Apostles called themselves both masters and teachers. “I am appointed a preacher and an apostle—I say the truth and do not lie—a doctor of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. ii. 7). “In which I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim. i. 11).
It remains to be considered that our Lord’s words: “Do not be called Rabbi” are not a counsel but a precept, by which all men are bound. He did not wish to forbid the office of teaching, but the sin of ambition. Neither, when He added, “ nor masters,” did He forbid us to teach, nor yet to bear the name of master. What His words signify, according to the Gloss, is: “Do not desire to be called masters.” He forbids the desire of place. He does not forbid all such desire, but only such as is inordinate, and therefore unlawful. This has been proved both by a foregoing quotation from the Gloss, and also by Christ’s words about the Pharisees, “They love the first places,” etc. Nevertheless, these words, may (says the Gloss) bear another interpretation. If our Lord forbids us to be called by the name of master and teacher, He equally prohibits our bearing the name of Father; for we have one Father who is in Heaven and one Master Christ. “For God” (as the Gloss says) “is by nature both our Father and our Master.” A man may be called father to signify his tenderness; and master to denote the authority which he exercises. That which our Lord forbids is that to any man should be attributed either right over physical or spiritual life, or plenitude of wisdom. Hence the commentary of the Gloss on this prohibition of Christ is as follows: “Do not be called masters, as assuming to yourselves what is due to God. Do not you call others Rabbi, as paying to man Divine homage.” And in another place we find the following commentary on the same passage: “A man may be called father, as a mark of respect to his age, but not to denote that he is the author of life.” In the same way, a man may be addressed as master, meaning that he is united to the true master, and that we reverence Him whose commission he holds. But, if our Lord had absolutely forbidden, either by counsel or precept, the name of master to be given to men, the Fathers of the Church would certainly not have allowed monastic superiors to be called Abbots, a word equivalent to father. If the name father were forbidden, how could the Vicar of Christ, who ought to set an example of perfection, be called Pope or father? Again, both St. Augustine and St. Jerome frequently addressed bishops as popes or fathers. Hence it is the height of folly to pretend that the words, “Do not be called Rabbi,” are to be understood as a counsel.
But, even granted that these words were intended by our Lord as a counsel, it does not follow that all such as are perfect would be bound to observe it. For, those who make profession of the state of perfection are not under an obligation to obey all the counsels, but only such as they, by their vows, are bound to observe. Were it otherwise, the Apostles, who were in the state of perfection, would have been bound to perform the work of supererogation which St. Paul practised in taking no stipend from the churches in which he preached; and they would have sinned had they acted otherwise (1 Cor ix.). Were all religious equally bound to observe every counsel, and to perform every work of supererogation, great confusion would ensue, and the distinctions which now differentiate the various Orders would be abolished. Those who are in a state of perfection are not bound to observe all the Counsels, but only those to which their vows oblige them.
The argument; that the office of a religious is not to teach, but to mourn, carries no weight. St. Jerome meant, by the words quoted, that the chief duty of a monk, as a monk, is to do penance, not to teach. He thereby shows that a monk is not, by virtue of his profession, bound to teach; and he rebukes the presumption of those religious who claimed the function of teaching as their special prerogative. He writes in the same sense in his epistle to Vigilantius. But it does not, by any means, follow that, although a monk has not the office of teaching, it may not at some future time be imposed upon him. It is not the duty of a subdeacon to read the Gospel, but that does not prove that this office will never fall to his share, as Gratian points out (XVI quaest. I, Superiori). St. Jerome wished to emphasise the distinction between the person of a monk and that of a cleric, and to show, that certain duties were peculiar to the office of each. One function belongs to a monk, as a monk; another to an ecclesiastic as an ecclesiastic. The duty peculiar to a monk, by reason of his state of life, is to mourn for his own sins and those of others. The task especially allotted to an ecclesiastic is that of preaching to and instructing the people. This distinction appears still more clearly in another chapter of Gratian, in which be treats of the teaching conveyed by preaching, which is the, special duty of prelates, not of scholastic teaching in which they are not specially well practised. Hence in raising this objection against the right of religious to teach, our adversaries are begging the question.
But, even supposing that it be not lawful for a monk to teach, that does not prove that it is not right for Canons regular to teach; since these are counted as ecclesiastics. St. Augustine, in his sermon De communi vita clericorm (quoted XII quaest. I, Nemo), says, speaking of Canons regular: “He who possesses, or desires to possess private property and to live on his own means, virtually renounces his life with me, and is not a cleric.” This passage shows that those who lived under the rule of this Saint, in the practice of poverty, were recognised as clerics. Although St. Augustine withdrew the assertion that no one was a cleric who retained private property, he never contradicted his words, that those who lived under him without possessing anything of their own, were clerics (see cap. Certe ego sum, quaest. eadem).
When canons regular and monks are said to be equally counted as religious, it is to be understood, that they are equal in observance of the points common to all religious Orders, i.e., the renunciation of private property, abstention from commerce or from legal business, and the like. Unless this be made clear, it might be thought, that canons regular were bound to certain observances, e.g. the disuse of wearing linen apparel, to which monks are bound. Even if it be not lawful for monks to teach, this function is certainly permissible to religious belonging to Orders instituted for the purpose; just as it is lawful for the Knights Templar to bear arms, although the use of armour is forbidden to monks.
The objection, that the exercise of the teaching office is contrary to the religious vows, is, on several accounts, ill-founded. Religious do not renounce the world in the sense that they can make no use of secular things. They renounce a worldly life, i.e. they are not allowed, by their vows, to be employed in secular affairs. Even among men, living in the world, there are some who are not of the world, ie. who are disengaged from temporal interests. But religious do not act contrary to their vows, by making use of the riches or even, at times, of the pleasures of the world. Otherwise occasional feasting would for them be a mortal sin. Which is, of course, out of the question. If it be not against the religious vows to make use of secular riches or pleasure, why should it be contrary to these vows, to make use of worldly honour?
Not only religious, but all men are, in one sense, bound to renounce the world, as we learn from the words of St. John already quoted (1 Jn. ii. 15), “If any man love the world the charity of the Father is not in him, for all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The Gloss says that “lovers of the world have nothing except these three things, viz. the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, from which sources spring every vice.” Hence we see, that it is not riches or pleasure simply, which are said to belong to the world, but the inordinate desire for them; and that not honour, but ambition, is forbidden, not to religious alone, but to all mankind. “The pride of life,” says the Gloss, “signifies worldly ambition.” But, even if honour be simply understood as belonging to the world, this would not be true of every kind of honour, but only of such as consists of worldly things. The honour of the priesthood cannot be said to belong to the world. Neither can the honour given to a teacher, when the teaching which is honoured concerns spiritual things. Thus, if religious do not, by their vows, renounce the priesthood, they need not renounce the office of teaching. Again, it is untrue to say that the act of teaching is an honour. It is the teacher’s office which is honourable. And, even if religious renounce all honours, they cannot renounce all honourable functions; otherwise they would renounce all those works of mercy which are most deserving of honour. “Honour,” to quote Aristotle, “is the reward of virtue” (I Ethic.). That the devil deceives some do men and fills them with pride on account of their office as teachers, is no more reason for refusing the work of teaching than it is for declining to do any virtuous actions. For, as St. Augustine says, “Pride insinuates itself into good works, to make them worthless.”
The assertion, that, religious profess perfect humility is absolutely untrue. They make no vow of humility. Their vow is of obedience. Neither humility, nor any other virtue, is a matter of vow. Acts of virtue, being a matter of precept, are a necessity. Vows are only concerned with that which is voluntary. Again, no one can make a vow of perfect humility, or of perfect charity. For perfection is a gift of God; it does not depend upon our will.
Granted, however, that religious were bound to perfect humility, that would not hinder their receiving certain honours. The possession of property is certainly contrary to perfect poverty, but the acceptance of honours is not contrary to humility. For pride consists not in possessing honours, but in being unduly elated by them. Hence St. Bernard says (in Libro de consideratione), “Even in the time of the Sovereign Pontiff there is no jewel brighter than humility! He who is in a more exalted position than others, becomes, by humility, superior to himself.” And in the book of Sirach iii. 20 we read: “The greater you are, the more you should humble yourself in all things.” Who would dare to say that St. Gregory became less humble by being promoted to the highest ecclesiastical honour? Moreover, as we have said, the function of teaching is not an honour. Therefore, objections brought against it, on that ground, are, worthless.
Another argument brought against the right of religious to teach is that Dionysius distinguishes monks as apart from deacons, priests, and bishops. We know from ecclesiastical history that the monks of the primitive Church, until the time of Eusebius, Zozimus, and Siricius, were not clerics (XVI, quaest I, Superiori). Therefore, as it is of these monks that Dionysius speaks, we cannot, from his words, come to any conclusion about the monks who were bishops, prieds, or deacons. Any difficulty on the point, arises from misunderstanding of the words of Dionysius. This author calls the Sacraments of the Church sacred actions. Baptism he terms cleansing and illumination. Confirmation and the Blessed Eucharist he names perfecting (IV cap. Eccl. hierarch.). Now it is not lawful for any, save bishops, priests or deacons, to perform these sacred functions. Teaching in the schools, however, is not one of the holy rites, or sacred actions, whereof he speaks; otherwise it could be undertaken by none save by a priest, or a deacon. Again, ordained monks can consecrate the Body of our Lord, a power pertaining to none but priests. Why then should they not exercise the function of teaching, for which no Orders are required?
It is further urged, that, as no monk can be employed in ecclesiastical duties, and yet keep his monastic rule aright, much less can he combine the work of teaching with regular observance. Our answer is that, as we have already shown, this objection does not hold good with regard to the essentials of religious life. For these can be practised by those who hold ecclesiastical office. As for such religious observances as silence, vigils, and the like, it is shown in another chapter, that, “he who is obliged to serve daily in the ministry of the Church, practises the strictness of his monastic life.” But it is not unseemly if anyone neglect regular observance for the sake of performing an action such as teaching, which is for the common good. Thus religious who are called to the office of prelates, sometimes while they are still in their monastery, accept a dispensation for such reason. There are also religious living in their cloister in strict observance, who exercise the function of teaching, because it is enjoined by their rule.
The seventh objection to the right of a religious to teach is, that by so doing, be oversteps his measure, or, as the Gloss says, goes further than is permitted to him. Now when we say that a thing is permitted, we mean that it is not forbidden by any law. Hence if a religious do something not prohibited by his rule, even though the thing be not mentioned in the Rule, he does not overstep his measure. Otherwise, religious who live under a mitigated rule, would have no right to undertake the customs and usages of a more perfect life. Such a prohibition would be opposed to the sentiments of St. Paul (Philipp. iii.), who says that, forgetting the things that were behind, he stretched forth himself to those that were before. We must further remember that some religious are, by the rule of their Order, destined for teaching. To them, of course, the foregoing objection cannot apply.
The suggestion, that in one community of religious there ought not to be two teachers is manifestly unfair. Religious, as we have shown, are not less humble than are seculars; and their position in the office of teaching ought not to be worse than that of seculars. But, if the suggestion, to which we have alluded, were carried out in practice, religious would have far less chance of success in the profession of teaching, than would be the case with seculars. For a whole multitude of religious would have no more opportunity of promotion to a professorship than any individual layman would have who studied alone. Hence the progress of religious would be seriously impeded. We may compare their position to that of wrestlers, whose spirit in their match would be damped, if the prize for which they strove were withdrawn. For, as Aristotle says (III Ethics), “The bravest in the fight are those who despise cowardice, and honour courage.” In like manner, it is a hindrance to a student if the chance of a professorship, the prize for which he is working, be denied him. It would be regarded as a penalty for some offence if a man who, by his learning, had gained a right to some scholastic post, were not allowed to occupy it; and in the same way, a religious would be punished for being a religious, were obstacles placed in the way of his gaining a professorship. Nothing could be more unjust, than thus to punish a man for leading a meritorious life.
The authority of St. James, “be ye not many masters my brethren,” brought forward in support of this suggestion, applies as much to laymen as to religious. For, in the New Testament, all Christians are called brethren; and the Church is called a society of Christians. Neither is a multitude of religious teachers more stringently forbidden by the authority cited than is a multiplicity of secular teachers. For, as St. Augustine says, “by many teachers is meant teachers teaching contrary doctrines. Many who teach alike are but as one teacher.” Hence St. James’ prohibition is directed against divergence of doctrine, not against plurality of masters. His words may also be understood in their literal sense, as meaning that discrimination must be exercised in the choice of teachers; that only such men must be chosen for this office as are discreet and well versed in the Scriptures. But, as the Gloss remarks, there are not many such to be found. In another passage, the Gloss says that “they who are not learned in the word of faith should not be allowed to teach; lest true preachers be hindered in their work.” Or, again, the words of St. James which have been quoted may apply to masters in the sense of prelates of the Church. For it is forbidden for one bishop to govern several churches; or for several bishops to rule over one church. Hence the Gloss says, “Do not desire to be masters, i.e. prelates (who alone are ecclesiastical masters) in many churches; or to have many masters in one church.” For, he who teaches in a community is not a master of a church, although the community to which he belongs may be called a church.
We can answer the second argument of our adversaries by saying that, although there be several masters in one community, they do not rule, as a captain guides a ship, or a queen-bee reigns in a hive. Each master presides over his own school. Hence the words of St. Jerome (“among bees there is one queen”) cannot be understood in the sense in which our opponents use them. They only mean, that there should not be many masters in the same school.
To the third argument brought against a multiplicity of religious teachers, we reply, that the fact that there may be several religious houses, each containing many masters, does not debar laymen from the profession of teaching. There are not always in a community of religious enough men capable of teaching. Again, the fact that in any diocese there may be a sufficiency of teachers does not exclude seculars from this function. Religious and laymen ought to be judged on the same lines; and the most capable masters, be they secular or religious, ought to be selected without distinction of person. We need not fear that the Holy Scriptures will fall into contempt on account of a multiplicity of teachers to expound them. There is more danger of this being the case when the professors of Scripture are few in number. Hence there is no reason why the number of teachers should be limited; or why, through fear of their being too many, men capable of teahing should be excluded from that office.
Can A Religious Lawfully Belong to A College of Secular Teachers?
THOSE who are hostile to religious make a malicious effort to prove that they ought not, in anything pertaining to study, to have dealings with seculars. Their object in thus acting, is to place obstacles in the path of such religious as are employed in teaching, if they cannot entirely hinder them in the exercise of that function. They adduce several authorities in support of their principles.
First they quote the following words of xvii, cap. vii, In nova actione: “Those engaged in the same work, ought not to differ in profession. This was forbidden by the law of Moses, “You shall not plough with an ox and an ass together” (Deut. xxii), which means “You shall not associate in one office men of different professions.” The reason given is, “they whose aims and, desires are dissimilar, cannot unite nor coalesce.” Since then laymen and religious differ in profession, they ought not to be joined in the teaching office. Again, St. Augustine says, that every man ought to adhere to such a manner of life as befits him. Now it does not appear seemly, that the same man should, belong at one and the same time to a secular and to a religious establishment. For, the members of one institute cannot imitate the usages of the other. Hence a religious, belonging to his own community, should not be a member of a secular college.
Again, a legal statute has ruled that, without a dispensation, the same man shall not belong to two lay associations. Much less then ought a religious, belonging to his own community, to be a member of a secular establishment. Again, all who belong to any society are bound to obey its rules. Now religious cannot conform to regulations drawn up for lay professors and scholars; nor can they promise to abide by those ordinances which laymen bind themselves to observe; nor to take the oaths which seculars take, for religious are not their own masters, but live under authority. Hence they cannot belong to secular societies.
But, the malicious enemies of religious, in their desire to exclude them from any intercourse with seculars, strive, in default of legitimate arguments, to accomplish their purpose by calumny. They maintain that religious are a source of offence and scandal to the world; and they exhort their fellows to avoid all communion with them. They quote the words of St. Paul (Rom. xvi. 17), “Now I beseech you, brethren, to, mark them who cause dissensions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and to avoid them.” Religious are accused of living in, idleness. Therefore, according to the words of St. Paul (2 Thes. iii. 6) they ought to be shunned by good men. For, the Apostle says: “We charge you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.” St. Paul goes on to speak of the manual labour practised by the Apostles. He then continues, “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us.” He concludes his exhortation by the following command: “If any man obey not our word,” (i.e. our injunction to manual labour), “by this epistle, note that man; and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.”
Religious are further denounced by their enemies as being the source of all the evils which are to flood the world in the latter days. Hence they must be shunned by all men. For, St. Paul, writing to Timothy, (2 Tim. iii), gives a most emphatic order on this head. “Know,” he says, that in the last days there shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, etc., having an appearance indeed, of goodness (or of religion, as the Gloss says), but denying the power thereof. Now these avoid.” But, as in the same chapter St. Paul says, “Evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, erring and driving into error,” so these defamers of religious, not satisfied with calumny, try to make void the authority of the Apostle, saying that, not even at his bidding, are they bound to admit religious to their society. For, according to civil law, there is no obligation which can compel them to permit religious to associate with them, since society is established on the basis of free will. Hence the Apostolic authority is limited to ecclesiastical affairs. St. Paul himself said (2 Cor. x. 13), “We will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God has measured to us.” Now ecclesiastical affairs include the collation of benefices, the administration of the Sacraments, and the like, but not association in studies. Hence secular students are not, by Apostolic authority, bound to admit, religious to their society.
Again, power is committed to the ministers of the church, not “unto destruction, but unto edification” (2, Cor. xiii. 10). Hence as the enemies of religious consider that they have proofs that union between religious and seculars would be “unto destruction,” they hold, that the authority of the Apostles cannot compel them to form such an union.
This opinion, however, is censurable, mistaken and ill-founded. It deserves censure inasmuch as it detracts from that unity in the Church which, as St. Paul says (Rom. xii. 5), is based on the fact that “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” The Gloss interprets these words as meaning, that “we are members one of another, since we are of service to each other, and are in need of the assistance of one another.” This is true of all men alike; neither the greater, nor the lesser amongst us being excluded. Hence whosoever hinders one man from serving another, as far as he be able, impairs the unity of the Church. Now the work of teaching is one adapted to religious. St. Paul mentions this, saying, “he who teaches in doctrine.” Thereby the apostle means, says the Gloss, “He who has the gift of teaching, should, by his instruction, prove himself a member of another.” Hence it is a violation of ecclesiastical unity to hinder religious either from teaching others or from learning from them. It is likewise an infraction of charity. For, as Aristotle says (Ethics viii. and x.), “friendship is based on intercourse and by it is fostered.” These words are borne out by the saying of Solomon, “A man amiable in society, shall be more friendly than a brother” (Prov. xviii. 24). Anyone, therefore, who hinders intercourse, in scholastic matters between laymen and religious weakens charity and sows the seed of quarrels and dissensions.
Again, obstacles thrown in the way of such intercourse, will tend to impede the progress made by students. In all social matters, the companionship of others is of great advantage. “A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city” says Solomon (Prov. xviii. 19). “It is better, therefore, that two should be together than one: for they have the advantage of their society” (Eccles. iv. 9). But Wis, especially, in study, that society is of use; for among many students some will know or understand that, of which others are ignorant. Hence Aristotle (I Caeli et Mundi) says “that the ancient philosophers, at divers meetings, investigated the truth concerning the heavenly bodies.” The exclusion then any class of men from the society of other students is a manifest injury to the studies of all. This applies, especially, to the exclusion of religious, who are peculiarly well adapted to make progress in learning, since, by their state of life, they are not distracted by worldly anxieties. “He who is less in action, shall receive wisdom” (Eecles. xxxviii. 25).
By excluding religious from studying in common with laymen, an injury is committed against the community of faith, which is called Catholic because it ought to be one. Those who do not associate with each other by agreeing on religious matters, may easily end by teaching different, and even contradictory doctrines. St Paul says of himself (Gal. ii, 1), “Then, after fourteen years, I went up I again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. And I went up according to revelation, and communicated with them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but apart to them who seemed to be something: lest perhaps I should run, or had run, in vain.” We learn from the Decretals (distinct. XV.cap. canones), that Councils began to be convoked in the time of Constantine. Before that period, there was, on account of frequent and violent persecutions, very little facility for the instruction of the faithful; and, as bishops had no opportunity for meeting to debate together, the Christian religion was torn by many heresies. This fact proves, that there is great danger of schism in matters of doctrine, when the preachers of the faith are not able to assemble for purposes of discussion. Hence any attempt to exclude religious from intercourse with other teachers and students is highly to be condemned.
The reason given for such an exclusion, is likewise ill-founded, being opposed to Apostolic doctrine which cannot err. St, Peter (1 Pet. iv. 10), writes in these terms: “As every man has received grace, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The Gloss thus comments on this passage: “The Apostle signifies by the word “grace” any gift of the Holy Spirit which may be used for the assistance of others, in things either temporal or spiritual. He exemplifies his meaning by the words which follow. “If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God.” The Gloss adds, “If any man knows how to speak, let him attribute his knowledge not to himself, but to God.” Let him stand in fear, lest he teach anything contrary to the will of God, the authority of Scripture, or the good of his brethren; or, lest he be silent, when he ought to speak.” Hence the assertion that Religious and laymen ought not mutually to communicate their gift of knowledge is patently, opposed to the teaching of the Apostles.
Again, we read in Ecclesiast. xxxiii. 18, “See that I have not laboured for myself only, but for all that seek discipline.” These words, as the Gloss observes, apply to the teachers of the Church, who, by their writings and instruction, profit not themselves alone, but others also. The wise man, in the text that we have quoted, says, that he has laboured for all men, without exception. Therefore, both religious and secular teachers, ought, by their teaching, to labour for the benefit of all their brethren, whether laymen or religious.
As the body is composed of several members, so in the Church there exist divers offices. This comparison we find in the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (xii.). Now as in the physical body there are eyes, so in the mystical body of the Church there are teachers. Hence the Gloss understands the text in the Gospel of St. Matthew (xviii. 9): “If your eye scandalises you” etc., to refer to ecclesiastical doctors and counsellors. Physical eyesight is useful to the whole body alike, and one limb subserves another in its functions. For, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii. 21), “the eye cannot say to the hand: I need not your help; nor again the head to the feet: I have no need of you.” Therefore, everyone who undertakes the office of teaching must perform it for the benefit of all men, of whatsoever condition they may be. Thus religious must assist laymen; and laymen must help religious.
Again, any person who is competent to perform some special function has a right to be admitted to the society of those who are selected for the exercise of that function. For, an association means the union of men, gathered together for the accomplishment of some specific work. Thus, all soldiers have a right to associate with one another in the same army; for an army is nothing but a society of men, banded together for the purpose of fighting. Hence religious of a military order do not exclude from their society secular soldiers, and vice versa. Now an association of study is a society established with the object of teaching and of learning; and as not only laymen, but also religious, have a right to teach and to learn, there can be no doubt that both these classes may lawfully unite in one society.
The objection made to intercourse between seculars and religious, on matters bearing on study and teaching, are altogether frivolous. They are based on wholly untenable grounds; and they only serve to show the ignorance of their authors. For, as we have already said, a society means a union of men, assembled together for one and the same purpose. Hence as everything ought to be judged with regard to the end for which it is ordained, the different societies which exist ought to be distinguished and judged according to the purpose for which they are formed. Aristotle, (VIII Ethics) classifies different “communications”. By this term he means associations formed for divers objects, wherein the members hold communication one with the other. The Philosopher distinguishes friendships according to these communications. He refers to the friendship of those brought up together, or that based on commercial transactions, or the friendship of men engaged in the same business, Hence arises the distinction between public and private societies. A public society is that wherein men assemble for purposes connected with the commonweal. Thus fellow citizens or compatriots form a public society and become one city or one kingdom. A private society is one established by a few persons for some private end. Thus two or three enter into partnership in a mercantile negotiation. Now each of these classes of society may be either temporary or perpetual. Sometimes a number of men, or only two or three individuals, band together in a perpetual society. This, is the case with those, who, when they become citizens of some city, form an association, choosing that city for their dwelling-place for ever. They thus establish a political society. Again, there may be a perpetual private society, formed between husband and wife, or master and slave, based upon the durable nature of the tie binding together the members of such a society. This is called an economical society. But, when men associate in order to engage in some temporary business, as, for example, to hold a fair, they form a temporary and public society. Or, when two friends are engaged in the management of the same inn, the society which they establish is private, and at at the same time temporary.
Now these various classes of association, must be judged by different standards. To apply the name of association or society indiscriminately to all is to prove one’s own ignorance. For this, reason, we shall have no difficulty in answering the objections brought at the association of seculars and religious.
We are told, first of all, that “men of different professions ought not to be associated in the same offices.” Then words are quoted, “you shall not join together men of different professions.” This objection is perfectly true if it be understood to mean that men of different professions should not be associated in matters upon which they differ. Hence laymen and clerics should not be associated in ecclesiastical matters. Therefore the following words are found before the words just quoted: “A bishop ought not to have a lay vicar; and the clergy ought not to be judged in lay courts of justice.” For the same reason, religious cannot associate with laymen in commercial and mercantile transactions, in which religious are forbidden to take part. “No man being a soldier of God entangleth himself with secular businesses” (2 Tim. ii. 4). But, as we have seen, the exercise of teaching and of learning concerns both seculars and religious. Hence there is no reason against religious being associated with laymen in scholastic, affairs. For, men of different conditions, who, agree in unity of faith, form the body of the Church. “There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. iii. 28). It is objected that, although in an association of laymen and religious there are some points common, to both classes there are likewise some on which they differ. Thus, there may be a purely secular society, formed of members whose interests are limited to secular affairs. Or, there may be an exclusively religious institute, of which the system is directed towards the formation of the religious life. There is, however, one, point which is common both to laymen sad to religious. For, religious and seculars have this in common, viz., that. they belong to the society of the one Church of Christ, by that agreement in one faith whereby the unity of the Church is made perfect. Hence as teaching and learning are functions pertaining alike to seculars and religious, an association of study ought not to be known as exclusively either a lay or a religious college; but, rather, as a college including both seculars and religious.
The objection that no one can belong to two associations is, for three reasons, untenable. First, because a part cannot be numerically accounted as opposed to the whole. A private society is part of a public society, as a house is part of a city. The fact that a man forms part of a family causes him to form part of a city, which is composed of many families. Nevertheless, he does not, on this account, belong to two distinct associations. Now as an association of studies is a public association, a man who forms part of a private society (be it secular or religious), wherein a few students meet together for the purposes of study, belongs on this very account to a general scholastic association. But he does not, for this reason, belong to two associations. Again, there is no law to prohibit a man from belonging to some public, perpetual association, and at the same time from forming part of a public or private temporary society. Thus, a man who belongs to some civic society may likewise form part of a military association; and the member of a family, may be associated with others in an inn. Now an institute of studies is a temporary, not a perpetual, association. For men attend it, not as a permanent residence, but they go and come at their own convenience. Hence there is no reason why a man belonging to a perpetual society, such as a religious, order, should not also attend a scholastic establishment. The third reason which stultifies the objection to the admission of religious to secular colleges is that this objection applies the particular to the general. The assertion, that a man cannot, belong to two associations was originally formulated about ecclesiastical societies. Thus, a man cannot be a canon in two churches, without a dispensation or a legitimate reason. We read (XXI quaest. I), “From this date, no cleric shall be attached to two churches.” But this rule does not apply to other associations. For, the same man can be a citizen of two cities. Therefore, as a scholastic association is not an ecclesiastical society, there is no reason why a man belonging to a religious or secular association, should not also be a member of a scholastic society.
The fourth reasoin given for the exclusion of religious from association with secular students is that religious cannot either teach or study without the authorisation and permission of their superiors, who have the power to absolve their subjects from their oaths and other engagements in order to enable them to belong to such an association. Now we must remember that, as the perfection of a whole consists in the union of its parts, a whole cannot exist unless its parts agree. Hence any decrees drawn up for the welfare of a state and city ought to be formulated with a view to the advantage of all its members. Any statutes which would hinder the unity of a commonwealth ought to be abolished. For laws are established in order to preserve the concord of a state and not to promote internal dissension. In the same way, there ought not to exist in any scholastic association statutes which do not suit all students alike. The words of the Apostle, (Rom. xvi. 17), “Now I beseech you, brethren,” etc., quoted by our opponents in support of their objections, are no argument on their side. First because the words of St. Paul do not apply to religious, but to heretics, and to schismatics. This is clearly shown in the text, wherein St. Paul warns the Romans to avoid such as cause dissensions “contrary to the doctrine which they had learned,” learned that is, as the Gloss explains, “from the true Apostles.” Those against whom St. Paul gave this warning, were men who strove to impose the Jewish law upon the Gentiles. Again the words (2 Thes. iii. 6), “We charge you, brethren,” etc., were not uttered against religious, but against men who passed their time in idleness and misdeeds. Of these St. Paul says, “we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling,” or as, the Gloss says, “providing for their necessities by iniquitous means.” Again the words (2 Tim. iii. 1), “Know also this,” etc., were written not to religious, but to heretics, “blasphemers” as St. Paul calls them, “who by their heresy blaspheme God” (Gloss). “As Jannes and Manbres resisted Moses so these also (i.e. heretics) resist the truth,” continues the Apostle, “ men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith.” It is true that he says, that the heretics of whom he speaks, had an appearance indeed of godliness,” ie., of religion; but religion in this passage signifies latria, which makes a profession of faith. In this sense, it is, as St. Augustine says, (X De civitate Dei), equivalent to piety.
But even granted that all or some religious were as infamous as certain men consider them to be, that would be ho reason for excluding them from intercourse with others. The Gloss, referring to the passage of St. Paul (1 Cor. v.,), concerning the man guilty of. incest, wherein he bids the Corinthians not so much as to eat with such an one, observes that, “the Apostle’s words, ‘if anyone that is named a brother,’ show that men are not to condemn each other rashly and carelessly, but that it is only after judgment has been pronounced that any sinner is to be excluded from communion with the Church. If such a sinner cannot be judicially excommunicated, he must be tolerated.” We have no right to exclude any man from the society of his fellows, unless he be, by his own confession, found guilty of some crime, or be denounced and convicted by some secular or ecclesiastical tribunal. Hence a man may not be condemned on suspicion, or by someone usurping the office of judge. He must be tried, accused and convicted according to the law of God, interpreted by the Church. Hence even were religious as reprobate as they are said to be, they ought not to be excluded from intercourse with the laity, unless they have been brought to judgment, and have been condemned.
The attempt to derogate from the authority of the Apostles, is not only based on false premises, but is closely akin to heresy. For we find in the Decretals (dist. XXII. cap. Omnes) the following passage: “Whoever endeavours to wrest from the Roman Church the privilege bequeathed to her by the supreme head of all the churches is undoubtedly guilty of heresy.” And again, “ He acts contrary to faith, who acts against her who is the Mother of the Faith.” Now Christ granted to the Roman Church the privilege of being obeyed by all, as He Himself is obeyed, in order, as says St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria (II Thesaurorum), “that we may continue to be members under our Head, the Roman Pontiff, seated on the throne of the Apostles. From him must we learn what we are to believe and uphold. We are bound to revere him, and to entreat him for all things. To him alone does it belong to rebuke and to correct and to unloose, in the place of Him who has established him. To none other has this power been given, but to him alone, before whom all men do, by the divine command, abase their heads, and who is, by all the princes of the world, obeyed as if he were our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” Hence it is clear that anyone who maintains that the Pope need not be obeyed is a heretic.
The objection that, according to law, no one can be forced to join an association against his will, applies only to a private society, established by two or three members. But a man can be compelled to form part of a public association, which cannot exist without the consent of authority. Thus, a prince may force the inhabitants of a certain city to accept an individual as their fellow-citizen; and an ecclesiastical society can be compelled to accept a man as a canon, or a brother. Hence as any general scholastic association is, in a certain sense, a society, any man may be obliged, by the authority of a superior, to belong to it.
The assertion that the Apostolic authority is limited to ecclesiastical affairs, is false. The president of a republic is bound to provide food for those over whom he rules, and to undertake the proper education and training of the young (X Ethic). He is likewise obliged to supervise the legislation of his republic, and to establish rules for the well-being of the citizens (I Ethic). Thus we see that the legislation concerning education is one of the duties of the president of a republic. It must, therefore, come under the authority of the Apostolic See, by which the whole Church is governed.
The last objection is founded on an absolute falsehood. The association of religious with the laity in matters concerning education is not intended for the destruction, but rather for the advancement, of learning. Hence there can be no possible doubt that, by the authority of the Apostolic See, seculirs may be compelled to admit religious into their scholastic societies.
Is it Lawful for A Religious, Who Has Not the Care of Souls, to Preach and Hear Confessions?
THE enemies of religious, not content with trying to hinder them from producing fruit in the Church by teaching and expounding the Holy Scriptures, endeavour to do still further and greater harm, by preventing them from preaching and hearing confessions, in the hopes that thus they may be rendered unable either to encourage the faithful in virtue, or to eradicate vice. Those who act in this manner, clearly show themselves to be those persecutors of the Church, who, as St. Gregory says (20 Moral, on the words Quasi caputio tunicae), “make a special effort to hinder the word of preaching.”
These enemies of religion adduce several arguments in support of their persecution. First, they quote the words which occur XVI, quaest. I, “The office of a monk is one thing, that of a cleric is another. Clerics feed their sheep: I (being a monk) am fed.” Again in VII, quaest. I, cap. Nequaquam, the following words are found: “The duty of the monastic life is not to teach nor to preside nor to feed others with the word of God, but to be subject.” To preach is to feed with the Divine Word, as is seen in John xxi. 17. The Gloss on the words “feed my sheep,” says, that “to feed the sheep of Christ is to strengthen the faithful lest they fall away.” Hence monks, and religious who are counted as monks, cannot preach. This is more clearly laid down in XVI, quaest. I, cap. adjicimus, in which the following passage occurs: “We declare that, with the exception of the priests of the Lord, no one has license to preach, be he layman or monk, no matter how great a reputation for learning he may enjoy.” Again, in cap. Juxta we read as follows: “ We ordain that monks shall cease entirely from preaching to the people.” St. Bernard likewise says in his work on the Canticles: “Preaching does not beseem a monk; it is not expedient for a novice; it is not permitted to anyone who is not sent to preach.”
Again, it is, argued that they who nourish the people with the word of God ought also to minister to their temporal necessities. For, as the Gloss says, “to feed the sheep of Christ, means to strengthen the faithful lest they fall away; and, if necessary, to provide for their temporal needs.” As religious are, by their profession of poverty, unable to supply the people with material necessities, they cannot feed them, by preaching the word of God.
The prophet Ezekiel asks: “Should not the flocks be fed by, the shepherds?” (xxxiv. 2). By “shepherds,” says the Gloss, are signified bishops, priests, and deacons, to, whom the flock is committed. Hence religious, being neither bishops, priests nor deacons, and having no charge of the flock, may not preach.
Again, we read, (Ron. x. 15), “How shall they preach, unless they be sent? “ But, our Lord has sent none but the twelve Apostles (Luke ix), and the seventy-two disciples (Luke x). The “twelve Apostles,” says the Gloss, represent bishops, and the “seventy-two disciples” the priests of the second rank, or parish priests. St. Paul likewise (1 Cor. xii.) speaks of it “helps,” meaning those who assist their superiors, as Titus helped St. Paul, or as archdeacons help bishops. Religious, therefore, being neither bishops, parish priests, nor archdeacons, have no right to preach.
We read in the Decretals (dist. LXVIII), “Chorepiscopi” are strictly forbidden both to this Holy See and to all bishoprics throughout the entire world. This institution is an abuse and corruption.” The reason of the prohibition is given in these words, “For, our Lord only, as we know, established two orders: the twelve Apostles, and the seventy-two disciples. Whence this order arose, we do not know, but, as there is no reason for its existence, it must be abolished.” Preaching religious (our adversaries add), being neither bishops (i.e. successors of the Apostles), nor parish priests (i.e., successors to the seventy-two disciples), ought likewise to be suppressed.
Dionysius (VI Ecclesiast. hierarch.), says that the monastic Order ought not to be in a position of superiority to others,” or, according to another version, “is not instituted for the purpose of guiding other men.” Now men are led to God by teaching and preaching. Hence neither monks, nor other religious, ought to preach, or to teach.
The hierarchy of the Church is modelled on the celestial hierarchy, according to the words (Exod. xxv, 40), “Look, and make it according to the pattern that was shown you in the mount.” Now in Heaven angels of an inferior rank never exercise the functiona proper to those of a superior degree. Since then the monastic order is counted among the lesser orders of the Church, monks and other religious ought not to perform the office of preaching, which belongs to bishops and other prelates of a higher rank (Dionyslus, VI Ecclesiast. hierarch.).
Again, when a religious preaches, he does so either with power or without power. If he preaches without power, he is a false apostle. If he preaches with power, he has a right to demand the means of subsistence. Our Lord, when sending forth His Apostles to preach, told them to take nothing with them on the way save only a staff (Mark vi.). This staff signifies, (according to the Gloss), the power of accepting the necessities of life from those subject to them. Now it does not seem fitting that religious should demand the means of support. Therefore, they ought not to preach.
Bishops have more right to preach than have religious, who are, not entrusted with the cure of souls. But, a bishop cannot preach outside his diocese, unless he be requested to do so by other bishops or priests. For it is clearly laid down (IX, quaest. III), “Let no Primate or Metropolitan presume to judge the church or parish or anyone belonging to the parish of another diocese”; and the same rule is given in several other chapters. Therefore, religious, who have neither diocese nor parishes, may not preach, unless specially invited to do so.
A preacher ought not to build upon another man’s foundation, nor to glory in another man’s converts. He ought, rather, to imitate St. Paul who says (Rom. xv. 20), “1 have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.” And, again, the same Apostle says (2 Cor. x. 15), “Not glorying beyond measure in other men’s labours,” which words the Gloss explains as meaning “not glorying where another has laid the foundation of faith, which would be to glory beyond measure.” In the same chapter, St. Paul uses the expression, “not to glory in another man’s rule,” which the Gloss interprets as signifying not to glory in those who are under the government of another.” Therefore, those who have not the care of souls ought not to preach to such of the faithful as are entrusted to others. They ought, rather, to lay the foundation of the faith among unbelievers.
The adversaries of religious, not content with these efforts to prevent them from preaching, endeavour likewise to prove that they have no right to hear confessions. In support of this opinion, they quote from XVI, quaest. I, cap. Placuit: “We positively and irrevocably decree that no monk shall administer penance to anyone.” And in another chapter we find the words: “ Let no monk presume to administer penance, to receive a child to baptism, to visit or anoint the sick, to bury the dead, or to meddle with any office of the kind.” Again (Cap. Interdicimus), the following words occur: “We forbid abbots and monks to impose public penance, or to visit or anoint the sick.” From all these passages it appears evident, that monks and religious, (who are included under the same laws), have no right to hear confessions.
Further, in the book of Proverbs (xxvii. 23) the following exhortation is addressed to priests in charge of, churches: “Be diligent to know the countenance of your cattle.” The Gloss thus comments on these words: “The Pastor of a church is bidden to take diligent care of those committed to him. He must know their doings, and he must remember to correct the vices which he may observe among them.” But how is the pastor of a church to know the actions and failings of those under him, save by confession? Hence the faithful should not confess to any except to their own parish priest.
We further find that the following words were pronounced by Pope Innocent in a general council (extra de paenitentiis et remissis): “Every one of the faithful, of both sexes, shall, on reaching years of discretion, confess all his sins privately at least once a year to his own priest. He who is thus absolved of his sins, need not confess them again.” Hence it follows that if any, save a parish priest, had the right to hear confessions and to give absolution, the faithful would not be bound once in the year to make their confession to their own parish priest. Now as religious are not parish priests, and have not charge of the faithful, they ought not to hear confessions nor to absolve penitents.
The faithful are likewise bound, according to the same decretal, to receive the sacraments from their own priests. None but those in due dispositions ought to receive the sacraments. As a priest can only by means of confession judge of the state of soul of him to whom he administers the sacraments, it follows that only parish priests can be empowered to hear confessions and to give absolution.
It is necessary that the Church should avoid not only sin, but the risk of sin, “that I may cut off the occasion from them,” as St. Paul says (2 Cor. xi. 12). Now if the faithful are at liberty to confess to others besides to their own priests, many may say that they have been to confession, and yet approach the sacraments without confession. The parish priest would be powerless to hinder this abuse. Therefore, Religious ought not to be allowed to hear confessions, as they are not parish priests.
The power to absolve sinners, belongs only to him, whose duty it is to correct them. Dionysius, in his epistle to Demophylus the monk, expressly says that correction is the office, not of monks, but of priests. Hence religious ought not to administer absolution to penitents. As religious have no defined province or diocese or parish, they may, if they be allowed to preach or hear confessions at all, do so anywhere. Their power therefore exceeds that of bishops, primates or patriarchs, who are not universal rulers. Even the Pope has forbidden himself to be called Bishop of the Universe. And in the Decretals (dist. XCIX) it is distinctly laid down that “no Patriarch shall ever make use of the name “Universal.” The same prohibition is repeated in the next chapter.
Arguments are further brought forward to prove that religious cannot, by authority of bishops, preach or hear confessions. It is objected, that a man no longer possesses what he gives away; and, therefore, if bishops commit the charge of parishes to parish priests, the care of those parishes belongs no longer to the bishops themselves, but to the parish priests. Hence they cannot give to religious faculties to preach and hear confessions without the consent of the parish priests. Again, it is urged that, by laying on a priest the care of a parish, the bishop frees himself from its responsibility, which rests on the priest to whom the charge is committed: “Keep this man; if he slips away, your life shall be for his life” (1 Kings xx. 39). If a bishop were answerable for all the parishes in his diocese, his responsibility and burthen would be intolerable. The care of each parish belongs to the priest appointed to take charge of it; and the bishop should not interfere with it further.
It is further maintained, that, as a bishop is subject to his archbishop, so are priests subject to their bishops. But archbishops cannot meddle with the subjects of a bishop, unless he be proved guilty of negligence. “Let archbishops do nothing in matters concerning the affairs of the bishops without taking counsel with them” (IX, quaest. III). On the same grounds, bishops must not meddle with the affairs of parish priests, without their consent; unless a priest be proved guilty of negligence or fault. Each parish priest is the bridegroom of the church entrusted to him. But, if other clergy, besides those commissioned by the bishops, exercise in parish churches the ministry of preaching or hearing confessions, the Church win have many bridegrooms. This state of affairs would clearly be opposed,to the decree (VII quaest. I), ordaining that “as it is unlawful for a wife to commit adultery, or to be judged or disposed of during the lifetime of her husband without his permission; so the spouse of a bishop (i.e., his church or parish) may not during his lifetime be, without his will and consent, judged or disposed of; neither is it lawful to exercise ministry in such a church or parish.” And this prohibition, as Gratian says, applies not only to bishops, but to all ministers of the Church.
Our opponents, also, endeavour to prove that religious are not, even by the permission of the Apostolic See, allowed to preach or hear confessions. For not even the authority of the Pope can establish any custom, or make any law opposed to the statutes of the Fathers. This is clearly expressed XXV, quaest. I, cap. Contra statuta: “If it be against the statutes of the early Fathers that any should preach or hear confessions, save only the priests of the Lord, permission so to do can be given to no one, even as a privilege granted by the Pope” (Cf also XVI. quaest. I). We also find in XXV, quaest. I, cap. Sunt quidam, the following words: “If, which God forbid, the Roman Pontiff should try to overthrow the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets, he would be convicted, not of giving an opinion, but of falling into error.” If then there be an Apostolic ordinance “not to glory in another man’s rule” (2 Cor. x.), the Pope, were he to confer the privilege just mentioned upon any man, would commit an error.
It is a law that, when a sovereign grants permission to a man to erect a building in a public place, it is understood that he to whom this privilege is conceded may only use it in so far as it be not to the prejudice of anyone. (See Ne quid in loco publico aedificare, lib. I. Si quis a principe) And in XXV, quaest. II. cap. de ecclesiasticis, St. Gregory says: “As we defend our own property, so let each one of us be jealous for the rights of his own church. I will not, through partiality, concede to any man more than he deserves; nor shall any cunning cause me to refuse to anyone that which is his right.” But if a man preach or hear confessions in a church uninvited, he is doing an injustice to the parish priest. Hence no permission for the exercise of these functions ought to be granted, without the consent of the clergy of the parish.
Again, if a sovereign grants any individual freedom to make a will, he does not thereby give him permission to do more than to draw up an ordinary and legitimate will. It is not conceivable that a Roman governor, the protector of law, should desire by one word to prevent the observance of the statutes concerning wills which have been framed with such laborious care. (De inoffic. testament. lib. Si quando) In like manner, if the Pope should grant to any persons the privilege of preaching or hearing confessions, the permission ought to be understood in its usual sense, i.e., subject to the wishes of parish priests.
A monk receiving priestly Orders has not the faculties for performing the functions attached to the sacerdotal office (e.g. the administration of the Sacraments), unless he be canonically appointed to the care of a parish. We further find it laid down (XVI, quaest. I, cap. Adjicimus Monachi autem): “If the office of preaching be, by, a Papal privilege, committed to any man, he cannot exercise it when souls have not been entrusted to him.”
Moreover, neither the Pope nor any other mortal man can overturn or alter the eccesiastical hierarchy which has been divinely instituted. For this power has been given to no one “unto destruction, but unto edification” (2 Cor. x). But, in the order of the Church, monks are among those who are to be made perfect (see cap. VI. Ecclesiast. hierarch.). Nothing, therefore, can so alter this order as to place monks among those whose office it is to make others perfect.
Those who argue in this manner strive further to prove that religious have no right to seek permission from bishops or parish priests to preach or hear confessions. If they do so, they are actuated by an ambitious desire of usurping the ecclesiastical office. In VIII, quaest. I, cap. Sciendum, we meet with the following words: “When a command is laid upon a man to assume an exalted position, he who obeys the order loses the merit of obedience, if he ambitiously aspires to the post.” Now preaching and hearing confessions are duties of the ecclesiastical state and, therefore, confer dignity and power. Hence religious cannot, without notable ambition, ask for permission to preach and hear confessions. They can only do so when required. Here then is the source from which the error mentioned before has arisen. For as Boethius says, the road of faith runs between two heresies; just as virtue keeps on the centre line between vice. For virtue consists in preserving the due balance of things, and by doing too much or too little man falls from virtue. In the same way, he who holds either more or less than the truth, falls into error; but truth is the centre line of faith. Now it must be remembered that there have been certain heretics, and some now exist, who consider that the power of the ecclesiastical ministry depends upon sanctity of life, and that he who is not holy loses this power, and that this power is increased in proportion to a man’s holiness.
This opinion does not concern our point; but let us, for the moment presume it to be erroneous. From this error has arisen the presumption of certain men, especially of monks, who, elated by their holiness, have, at their own pleasure, usurped the functions of ecclesiastics—preaching, and giving absolution, without any episcopal commission. We find their audacity rebuked (XVI, quaest. I, Pervenit ad nos), in the following terms: “We are astonished that in your parish, certain monks, and abbots, have, contrary to the decrees of the holy Fathers, arrogated to themselves the rights and functions of bishops. They administer penance and remission of sins, bring about reconciliations, and dispose of tithes and churches. They ought not to presume to act thus, without license from the bishop, or authority of the Apostolic See,” Now in their condemnation of the presumption of these monks, certain men have fallen into the error of rashly saying that religious are unfitted to perform the duties just enumerated, even though they be appointed thereto by the authority of the Bishop. This error is thus mentioned (XVII, quaest. I), “There are certain men, filled rather with bitter jealousy than with love of truth, who, without any grounds for their assertion, have the presumption to state that monks, who have died to the world in order to live to God, are unworthy of exercising the priestly office, and are incapable of administering penance, of teaching Christianity, or of giving absolution, in spite of the power divinely committed to them at their ordination. But this is a complete error.” Other men, again, are led by their audacity into another mistake. They assert that religious are not merely precluded, by their state of life, from exercising the sacerdotal functions, but that, bishops cannot, without the consent of the parish priests, grant them faculties for their performance. Nay, the Pope himself, they say, cannot qualify religious to act as priests. Thus, this error leads to the same result as that which we have previously mentioned. For while one error detracts from the ecclesiastical power, the other asserts that the power of the church depends upon sanctity of life.
Our next task will be to refute this error, and we shall proceed in the following order:
First, we shall show that bishops and superior prelates can preach and absolve those who are under the care of priests, without needing the permission of those priests.
Secondly, we shall prove that they can empower others to act in like manner.
Thirdly, we shall make clear that religious are, when commissioned by a bishop, capable of exercising these functions.
Fourthly, we shall demonstrate that it is expedient for the welfare of souls that others, besides parish priests, should be allowed to preach, and hear confessions.
Fifthly, it will be shown that a religious order may advantageously be founded for the purpose of preaching and hearing confessions, with license from the bishops.
Sixthly, we shall reply to the objections of our adversaries.
1. The fact that a bishop has, in any parish of his diocese, all the powers of a priest, is proved by these words from X, quaest. I, cap. Sic quidam: “All that has been established in the Church, by her ancient constitution, belongs to the office and power of a bishop.” Again, in the next chapter, the same is laid down. Now the temporal things of the Church exist for the sake of that which is spiritual. Hence with far greater reason, the spiritual concerns of parishes are committed to the bishops. Again, in the same question it is said that “every parish is to be administered under the care and supervision of the bishop, by the priest or the other clerics whom he shall appoint, in the fear of God.” In the following chapter, we likewise read that, “a church must be governed and conducted according to the judgment and power of the bishop, who is charged with the souls of his whole flock.”
Again, a priest in charge of a parish can do nothing in it, without a general or particular permission from his bishop. Hence XVI, quaest. I, cap. Cunctis fidelibus, we find the following passage: “All priests, deacons, and other ecclesiastics must, above all things, bear in mind that they may do nothing without license from their respective bishop. Without this license, a priest cannot in his own parish say Mass, baptise, or perform any other office.” Hence a bishop has more power in each parish of his diocese than have the priests of those parishes. For they can do nothing without the Bishop’s leave.
The Gloss commenting on the words (1 Cor. i.), “in every place of theirs and ours,” says: “These words signify in every place originally committed to me,” and the Apostle was speaking of suffragan churches, i.e. churches subject to the Church of Corinth. If then bishops are the successors of the Apostles and retain their office, as appears from the commentary in the Gloss on Luke x., the chief power in a parish belongs rather to the bishop than to the parish priest. For the words, “in every place of theirs and ours,” cannot mean that the church was first entrusted to St. Paul, and then taken from him and given to another, else it would have ceased to be his.
Apollo was a priest, ministering to the Corinthians, as we know from the words (1 Cor. iii. 6), “Apollo watered,” i.e., “by baptism,” (Gloss). Nevertheless, St, Paul regulated the affairs of the Church of Corinth, as we learn from his own words, “The rest I will set in order, when I come” (2 Cor. ii. 34). And again, “For what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sake have I done it in the person of Christ” (2 Cor. ii. 10). And, again, he writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor. iv. 21): “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod? or in the spirit of meekness and charity?” Again, “according to the measure of the rule which God has measured to us, a measure to reach even to you” (2 Cor. x. 18). In another chapter, he says “Therefore, I write these things being absent, that being present, I may not deal more severely according to the power which the Lord has given me” (2 Cor. xiii. 10). This “power,” as the Gloss says, was that of “binding and loosing.” Hence we clearly see that a bishop retains full jurisdiction over the people entrusted to priests.
Again, priests are said to be successors of the seventytwo disciples, and bishops successors of the twelve Apostles (cf. Gloss on Luke x). Now it would be absurd to maintain that the apostles had no power of binding or loosing and of performing other spiritual works without permission from the seventy-two disciples. This argument holds good in like manner, with regard to the relations between bishops and priests.
Dionysius, furthermore, says (V Eccl. Hier.) that “although the duty of the episcopate is to perfect others, that of the priesthood to enlighten them, and that of the diaconate to cleanse them, nevertheless, bishops are bound not only to perfect but likewise to enlighten and to purify their people. In like manner, it is the office of priests not only to enlighten, but likewise to purify their flocks.” He gives the following reason for his assertion: “Inferior powers cannot become capable of the higher works; and it would be unjust were they to aspire to such a dignity. But the more divine powers are able to perform inferior operations, as we see by the words of Maximus.”
It is plain then that if a priest can do the work of a deacon, a bishop can accomplish all and more than that is done by a priest. A priest can, without permission from his deacon, read the gospel in his church. Therefore a bishop can, without license from the parish priest, absolve and administer the other Sacraments in any parish church of his diocese. What a man does through the agency of another he can do himself; but when priests give absolution it is their bishop who is said to absolve by their instrumentality. Hence Dionysius (VI, cap. Eccles. Hiear.) writes: “He who, according to us, is the high priest does, by means of priests, his ministers, cleanse and illuminate us. It is he who is said to exercise these functions; because he entrusts others with the power of performing these sacred actions in his stead.” Hence a bishop may, in his own person, give absolution or preach.
Again, the inferior clergy owe obedience to their prelates, in all that regards their care of souls. Thus St. Paul says (Hebr. xiii. 17), “Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch (i.e., they are solicitous for you in preaching) as being to render an account of your souls.” A parishioner is more stringently bound to obey his bishop than his parish priest. For, as the Gloss says in the commentary on the words Rom. xiii., obedience must be paid rather to the higher than to the lower power; thus a proconsul must be obeyed rather than a governor, and an Emperor rather than a proconsul. For, obedience must be proportioned to rank. This maxim applies to spiritual far more strongly than to temporal affairs. Hence bishops, who are invested with power superior to that of parish priests, are at the same time more fully responsible for the people. The words of the book of Proverbs (xxvii. 25): “Be diligent to know the countenance of your cattle,” refer to the care of souls, and are chiefly carried out by hearing confessions. Therefore, it beseems bishops, even more than parish priests, to hear the confessions of the faithful.
As the seventy-two elders, of whom we read (Nun. vi.), were given to Moses as assistants; so priests are appointed as coadjutors to bishops, who could not bear their burdens unaided. Hence at the ordination of a priest, the bishop makes use of the following, and other similar words: “The weaker we are, the more do we stand in need of assistance.” But the fact that a bishop has a coadjutor does not deprive him of his own powers; for he still continues to “be their primary agent, and priests are his ministers. Hence bishops have as good, yes a better right, than priests to perform every sacerdotal office without the permission of any priest.
Further, bishops hold, in the Church, the place of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore Dionysius says (V Eccles. Hier.), “The Pontifical order is the first of divine ordinances, and supreme in the hierarchy of the Church. In it all degrees of the ecclesiastical hierarchy are consummated, and made perfect. As we behold the universal hierarchy summed up in Jesus, so each particular hierarchy attains its fulness in its own chief priest, i,e., its bishop. St Peter (1 Pet. ii. 25) says of Christ, “be converted to the pastor and bishop of your souls.” These words also apply, chiefly, to the Roman Pontiff, “before whom,” as St. Cyril remarks, “every head must, by divine right, bow, and whom all must obey, as they would obey our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” St. Chrysostom says, commenting on the text of St. John, “Feed my lambs”: “These words are equivalent to saying, “Be, in my place, head and master of your brethren.” Hence it is absurd and almost blasphemous, to say that a bishop, who represents Christ, cannot exercise the power of the keys over any person in his diocese.
In order to give absolution, it is necessary to have the power of the keys, and jurisdiction, over every soul in a diocese. By this the matter is determined; and for the administration of penance as for the other Sacraments, all that is necessary is the power of Orders and the matter, together with the appointed form and due intention. Now a bishop being a priest has the keys. He has jurisdiction over every member of his diocese, otherwise he could not summon them to appear before him. Hence without the permission of any priest, he can give absolution to anyone in his diocese.
It is argued that it is necessary for parish priests to hear confessions, because they have the duty of administering the Blessed Eucharist, which noone should receive who is in mortal sin. But, Confirmation and Holy Orders likewise require a state of grace ‘m, their recipients; and these Sacraments can be given by bishops only. Hence a bishop is entitled to hear the confession of every person in his diocese.
Further, no one can reserve to himself what is not within his own power. Now by a common usage, bishops reserve to themselves certain cases for absolution. But, in order to act thus, they must have power to absolve. Hence they must likewise have power to absolve in all other cases in which they desire to do so.
Dionysius remarks that, in our hierarchy the episcopal power is universal, the power of priests and other ministers particular (I, V, Eccl. Hier.). But, as we know by philosophy, universal power acts more efficaciously on that which is subject to a particular power than does that particular power itself. Hence a bishop exercises the power of the keys more efficaciously on those who are subject to priests, than do priests themselves.
Further, it is plain that no man can give to another anything that he does not himself possess. It is the office of a bishop to give authority to priests. But, by imparting authority, a bishop does not deprive himself of it, for spiritual gifts are only bestowed by the action of the giver on the recipient. But as an agent does not, by acting, lose the power of acting, a bishop retains all that power which he gives to parish priests.
2. Our next task will be to prove that certain men can be commissioned by bishops to preach and hear confessions in the parishes entrusted to priests. For, as it is stated (de officio judic. ordin. cap. Inter caetera), “a bishop may, with expediency, choose out certain men fit for the holy office of preaching.” And again, “we enjoin that, both in cathedrals and in conventual churches, bishops should appoint certain coadjutors and fellow-workers, who shall assist, not only in the duty of preaching, but in that of hearing confessions, imposing penance, and other such offices as may pertain to the welfare of souls.” From these words, it is plain that the clerics of monastic churches, who are not parish priests, may, by the authority of the bishop, preach and hear confessions.
Again, in Extra de haereticis, cap. excommunicavimus, quia vero, it is laid down that, “all such as have been forbidden to preach, or who have not received, publicly or privately, license to preach from the Apostolic See, or from the Catholic bishop of a place, and shall yet usurp the office of preaching, do so under pain of excommunication.” Hence we see that the Pope, or a bishop, can give to any priest authority to preach.
Further, it is certain that the Apostles, of whom bishops are the successors, ordained certain priests in cities and villages to dwell continually among their people. But they likewise sent forth others to preach and to perform other offices, for the good of souls. Thus St. Paul writes (1 Cor. iv. 17), “I have sent you Timothy, who is my dearest son and faithful in the Lord, who will put you in mind, of my ways in Christ Jesus.” Again (2 Cor. xii. 18), “I desired Titus, and I send with him a brother,” i.e. Barnabas or Luke. The Apostle also writes to Titus (i. 5), “For this cause I left you in Crete that you might correct what was wanting, and that you might appoint priests, as I appointed to you,” Hence other priests, besides those in charge of parishes, may preach and hear confessions, with license from a bishop.
The offices of preaching, and of hearing confessions pertain both to jurisdiction and to Orders. But offices pertaining to jurisdiction can only be exercised by those who have received Orders. Hence if a bishop without asking permission of the parish priest, can preach or hear confessions in any parish church within his diocese; another priest may, by the commission of the bishop, act in the same manner.
This proposition is likewise proved, by the fact that persons seeking admission into the Church, receive from the papal penitentiaries letters empowering them to make their confession to any priest whatsoever. And the papal legates and penitentiaries preach everywhere, and hear confessions without asking any permission from parish priests, but solely by the authority of the Pope. This proves that commission can be given to certain priests both for preaching end for hearing confessions, without any necessity for a further license from parish priests.
It now remains to be proved that religious are fit to perform the functions, of preaching and hearing confessions. For in XVI, quaest. I, cap. Pervenit it is stated that “without the license of their own bishop monks and abbots may not presume to administer penance.” Whence it follows that religious, when authorised by the Pope or by a bishop may lawfully hear confessions. Again, in the same chapter the following words occur: “ We, in our Apostolic discretion and tenderness, decree that it is lawful for monks who are priests and who represent the Apostles to preach, baptise, give communion, pray for sinners, impose penance, and absolve from sin.”
In the next chapter, Sunt tamen nonnulli, Pope Boniface speaks thus: “We believe that, by the operation of God, the office of binding and loosing may be worthily accomplished by monks in priestly Orders, if they have been deservedly exalted to this rank. We further ordain that for the future, those shall be reprimanded who contend that priests of the monastic profession are excluded from the exercise of the sacerdotal functions. For the higher a man’s rank the greater is his power.”
Again, bishops are bound, as far as possible, to imitate the divine judgments. St. Paul says (1 Cor. ii, 1), “ Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” But God has judged some monks worthy to preach without any human authorisation. This was the case with the monk Equitius, as St. Gregory relates (Dialog.) and also with St. Benedict. Hence bishops may rightly esteem certain religious to be fit to preach.
Further, everything that is lawful to secular priests is lawful likewise to religious, with the exception of any points forbidden by their rule. In Arg. xvi, quaest. I Sunt tamen nonnulli, it is laid down “that it is right for monks to absolve and to perform similar functions. St. Benedict, the gentle guide of monks, has not forbidden such offices to be undertaken by religious.” Secular priests, when authorised by a bishop, may preach and hear confessions. Hence as there is no rule forbidding monks to perform these duties, they may preach and hear confessions in like manner.
It is a greater dignity for a man to preach by his own authority, than by the commission of another. Now religious are always liable to be raised to the episcopate, in which rank they have a right to preach and do other work expedient for the welfare of souls at their own discretion. Why then should they be deemed unfit to preach by the permission of a bishop? The fact that a man is in a state of perfection does not incapacitate him from preaching. On the contrary, preaching is a ministry peculiarly befitting the perfect state professed by religious. Hence the Gloss, commenting on the words of Esdras (1 Esdras 4), “all the rest” etc., says: “All those who have been chosen and delivered from the powers of darkness belong to the liberty of the glory of the children of God; and they all rejoice at being declared to belong to the society of the holy city (i.e., the Church); but it is the prerogative of the perfect alone to labour at building up the Church by preaching to others.” The fact that these words apply to the perfection of religious, is proved by the following words: The more earnestly preachers instruct their hearers to love heavenly things, the lea will they care about earthly goods. They will even abandon what they already possess, in the hope of obtaining an eternal heritage.” This interpretation further appears in the interlinear commentary, which says, “all the rest” i.e., “the rich who cannot preach.” Hence religious are not less fit than others to preach, and, with the commission of a bishop, have aa much right to hear confessions and to preach as have parish priests.
On the words, “then we set forward from the river,” (1 Esdras viii. 31), the Gloss comments: “Let us likewise call to our assistance the religious army of brethren by whose help we may carry the souls of the faithful to the society of the elect, and to the fortress of a more perfect life, as we should carry holy vessels to the temple of the Lord.”
The right of religious to preach and hear confessions is proved by the common custom of the Eastern Church, in which almost all the monks are confessors.
Again, a greater responsibility attaches to the office of legate, and to the work of confirming bishops, and setting them over churches, than to the office of preachers or confessors. But, as we know that the first and more onerous duties are entrusted to religious, there is no reason why they should not perform the less important ones.
Again, the work of hearing lawsuits has less connection with the religious life, than have the tasks of preaching or absolving. But, as religious are employed in the former office, they may, with far greater reason, be entrusted with the latter functions.
It now remains for us to show that it is expedient for the salvation of souls that others, besides parish priests, should preach and hear confessions.
Our first proof is taken from the words of our Lord (Matt. ix. 37), “The harvest indeed is great”—or as the Gloss explains, “There is a vast multitude capable of receiving the word and of bearing fruit”—“ but the labourers are few,” i.e. (according to the Gloss), “the preachers who shall gather together the church of the elect.” “Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that He send labourers into his harvest.” These words show that it is salutary for the Church that the word of God should be announced to the faithful by many preachers, with an ever increasing number of believers.
Again, it is written in the Book of Wisdom (vi, 26), “In a multitude of counsellors, there is wisdom.” These words are interpreted by the interlinear commentary to signify “A multitude of preachers brings health to the whole world.”
St. Paul says (2 Tim. ii. 2), “The things which you heard of me by many witnesses, the same commend to faithful men,” i.e., “men of sound faith” (Gloss) “who shall be fit,” ie., “fitted by their good life, their learning and eloquence” (Gloss), “to teach others.” In other words, “the office of preaching ought to be committed to those capable of fulfilling it” (Gloss).
Again, the Gloss has the following comment on the words of Esdras (1 Esd. iii.), “all that were come from captivity to Jerusalem”: “Not only is it the duty of, bishops and priests to build up the house of God, whereby is signified His faithful people; but the people themselves, who are called out of captivity into Jerusalem, the vision of peace, ought likewise to require ministry of the Word from those who know how to preach.”
St. Gregory (XIX Moral.) remarks on the passage in Job xxix., “when I washed my feet with butter”: “What shall we bishops say, who care not to impart the Word entrusted to us, when we see this married man who does not suffer himself to be hindered from preaching, either by his worldly garb, or his pressing occupations?” By these words we see that others besides prelates and parish priests may rightfully exercise the office of preaching.
We learn the same lesson from many other passages of the Old Testament. David is praised for having extended the worship of God, and for having established twenty-four priests for the benefit of the people (1 Chron. xxiii and xxiv). The same thing is related of Hezechiah (2 Chron. xxx. 6): “The posts went with letters, by commandment of the King and his princes, to all Israel and Judah, proclaiming, according to the King’s orders: ‘Children of Israel, turn again to the Lord God,’” etc. Assuerus, again, as we are told in the book of Esther (vii.), sent swift messages through the provinces to announce the deliverance of the people of God. With much greater reason then may others, besides parish priests, be commissioned to preach and to perform such like offices for the salvation of souls.
St. Gregory, in a homily (V, Part I on Ezekiel), says: “The pastors of souls and they who have undertaken the responsibility of feeding the flock of Christ ought very seldom, if ever, to change their dwelling. But those who, for love of God, take journeys for the sake of preaching may be compared to wheels of fire. For the zeal which devours them, and wherewith they inflame others, causes them to travel swiftly from place to place.” This is another proof that the office of preaching should be committed not only to parish priests, but to others who can, by travelling from one place to another, spread the knowledge of the truth.
Again, it behoves a preacher of the Word to be free from any other occupation; whereas parish priests are constantly engaged in good work and in ecclesiastical business. The Apostles said, “It is not fit that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” (Acts vi. 2). On this account, it is right that those who are in charge of parishes should be assisted by others not thus occupied.
The necessity for priests devoted to the ministry of preaching is, furthermore, shown by the great ignorance prevailing in some places amongst many of the clergy, some of whom know not even how to speak in Latin. It is rare to find any who are conversant with the Scriptures. Yet a knowledge of the holy writings is essential to those who would preach the word of God. Hence if preaching be entrusted solely to parish priests, the faithful will be greatly the losers. The ignorance which prevails among the clergy is also most detrimental in the duty of hearing confissions. For, as St. Augustine says (De Penitentia), “If any man desires to confess his sins, let him seek out a priest who knows how to bind and to loose. For if he be negligent in the matter, he may be neglected by Him who incites him and moves him to seek for mercy; and so both may fall into the ditch which, in his folly, he strove not to avoid.”
Additional priests, deputed to preach, and to act as confessors, are likewise called for, on account of the great multitude of souls often committed to the care of one pastor. For, were some parish priests to devote their whole lives to the task, they would scarcely be able to hear the confessions of all their flock. It happens likewise that some of the faithful, having no opportunity of confessing to any save to their parish priest, will abstain altogether from confession. For they are ashamed to acknowledge their sins to those whom they see every day. Sometimes, again, they fancy that the priest is unfriendly to them, and the like. Hence bishops act very judiciously in providing them with other confessors, and thus preserving them from despair,
5. The foregoing reflections naturally lead us to consider the expediency of a religious order being instituted for the express purpose of assisting parish priests in preaching and hearing confessions. Episcopal permission would, of course, be needed to authorise the brethren of such an order to undertake their duties.
Every religious order is based on the model of the Apostolic life. We are told that the Apostles practised community of life: “all things were common to them “ (Acts iv). The Gloss says that “the word ‘common’ is, in Greek, rendered by caena, or common meal, whence come the words cenobites, i.e. dwellers in common, and cenobia, i.e. common dwelling places.” The Apostles practised this mode of life, in order that leaving all things, they might be at liberty to preach the Gospel throughout the world. For the same reason, they prescribed this common life to their successors. Hence a religious order is peculiarly well adapted to the office of preaching.
St. James says, “Religion pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the orphan and the widow in their tribulation.” The most necessary form of visiting those in affliction, is that which is practised by such as labour for the salvation of souls. A religious order may then with great advantage, be instituted with this object in view that its members may seek out such as are in trouble, and encourage them to have patience, and to hope in, the promises of Scripture.
In the interlinear commentary we find, on the words, “It is not fit that we should leave the word of God and serve tables (Acts vi. 2), the following observation: “Food for the soul is better than banquets for the body.” Now certain orders have already been instituted for the purpose of assisting men in their corporeal needs; it is still more fitting that another order should be established, to minister to their spiritual wants.” St, Augustine says: “It is better to nourish the soul that will live for ever with the Lord, than the body which must decay in death. The health of the body depends upon the condition of the soul; but the soul’s health does not depend upon bodily constitution.”
It is more seemly for a religious to fight with spiritual weapons, than with sword and shield. But there are already in existence several military orders. It is therefore expedient that an order should be founded for the purposes of spiritual warfare. The religious of such an order ought, principally to preach the gospel, according to the exhortation of St, Paul, “Labour like a good soldier of Christ” (2 Tim ii. 3), “by preaching the gospel against the enemies of the Faith,” as the Gloss explains.
It is essential that they who labour for the salvation of souls should be remarkable both for learning, and for sanctity of life. It is not easy to find enough priests with such a reputation to take charge of all the parishes throughout the world: neither is it possible, among secular priests, to carry out the statute of the Council of Lateran, which enjoins that there should be teachers of theology in every metropolitan church. This desire of the Church is, however, through the mercy of God, being carried out through the instrumentality of religious. In the words of Isaiah (xi. 9), “The earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” Thus, it is highly expedient that a religious order should be founded, in which the brethren are learned and addicted to study, and at the same time have leisure to help secular priests who are not so well adapted to teach theology.
The advantage of such orders is further proved by the beneficial results produced by their labours. For in many parts of the world, heresy has been destroyed; many infidels have been converted; careless Christians have been instructed in the law of God; and many have been brought to penance by the efforts of religious. Hence anyone who condemns such orders as useless is clearly sinning against the Holy Spirit, by envy of the grace whereby God co-operates in the labours of these men.
Again, in XXV. quaest. I, we read the following words: “No one can, either safely or rightly, pass rash judgments either on the Divine constitutions or on the decrees of the Holy See.” Since, therefore, certain religious Orders, as is proved by their very name (for, as St. Augustine puts it in his book The Christian Life, “no one is called by a name without a cause”), have been established, by the Apostolic See for the purposes of which we have spoken, anyone who condemns them does, by so doing, himself incur condemnation.
6. We must now proceed to our final task that of answering the objections of our opponents.
Their first argument is that the duty of monks is, “not to feed a flock, but to be fed.” This saying is to be understood as meaning that monks have not, by right of their monastic profession, the office of instructing the faithful. It was directed against the mistaken notion that sanctity of life alone is sufficient qualification for the ecclesiastical state. But it is equally true that it is not the duty of a secular priest to feed a flock, unless he has the care of souls, or unless he bears a commission from those holding such a charge. Religious are as fitted as are the secular clergy for the office of preaching. The only difference between them is that religious require a double license, viz. the authorisation of a bishop, and permission from the superior of their order, without which they may not act. The second objection must be answered in exactly the same way. For the words, “Let none, save the priests of the Lord, dare to preach,” is true, if we understand them to mean that no one may preach without a commission to do so.
In like manner, the prohibition to monks to preach, which is quoted against us, is to be understood to mean that monks may not, merely because they are monks, arrogate to themselves the office of preaching. And, in the same way, when it is said that “it does not beseem a monk to preach,” the words mean that the monastic state does not, of itself, confer a right to preach.
When it is objected that they who feed the people with the word of God, ought likewise to supply their material necessities, we reply that this is perfectly true in cases where such charity is possible. For, as St, John says (1 Jn. iii. 17), “He who has the substance of this world and sees his brother in need, and closes the bowels of his mercy against him, how does the charity of God abide in him?” But, almsgiving is not always the necessary accompaniment to preaching; otherwise the Apostles would not have preached, for they possessed nothing to give. “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts iii. 6). Nevertheless, religious, who themselves are poor, are able, at times, to provide for the wants of the poor out of the donations made to them by the wealthy. St. Paul tells us that when he was sent to preach to the Gentiles, he was careful to remember the poor (Gal. ii.). To the objection that pastors are bound to feed their flocks, we reply that they cannot feed them entirely by their own efforts; they must be assisted by others, to whom they entrust the task. For he, by whose authority a deed is accomplished, is held responsible for its performance.
When it is urged that none have a right to preach, save those who are sent, and that we only read of our Lord’s sending the twelve Apostles and the seventy-two disciples, our answer is that they who ore sent by God have power to send forth others. St. Paul sent Timothy to preach: “Therefore have I sent to you Timothy” (1 Cor. iv. 17). Thus likewise other men may be sent forth to preach at the bidding of bishops and priests. But all thus sent must be regarded as the emissaries of the Lord, because it is by His power that they receive their commission. And all who are thus authorised to preach must, although not archdeacons, be regarded as the coadjutors of the bishops, because they are rendering them important assistance, such indeed “as Titus gave to St, Paul, or as archdeacons afford to their bishops” (Gloss). Hence it by no means follows that none save archdeacons can assist bishops in their labours. For, when any priest bearing the commission of a bishop preaches or hears confessions, these functions are accounted as having been performed by the bishop himself. Although it may be true that only two orders were instituted by our Lord for the purpose of preaching; the Church, or the Pope to whom is confided all ecclesiastical power, could found a third order of preachers. For, as we are reminded by the Master of the Sentences, there were in the early Church two degrees only in Holy Orders: priests and deacons; but in course of time other grades were established.
Our answer to the next objection which follows is that the decree to which it refers regards a certain order of men called chorepiscopi, who were ordained not in cities but in hamlets and villages, and who were invested with certain faculties not granted to ordinary priests, such, for instance, as that of conferring minor orders. For some time, these chorepiscopi were recognised in the Church as invested with ordinary powers, but they were finally suppressed, (as is related in the same distinction) on account of their usurpation of the episcopal functions. Thus the decree mentioned in this objection bears no reference to those religious, who, not having ordinary faculties, act as confessors by commission form a bishop. Such an order of religious does not exist in opposition to the number of orders established by our Lord, since, as it has been instituted by His authority, it is rightly regarded as having been ordained by Himself (see the words of Dionysius quoted above). The only conclusion concerning monks that can be drawn from his passage of Dionysius, is that monks have not, on account of their profession, the status of prelates, or of those whose duty it is to guide other to God. There is, however, no reason why a monk should not receive ordinary power or a commission to guide others, especially as the decree quoted merely sys that the monastic orders are not instituted in order to be in command of others or to guide. It does not say that the members of these orders cannot or ought not hold such a position. This is evident from the authority of Dionysius quoted above.
The argument that the ecclesiastical hierarchy is a copy of the heavenly hierarchy is only partially true. In the heavenly, but not in the earthly hierarchy, there is a distinction of gratuitous gifts, according to the distinction of orders. Hence as the angelic nature is immutable, the angels of an inferior rank cannot be transferred to a superior grade, as is the case with mortals in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Nevertheless, in the celestial hierarchy, angels of an inferior order can remain in their own rank, and yet can perform the functions pertaining to a higher grade. Thus Dionysius (XIII, celest. hierarch.) says, “The angel that cleansed Isaiah is called a Seraph, because he fulfilled the office of the Seraphim.” And St. Gregory, in his homily on the hundred sheep, says that “the spirits who are sent forth bear names denoting the order of their ministry.” Hence it is not unseemly, if in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, a man belonging to one of the inferior orders be commissioned to perform duties specially pertaining to a higher rank.
To the objection that religious preach “either with power or without power,” we reply that they preach not with ordinary power, but by that conferred by special commission. It does not, therefore, follow that they have the right of demanding means of support; for this power has not been granted them. They could, however, exercise this power, were it conferred on them by hose to whom it belongs.
It is untrue to say that if religious have faculties to preach, they possess powers superior to those of bishops or patriarchs. For bishops and patriarchs can, by their ordinary power, preach in any place, but religious, who have not the care of souls, can never preach by ordinary power. They can preach, not by ordinary power, but only by special commission; just as the bishop can exercise episcopal functions in a diocese belonging to another, with the permission of the bishop of the diocese in which he is staying.
It is urged that no man ought to build on a foundation laid by another. This statement is untrue, and is against the teaching of St. Paul, who says (1 Cor. iii. 10), “As a wise architect I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon.” This “building” is explained by the Gloss and by St. Ambrose to signify “preaching and teaching.” When the Apostle says: “I have so preached this Gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (Rom. xv. 20), his word must be understood to signify, not that it would have been unlawful for St. Paul to have built upon another man’s foundation, but that he did not, at that moment, consider it expedient to do so. Hence the Gloss, commenting on these words, says: “lest I should build upon another man’s foundation, i.e., lest I should preach to those converted by other men. Not that St. Paul would not have so acted had such a course appeared to him desirable; but that he preferred to lay the foundations of the faith in some spot wherein it had not as yet been preached.” Were it unlawful to preach where another has already taught the Word of God, St. John the Evangelist would not have preached at Ephesus, in which city St. Paul had planted the Faith; nor would St. Paul have preached at Rome, where St. Peter had already been. But what will our opponents say if it should so happen that the religious whom they so bitterly denounce, be divided in such a manner that some go forth, to preach the Word to unbelievers, and, others remain among the faithful to assist the bishops? But this objection has really no connection with the point in question. For to build on another man’s foundation and to preach to another man’s converts are not the same thing. Otherwise, every priest when preaching in his own parish would be building on another man’s foundation, for his parishioners would, probably, be the converts of former priests of the parish.
The words of St. Paul, (2 Cor. x), “not glorying beyond measure in other men’s labour,” are, by those who are averse to the preaching of religious, interpreted to mean that to labour where another man has laid the foundations of the faith is to glory beyond measure. The Gloss does not explain these words as signifying that if St. Paul had laboured where another had already preached, he would have been glorying beyond measure. It understands the text to mean that, had St. Paul taken to himself the glory of having laid the foundations of the faith in such a place, he would have gloried beyond measure.
The objection to the preaching of religious, founded on the words, “not to glory in another man’s rule,” is due to a misinterpretation of the commentary of the Gloss on this passage. The Gloss is quoted as saying, “not to glory in another man’s rule, i.e., in those who are under the government of another.” This is a mis-quotation. The passage of the Gloss referred to runs as follows: “Our rule, i.e., our ministry, which is imposed upon us by God, is to preach the Gospel freelyi not only in a few places, but in those (places) which are beyond your present dwelling. But we hope not to glory in another man’s rule; for those who are at a distance from you are not under any man’s, government.” If the passage in the Gloss really stood as it is represented by our adversaries, it would be difficult to understand, how one Apostle could preach in a province evangelised by another. St. Paul preached at Rome and at Antioch, which were subject to St. Peter; but he did not glory in those churches, as if they were committed to him; he, therefore, did not glory in another man’s rule. And, further, religious who are commissioned by bishops to preach, do so in no diocese save in that one for which they have faculties. Thus, they do not preach to another man’s flock. They are the coadjutors of the bishop, whose commission they hold.
It is easy to answer the objections to the propriety of religious hearing confessions. The decree quoted as opposed to it only forbids religious to act as confessors on itheir own authority. It does not prohibit their doing so at the bidding of the Pope or of a bishop. This is clearly shown XVI, quaest. I, Pervenit. Neither are religious less fit than are secular priests for this duty (XVI, quaest. I, Sunt tamen nonnulli).
To the next objection, viz. that parish priests, pastors of souls, ought to study the faces of flock, which they cannot do except by hearing confessions, we answer that confession is not the only means whereby we may know whether a man be good or bad. For, we can draw a conclusion from the judg ment passed upon him by his superior. Hence if a bishop absolves one of his flock, either by his own act, or through the agency of another commissioned. by him, his parish priest ought to be as satisfied that he knows such a man, as if he himself had been his confessor. He knows that his parishioner has been approved by the judgment of a superior, whom he himself has no right to criticise. And further, if according to the decretal he hear the confessions of his parishioners once a year, it gives him sufficient opportunity for knowing them.
To the objection that everyone is bound, once in the year to confess his sins to his own priest, we reply that the expression “his own priest” applies not only to the parish priest, but to the bishop of the diocese and to the Pope, who have, in a more extended sense than parish priests, the care of souls. The expression “his own priest” is used, not in contradistinction to the bishop, or Pope, who is the common priest, but in contradistinction to a stranger. Hence he who has made his confession to his bishop, or to a vicegerent appointed by him, has confessed to his own priest. And further, anyone who confesses once a year to his own parish priest, and makes himself intelligible to him, is not forbidden to make his confession at other times to any other priest who has faculty to give absolution.
The objection that, unless a priest hears a man’s confession, he cannot know whether he is in a fit state to receive the Blessed Eucharist, is based upon an error. For a priest can know the state of a communicant’s soul by the judgement of the superior who has given him absolution, and whom he ought to trust as he would trust himself.
The argument, that the permission to confess to a priest other than the parish priest, affords opportunity for concealment of sins, is fallacious. For, a priest ought to believe what a penitent says, whether it be for or against himself. Therefore, if the penitent says that he has made his confession, it ought to be taken for granted that he is speaking the truth. Even if the parish priest were to act as his confessor, he might be deceived; for the penitent might confess his more venial offences, and conceal his grievous sins. And it must likewise be remembered that, though the facility for confessing to different priests may be abused, it is nevertheless, as we have already shown, a safeguard against far greater evils.
The argument, that, a monk, having no power to correct others, cannot absolve them, is only true in a very limited sense. For, though monks have not this power in an ordinary way, they are able, by the commission of a bishop, both to correct and to absolve. The Demophilus to whom Dionysius wrote the words quoted was not a priest, nor even a deacon. This is clear from the Epistle quoted by our adversaries.
The same answer must be returned to the objection that, if religious can hear confessions anywhere, they can do so everywhere, and thus they become rulers of the Universal Church. Monks, on their own authority, can hear confessions nowhere. They can act as confessors only where they are commissioned to do so; and if the Head of the Church give them permission to hear confessions everywhere, they can do so everywhere. This, however, does not constitute them governors of the Church, since they absolve sinners, not by their own power, but by the authority delegated to them. The Pope is not styled universal Bishop, not because he does not possess complete and direct power over every diocese in the Church, but because he does not rule any particular diocese as its peculiar and special pastor. Were he to do so, the powers of the other bishops would lapse. This reason is given in the chapter quoted.
The arguments brought as proofs that religious cannot, even with episcopal permission, preach or bear confessions, are easily answered. The proposition, that what a man gives away he does not still possess, does not hold good in things spiritual. These are communicated, not like physical things, by the transference of some dominion over them, but rather by an emanation of an effect from its cause. When one man communicates knowledge to another, he does not, on this account, deprive himself of this knowledge; for it remains in his power. In the same way, he that confers some power upon another, does not, by doing so, deprive himself of that power. A bishop does not, by conferring on a priest the power to consecrate the Body of the Lord, cease to be able himself to do so. St. Augustine, treating of the communication of spiritual things, says (I De Doctrina Christiana) “Everything that is not lessened by being imparted. is not, if it be possessed without being communicated, possessed as it ought to be possessed.” In like manner, when a bishop confers upon a priest the power of absolving, he does not himself lose that power, unless the power of a priest in his parish is considered similar to that of a soldier in his town. This idea is, of course, ridiculous; for priests are not masters, but servants. “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ,” St. Paul writes (1 Cor. iv. 1). Our Lord, also, said to His Apostles, “The Kings of the Gentiles lord it, over them: but you not so: but 1e that is the greater among you, let him become as the least: and he who is the leader, as he who serves” Luke xxii, 25).
The statement that a bishop, by committing the care of a parish to a priest, relieves himself of all responsibility connected with it, is untrue. For, a bishop is still answerable for the care of all the souls in his diocese (Quaest. I, Cap. Quaecumque). Hence St. Paul, after speaking of all his labours, concludes by saying, “Besides those things that are without: my daily instance, the care of all the churches “ (2 Cor. xi. 28). His burden, however, is rendered supportable to a bishop, because he has assistants of an inferior rank. But, even granted that a bishop, by committing a parish to a priest, relieves himself of its responsibility, it would not, on that account, follow that he would abrogate his power in that parish. For, the ministers of Christ are able to labour for the salvation of the faithful, not only by freeing themselves from responsibility, but likewise by increasing their own merit, and producing greater fruit among souls. Thus St. Paul undertook much work for the salvation of the elect, which he might, without any danger to his salvation, have omitted.
The argument that a priest is subject to a bishop, just as, a bishop is under an archbishop, is not quite correct. For an archbishop has not immediate jurisdiction over an episcopal diocese, except in matters specially referred to him. Thus an archbishop cannot summon before him, or excommunicate, one who is the subject of a bishop. A bishop, on the other hand, has immediate jurisdiction over his parochial clergy; he can cite any of them to appear before him; and he has power to excommunicate them. The reason of this distinction is that the power of a priest is imperfect compared to that of a bishop; priests are by divine right subject to bishops, as Dionysius proves. The subjection of a bishop to an archbishop depends only on an ecclesiastical ordinance and is limited by it. But a priest, being by divine right subject to a bishop, is subject to him in all things. The jurisdiction of a bishop over his priests resembles in kind that of the Sovereign Pontiff over all Christendom. For the Roman Church has not been given supremacy over other churches by the decrees of any synod, but by the words of our Lord and Saviour Himself (In Drcretis, Distinct. XXI, Cap. Quamvis).
To the argument that parish priests are the bridegrooms of the churches committed to them, we answer that strictly speaking, the Spouse of the Church is Christ, of whom are spoken the words, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom” (John iii. 29). He, by His Church, begets children to bear His name. The other so-called spouses are in reality the servants of the Bridegroom, who co-operate with him exteriorly in this work of spiritual generation, but who do not beget spiritual children for themselves. Although they are but ministers, they are termed spouses, because they take the place of the true Spouse. Hence the Pope, who is the vicegerent of Christ throughout the entire Church, is called the spouse of the universal Church. In like manner a bishop is termed the spouse of his diocese, and a priest of his parish. But at the same time the Pope is the spouse of every diocese and the bishop is the spouse of all parishes within his see. But it does not follow from these words that there is in one church a plurality of spouses. For priests assist their bishop in his work, and bishops cooperate with the Pope; he finally is the direct minister to Christ. Thus, Christ, the Pope, the bishops, and the priests are but the one spouse of the Church. Hence the fact that the Pope or the bishop hear the confessions of the faithful of a parish, or commit this office to another, is not proof that one church possesses a plurality of spouses. True plurality would consist in the appointment of two ecclesiastics of the same rank to the same office. Hence were there two bishops in one diocese, or two parish priests in one parish, there would be the plurality forbidden by the canons.
We must next answer the proposition that not even Papal permission can authorise religious to preach or to hear confessions.
The first reason on which this assertion is grounded, that the authority of the Roman See cannot alter saything established by the statutes of the Fathers or institute anything contrary to these statutes. This is true with regard to those decrees which, in the judgment of the Saints, are of divine right, e.g., the articles of the faith formulated by Councils. But those matters which the Holy Fathers have declared to be of positive right are left to the judgment of the Pope to be altered or abolished by him, according to the requirements of the times. For, the holy Fathers assembled in councils cannot promulgate any decree save by the authorisation of the Sovereign Pontiff, without whose permission no council is allowed even to meet. Again, if the Pope sees fit to act otherwise than in the manner established by the holy Fathers, he does not act counter to their statutes. For, although, in such a case, the words of the statutes are not obeyed, the intention of those who have drawn up the statutes (to wit the welfare, of the Church) is fulfilled. For in matters which are of positive right, it may be impossible, at all times and under every circumstance, to adhere to the letter of a statute; although the intention with which it was framed is respected. One statute will necessarily be abrogated by a subsequent one. But the fact that certain religious, being neither bishops nor parish priests, exercise the functions of preaching, and hearing confessions, is not contrary to the statutes of the Holy Fathers, unless such religious act thus on their own initiative, unauthorised by the Pope or by a bishop.
In answer to the second objection, the Pope, as we have already shown, does not, by giving to religious the privilege of preaching or hearing confessions, act contrary to St. Paul’s admonition; for these religious do not preach to another man’s people. It is not true to say that the Pope cannot alter any Apostolic decree; for the penalties pronounced against bigamy and against fornication among the clergy, are, by authority of the Holy See, sometimes in abeyance. The power of the Pope is limited only in so far that he cannot alter the canonical scriptures of the Apostles and Prophets, which are fundamental to the faith of the Church.
To the objection that the privileges granted by sovereigns are to be understood in the sense that they are only granted in so far as they be not prejudicial to any other, we reply that an injustice is done to another when something is withdrawn from him which has been established for his gratification or advantage. Hence Ezechiel says (xxxiv. 2), “Woe to the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves. Should not the flocks be fed by the shepherds?” But it is nowise prejudicial to a parish priest, if one of his parishioners be withdrawn from his authority. In the same manner an abbot may, by the Pope, be withdrawn from the authority of a bishop, and a bishop from that of an archbishop, without injustice to either. In fact, if such a course tend to the salvation of their parishioners, far from being prejudicial, it is most beneficial to all pastors who seek the things of Christ, and not such as are their own. St. Gregory commenting on the words in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers (11:29), “Are you jealous for my sake?” says: “A spiritual pastor who seeks not his own honour, but the glory of his Creator, desires to be helped in his actions by all men.” A faithful preacher would wish that were it possible, the lips of all mankind should proclaim the truth which he alone is incompetent to utter.
The argument that when a sovereign grants to a subject permission to make a will, it is with the understanding that such a will is only to be made in an ordinary and legal manner, holds good with regard to the Pope. When the sovereign Pontiff commissions anyone to preach and hear confessions, he only allows him to do so in a legitimate way; his preaching must be unto edification. But, if a man hold a commission from the Pope to preach, he need not, in order to preach lawfully, seek a license from any other superior. Such a course would stultify the authority of the Pope. A man who has obtained permission from his Sovereign to make a will, need not have another license from anyone else. All that is required of him is, to make his will in due form. A preacher licensed by the Pope requires no other authorisation. He need only observe the proper rules of preaching, such as that of using one style in addressing the poor, and another in speaking to the rich, and such other points as are mentioned by St. Gregory in Pastorale.
When it is urged that a monk does not, at his ordination, receive power to exercise his priestly office unless he be placed in charge of souls, we reply, by reminding those who make this objection that the priesthood is instituted for two ends. Its first and principal end is the true consecration of the Body of Christ. Power to accomplish this end is conferred at ordination, unless there be some defect in the administration or in the recipient of this Sacrament. The second end for which the Priesthood is instituted is for the welfare of the mystical body of Christ, by the keys of the Church entrusted to the priest. Power to accomplish this end is not conferred at ordination, unless the priest ordained be placed in charge of souls or unless this power be given him by the authority of someone who has the care of souls. But the power of the priesthood is never given in vain; for every priest has power to fulfil the principal purpose of his ordination. But the power of preaching is bestowed for no end, save for that of preaching. Hence as a privilege conferred by a sovereign, cannot be useless to him on whom it is bestowed; so, when the Pope gives to any priest a commission to preach, he has power to execute such a commission. Nevertheless, the Pope, by so acting, does not give to a religious the office of preaching, but rather the power to exercise such an office. For religious do not, as we have said, make use of their own power in preaching; they use the power entrusted to them by another.
The words quoted from I, quaest. de Doctrina were written by Dionysius of lay monks, i.e., of monks who are neither bishops, priests nor deacons, But, even if they be applied to all religious, the Pope, by sending monks to preach, would not be disturbing the order of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. For, as we have said before, he who is of an inferior rank can exercise an office belonging to a higher grade, thus imitating the action of the celestial hierarchy. Furthermore, in the ecclesiastical hierarchy those of a lower order can be promoted to a higher rank. This cannot take place in the heavenly hierarchy. Hence Pope Innocent III, before a General council, sent some Cistercian monks to preach at Toulouse.
The last objection, brought against religious who preach, is that it is ambition on their part to seek permission to exercise this office. This is untrue, for a desire to preach inspired by charity is on the contrary praiseworthy. Isaiah (vi. 8) offered himself to the Lord, saying: “Lo: here I am: send me.” This function may likewise be meritoriously declined out of humility. Thus Jeremiah said (i. 6): “Ah, ah, ah, Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child.” This is evident from the Gloss of St. Gregory. The same view is found in VIII, quaest. I, cap. In scripturis. We must remember that ecclesiastical offices are accompanied both by dignity and by labour. Therefore, they may, on account of their dignity, be declined; and they may be desired, for the sake of the work. “ If a man desire the office of bishop, he desires a good thing,” says St. Paul (1 Tim. iii, 1). On these words St. Augustine says (XIX De civitate Dei), “The Apostle desired to explain what is meant by the episcopate and how far it may be desired, for the name implies labour not glory “ (cf. VIII quaest. I, qui episcopatum, also the Gloss on the same text). Hence if the labours of the episcopate be distinguished from its attendant dignity, it may laudably and without danger of ambition be desired. In like manner, a religious who seeks from a parish priest or a bishop permission to preach shows not that he is inspired by ambition, but that he is filled with the love of God and of his neighbour.
Are Religious Bound to Manual Labour?
As no sufficient reasons can be found for excluding religious from apostolic labours, their enemies try to impede their work by representing that they are bound to labour with their hands; and that they are thus unable to prosecute the studies which would fit them for preaching or hearing confessions. The malice which inspires these efforts against the labours of religious is typified by the words of the enemies of Nehemiah, who said, “Come and let us make a league together” (2 Esdras vii.). The Gloss has the following commentary on this passage: “As the enemies of the holy City begged Nehemiah to come down to the plain, and there to form a league with them; so do heretics and bad Catholics desire to make friends with the faithful, not in order that they themselves may ascend to the heights of the Catholic faith and of good works, but in order to induce those that they know to be living virtuously to descend to sin and to false doctrine.”
Those who desire to see religious obliged to labour with their hands adduce several arguments in support of their wishes. First they quote the words of St. Paul (1 Thes. iv. 11), “Work with your own hands, as we commanded you,” alleging that as religious are, above all men, bound to obeythe apostolic precepts, they ought to consider manual labour as a duty. And again we read (2 Thes. 10), “If any man will not work, neither shall he eat.” The Gloss contains the following commentary on this passage: “Some persons pretend that the Apostle, in thus speaking, was alluding not to physical labour, such as that of agriculture or handicraft, but to spiritual works.” It adds later on, “Thus they blind both themselves and others to the true meaning of this charitable admonition, and they not only refuse to obey it, but even to understand its meaning.” Again the Gloss continues, “St. Paul would have the faithful earn their living by bodily labour, although certain religious are specially set apart for the worship of God.” Hence according to this Apostolic precept, religious ought to work.
St. Paul again says (Ephes. iv. 28), “Let him labour, working with his hands what is good; that he may have something to give to him who suffers need.” “Not merely in order to gain a livelihood” (Gloss). Hence religious, having no other means of assisting the poor, ought to labour with their hands. Again, the Gloss, commenting on the words in St. Luke x, ii, “Sell what you possess,” observes: “Do not merely give food to the poor, but also sell your possessions, in order that despising all things for the love of Christ, you may work with your hands, either in order to live, or to have something to give in alms.” Therefore, religious who abandon all their own possessions should live and bestow charity by the work of their hands.
Further, as Religious make profession of perfection, they are bound to imitate the Apostolic mode of life. Now we have several proofs that the Apostles worked with their hands. For instance, St. Paul writes (1 Cor., iv. 12), “We labour, working with our own hands.” In the Acts of the Apostles (xx. 34), we read, “Such things as were needful for me, and for those who are with me, these hands have furnished.” In this they may be imitated by others. “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing, but in labour and in toil we worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thes. iii. 8). Religious ought, therefore, imitate the example of the Apostles by manual labour.
Religious likewise are more bound than are secular ecclesiastics, to the performance of lowly work. Yet, in the Decretals (dist. XCIX), we find these words: “Let a cleric, in so far as he can do so without injury to his office, maintain himself either by handicraft or by husbandry.” Again, “Let every cleric instructed in the words of God gain his livelihood by industry.” Further, “All ecclesiastics, whose health will permit it, must study and must acquire some handicraft.” How much more then are religious obliged to work!
Again, in the Acts of the Apostles (xx. 34) we read: Such things as were needful for me, or for those who are with me, these hands have furnished.” Manual labour, therefore, is a mark distinguishing the bishops of the flock from wolves. Now if religious, by preaching, exercise an episcopal office, they are, certainly, bound to work with their hands.
St. Jerome, writing to Rusticus, says: “It is the custom in the Egyptian monasteries, to receive no brother who will not work. This rule is made not so much for the sake of self-support as for spiritual advantage and to prevent the mind from being employed in dangerous thoughts.” For this same reason, manual labour is incumbent on religious.
Again, religious ought to be always eager to make spiritual progress. As St. Paul expresses it, they ought to be “zealous for the better gifts” (1 Cor. xii. 31). Now St. Augustine, in his book, De opere monachorum, says that “religious who labour with their hands are preferable to those who do not work.” And, in the commentary on the words (Acts xx.): “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” the Gloss observes: “They receive the greatest glory who, having abandoned all that they possessed, labour in order to be able to supply the necessities of those in want.” Therefore, all religious ought to endeavour to work with their hands.
St. Augustine, in the book already quoted, calls those monks who will not work, “contumacious.” He adds: “Who can bear to hear those who contumaciously resist the Apostolic precept not merely excused on account of infirmity, but praised for their holiness? “Contumacy is a mortal sin; else the Church would not visit it with excommunication. Hence no religious, can, without risk of sinning mortally, exempt himself from the duty of manual labour.
Further, if religious be dispensed from work, the dispensation ought to be granted in order to give them opportunity for sacred psalmody, for prayer, for preaching, and for reading. But, it is not for these reasons that religious are exempted from labour. Therefore, they are bound to work. St. Augustine, in his book De opere monachorum, proves this obligation in the following words: “How do they employ themselves who will not labour with their hands? Gladly would I know what they do? They say that they devote themselves to psalmody, to prayer, to reading and to the Word of God.” The author then proceeds to examine each of these excuses. Speaking of prayer, he says: “One prayer from the lips of an obedient man will be heard more speedily than ten made by one that is scornful.” He, thus insinuates that he who will not work with his hands is proud and unworthy of being listened to by God. Next, speaking of those who say that instead of labouring they are singing sacred canticles, he says: “It is easy to chant and to work at the same time.” He then asks, “What is to prevent a servant of God, while employed in labour, from meditating on the law of the ‘Lord, and singing to the name of the Most High?” Thirdly, referring to reading, he says: “Do not they who say that they devote their time to reading find in the Scriptures the Apostolic precept to work? How great is their perversity! These men wish to read, but will not heed what is written. They desire to prolong the time for reading what is virtuous, but they will not accomplish the good works of which they read. Who does not know that he makes the most profit by his reading who is the swiftest to put it into practice?” Fourthly, the saint remarks about preaching: “Although one monk may have to preach, and therefore may not have time for work, all the brethren in the monastery cannot preach. If then they cannot all preach, why, on the pretext of preaching, should they all leave their work? But, even supposing that they can all preach, they ought to do so in turn, both in order that some may be left to do the necessary work, and because one speaker suffices to many listeners.”
It is noticeable that on this point those who have once forsaken the beaten track of truth have, in their efforts to avoid one error, fallen into a contrary mistake. There was once among certain monks an erroneous idea that manual labour was detrimental to religious perfection, because it hindered religious from casting all their care upon God and thus from fulfilling our Lord’s behest: “Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on” (Matt. vi. 25). But they who hold this opinion must, for the sake of consistency, deny that the Apostles laboured with their hands. They must interpret the words of St. Paul, “ if any man will not work, neither shall he eat,” as referring not to physical, but to spiritual labours. Otherwise the Apostolic precept would be opposed to the evangelical command. St. Augustine in his book De opere monacorum, which was written to confute this error (as he tells us in his book of Retractations), clearly proves that it is contraxy to the teaching of Holy Scripture. On the strength of this verdict, other captious men have diaseminated an error of a precisely contrary nature, teaching that religious are, unless engaged in manual labour, living in a state of damnation. The Gloss terms the upholders of this opinion friends and sup porters of Pharaoh, who said: “Why do you, Moses and Aaron, draw off the people from their works?” (Exod. v. 4). It makes the following commentary on the text: “If, today Moses and Aaron, by whom is signified the word of a prophet or a preacher, should stir up men’s hearts to leave the world and to renounce all that they possess in order to devote themselves to the service of God, and to the study of His law and word, the friends of Pharaoh would immediately exclaim: “See how men are led away, and youths persuaded to forsake work and military service and everything useful, in order to spend their time in idleness and folly. For what is their service to God? A pretext for idleness? Such were the words of Pharaoh, and thus do his friends still speak.”
In order to defend the servants of God from persecution of this nature, we shall now prove that religious are not, except perhaps occasionally, bound to manual labour; moreover, those who do not work with their hands are in a state of salvation.
In the first place, the Gloss, commenting on the words: “Behold the birds of the air” (Matt. vi. 26), says: “The saints are deservedly compared to birds; for they seek Heaven, and they are so far removed from the world that they do no work on earth. They do not labour, but by contemplation dwell in Heaven. Of such may it truly be said: ‘Who are these that fly like clouds?’”
St, Gregory, in the second part of his second homily (super Ezech.), speaks thus: “He who leads a contemplative life, turns his whole mind to the love of God and of his neighbour. He ceases from external work, and is engrossed by a desire for his Creator, which leaves him capable of, no other activity. He forgets all other cares, and yearns only to behold God face to face.” Hence perfectly contemplative souls withdraw themselves from exterior occupations.
Again, the Gloss thus comments on the words (Luke x.): “Lord, have you no care that my sister has left me alone to serve?” “Such” (says the Gloss) “are the words of those who, understanding nothing of the nature of true contemplation, consider that charity to our neighbour is the only work pleasing to God.” Those who hold that religious are bound to labour with their hands, consider that this is an obligation imposed on them by brotherly love, in order that by their work they may have something to bestow in alms. They quote the words of St.Paul (Ephes. iv.28), “Let him labour with his hands that he may have something to give to him who suffers need.” They, therefore, who desire to see religious obliged to work, join in the murmur of Martha. But the Lord made excuse for the idleness of Mary.
We can prove our point by the following example. St. Benedict, as we are told by St. Gregory (II Dial.), lived for three years in a cave, not working with his hands, and unknown to any save to the monk Romanus who brought him food. But who will dare to say that he was not in a state of salvation, when the Lord spoke of him to a certain priest, saying: “My servant in such a place is dying of hunger”? Both in the Dialogue and in the lives of the Fathers we find many other examples of saints who passed their lives without working with their hands.
Manual labour is either a precept or a counsel. If it is a counsel, no one is bound to observe it, unless obliged thereto by vow. Hence manual labour is no duty for religious whose rule does not prescribe it, If, on the other hand, manual labour is a precept, it is incumbent alike on seculars and on religious, since both laymen and religious are equally bound to obey the Divine and Apostolic precepts. Hence if a layman, before his entrance into religion, was free to live in the world without work, he would, on becoming a religious, be equally exempt from the necessity of labour.
At the time at which St. Paul said: “If any man will not work, neither shall he eat,” religious were not distinguished from seculars; and the rule of labour was established for all Christians alike. All were equally called brethren, as we see from the words: “Withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly” (2 Thes. iii. 10). Again: “if any brother has an unbelieving wife” etc. (1 Cor. vii. 12). On these words, the Gloss interprets the word “brother” to mean any one of the faithful. If then on account of the admonition of St. Paul, religious are bound to manual labour, the same duty is equally incumbent upon the laity.
St. Augustine, in his book De opere monachorum, says: “Credit must be given to, and allowances made for, the delicate health of those who, in the world, were able to live without working; and who, on their conversion to God, have distributed all that they had to the poor. Men of this class are not generally equal to physical toil.” Hence we see that those who have lived in the world without labour are not bound, when they go into religion, to work with their hands.
This point is further proved by another passage of the same book. In this, St. Augustine, speaking in praise of a certain wealthy man who had given all his goods to a monastery, says: “He has done well to set others an example by working with his own hands. For, had he been unwilling to labour, who would have dared to constrain him to do so? Neither is it of any consequence that he gave his possessions to a monastery instead of dividing them otherwise. For all Christians unite in one commonwealth.”
When a precept is only given under certain conditions or circumstances, it is only binding in the event of such conditions or circumstances arising to necessitate its observance. St. Paul gave the command to labour only in particular cases, as a safeguard against sin. When such sin can be otherwise avoided, manual labour is not a duty. The only three cases in which the Apostle enjoins it are: first in Ephes. iv. 28, “He who stole, let him now steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands.” Here he proposes work as a remedy against theft, to such as preferred to steal rather than to earn their living. Secondly, he prescribes labour in 1 Thes. iv. 11, saying: Go, work with your own hands, as we commanded you, and conduct yourselves properly towards outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.” In this passage, labour is enjoined as a preventive against covetousness, which is theft by desire., Thirdly, St. Paul, in 2 Thess. iii. 11, again enjoins labour in these words: “For also, when we were with you, we declared to you that if any man will not work neither let him eat. For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, not working at all, but curiously meddling,” “making a living by unjustifiable means” (Gloss). “Now we charge those who are such, and beseech them, by the Lord Jesus Christ that working with silence, they would eat their own bread.” In these verses, St. Paul enjoins labour on those, who, instead of working for a livelihood, procured it by illicit means. Hence we see that there is no duty of manual labour incumbent on either laymen or religious who can maintain themselves without either theft, covetousness or dishonesty. Neither does St. Augustine say that work is a precept to be obeyed by all. If we examine his words, we shall see that he only urges the fulfilment of the Apostolic precept. Hence religious are only bound to manual labour under certain circumstances.
Those who do not depend upon their work for subsistence are not obliged to labour. Otherwise, all rich men, both seculars and ecclesiastics, who live without working, would be in a state of damnation; which is, of course, an absurd hypothesis. Now there are some religious who have an assured livelihood, either from the alms of benefactors, or because the ministry of preaching is committed to them, and “the Lord has ordained that those who preach the Gospel shall live by the Gospel” (1 Cor. ix. 14). The Gloss says that “God has made this provision for preachers, in order that they may be the more swift to proclaim His word.” Therefore, these words cannot be understood as referring only to prelates, for, though bishops have, in their own right, authority to preach, yet not only they, but all such as have a commission to preach, must be diligent in the exercise of this duty. Religious, as we have already proved, are included in this category. There are likewise certain religious who assist in the Divine Office in the Church. They have a right to live by this means; for St. Paul says that “they who serve the altar partake also with the altar” (1 Cor. ix. 13). St. Augustine says, in his book De opere monachorum: “If religious are evangelists, I grant that they have a right to live on the alms of the faithful. If they minister at the altar, they can claim the same right, for it is their due, and it is not an unjust demand.”
The same remarks apply to those religious who devote themselves to the study of the Holy Scripture. St. Jerome writes, in his epistle to Vigilantius: “The custom prevailed in Judeea, and is still extant in our time, that those who possessed nothing on earth, whose only portion was the Lord, and who meditated day and night on His law, were maintained by the synagogues, and by the good offices of all mankind.” Hence we see that there is no obligation to labour incumbent on all religious.
Spiritual profit is always to be preferred to temporal advantage. Now those who minister to the public welfare by the preservation of temporal peace are justly paid a stipend which enables them to live. St. Paul says (Rom. xiii. 6), “This is why you pay tribute. For they are the ministers of God, serving unto this purpose” (“by fighting for their country” says the Gloss). Hence they who minister to the spiritual necessities of the state, either by preaching or expounding the Scriptures or assisting in the public prayers of the Church, have a far better right to be supported by the contributions of the faithful. They are, therefore, not bound to manual labour.
St. Augustine observes, again, in his book De opere monachorum that St. Paul worked with his hands in those places (of which one was Corinth) in which he was accustomed to preach to the Jews only on the Sabbath day. But when he was at Athens and preached daily, he lived not by his labour, but by the alms brought to him by the brethren from Macedonia. Hence we see that the function of preaching is not to be set aside for the sake of manual labour. Those men, therefore, who whether by commission from a superior or of their own right, are able to preach daily or otherwise to minister to souls, ought to abstain from manual work.
Further, works of mercy are preferable to physical labour. St. Paul says, (1 Tim. iv. 8), “ For bodily exercise is profitable to little; but godliness is profitable to all things.” But, even works of fraternal charity must give place to the exercise of preaching. “It is not fit that we should leave the word of God to serve at tables” (Acts vi. 2). “Leave the dead to bury their dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God” (Luke ix. 60). On this the Gloss observes: “The Lord teaches us to forego lesser advantages for the sake greater ones. It is more profitable to raise souls, by preacching, from the death of sin than to bury dead bodies in the earth.” Hence manual labour may lawfully be neglected for the sake of preaching.
It is impossible, at the same time, both to gain a livelihood by work and to carry on a systematic study of Holy Scripture. St. Gregory, expounding Exod. xxv., “The bars shall be always in the rings,” says: “It is above all necessary that they who are destined for preaching should be unremitting in their studies, so that although they are not always preaching, they may always be prepared to preach.” Hence those whose duty it is to preach, whether by their own authority, as is the case with bishops, or by the commission of prelates, ought to set aside manual labour for the sake of study.
There are some words in the prologue of St. Jerome’s commentary on the book of Job, which show clearly that religious are justified in neglecting bodily labour for the sake of studying Holy Scripture: “Were I to spend my time in weaving baskets or plaiting palm branches in order to eat my bread in the sweat of my brow, no one would reproach me for my anxiety to supply my material wants. Now however that, in obedience to the admonition of Our Saviour, I labour for a meat that doth not perish, and strive to clear the sacred volume from the errors that have accumulated therein, I am reproached with having committed a double fault.” Later on he adds, “Therefore, my brethren, please accept these spiritual and durable gifts in lieu of fans, baskets and other little monastic presents.” Thus, we see that the monk St. Jerome was rebuked by envious tongues for preferring the study of Holy Scripture to manual labour. His example may profitably be followed by religious, in spite of the complaints uttered against them by their detractors.
St, Augustine further says in his book De opere monachorum: “They who have renounced all their possessions and distributed their fortune, whatever it may be, among the needy, and with pious humility desire, to be enrolled among the poor of Christ, can perform a work of mercy even greater than that of dividing their substance among those in want. For, if they are not hindered by ecclesiastical labours and have sufficient strength to work, by manual labour they will set a good example to the idle.” Hence we see that religious are dispensed from the duty of bodily toil, either by infirm health or by ecclesiastical business. Now of all clerical duties, preaching is the noblest and most useful. “Let the priests who rule well be esteemed worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim v. 11). Therefore, religious who are engaged in preaching ought not to be employed in bodily labour.
It only, now, remains for us to answer the arguments brought forward in favour of the contrary opinion. The first argument brought against us is that manual labour is an Apostolic precept. To this objection we reply that it is a precept not of positive right, but of the natural law. This is clear from the words of St. Paul (2 Thes. iii. 6), “Withdraw yourselves from every brother living disorderly,” which the Gloss interprets to mean, “who lives not according to the law of nature.” The Apostle is speaking of such as will not work. Now the very constitution of our bodies teaches us that nature intends us to labour. We are not provided with raiment, as other animals are furnished with hides. Neither has nature given us weapons, like the horns which she has bestowed on cattle; nor the claws wherewith lions defend themselves. Nor is any food, save milk, supplied naturally to us, as Avicenna remarks. In lieu of the gifts bestowed upon other animals, man is endowed with reason, which teaches him to supply his needs, and with hands wherewith he can carry out the dictates of reason, as Aristotle says (XIV De animal.). As the precepts of the natural law regard all men without distinction, the law of manual labour does not apply more to religious than to others. Nevertheless, it is not true that all men ere bound to work with their hands. There are certain laws of nature which, in their observance, are of profit to none save to the one who obeys them. Such is the law obliging man to eat. These laws must be obeyed by every individual man. Other natural laws, e.g. that of reproduction, regard not only the man who obeys them, but are advantageous to the whole human race. It is not necessary that all these laws should be obeyed by every individual; for no single man is competent to perform all the activities which are needed for the continuation of the human race. One individual would not suffice for the different works of reproduction, of invention, of architecture, of agriculture, or for the other functions which must be exercised for the continuance of the human race. To supply the needs common to all mankind one individual must assist another, just as in the body one limb is subserved by another. It is in allusion to this mutual service which men are bound to render to each other that St. Paul says: “We are each members of one another” (Rom. ‘xii. 5). The differences existing among men, and enabling them to devote themselves to different occupations, are to be attributed primarily to Divine Providence, and secondarily to natural causes, whereby certain men are disposed to the performauce of certain functions in preference to others.
Hence we see that no man is bound to any particuar work, unless necessity obliges him to it, and unless no one else will accomplish it for him. For example, if a man be constrained by necessity to dwell in a house which no one will build for him, he must build it for himself. With regard, therefore, to manual labour, I maintain that it is not incumbent upon anyone unless he be in want of something which must be produced by such labour, and which he cannot, without sin, procure from any other man. For we are said to be able to do anything when we can lawfully do it. This appears from the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. iv. 12). “We labour, working with our own hands,” “because “ (comments the Gloss) “no one will supply our necessities.” Hence the Apostle does not enjoin manual labour as a precept on any, save on those who choose to gain their living by sin, rather than by work. Nor can it be proved that anyone, be he layman or religious, is bound to manual labour, except to save himself from death by starvation, or to avoid a sinful mode of gaining a livelihood.
To the second objection, which is based on the commentary of the Gloss on the words, “If any man will not work, neither let him eat,” we answer that this saying must be understood as referring to physical, as distinguished from spiritual work. It was directed against those who interpreted this passage as signifying spiritual labours only, and as forbidding the servants of God to work. The Gloss corrects this interpretation. St. Augustine likewise finds fault with it, in his book De opere monachorum. But even if the verse, “If anyone will not work neither let him eat” is understood as referring to manual labour, it does not prove that everyone who desires to eat, is bound to work with his hands. Were such a precept of labour universally imposed, it would contradict the words of St. Paul, “we worked day and night; not as if we had not power,” etc. As the Apostle had power to eat without working, the words: “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” cannot be understood as implying an obligation to work imposed on all mankind. The class of men to whom St. Paul refers becomes quite evident from some other words of his in the same chapter (2 Thes. iii.): “For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, not working at all, but curiously meddling” or, as the Gloss says, “providing themselves with the necessities of life by illicit means.” St. Paul continues, “Such people we instruct and urge to work with silence and eat their own bread.” For one accustomed to gain his living in an unlawful manner ought not to eat if he will not work. The words of the Gloss which follow: “that they may not be compelled by want to beg,” show that labour is not to be imposed upon the servants of God as a necessity, but that it is proposed to them as means of avoiding the evil of compulsory mendicancy. For, it is better for a man to work with his hands than to be reduced, against his will, to beggary. Nor does, it follow that they who profess poverty and who, out of humility, are content to beg, are bound to work with their hands.
To the third objection, we reply that the Apostle has given no absolute precept concerning manual work. He speaks of it as being preferable to theft: “He who stole, let him now steal no more, but rather let him labour with his hands,” etc. Hence as religious can live without stealing, there is no reason why they should be bound to work.
To the fourth objection, our answer is that they who, in obedience to the counsel of our Lord, have sold all things, ought to follow Him. Therefore Peter said: “See, we have left all things and have followed You” etc. (Matt. xix. 27). Now men can follow Christ either by a life of contemplation or by one of action. They are equally His followers who leave all things in order to devote themselves to contemplation, or in order to give material alms, or to bestow spiritual assistance by preaching or teaching. The passage quoted from the Gloss, while it mentions one mode whereby the counsels of our Lord are observed, does not, thereby, intend to exclude the other way, else it would contradict the gospel. For Luke (ix. 59) tells us how our Lord said to a certain man, “Follow Me.” But he to whom He spoke, asked for time to bury his father. Christ answered him: “Let the dead bury their dead; but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.” Thus, it was our Lord’s will that some men, when they had left all things, should follow Him to proclaim the word of God. We can also say that this text, together with all that is contained about it in the Gloss, is a counsel. It is therefore binding only on such who are vowed to its observance.
Our answer to the fifth objection, is that the manual labour of the Apostles was sometimes a matter of necessity, and at other times a work of supererogation. When no one would supply the Apostles with food, they were obliged to work (cf. Gloss on 1 Cor. iv.). But we see in 1 Cor. ix. that at other times manual labour was for them a matter of supererogation. Now there are three reasons for which the Apostles chose to do work that was not a necessity. It was, first, in order to take from those false apostles, who preached only for the sake of temporal gain, the occasion of preaching: “But what I do that I will do that I may cut off the occasion from them,” etc. (2 Cor. xi. 12). Secondly, the Apostles, at times, resorted to manual labour, lest they to whom they preached should, in their avarice, find it a burden to provide for the material needs of those from whom they received spiritual benefits, and lest they should so fall away from the faith. “For what is there that you have had less than the other churches, but that I myself was not burdensome to you” (2 Cor. xii. 13). Thirdly, the Apostles laboured in order to set an example of industry. “We worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you” (2 Thes. iii. 8). But St. Paul did not work in cities, such as Athens, where he had facilities for preaching daily (see St. Augustine, Do opere momachorum). Hence it is not a matter of salvation for religious to imitate his manual labour, since all works of supererogation are not binding upon them. The other Apostles did not work with their hands except when they were obliged to do so in order to obtain food.
To the sixth objection, we reply that the decree quoted by it refers only to those clerics who are not sufficiently endowed with ecclesiastical revenues, or assisted by the alms of the faithful, to be able to live without working.
We reply to the seventh objection that St. Paul gives to bishops the example of manual labour in those cases in which he himself had recourse to it, e.g., when such labour would not be an obstacle to the performance of their ecclesiastical duties, or when it would cause scandal to recent converts were they to be asked for material assistance.
Our answer to the eighth objection, is that manual labour, according to the authority of St. Jerome, is performed not only to earn a livelihood, but, likewise to repress dangerous thoughts arising from idleness and self-indulgence. But sloth and the desires of the flesh are overcome not only by bodily toil, but likewise by spiritual exercises. Hence St. Jerome writes: “Love the knowledge of the Scripture, and you will not love the vices of the flesh.” There is no precept enjoining manual labour, if idleness can be avoided by means of spiritual exercises, and if the body is subdued by means of other austerities such as watching, fasting and the like, among which penitential practices St. Paul mentions labour, saying “ in labours, in watching; in fasting” (2 Cor. vi.). The Gloss adds, “in manual labour,” the reason being, “because the Apostle worked with his hands.”
We reply to the ninth objection that at times it is advisable to work with the hands, and at other times it is better not to work in this manner. When manual labour does not call a man away from some more useful occupation, it is very praiseworthy, as a means both of self-support, and of charity to those in need. It is especially to be counselled, in cases wherein those weak in faith or but recently converted would be scandalised if preachers, instead of earning their own livelihood, were to live on the alms of the faithful. It was on such occasions (as the Gloss remarks) that St. Paul had recourse to manual labour (1 Cor. ix.). When, however, such labour hinders a man from engaging in more useful occupation, it is better to set it aside. This lesson is given us by the commentary of the Gloss on the words, “Leave the dead to bury their dead” (Luke ix), and also by the example of St. Paul, who ceased to work when he had an opportunity of preaching. Manual labour is naturally a greater hindrance to modern preachers than to those of the Apostolic age. For the Apostles were taught by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whereas in our time preachers must prepare themselves for their office by constant study, as is evidenced by St. Gregory in the words already given.
To the tenth objection, we reply that the monks whom St, Augustine condemns as contumacious, belong to the class which, according to the Apostolic precept, is bound to work, and which St. Paul says is worthy of excommunication (2 Thes. iii.). Men of this description refuse to work, because they prefer to live in sloth, and to get their living by illicit means. That St. Augustine clearly refers to this class of person, appears in the words wherein he assigns a reason why those who leave an agricultural life in order to enter religion, ought to employ themselves in physical labour. He says that such men should work with their hands, because it is difficult to tell whether they become religious for the purpose of serving God, or in order to escape from a toilsome and penurious condition to a state, wherein they may be clothed and fed, living in idleness and honoured by those who, hitherto, have despised them and considered them nothing. Such men, evidently, belong to the class denounced by the Apostle as slothful, and urged by him to work in silence and eat their own bread.” St. Augustine accuses them of contumacy, chiefly because, perverting the words of St. Paul, they maintain that it is not lawful for the servants of God to work with their hands.
Our answer to the eleventh objection, is that by the spiritual works to which this objection refers, may be understood either the spiritual exercises that are for the common good, or such as are profitable to individuals. A man may either join in the prayers and psalmody of the Divine Office, and thus perform a work destined for the public edification of the Church, or he may, as do many laymen, occupy himself in private devotions. It is of the latter class that St. Augustine is speaking in the passage quoted in this objection. He is not alluding to those engaged in the public functions of the Church. This is clear from the words which follow. They can, he says, at the same time sing sacred canticles and work with their hands, after the example of craftsmen, who tell each other stories and listen with great attention, yet without ceasing to work. This conduct would not be permissible to such as are reciting the canonical hours. Again, reading may be, for some religious, a public duty, for they may have either to teach or to attend lectures in the schools as masters and scholars, either religious or secular. It may, on the other hand, be a private occupation, as is the study of the Scriptures prosecuted by monks in the cloister for their own consolation. St. Augustine recognises this distinction, and in the passage quoted as an objection, he speaks not of monks engaged in teaching or lecturing, but of such as “say that they devote their time to reading.”
In like manner, preaching may be a public duty; and it is so, for such as are bound to proclaim the Word of God to the people. At other times, it is a private exercise; as is the case, when, in a community, one of the religious gives a spiritual exhortation, or when the Fathers of the Desert used to address words of edification to the brethren who came to visit them. It is clear that St. Augustine refers to this private mode of instruction. For he says: “Can all the religious of a monastery speak spiritual words to the brethren who come to them?” Hence it is plain that his words are to be applied not to preachers, but to such as speak unto edification. For, as the Gloss says (1 Cor. ii.), “Speaking is a private exercise, preaching a public function.” They therefore who are employed publicly in the various spiritual exercises which we have mentioned are justified in accepting the means of livelihood from the faithful to whom they minister. But those who devote themselves to such works for their private edification, to the neglect of manual labour, do certainly transgress against the Apostolic precept. They belong to the category of those whom St. Paul rebukes, and whom he bids to “work in silence,” and to “eat their own bread,” It is of such men that St. Augustine speaks. This is made clear by his words: “Why should we not devote a part of our time to the observance of the Apostolic precepts?” Again he says: “One prayer from the mouth of an obedient man will be heard more speedily than ten that proceed from scomful lips.” Once more, “How great is their perversity! They will not obey what they read.”
All these passages prove that St. Augustine denounces only those religious who apply themselves to spiritual exercises, in such a manner as to transgress the Apostolic precept. But those only, as we have before observed, can disobey this precept who are bound to fulfil it. They do not transgress it who neglect manual labour for the sake of public duties. Neither do they obey it who, instead of working with their hand, devote themselves to the exercise of contemplation. For (as has already been said), they are not impelled by sloth to escape from labour and to lead an idle life. They are, on the contrary, filled with such an abundance of divine love as to render them oblivious of every earthly care.”
Is it Lawful For a Religious to Leave All That He Has, Reserving for Himself No Property, Either Private Or Common?
THE enemies of truth are not satisfied with the many false assertions which we have hitherto employed ourselves in disproving. They proceed still further. They, endeavour to overthrow the very basis of all religious life, namely, the practice of poverty established by our Lord. They affirm that it is unlawful for religious to abandon all their possessions, in order to enter a religious order, owning neither property nor income. The only reason, they say, which can justify such a step is the intention of doing manual work. They quote as an authority for this assertion the words of Prov. xxx. 8, “Give me neither beggary, nor riches; give me only the necessities of life; lest perhaps being filled, I should be tempted to deny; or, being compelled by poverty, I should steal, and forswear the name of God.” Those who leave all things, and enter a religious order which is destitute of all possessions abandon their means of subsistence and expose themselves to beggary. This is particularly the case with those who have not the intention of working with their hands. They, therefore, who act thus are liable to be tempted to steal and to abjure the name of God.
In Eccles. vii. 12 we read again, “Wisdom with riches is more profitable,” i,e., than wisdom alone. Hence it is reprehensible to choose wisdom without riches by abandoning the means of support, in order to gain wisdom. Again we are told that “through poverty many have sinned” (Sirach xxvii. 1). The Gloss interprets these words, as meaning poverty of heart and of work. Now if every occasion of sin is to be avoided, no man ought to reduce himself to poverty by parting with all his goods.
St. Paul gives to the Corinthians the following rule concerning almsgiving: “If eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does no have. I do no mean that others should be eased, and you burdened” (2 Cor. viii. 12). The Gloss interprets this text to mean that a man must keep for himself the necessities of life, and that if he bring on himself poverty, he is giving beyond his means. Hence those who abandon all their possessions are giving alms inordinately, and in a manner contrary to the Apostolic rule.
The Gloss has the following comment on the words of St. Paul (1 Thess. v. 12), “We beseech you brethren to respect” etc.: “ Riches beget carelessness about salvation. Penury also causes men to forsake justice in their efforts to acquire wealth.” Now they who give up all that they possess in order to become religious reduce themselves to excessive poverty. Thus they lay themselves open to a temptation to depart from justice. Again on the words of the same Apostle, “but having food and wherewith to be covered” (1 Tim. vi. 8), the Gloss says: “Although we have brought nothing into the world, and shall take nothing out of it, temporal possessions are not to be entirely rejected.” Therefore, he who casts aside all material wealth in order to go into religion acts inordinately.
On the words of Jesus Christ,” he who has two coats, let him give to him that has none” (Luke iii, 11), the Gloss says: “We are commanded to divide two cloaks; for if one were divided it would clothe no one. Hence we see that charity must be proportioned to the capability of our human condition, and that no one should render himself entirely destitute, but that he should rather divide what he has with the poor.” Hence to give away everything in alms, and to keep nothing for ourselves, is unreasonable and inordinate conduct. It is, therefore, sinful.
In Luke (xii. 29), we read, “Do not seek for what you shall eat.” The Gloss remarks: “Our Lord does not forbid us to reserve money for our own necessities; for He Himself had a purse. Unless such provision for ourselves were right, it would be forbidden, and Christ would have kept nothing for Himself.” Hence it must be virtuous and fitting to retain some portion of our property, instead of renouncing the whole.
It is an act of prodigality to give away both what ought and what ought not to be given. He who gives away everything gives what ought not to be given, but ought to be retained. Thus he sins by prodigality.
In his epistle to the Romans (xii. 1), St. Paul speaks of “your reasonable service.” The Gloss says that reasonable service consists “in the avoidance of extremes.” But, to give away everything is to give too much, and therefore it is to exceed the medium of liberality, which consists in “giving enough, and keeping enough.” Hence he who gives up everything to go into religion, does not offer a reasonable service to God.
God has given us this commandment (Exod. xx. 13), “You shall not kill,” i.e., says the Gloss, “by depriving another of the means of life which you dost owe him.” Now as temporal possessions are “the means of life,” and as we “owe” the means of subsistence, in the first place, to ourselves, he who deprives himself of all material possessions sins against the commandment, “You shall not kill,” by depriving himself of the means of living.
It was better with those who were slain by the sword, than with those who died with hunger “ (Lam. iv. 9). Hence it is more iniquitous to expose ourselves to death by starvation than to destruction by violence. “It is not lawful for a man to act thus when he can, without sin, act otherwise,” says St. Augustine. Much less then is it, permitted to us to expose ourselves through starvation, by parting with all that we possess, and retaining nothing.
Again, a man is more bound to preserve his own life, than to care for another. Now it would be sinful, to deprive another man of all means of subsistence, and thus to cause him to perish. “The bread of the needy is the life of the poor: he who defrauds them of it is a man of blood” (Eccles. xxxiv. 25). Therefore, he who gives away his all and retires into a religious order which has no common property sins by suicide.
The life of Christ is the example of perfection. But, we read that our Lord had a purse (John vii), and again that His disciples went into a city to buy bread (John iv.). Hence the entire renunciation of all property cannot be perfect.
Further, the observances of the religious orders originated in the Apostolic mode of life. For, as St. Jerome says in his book De illustribus viris, all Christians of the primitive Church resembled the most perfect religious of our day. We are informed of the same fact by the book In collationibus Patrum, and also by the Gloss on the words (Acts iv.), “the multitude of those who believed.” But this same chapter of the Acts also states that in the Apostolic times the faithful had all things in common, and that there was no one needy among them. They, therefore, who relinquish their possessions and, having no common property, are bound to be destitute, lead not a religious, but a superstitious life.
When our Lord sent His disciples to preach, He gave them two commands. He told them, first, to take nothing with them on the way (Matt. x., Mark vi., Luke ix.). Secondly, He told them not to go into the way of the Gentiles (Matt. x.). When the time of His Passion was at hand, He rescinded His first command, saying, “But now he who has a purse let him take it and also a bag” (Luke xxii. 36). He would seem likewise to have revoked His second command in the words, “Go therefore and teach all nations” (Matt. xxviii. 19), and “going into the whole world,” etc. (Mark xvi. 15). Since the second order has been rescinded, it need no longer be observed; but, on the contrary, the Gospel must be preached to the Gentiles. In the same way, the first of these two precepts is not now to be put in practice. Therefore, men need not entirely deprive themselves of the means of subsistence.
In XII quaest. I we read: “It is right to possess the property belonging to the Church, and to despise our own possessions,” And again: “It is manifest that while, for the sake of perfection, men ought to renounce what belongs to them, they may, without any imperfection, possess the property of the Church, which belongs to all. Therefore, it stands to reason that if any man abandon his own possessions to go into religion, he ought to choose an order holding some common property. Again, in the same question, cap. Videntes, it is laid down that “the Sovereign Pontiffs have ordained that property should be conferred on the Church, in order that there should be no destitution among those leading a common life.” Hence those who despise common property and prefer to live in want, sin by acting counter to the ordinances of the Holy Fathers.
The Gloss, on the words: “If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down” (Matt. iv.), has the following commentary: “No one ought to tempt God, when human reason teaches him how to act.” And again, “A man, when his human reason is at a loss, ought to, commend himself to God, not tempting Him, but devoutly confessing to Him.” Now he who has the means of procuring the necessaries of life, that is, food, and clothing, is taught by human reason how to act. If then he refuses to make use of these means, and yet expects his life to be preserved, he sins by tempting God as much as a man would sin who, seeing a bear approach him, should throw down his weapon of self-defence and yet expect God to save him.
Again, we ought not to reject that which we daily pray for. Now each day we beg of God to supply our bodily wants, saying, “Give us this day our daily, bread.” Therefore, we ought not to expose ourselves to poverty by casting aside all our temporal possessions. We read in Decr. de consecr., dist. I cap. Nemo that “a church ought not to be built, before he who desires to build it, has provided a sum sufficient for the maintenance of the priest who is to take charge of such a church.” They, therefore, who possess no property live in opposition to the statutes of the Holy Fathers.
The mode of religious life wherein common property is enjoyed is approved by the ancient Fathers, Sts. Augustine, Basil, Benedict, and many others. It appears rash, therefore, to introduce another form of religious life.
In the New Testament our Lord enjoins His followers to assist the poor in their necessities. But this precept cannot be carried out by those who have neither private, nor common property. Therefore, entire renunciation of all possessions is not praiseworthy.
As things may at times be best understood by trarcing them to their source, we will now examine the origin of these propositions; and we will investigate the mode of their development. In the early days of Christianity there flourished at Rome a heretic, confuted in the writings of St. Jerome, whose name was Jovinian. He taught that all who preserved their baptismal innocence, would receive, in Heaven, an equal reward. He further taught that virgins, married persons and widows were, if baptised, all of equal merit in the sight of God, provided that there was no discrepancy between them with regard to their works. He said that as there is no difference between abstinence from food and eating with giving of thanks, so there is no inequality between virginity and marriage. By this teaching, he, of course, stultified both the counsel given by our Lord as to celibacy in His words, “Not all men take this word,” i.e., remain, single, “but they to whom it is given” (Matt. xix. 2), and the advice of St. Paul on the same subject, “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel” (1 Cor. vii. 25). The opinions of Jovinian have, St. Augustine tells us, been condemned as heretical.
The errors of Jovinian were, however, revived by Vigilantius, who impugned the faith, hated continence, and, in the midst of riotous feasting, declaimed against the fasting practised by holy men (see St. Jerome’s epistle Contra Vigilantium). But Vigilantius was not contented with imitating Jovinian in rejecting the counsel of virginity; he proceeded further to condemn the practice of poverty. St. Jerome, speaking of the errors of Vigilantius, says: “He maintains that it is better to distribute our goods among the poor by degrees than to sell them altogether and give away the price. Let him accept his answer not from me, but from God, who has said, “If you would be perfect, go, sell all that you have” etc. (Matt. xix.). The error of Vigilantius has been handed down by a succession of heretical teachers to our days. It is still perpetuated by the sect of the Cathari, and is expounded in a treatise written by a certain heresiarch of Lombardy named Desiderius, who, amongst other heretical propositions, condemns the conduct of those who sell all that they may live in poverty with Christ.
More recently, however, the old heresies concerning virginity and poverty have been revived by men who, while pretending to defend the truth, have gone from bad to worse, and who, not content with teaching, like Jovinian that a condition of wealth is as meritorious as voluntary poverty, or with preferring riches to poverty, as did Vigilantius, hold that poverty is to be absolutely condemned; and that it is not lawful for a man to leave all things for Christ, unless he enter an Order which possesses some common property, or can support itself by means of manual labour. They further assert that the poverty commended by the Scriptures is not that actual poverty whereby a man strips himself of all temporal possessions, but that habitual poverty which causes him to despise those earthly goods which he actually owns. We will now proceed to refute this mistaken opinion.
(1st) We will prove that for evangelical perfection, not only habitual poverty is required, but, likewise that actual poverty which consists in the renunciation of material possessions.
(2nd) We shall show that perfection is attained, even by those who own no common property.
(3rd) We shall make it evident that manual labour is not essential to perfection, even where men possess nothing.
(4th) We shall refute the arguments whereby our adversaries seek to maintain their errors.
1. In order to prove that evangelical poverty requires, not only habitual, but likewise actual poverty, we will remind our readers of the words: “If you would be perfect, go, sell all” etc. (Matt xix. 21). Now he who sells all that he has and distributes it to the poor practises not merely habitual, but likewise actual poverty. Hence actual poverty is needed for evangelical perfection. Again, evangelical perfection consists in the imitation of Christ, who was poor not only in desire, but in fact. The Gloss, on the words, “Go to the sea” (Matt. xvii.) says, “So great was the poverty of the Lord that he had not wherewith to pay the tribute money.” Again, on the words, “the foxes have holes” etc. (Luke ix.), the Gloss says: “our Lord meant to say that His poverty was so extreme that He had no shelter, and no roof to call His own.” We might adduce many other proofs that actual poverty pertains to evangelical perfection.
The Apostles were mirrors of evangelical perfection. They practised actual poverty, renouncing all that they possessed. “Behold” (said St. Peter) “we have left all things” (Matt. xix. 27). Hence St. Jerome writes to Hebidia: “ Would you be perfect and attain to the highest dignity? Do as the Apostles did. Sell all that you have and give to the poor, and follow our Saviour. Alone, and stripped of all things, follow only the Cross in its bare poverty.” Hence actual poverty forms part of evangelical perfection.
The Gloss on the words “How hard is for those who have riches” etc. (Mark x. 23), has the following comment: “It is one thing to have money, another to love it. Many possess it without loving it; many love it without possessing it.” Thus, while some men own wealth and love it; others congratulate themselves on neither owning nor loving it, for this is the safer course. Such men can say with the Apostle, “the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” Hence it is evident that habitual poverty, in conjunction with actual poverty, is preferable to habitual poverty alone. This same remark may be made with reference to the words in Matt. xix. 23, “How hard it is for a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Gloss here observes, “It is safest neither to possess nor to love riches.” “Has not God chosen the poor in this world?” asks St. James (ii. 5). “Those who are poor, in temporal possessions” is the interpretation of these word given by the Gloss. Hence it is those who are actually poor who are chosen by God.
The Gloss on the words, “every one of you who does not renounce everything that he possesses,” observes that “there is a difference between renouncing everything and leaving everything. All who make lawful use of their material possessions renounce them, in so far as their aspirations tend towards such things as are eternal. But those who leave all things act with greater perfection, for they set aside what is temporal in order to seek only what is eternal.” Hence abandonment of all things by actual poverty is a point of evangelical perfection; renunciation of all things by habitual poverty is necessary for salvation.
St. Jerome, in his epistle against Vigilantius, says: “The Lord speaks to him who desires to be perfect and, with the Apostle, leaves father, ship and net. The one you praise is in the second or third rank; for he desires only to give the income of his possessions to the poor. We accept such a one, although we know that the first degree of virtue is preferable to the second or third degree.” From these words, it is plain that they who give all that they possess to the poor, are to be preferred before such as give alms only of their income.
St. Jerome, again, says, in his epistle to the Monk Rusticus: “If you have possessions, sell them and give to the poor. If you do not have them, you are free from a great burden. Therefore, being stripped of all things, you follow Christ in His poverty. This is a hard and painful undertaking; but it is rewarded with a glorious recompense.” For the sake of brevity, we omit many other passages from St. Jerome, all of whic must be understood as referring to actual poverty.
St. Augustine (Gennadius) likewise says in his book De eccles. Dogmaibus: “Though it be a good thing to distribute our riches by degrees among the poor, it is, a better to give all away at once with the intention of following our Lord, in order that free from anxiety, we may share His poverty.”
St. Ambrose, in like manner, says in his book, De Offic.: “Riches will not give us the slightest assistance in attaining to a life of blessedness. This is clearly pointed out by our Lord’s words, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” And again, he says that “poverty, hunger, pain, and suchlike evils that are borne as evils, are not merely no obstacle to blessedness, but they are clearly pronounced to be aids towards attaining to it.” Now these words cannot be understood as referring to habitual poverty, whereby a man is merely detached from riches; for, riches have never been held by any to be obstacles to happiness. They must, therefore, be understood to refer to actual poverty, whereby all possessions are given up.
St. Gregory says (in the eighth homily of the second part on Ezech.), “ When a man consecrates to God one thing, but not another, he offers a sacrifice. But, when he gives to God his whole life, with all that he has and all that he loves, he offers a holocaust, which is the most acceptable form of sacrifice.” Hence it is the most perfect work to abandon all that we have for the love of God. St. Gregory likewise says (prolog. Moral.), “While I was still constrained to serve the world in appearance, many temporal anxieties rose up around me and claimed all my attention. At length, escaping from them, I sought the gate of the monastery and, forsaking the things of this world, which I then regarded as vanities, I escaped from them, as a mariner from a shipwreck.” Hence we see that it is dangerous to possess material goods; for they occupy the mind to a perilous degree. It is better, therefore, to relinquish the possession of earthly things by actual poverty, that so, the mind may be freed from solicitude concerning them.
St. Chrysostom asks in his book Quod neno laeditur nisi a se ipso, “What harm did material poverty do to the Apostles? Did they not live in hunger and thirst and nakedness? and were they not, on this account, more renowned and glorious? and did not their poverty increase their trust in God? “ Hence we see that actual poverty, which consists in privation of all things, forms part of Apostolical perfection.
St, Bernard writes to the Archbishop of Sens: “Blessed is he who keeps for himself nothing of what he possesses. Blessed is he who has not a den like the wolves, nor a nest like the birds, nor a purse like Judas, nor a house, but who, like Mary, finds no room even in an inn, and thus imitates Him who had not whereon to lay His head.” Entire destitution of all earthly possessions, therefore, pertains to Christian perfection.
In I quaest. II. cap. Si quis, we read: “He who strips himself of everything, or who, possessing nothing, desires nothing, is more perfect than he who out of his abundance gives something to the Church.” These words are another proof that actual poverty is a point of Christian perfection.
They who devote themselves to the contemplation of divine things ought to be more disengaged from temporal anxiety than they who apply themselves to the study of philosophy. But philosophers, in order to be able to give their whole attention to study, used to relinquish all their worldly possessions. St. Jerome says to the priest Paulinus (de instil. monach.), “Socrates, the Theban, a very wealthy man, when he went to study philosophy at Athens, cut away a large quantity of gold, judging that he could not, at the same time, possess both virtue and riches.” It is far more praiseworthy then to relinquish all worldly goods, for the sake of divine contemplation. The interlinear Gloss on the words, “ if you would be perfect,” etc. (Matt. xix) says: “Behold the life of contemplation taught by the Gospel.”
A great reward is only given for great merit. Now a great reward, i.e. judicial power, is due to actual poverty. This appears from the words of our Lord (Matt. xix.), “You who have left all things” etc. The Gloss commenting on this text says, “They who have left all things and have followed the Lord shall be judges; but they who have lawfully retained and used their goods, shall be judged.” Therefore, the higher merit is due to actual poverty.
St. Paul (1 Cor. vii.), in counselling virginity, gives as the reason of his counsel that they may be without solicitude. The renunciation of riches frees a man from solicitude. For riches engender many anxieties in their possessors. Hence our Lord (Luke x.) speaks of them as “thorns” which, by their care, choke the Word of God in the hearts of the hearers. Therefore, even as virginity, so poverty belongs to evangelical perfection.
2. We shall prove, in conclusion that the perfection which consists in the entire sacrifice of private property does not necessitate the possession of common property.
The foundation of all perfection was laid by Christ and by the Apostles. We do not, however read that when they left all that they had, they possessed property in common. On the contrary, we are told that they had no house wherein to dwell. Hence common property is not an essential of perfect poverty.
St. Augustine tells us (3 De doctrina Christ.) that in the primitive church, the Jews who converted to Christianity, “being constantly in close contact with spiritual things, were so receptive of the influence of the Holy Spirit that they sold all that they had, and laid the price at the feet of the Apostles, to be distributed among the poor.” He further observes that “this fact is not narrated of any Gentile church; for they who had for gods idols made by hands were not so open to the Holy Spirit.” Hence we see that St. Augustine considers the perfection of the early Jewish church to have been superior to that of the Gentile churches. For, while the Gentile converts sold all that they had to give to the poor, the Jews sold their possessions so absolutely as to reserve to themselves no common property whatsoever. Hence poverty, without common property, is more perfect than that which retains property in common.
St. Jerome, writing to Hellodorus, on the death of Nepotiau, says in derision, “Men are richer as monks than they were as seculars. With the poverty of Christ, they possess wealth that they had not when they were subject to the devil; and the Church mourns over the riches of those, whom the world despised as beggars.” These words may often be verified in religious orders that maintain common property. They can never be true of such religious as possess nothing. Hence it is more meritorious for religious to have nothing than to possess property. St. Jerome, again, writes to Lucinus Beticus: “As long as we are engaged in things of the world, and our mind is occupied about our possessions and revenues, we cannot think freely of God.” Hence it is better for religious to be without property and revenues, than to possess them.
St. Gregory (3 Dialog.) says, speaking of Isaac a servant of God, “When, as frequently happened, his disciples pressed him to accept for the use of the monastery the things that were offered to him, Isaac, vigilant in his care for poverty, was wont to make use of these strong words: ‘The monk who seeks possessions on earth, is no monk.’ For he feared to lose his poverty as a miser fears to be robbed of his gold.” This example proves that it is safest for religious not to possess common property.
The monks of Egypt, of whom we read in the lives of the Fathers, deemed those religious to be the most perfect, who lived in the desert, possessing nothing. Hence common property is not an essential of evangelical poverty.
Religious can be deprived of common property by tyrants. If then men are not to leave all that they possess unless they go into an Order holding property in common, tyrants would have it in their power to hinder the practice of evangelical poverty. This idea is, of course, an absurd one.
The intention of our Lord in giving the counsel of poverty, was, to enable men to disengage their minds from anxiety about temporal things. Now common property cannot be possessed without much solicitude concerning its preservation and improvement. Hence those who possess no common property, practise the counsel of poverty in the most perfect manner.
3. We shall finally show that actual poverty does not necessarily involve manual labour. St. Augustine says (in De opere monachorum): “They who in the world possessed the means of living without work and who, on their conversion to God, have parted with all that they had, should not be forced to labour with their hands. It is praiseworthy in them to embrace voluntary poverty for the love of Christ, even if they possess no common property.” In the primitive church of Jerusalem there were, as we know by the testimony of St. Augustine, many men of this description. Hence those who embrace voluntary poverty are not bound to manual labour, even though they possess no common property.
No one is bound by precept to work with his hands, unless he can by no other lawful means procure a livelihood. Manual labour is not, therefore, a duty for those who possess nothing, unless they be obliged thereto by vow. Hence it is not true that they are bound absolutely to manual labour. They are only obliged to perform it, when it is their only means of subsistence; and, in such a case, everyone would be obliged to work with his hands, even if no vow imposed such labour on him as a duty.
The counsel of poverty was given by Oar Lord, in order to facilitate contemplation. This is pointed out by the Gloss on the words of Matt. xix., “If you would be perfect.” “Behold,” says the Gloss, “ the contemplative life ordained by the Gospel.” They, however, who are forced to gain their livelihood by the work of their hands, are greatly distracted from contemplation. If then those who, for the love of Christ, choose a life of poverty, be bound to manual labour, the very purpose for which the counsel of poverty was given will be frustrated. The counsel, therefore, will have been given to no purpose. This line of argument is, of course, absurd.
If they who leave all things for the love of Christ, be bound to have the intention of working with their hands, they must form this intention for one of the three following reasons. They must intend to perform manual labour either for its own sake or to provide means of subsistence, or in order to procure money which can be given in alms. Now it is absurd to say that the spiritual perfection of poverty can consist in manual labour undertaken for its own sake. For, were such the case the work of the body, would be preferred before the perfection of the soul. Again, it is not reasonable to say that a man ought to leave all things with the intention of going to earn his own living. For, if he had stayed in the world he could have lived by the possessions, which he has forsaken; and further the manual labour of the poor of Christ who devote themselves to prayer and other spiritual exercises barely suffices to maintain them. They must therefore, as St. Augustine says in his book De opere monachorum, be assisted by the faithful. Thirdly, it cannot be maintained that manual labour ought to be undertaken in order to procure means for almsgiving. For they who enter religion could have given much more abundantly to the poor of the goods which they possessed in the world. Thus, they would act unreasonably in leaving all things, in order to do manual work for the sake of giving alms. They, therefore, who, having left all things enter a religious order which has no common property are not, as we have already shown, bound to have the intention of performing manual labour.
4. It only remains for us now to reply to the objections of our opponents.
(1.) With regard to the text from the Book of Proverbs concerning “beggary and riches,” we answer that as there is no evil in riches themselves, but in the abuse of them, so beggary or poverty is not, in itself an evil. The only evil of poverty is its abuse, when there is impatience or reluctance in bearing the suffering resulting from it, or when there arises a covetous desire of the goods of others. “Those who would become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. vi. 9). St. Chrysostom likewise says on St. Matthew, “Listen, you who are poor, and still more carefully you who desire to be rich. It is not a bad thing to be poor; the real evil is to be unwilling to be poor.” It is therefore evident that poverty which is a necessity is accompanied by certain dangers, from which voluntary poverty is free. For they who become poor by their own act do not desire to be rich. Hence the prayer of Solomon concerning beggary and riches refers to involuntary poverty. This is clear from the context, “being compelled by poverty,” etc. The Gloss likewise says on this text of Proverbs, “The man who walks with God, prays that he may not, either through abundance or scarcity of material goods, fall into forgetfulness of such as are eternal.” Hence we see that Solomon teaches us that it is not poverty or riches themselves which are to be avoided, but the misuse of either of these conditions.
(2.) The words of Solomon, “ wisdom with riches is more profitable,” etc., must be explained according to the rule laid down by Aristotle (I Ethic), viz. that “the greatest good, such as happiness, joined to a lesser good, is preferable to that lesser good.” Hence wisdom, which is amongst the greatest goods, is preferable to riches, which are an inferior good. But, according to this rule, the greatest good joined to another very great good is of more worth than if it be joined to a lesser good, or if it be considered by itself. Hence wisdom joined to evangelical perfection, which consists in poverty, and is one of the greatest goods, is worth more than wisdom considered by itself, or joined to riches.
(3.) The words, “through poverty many have sinned refers to compulsory poverty, which is necessarily accompanied by a desire for riches. We see this by the context, “He who seeks to be rich, turns away his eye.” As the Gloss explains, “He turns away the eye of his soul from the fear of the Lord.”
(4.) The passage of the Gloss, quoted as a fourth objection, is mutilated and misinterpreted. This becomes clear, if we subjoin its context, “He does not say that it is not better to give everything; but, out of consideration to those who are weak in virtue, he recommends them to give in such a manner that they shall not suffer want.”
(5.) The warning that “poverty diminishes friendship,” is to be understood of involuntary poverty, which causes covetousness. This is plain by the words that follow, “while he seeks to be filled.” Satiety implies that superabundance, which they desire who are not satisfied with a little, nor are of the number of those of whom St. Paul says (1 Tim. vi. 8), “having food and wherewithal to be covered, with these we are content.” He gives the following reason for this contentment with a little, “Those who will become rich, fall into temptation and the snare of the devil”; for the desire of great wealth often causes men to fall away from justice.
(6.) The words of the Gloss that “temporal possessions are not to be entirely rejected,” are to be interpreted to mean that we are to use our temporal means to procure food and clothing. This appears clearly from St. Paul’s words, “having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content.” The Gloss does not mean that man can ignore all provision for temporal needs.
(7.) To the seventh objection, we reply that some temporal things, such as food and clothing, are absolutely necessary for the support of life. If I have more of such things than I need, I ought to assist the destitute, but I ought not to deprive myself of necessary food or raiment. It is of such things as are acquired for our present needs that the Gloss speaks in the passage quoted in the seventh objection. But there are temporal things, such as money and property which, though not needed at present, may in the future be necessary to our support. There is no reason why perfect men should not distribute these things to the poor; for, before they are needed, God may supply the lack of them in some other way; and we are commanded in the Scriptures to trust that He will do so.
(8.) To the eighth objection, we reply that although it be not a matter of precept to reserve money for our necessities, it is nevertheless a matter of counsel. Our Lord carried a purse, not because He was unable otherwise to supply His needs, but for the sake of His weaker members, and in order that they might understand that it was lawful for them to do what they saw done by Christ. Hence the Gloss, on the words “ having the purse” (John xii), says: “He to whom the angels ministered, carried a purse out of condescension to our weakness and for the assistance of the poor.” Again, on the, verse in Psalm ciii., “bringing forth grass for cattle,” the Gloss says: “The Lord had a purse for the use of those who were with Him, and because in His own person He carried the infirmity of the weak, as when He said: ‘My soul is sorrowful’.” He was followed by pious women who ministered to Him of their substance. For He foresaw that in the future many of His followers would be weak and would seek material assistance. He did not fill his purse with His own property, but with alms given Him by devout and faithful men.
(9.) Our answer to the ninth objection, is the rule laid down in II Ethic, viz. that “the medium in virtue does not signify the distance from extremes, but the due proportion of circumstances, ordered by well balanced reason.” Hence the medium of virtue does not consist in preserving the right balance between superfluity and scarcity in any circumstance considered in itself, but in a circumstance considered in comparison with other circumstances. Thus, the medium of virtue may vary according to the variability of circumstances. In sobriety, for instance, the circumstance who is varied according to the variety of the circumstance what. An amount of food which would be a moderate quantity for one person, would be too much for another, and too little for a third. Thus, again, some virtue, such as magnanimity, existing in its highest degree, may be moderate in proportion to some other circumstance. “The magnanimous man,” says Aristotle (IV Ethic), “confers the greatest dignity on himself.” He who exceeds the virtue of magnanimity by superfluity, does not thereby acquire greater dignity, but oversteps the limits of virtue; and those things which were moderation in him as a magnanimous man, are now superfluous. Hence we see that the medium of virtue is not destroyed because one circumstance is in its highest degree, so long as that circumstance be proportioned to other circumstances. Thus, in a case of liberality, if we consider the quantity to be given, and if we attend only to the circumstance that in certain cases it is superfluous to give everything, we shall find the vice of prodigality. On the other hand, with a certain change of circumstances, this prodigality will become perfect liberality. For instance, if a man gives all that he possesses to save his country from danger, he will be an example of perfect liberality. In the same way, he who gives away all that he has in order to fulfil the counsel of our Lord, acts not with prodigality, but with perfect virtue. If, however, such a man were to spend his all upon some unfitting object, or with some unseemly circumstances, he would be prodigal. We may say the same of virginity and of all other virtues wherein there appears to be excess when the common mean of virtue is overstepped. Hence we see that to give everything for the love of Christ means not to give both what ought and ought not to be given, but to give only that which ought to be given. For, although all things are not in every case to be given, yet all things are to be given up for Christ.
(10.) Our reply to the tenth objection, is that grace is the perfection of nature. Therefore, it cannot be its destruction. There are certain things, such as food and sleep, which pertain immediately to the preservation of nature. In connection with these things, virtue does not exceed the limits of the preservation of nature. Hence if anyone deprive himself of that which nature demands for its support, it is a vicious and unreasonable act. It is such conduct that is rebuked, both by St, Paul, and by the Gloss. The Gloss says: “Let the service which you offer by the maceration of the flesh, be reasonable, i.e. tempered by discretion, and not excessive. Chastise your body with moderation, so that it be not destroyed.” But nature can be preserved without luxury. Hence if a man abstain from sensual pleasure, he is not performing a superfluous act, unless, by such abstention, he should fall into sin. For this reason, virginity is praiseworthy. Again, life can be preserved without material possessions, if we trust that Divine Providence will assist us in many ways. Hence a man does nothing superfluous, in giving up for Christ, all that he possesses, consequently, voluntary poverty, practised for the love of Christ, is no departure from the medium which ought to be observed in virtue.
(11.) To the next objection, we reply that although he who leaves all things for the love of Christ, does, to a certain extent, deprive himself of the means of existence; yet, he can always count on the assistance of Divine Providence, which will never fail him; he can also reckon on the charity of the faithful. St. Augustine, in his book, On Almsdeeds, thus expresses himself on this subject: “Do you think that anything wil be lacking to a Christian, to a servant of God, to one devoted to good works, and to one precious in the sight of his Master? Shall he who feeds Christ not likewise be fed by Him? Shall earthly things be wanting to him, on whom divine and heavenly gifts are bestowed? Where do such unbelief and such impious and sacrilegious ideas spring from? How then can any be found in the house of God with so little confidence in Him? Does he who does not trust Christ absolutely deserve to be called a Christian? No, rather such a one should be named a Pharisee. For, as we read in the Gospel, the Pharisees, hearing our Lord teach the duty of giving alms and of making to ourselves friends of earthly goods, derided Him in their avarice. And even now we behold in the Church men who resemble the Pharisees, whose ears are closed and whose eyes are blinded, so that they can perceive no ray of the light of spiritual and salutary teaching. We have no reason then to wonder that such men hold the servants of God in contempt, when we know that the Lord Himself was despised.” These words point out, clearly that it is sacrilegious to say that they who abandon all things for the love of Christ, expose themselves to the risk of suicide.
(12.) Our answer to the twelfth objection, is that he who leaves all things for God does not incur any danger of dying of hunger. For Divine Providence will never abandon him: “I will not leave you, neither will I forsake you” (Hebr. xiii.). The Gloss thus comments on these words: “But in case any should say: ‘What are we to do if necessary help should fail us?’ the consoling words from the book of Joshua are added, ‘I will not fail you nor forsake you.’ A man who should die of hunger would certainly be forsaken; but, as this will never happen, let no one be covetous. For God speaks these words to every man that trusts in Him, as well as to Joshua.” He makes this promise to us on condition that we place our trust in Him. His words are not spoken to the avaricious nor to the covetous, but to “such as trust in God. It is not true to say that it is not lawful for a man to expose himself to danger; for a man may meritoriously expose himself to death for the name of Christ, even if it be possible for him to act otherwise. Thus, we read of many martyrs who, in the time of persecution, offered themselves to death by confessing their faith. If it were unlawful to expose oneself to peril, soldiers would not be justified in crossing the sea and incurring risks for the glory of God.
(13) To the thirteenth objection, we reply that a man is a master of his own, not of his neighbour’s property. He, therefore, injures another if he deprives him of what belong to him; but he does no injury to himself by sacrificing his own possessions. Hence Aristotle says (V Ethic) that “a man cannot, strictly speaking, commit an injustice against himself.” Furthermore, he who deprives his neighbour of what belongs to him, reduces him to involuntary poverty, which is dangerous. He who abandons his own possessions, accepts voluntary poverty which, if it is embraced for the love of God, is meritorious.
(14.) Our answer to the next objection is that our Lord reserved a certain sum of money for necessary uses out of condescension to the weak; just as, out of condesconsion to human infirmity, he willed to eat and to drink wine with the Pharisees. It must not then be reputed as superstition in the holy fathers in the desert, if they refused to keep money for their own use, or if they chose to abstain from wine or from delicate fare. The money which our Lord reserved was not his own private property; it had been given to Him as alms. For, we are told (Luke viii) that “certain women... ministered to Him out of their resources.
(15.) To the fifteenth objection, we likewise reply that, although the Apostles reserved certain sums for themselves and to distribute among those holy men who had made themselves poor for Christ, that money was not their own, but was given them by the faithful in charity. When we are told that there was none needy among them, we are not to conclude that the Apostles and Christians of the early Church did not endure much poverty for the love of Christ. For, St. Paul says, (1 Cor. iv. 11), “Even to this hour we both hunger and thirst.” And again (2 Cor. vi. 4) “in much patience, in tribulations, in necessities” or, as the Gloss says, “want of food and clothing.” We must understand by these texts that the Apostles, in so far as they were able, supplied the poorer members of the community with such things as were needful to them.
(16.) To the sixteenth objection we reply that the prohibition given by our Lord to His disciples, “not to go into the way of the Gentiles,” was absolutely rescinded by Him after the resurrection; because it then became necessary for the Jews to preach the word of God to the Gentiles (Acts xiii.). But Christ did not, at the last supper, absolutely revoke His precept to the disciples to take nothing with them on the way. He only gave them a different order, which was to be obeyed during the time of persecution, when they would not have been able to procure the necessities of life. Hence the Gloss says on the text of St. Luke, xxii. 35), “When I sent you,” etc.: “The Apostles are not told to observe the same rule in time of persecution as in time of peace. For, when they were sent to preach, our Lord told them take nothing with them, for it was His will that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel. But, when His death was imminent, and the hour drew near when both the pastors and the flock should be exposed to persecution, He instituted a rule befitting the circumstances; and so He permitted His disciples to carry with them the means of sustenance till such time as the fury of their persecutors should have abated, and a fitting season for preaching the Gospel should have arrived.” “Thus,” the Gloss continues, “does Christ teach us that under certain circumstances, we are justified in relaxing the rigour of our rule.” We may, for example, when preaching in a hostile country, carry with us larger supplies than we should have at home. But the heretics who make the objection which it is our duty to combat, do not accept the Gloss. We shall, therefore, show by the text of the Scriptures that when the faithful increased in number, the disciples of Christ did not carry with them the means of support We read (3 John i. 5), “Dearly beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers.” Again, “ Because, for His name, they went out, taking nothing of the Gentiles, we therefore ought to receive such.” Now if the Apostles had carried supplies with them, it would not have been necessary for them to have been assisted by the faithful, even though the Gentiles had refused them any help. This is made still more clear by the words of the Gloss, “because for His name they went forth, forsaking their own possessions.”
(17.) The seventeenth objection is answered by the fact that the Church supports many that are sick; and that she could not do so without the possession of some material wealth. Hence it is right for a man to give up his own property and to hold that of the Church; and he should act this way, on account of the poor. But, it does not follow that it is not expedient for perfect men, who have sacrificed all that belongs to them, to lead a religious life in an order which possesses no common property. Apostolic perfection is not wanting to those who have possessions in common; but it appears more manifestly in those who relinquish their private property and have no property in common.
(18.) We reply to the eighteenth objection that the decree quoted by it does not forbid the choice of a life of poverty for the love of Christ. It is simply a precept commanding bishops and all in possession of ecclesiastical property, which belongs to the poor, to provide for the poor, as far as they can, and to assist them in their needs. This will be easily perceived by anyone who studies the context of the chapter.
(19.) Our answer to the nineteenth objection is that they who have relinquished all things for Christ, in the trust that He will provide for them, neither sin by presumption, nor do they tempt God. For, to have due confidence in God is not presumptuous nor is it tempting Him. Now the poor of Christ, especially the preachers of the truth, are bound to cherish this confidence in God. The Gloss says on the words in St. Luke (chap. x.), “Carry neither purse,” etc., “A preacher ought to have such trust in God that, even though he is not supplied with means to support him in this present life, he ought to be quite certain that necessary things will not be wanting to him, lest in his anxiety about temporal things, he fail to preach eternal truths.” Yes, unless he has this confidence in Providence, he is tempting God. On the words of 1 Cor. x, “neither let us tempt Him,” the Gloss says, “Let us not ask: ‘can God prepare a table in the desert?’” But we must distinguish between the cases in which this implicit confidence does or does not tempt God. There are certain dangers from which a man cannot be rescued save by miracle; and if he exposes himself to such perils he is tempting God. A person would tempt God if, in hopes of Divine protection, he should fling himself from a wall, unless, indeed, he had been miraculously forewarned that it was the will of God to save him from death. Such foreknowledge was givem to St, Peter when, at the command of Jesus, he walked upon the sea; to Blessed Martin, when he said, “Under your protection, not of helmet nor of shield, but of the sign of the Cross, I shall safely make my way through the ranks of the enemy”; to St. John the Evangelist when he courageously swallowed the poisoned draught; to St. Agatha, who said, “Carnal medicine for the body I have never taken; but I possess the Lord Jesus Christ who, by His word alone, restores all things.” There are other cases wherein a remedy is attainable by inferior means; and a man does not tempt God if, under such circumstances, he trusts Him entirely. Thus a soldier does not tempt God by going to battle, although he is uncertain as to the issue of the fight. Neither does someone tempt God who renounces for His sake all that he possesses, trusting both in Divine Providence and in the charity of the faithful for the supply of his necessities. Rather, he resembles a man who, seeing a bear approach, resigns, for some reasonable motive, his weapon of self-defence to armed, men whose duty and desire it is to defend him.
(20.) The answer to the twentieth objection, is that we are instructed to beg of God, to supply our temporal necessities, and that we ought not reject temporal assistance until we are provided with the food and clothing that we need.
(21.) The statute, quoted in the twenty-first objection, was drawn up in favour of the ministers of the Church. But, if any choose, as a work of supererogation, to serve the Church without stipend, they are so much the more praiseworthy in that they resemble St. Paul, who preached the Gospel without reward; he was a preacher ordained by God (1 Cor. ix.).
(22.) We reply to the twenty-second objection that although the holy Fathers have commended one course, they have not blamed the other. Therefore, it is not presumptuous, to follow this other course; else, it would not be lawful to introduce into the Church any new ordinance. Nevertheless, the mode of life of which we speak cannot be called new, as it was approved by many Saints, even in the primitive Church.
Our answer to the twenty-third objection, is that it is a duty for rich men to assist the needy. For, as St, John says, (1 Jn. iii.), “He who has the substance of this world, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his bowels from him: how does the charity of God abide in him?” But it is even more praiseworthy if a man, besides sacrificing all his possessions, consecrates himself to God. This is truly Apostolic perfection. For, as St., Jerome says; “To offer oneself to God is a truly Christian act and worthy of the Apostles, who, having renounced all they had, offered themselves to the Lord “ (ad Lucinum Beticum).
Is it Lawful for Religious to Live on Alms?
THE adversaries of Christian poverty strive to prevent its practice not only by raising objections against it, but by trying, indirectly, to abolish it entirely. They endeavour to deprive the poor of Christ of the means of subsistence, by teaching that it is not lawful for them to live on alms. They thus come under the category of those of whom the Preacher speaks, (Sirach xxxiv. 21), “The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; he who defrauds them of it is a man of blood.” They try to uphold their opinion by various arguments.
1. They quote the words of Deuteronomy (xvi. 19): “Do not show partiality or accept gifts [bribes]; for a gift blinds the eyes of the wise, and changes the words of the just.” Now alms are a species of gift; and as religious, above all other men, ought to have the eyes of the soul enlightened, they are not justified in living on alms.
2. “The borrower is servant to the one who lends” (Prov. xxii. 7). Much more then is he who accepts a gift the servant of him who gives it. Now it religious should be free from the bondage of the world, for they are called unto liberty of spirit. The Gloss, on the words (2 Thes. iii.), “That we might give ourselves a pattern for you,” observes: “Our religion calls men to freedom.” Therefore, religious ought not to live on alms.
3. Religious make profession of a state of perfection. Now it is a more perfect thing to give than to receive alms. Hence in the Acts of the Apostles (xx. 35) it is said: “It is a more blessed thing to give than to receive.” Therefore, religious ought, rather, to work with their hands, so that they may be able to give to the needy, instead of receiving from others alms, upon which they are to live.
4. St. Paul, writing to Timothy (1 Tim. v.), ordains that widows who have other means of subsistence, are not to live on the charity of the Church, lest they become a burden to her, and so make it difficult for her to support such as are widows indeed. Therefore, strong, able-bodied men ought to work for their living, and not to deprive the poor of the alms on which they depend for support. St. Jerome says (I, q. II cap. Clericos), “They who are able to live either on their patrimony or by means of their work, and yet accept alms, commit a sacrilege; and by their abuse of charity they eat and drink judgment to themselves.” Hence anyone who has other means of subsistence, and chooses to live on alms, must be reputed as guilty of sacrilege.
5. The Gloss commenting on the text of 2 Thes., “that we might give ourselves a pattern” etc., says: “ He who, in his indolence, constantly eats at the table of another must necessarily flatter his host.” Now they who live on charity often eat at the expense of their neighbour; they are, therefore, sure to become flatterers. It is sinful in them, therefore, to reduce themselves to a condition which obliges them to live on alms.
6. The acceptance of gifts cannot be an act of any virtue save of liberality, which is the mean between giving and receiving. But a liberal man only accepts in order to give, as Aristotle says (V. Ethic). Hence they who spend their lives in accepting live in a reprehensible manner. St. Augustine in his book De opere monachorum thus rebukes certain monks who wished to live on alms, instead of by work: “These brethren, rashly, in my opinion, assume that they have the right to live by the Gospel, instead of by the labour of their hands.” Yet, those whom he thus reproaches, as we know by St. Augustine’s own testimony, had renounced all things for the love of Christ, and devoted themselves to spiritual exercises, such as prayer, psalmody, reading and the Word of God. Hence they who leave all things for Christ, even if they be entirely occupied in spiritual concerns, ought not to live on alms.
7. We are told in St. Mark’s Gospel that “He commanded them that they should take nothing for the way but a staff only” (vi. 8). The Gloss remarks, “by a staff is signified the power of accepting necessary things from inferiors. But none but prelates have inferiors.” Hence those religious who are not prelates have no right to accept alms from the faithful.
8. Only those who labour have a right to the privileges of labour. Now the privilege granted by our Lord to those that preach the Gospel is that they shall live by the Gospel. This is confirmed by St. Paul (1 Cor. ix. and 2 Tim. ii.), “The farmer who labours ought first to partake of the fruits.” Therefore, those that do not preach the Gospel ought not to live on the charity of the faithful.
9. St. Paul refused to accept alms from the Corinthians, in order to take away occasion from false prophets (2 Cor. ii.). But there are still certain men who shamefully choose to live on charity; therefore, if only to set them a better example, religious ought not to accept alms. Hence St. Augustine in De operibus monachorum says, “You have the same grounds as had the Apostles to remove the occasion from those who seek occasion.”
10. St. Paul refused to accept charity from the Gentiles, in order to avoid giving them any scandal. Hence the Gloss says, on the words in Luke viii., “And many other women ministered to them”: “It was in those days customary among the Jews, and was not esteemed any fault, for women, of their own resources, to supply teachers with food and clothing. But, as the Gentiles might have taken scandal at this custom, St. Paul notes that for this reason he had abstained from accepting alms from them (1 Cor. ix.).” But many seculars nowadays are scandalized at the sight of religious who wish to live without manual labour. On this account, it is the duty of religions to refrain from receiving charity. St. Augustine, in De opere monachorum, says: “In your meditation let your fire flame forth that you may pursue their evil works by your own good deeds; so that you may take from them the occasion of riotous merrymaking, wherein your reputation suffers and scandal is given to those weak in the faith. Have pity, therefore, and compassion on other men; and show them that you do not eat the bread of idleness, but that you seek the Kingdom of God by a narrow and toilsome road.”
11. If religious who are well and strong may lawfully live on alms without manual labour, other men are justified in doing the same. But, if everyone pursue the same course, the human race will come to an end; for no one will be found to prepare what is necessary for the support of life. Hence it can by no means be counted lawful for strong and healthy religious to live on alms.
Our adversaries, seek likewise to prove that although religious may live on the alms offered to them, they have no right to beg.
1. We read in Deut. xv. 4, “There shall be no poor nor beggar among you.” Hence it is forbidden for anyone to beg, who can get his living by other means.
2. In Psalm xxxvi. 25, it is written: “I have not seen the just forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread.” Therefore, beggars are not the seed of the just man, i.e., of Christ.
3. A curse is not uttered in Holy Scripture against the just. But in Psalm cviii. 10 mendicity is accounted a curse: “Let his children be carried about vagabonds and beg.” Hence mendicity is not a state befitting perfect men.
4. St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 Thes. iv. 11), in the following terms: “Work with your own hands, at we commanded you:...walk honestly towards those who are without;...be dependent on nobody.” The Gloss adds: “Therefore should you work, and not live in idleness. This is honourable, and is as a light to unbelievers. You should not desire another man’s goods, you should neither ask for them, nor take them.” Hence it is plain that manual labour is preferable to begging.
5. St. Augustine thus comments on the words: “if amy man will not work,” etc.: “The servants of God ought to do some work, whereby they may earn a livelihood; so that they may not be compelled by necessity to beg.” Thus, we see that they are bound to manual labour rather than to mendicancy.
6. St. Jerome writes to Nepotian: “Let us never ask, and but rarely accept when we are pressed to do so. For it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The servants of God ought then neither to beg for, nor to accept the necessities of life.
7. The more severe the penalty inflicted, the more heinous, evidently, is the offence committed. This is laid down XXIV. q, I, “Let us not use unequal scales.” According to civil law, a sturdy beggar, if discovered, is sorely punished. For if he is of a servile condition, he is given over to be the slave of his accuser; if he is a freeman, he is condemned to be his perpetual servant (De mendicant. valid., lib. unica). Religious in robust health, therefore, sin by begging.
8. St. Augustine, in De opere monachorum, speaks thus of mendicant religious: “Our crafty enemy sends out hypocrites who, in the monastic habit, roam from province to province. They bear no commission. They settle nowhere, and are never at rest. They beg for everything. They exact all things, either as the requirements of their lucrative poverty, or as the reward of their pretended sanctity.”
9. That which naturally causes shame in man, is intrinsically disgraceful. For, as St. John Damascene says, we only blush for what is shameful. Now men are instinctively ashamed of begging; and the nobler a mans’s nature, the more acutely he feels the disgrace of mendicancy. Thus St. Ambrose says (lib. de offic.) that shame at begging proves the nobility of a man. And Aristotle (V Ethics) says that a freeman is “not prone to beg.” Mendicity then is in itself disgraceful; and no one ought to resort to it who can live by any other means.
10. The Gloss, on the words: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. ix.), runs as follows: “He who gives in order to rid himself of the importunity of a beggar rather than to relieve the need of a poor man loses the merit of his alms. But charity is often thus bestowed on beggars; for they weary men by their persistence.”
Our opponents likewise try to prove that even religious who preach ought not to beg nor to live on alms.
1. St. Paul says (1 Thess. ii.), “Neither have we used at any time the speech of flattery, as you know.” Now preachers who beg and live on alms are obliged to flatter those whose charity they receive. The Gloss on the words, “and leaving them, he went out” (Matt. xxi) says: “For as He was poor and flattered none, He received hospitality from no one in the city, save from Lazarus.” And yet, for this very cause, the preaching of our Lord was all the more powerful. For, as Luke tells us (xxi. 38), “the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him.”
2. Again, St. Paul says (1 Cor. iv. 11), “Even to this hour we both hunger and thirst and are naked.” On these words the Gloss makes the following comment: “Those who preach, the truth with sincerity and without flattery, and who reprove the vices of mankind are not favourably heard.” Therefore, preachers ought not to ask for alms.
3. St, Paul says: (1 Thess. ii. 5), “Neither have we taken an occasion of covetousness. God knows.” Gloss observes hereon, “The Apostle does not say: ‘I have not been covetous,’ but ‘I have neither said nor done anything that can be an occasion of covetousness.’” Preachers ought to be able to speak in like manner. Those, however, who beg become, on the contrary, an occasion of covetousness to others.
4. Again, (2 Cor. xii. 14), St. Paul says, “ I will not be burdensome unto you. I do not seek the things that are yours, but you.” Likewise (Philip. iv. 17) he writes: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit.” The Gloss says: “By the gift is meant the things given, such as money, food and the like; the fruit signifies the good works, and the upright intention of the giver.” True preachers then ought not to seek temporal gifts from their hearers. For this reason, the ought not to live by begging.
On the words: “the farmer who labours” etc. (2 Tim. ii.), the Gloss says: “The Apostle desires the evangelist to understand that he may accept that which is needful from them for whom he labours in God, whom he cultivates as a vinedresser tends his vine, and whom he feeds as a shepherd feeds his flock For to act thus is a right; it is not beggary.” Hence we see that those who preach the Gospel have a claim to live by it; and that they are not mendicants when they do so. But this right belongs only to prelates, and, therefore, other preachers ought not to live by the Gospel.
6. St. Paul (1 Cor. ix.), wishing to show that it was lawful for him to accept alms from the faithful, first proves that he is an Apostle. Those who are not Apostles, have no right to live by the charity of the faithful. Preaching religious, not being prelates, are not Apostles; therefore they do not have this right.
7. The Gloss, commenting on the words of 1 These. ii, “whereas we might have been burthensome to you as the Apostles of Christ,” says: “St. Paul points out the hypocrisy of the false prophets, by refusing to ask for the support which he might justly have claimed, in order to rebuke those who, although they had no right to ask for assistance, blushed not to do so. He speaks of this Apostolic claim to the alms of the faithful as “a burden,” in allusion to the false prophets who unlawfully usurped the right of asking for charity, and importunately urged their pretended claims.” It thus becomes plain that they who require the faithful to support them must, as they are not Apostles, be accounted to be false prophets. Therefore, preachers who are not prelates, ought not to beg.
8. Preachers who are not prelates either have, or have not, a right to be maintained by those to whom they preach. If they possess this right, they can enforce it by coercion. This idea is, of course, absurd. If they have no right to such support, they are begging unlawfully and unjustly; and they ought, as we have just shown from the Gloss, to be counted as false prophets.
9. Prelates who receive from the laity tithes and offerings are bound to provide for their spiritual needs. Hence if others be commissioned by bishops to minister to the faithful and to receive alms from them, it is unfair to the people. For it is the bishops, and not the people, who ought to provide for the wants of those whom they send.
10. Prelates who commission others to preach are bound to supply their necessities (Extra de offic., ord. Inter caetera). If then the preachers demand offerings from their bearers, they are doing them an injustice; for they ought not to accept remuneration from them.
11. Our Lord says to the Pharisees (Matt. xxiii 14), “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, who devour the houses of widows, praying loug prayers.” Those are equally reprehensible who beg for alms, under the pretext of praying, or preaching, or of any other act of the like nature.
12. Christ, when He sent forth His disciples to preach, said to them: “Into whatever city or town you shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy “ (Matt. x. 11). The Gloss says on this verse, “We must choose our host by the testimony of his neighbours, lest his bad life should cause our preaching to be neglected.” Again, “He is worthy to entertain us, who understands that thereby he receives, rather than confers, a favour.” Hence it is highly reprehensible for preachers to condescend to wealthy sinners, and to those who do not esteem their abode with them to be a favour.
13. He who barters a spiritual for a temporal good commits the sin of simony, whether, like Giezi, he asks for a gift, or whether a gift be offered to him, like that which Elisha refused to accept from Naaman (4 Kings v.). The sin is equal, whether it be before or after the work that the gift is accepted (I, q. I. cap. Eos). Now he who preaches to the people exercises a spiritual ministry towards them. Hence a preacher should not accept their temporal gifts, whether he asks for them, or whether they offer them without being asked.
14. St. Paul says: “From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves” (1 Thes. v. 22). The Gloss adds: “If something appears to be wrong, although it be not actually wrong, do not do it impulsively.” Now it has a bad appearance for a preacher to seek material assistance from those to whom he preaches. Hence St. Paul said: “I seek not those things which are yours, but you” (2 Cor. xii). For, as the Gloss observes, “ the Apostle, lest he might seem to sell the Gospel, desired not gifts, but fruit.” In like manner, preachers ought not to beg for a livelihood from those to whom they preach.
Our opponents, also, attempt to prove that alms ought not to be given to religious.
1. They, quote the words from Luke (xiv. 13), “When you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind.” “From whom,” as the Gloss says, “there is nothing to be expected.” But you might gain something from strong and healthy beggars, who are often the parasites of rich men. Therefore, we ought not to give to the latter class of mendicant.
2. St. Augustine writes to Vincent the Donatist that “it is better to deprive a hungry man of food, than to give bread to one who, being sure of a livelihood, will forsake justice. For by succouring such a one, we connive at his evildoing.” Now he who will not work for his living when he is able, or he who can get food in a lawful manner without begging and yet prefers to beg, acts unjustly. Hence alms should not be bestowed upon him.
3. The Gloss on the words, “ Give to every one who asks of you,” (Luke vi.) says, “Give him what he wants or a reproof.” Again, on the words, “Give to him who asks you” (Matt. v.), the Gloss says: “Give in such a way as to injure neither yourself nor another. For justice should be balanced. Thus, you should give to every one who asks you, if not what he asks for, then some better thing, namely, a rebuke for asking wrongfully.” Now as we have shown, he who prefers begging to manual labour begs unjustly; and he deserves reproof rather than alms.
4. St. Augustine, in his letter to the Donatist Vincent, says, “The evil have often persecuted the good, and the good have persecuted the evil. The evil persecuted the good by injustice; and the good persecute the bad by correction.” Hence for the sake of correction, the good may persecute the bad; and to deprive them of food is a species of correction. Now sturdy beggars sin, even though they preach; and therefore, they ought to be deprived of food.
6. St. Ambrose (I De offic.) says: “In giving charity, we must take into consideration the age of the one who asks of us, his health and the boldness with which he begs. For shame in asking for alms often betrays the nobility of him who asks. We must give more abundantly to the aged, who cannot gain a living by the labour of their hands. The sick, likewise should be promptly relieved; and those who have fallen form wealth into poverty, not by their own fault, but through robbery or proscription or calumny.” Now robust beggars are neither infirm in health nor shamefaced; neither have they lost their property through robbery or proscription. Therefore they should not be helped by charity.
6. Alms should be given for the purpose of relieving indigence; and the greater the distress, the greater should be our liberality. But those who cannot work for their living and cannot get support by any other means are in much greater straits than are they who are able to obtain a livelihood. As long, therefore, as we find indigent persons belonging to hte first category, we should not give to those belonging to the second.
7. Alms-giving is a work of mercy. Therefore it is to be performed only in behalf of those in need. Now those who voluntarily reduce themselves to beggary are not in need. It is only those that are compelled to suffer penury who can be said to be in want. Aristotle says (III Ethics): “What is involuntary deserves forgiveness.” Hence alms are not to be bestowed on voluntary mendicants.
8. St. Augustine says (I De doctr. Christ.): “As you cannot assist all, you should help those who are most closely bound to you by time or place or by some other circumstance.” Now our closest ties are to our neighbours and our kinsfolk. Therefore, as long as any of our friends are in need, we must not give alms to strangers.
The errors which we have noted are no novelty. They appeared in the very early days of the Church. In 3 John iii we read, “Diotrephes, who loves to have pre-eminence among them, does not receive us.” Again, “and as if these things were not enough for him, neither does he himself receive the brethren,” i.e., “the needy,” as the Gloss explains. “And those who do receive them he banishes and casts out of the church,” i.e., “for fear that they should help the needy he does not let them go to their usual place of meeting” (Gloss). Another commentary on the same text says “You ought to persevere in almsgiving, for it is a work so profitable that I would have written in its praise not only to you, but to the whole Church. But this desire I was constrained to leave unfulfilled; for Diotrephes cares not for our authority.”
Diotrephes, a heresiarch of the primitive times of the Church, taught, as we see from the text and the Gloss, that humanity has no claim on our care, and that we should not assist pilgrims who have left their own possessions. Vigilantius revived this heresy, as we learn from the Epistle of St. Jerome to Riparius and Desiderius against Vigilantius. In this Epistle he writes: “Further, I am informed, by the same epistles that contrary to the authority of the Apostle Paul, also of Peter, and of John and James, who held out to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of communication and commanded them to be mindful of the poor, that you forbid any sums to be sent to Jerusalem, for the benefit of the needy.”
In combating these errors we shall proceed in the following manner:
1. We shall prove that those who are poor because they have given up everything for God may live on alms.
2. We shall show that preachers, even though they be not prelates, may, when commissioned by bishops to preach, accept the charity of the faithful to whom they preach.
3. That, even though they are in robust health, they may beg.
4. That they have a special right to the alms of the faithful.
5. We shall confute the arguments brought in support of the contrary propositions.
1. The fact that those who are poor because they have renounced all things for Christ have a right to live on alms is proved by the example of St. Benedict. He, as St. Gregory tells us (2 Diolog.), lived for three years in a cave after he left his parents’ house, dependent on the ministry of the monk Romanus. He was in sound health, but we do not read that he worked for his living.
2. In I. q. II. Cap. Sacerdos, it is laid down that “he who has either renounced all his property in favour of his kinsfolk, or has distributed it to the poor, or given it to the Church, and has thus, for love of poverty, made himself poor, is not only free from the guilt of covetousness if he accept assistance from the faithful; but that he may laudably do so, in order thereby to assist the poor, while he himself lives in voluntary poverty.” It is thus evident that a man who has renounced all things for Christ, may live on the charity of the faithful.
3. A man is bound rather to sacrifice some good, which he may relinquish without sin, than to commit sim If then they who are in robust health sin by taking alms, they ought to relinquish every other occupation, however good, rather than accept charity. This proposition is false, as we see by the words of St. Augustine in De opere monachorum. The Saint says that “those servants of God who work with their hands ought to have some time set apart in which to rest from labour, and to commit to memory what they ought to know. They ought, he says, to be assisted by the good offices of the faithful, in order that at the times devoted to learning, they may dot be depressed by want.” St. Augustine thus shows that, in his opinion, monks ought not to be entirely dependent on labour for their daily bread; otherwise no opportunity would be afforded them for spiritual exercises.
4. In the same work, St. Augustine, referring to a certain rich man who had given all his wealth to a monastery, says that “he performed a good work by labouring with his hands, in order to give an example; although, by the benefit which he had conferred on the community, he had a right to be supported by it. For, had he been unwilling to work, who would have dared to urge him to do so?” Hence we see that he who bestows his substance on a monastery, has a right to live in that monastery without manual labour. But the Saint further remarks that as all Christians form one republic, it is of no consequence to which section of the commonwealth each one gives his money, nor from whom he derives support. Hence they who have left all things for Christ may accept the necessities of life from anyone.
6. The intention of refraining from a deed, bad in itself, does not diminish the intrinsic evil of the deed, though it may lessen the sin committed. If, therefore, it is in itself sinful for a man who is able to work to live on alms, those who, although in good health, intend to live for a time on charity, intending at other times to live by other means, cannot be excused from sin. Pilgrims, therefore, who beg on their pilgrimages, commit sin. Sin is likewise committed by those who enjoin pilgrimages. This supposition is of course absurd.
6. It is more meritorious in a man to devote himself to divine contemplation than to the study of philosophy. Some men, however, do, without sin, live for a time on charity in order to pursue such study. Therefore, it is permissible for others to live for a time on alms, in order to devote themselves to divine contemplation. But, it is more praiseworthy in a man to consecrate himself perpetually to contemplation than temporarily to study. Consequently it is lawful for men to set aside manual labour and to live, absorbed in contemplation, on the alms of the faithful.
7. Christian charity forms a closer bond than does political friendship. Now if anyone makes me a present, I am justified in making any use of it that I choose. It is then even more permissible for me to live by the things that are given me, for the love of Christ.
8. If it be lawful to accept what is greater, it is still more allowable to receive that which isless. But religious are permitted to receive a certain income (mille marcharum) and to live on it without manual labour. Were such not the case, many communities that are in possession of large properties would be in a state of damnation. For the same reason, many of the secular clergy who have no care of souls, live on ecclesiastical possessions, which are the gifts of the faithful. Hence it is absurd to say that poor religious may not accept small alms and live thereby, without manual labour.
9. The poor who are unable to work are more grossly defrauded, if what is their due is given to others, than if those others receive what they have a claim to. Now the income of ecclesiastical property is intended be given to the poor (XII, quaest. I, cap. Videntes). Hence it is laid down (I, quaest. II, cap. Clericus & cap. Si quis) that “clerics who can live on their own patrimony cannot, without sin, live on the goods of the Church, which are destined for the support of the poor.” Hence a greater injustice is committed against the poor, if those who, although in good health, do no manual labour, and yet live on ecclesiastical property, than if the poor of Christ live by the private offerings of the faithful, which are not the right of the poor. If those in the first category do not defraud the poor, those who are in the second most certainly do not do so. In our treatise on manual labour will be found many other arguments in proof of the same point.
Our next task will be to show that preachers, although, they be not prelates, may accept for their maintenance alms from those to whom they preach.
1. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor. ix. 7), “Who ever serves as a soldier at his own charges? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Who feeds the flock and does not eat of the milk of the flock?” St. Paul alleges these examples (as the Gloss remarks) in order to prove that the Apostles did not claim more than was their due if, according to the precept of our Lord, they who preached the Gospel lived by it, and likewise freely accepted the charity of those to whom they freely ministered. Now it is quite certain that a soldier, and a vinedresser, and a herdsman, ought to live by the fruit of their toil. Therefore, as not only prelates, but all preachers, labour to announce the Gospel, they have a right to accept the means of subsistence from those among whom they labour.
St. Paul likewise maintains that the Apostles has a right to accept temporal assistance from those to whom they ministered spiritual good. For it is not out of order for him who gives great things to receive small things in exchange. To quote St. Paul’s own words, “If we have sown for you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things? (1 Cor. ix. 2). “Now the spiritual truths taught by prelates are proclaimed, equally by all preachers bearing an episcopal commission. There is therefore no reason why they, as well as prelates, should not accept material means of support.
3. In the first Chapter of the Epistle just quoted, St. Paul likewise says: “The Lord has ordained that they who preach the Gospel should also live by the Gospel.” The Gloss observes: “The reason why this command was given was to render preachers more diligent in their office. “Now all (not only prelates) whose duty it is to preach ought to be zealous in so doing. Therefore, the rule laid down by our Lord applies not only to prelates, but to all who preach the word of God. This is plain by the very words of St. Paul. He does not say, “all who have ordinary authority to preach,” but, “those who preach the Gospel.”
4. When our Lord sent forth His disciples to preach, He said: “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they have. For the labourer is worthy of his hire.” This passage proves that preachers earn their living, as payment due to them, from those to whom they preach The following observation from, the Gloss renders this proposition still more clear. “A preacher is entitled to two rewards for his one work. One reward he receives on earth, in the support afforded to him in his labour; the other reward awaits him in heaven, in a glorious resurrection.” Now reward is due not to power, nor to authority, nor to habit, but to deed; for deeds alone are meritorious. Aristotle says (I Ethic.): “As in the Olympian games, the crown was given not to the strongest nor to the noblest, but to those who fought most strenuously and who, therefore, were victorious; so they are rightly deemed the most illustrious who in life have done the best and bravest deeds.” St, Paul again says: “he... is not crowned, unless he strives lawfully.” They, therefore, whether prelates or not, who legitimately preach the Gospel, may lawfully live by it (2 Tim. 11. 5).
5. They who are sent by bishops to preach, labour more than do the others of the order from which they are sent, or than they who, at the bidding of a bishop, send them. But it is lawful for the rest of an order to live on the alms given to its preachers, even though those preachers be not prelates. This is proved by the following words: “It has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor saints that are in Jerusalem. For it has pleased them, and they are their debtors. For, if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things” (i.e., according to the Gloss, “partakers of the spiritual advantages of the Jews who had sent them preachers from Jerusalem”), “they ought also in carnal things to minister to them” (Rom xv. 26). Now by the “poor” of whom St. Paul here speaks, we cannot understand the Apostles. For, as they were only twelve in number, and were content with little, they did not need a collection to be made for them in all the Churches, especially as we know that they were supported by those to whom they preached (1 Cor. ix). Hence all preachers, even though they are not bishops, but are sent by bishops, have a right to live by the Gospel.
6. They who, by episcopal commission, are employed in preaching are of far greater use to bishops in spreading the word of God, than are they who are engaged in other functions of the ministry. Now prelates who preach may accept alms, not only for themselves, but for their households. More justly then may they who preach by episcopal commission, accept from the faithful the means of subsistence.
7. He who gives to another gratis what he is not obliged to give, has as good a right to take a reward as he who does merely what he is obliged to do. Now it is a bounden duty for bishops to minister to their flocks in spiritual matters. For, as St. Paul says: “If I preach the Gospel, it is no glory to me, for an obligation lies on me; for woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor. ix, 16). They therefore who are not prelates, and have not the responsibility of a flock, are justified in accepting material assistance from those to whom they preach.
8. St. Augustine says in De opere monachorum: “ If they (i.e., religious) are preachers of the Gospel, I admit their right,” i.e. to live on the alms of the faithful. But these words apply not only to prelates, but to all who can preach, even to deacons. Hence St. Paul says (Eph. iv. 11): “He gave some Apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some others pastors and doctors.” The Apostle thus draws a distinction between Evangelists and Pastors and Apostles, by which term we are to understand prelates. Hence all preachers, be they prelates or not, may live by the Gospel.
9. Preaching is the noblest of all ecclesiastical functions.“Our Lord declared that this was the purpose of His coming into the world. “For this was I sent” (Luke iv. 43). Isaiah also, speaking in the person of Christ, says: “He sent me to preach to the meek” (Isa. lxi. 1). St. Paul likewise says: “Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Cor. i. 17). Now they who are engaged in the business of the Church ought not to work with their hands, but to live on the property of the Church, as St. Augustine says (De opere Monach.), speaking of himself. This rule applies much more forcibly to those engaged in preaching, who have every right to live by the Gospel, instead of by manual labour.
10. The office of a preacher is more useful to the community than is that of a lawyer. But lawyers may, from the legitimate exercise of their profession, earn a livelihood. Therefore, preachers, may, if their preaching be authorised, live by means of it, whether they be prelates or not.
11. Although alms cannot be given out of money made by usury, preachers may, nevertheless, accept alms from money thus gained, provided they cannot, without so doing, remain in a place inhabited by usurers. The reason for this concession is that preachers, by inducing usurers to restore their illgotten gains, are directing the affairs of those to whom this money is due. This is distinctly established in the decretal Extra de sent. excom., cap. cum voluntate. But preachers are, in like manner, occupied with the affairs of all men, both rich and poor, when they urge the rich to give alms to the poor and to perform other salutary works. Hence they are justified in accepting alms from those to whom they preach.
12. We see that in mechanical trades, it is not they only who work with their hands who live by the trade, but the architect who directs their labour profits by it likewise. Now the man who teaches morals is, so to speak, the architect of all human duties (I Ethic.). Therefore, preachers have a right to live by their preaching, even though they do not work with their hands.
13. Health of soul is to be preferred before health of body. Physicians live without manual labour by giving advice to their patients. Therefore those who are engaged about the spiritual welfare of others have a right to accept alms for their maintenance, even though they do not labour with their hands.
Our next task will be to show that preachers may not only live by alms freely offered to them, but that they may likewise beg for charity.
1. This is proved by the example of Christ, speaking in whose person the Psalmist says: “But I am a beggar and poor” (Ps. xxxix. 18). The Gloss remarks on this text: “Christ speaks thus of Himself in the form of a servant.” Again: “A beggar is one who asks from another; a poor man one who has not enough for himself.”
2. In Ps. lxix. 6, we find the words: “But I am needy and poor.” On which the Gloss says: “I am needy”; i.e., begging, and poor, i.e., “I do not have te means to support myself.” He who speaks thus owns no material wealth; and, having spiritual riches, he ever desires more, craves for it, and receives it.
3. In Ps. lviii. 6 we read: “He persecutes the poor man and the beggar,” i.e. “ Christ,” as the Gloss expounds it. Another commentary says: “It is pure malice to persecute the poor. Rich men may sometimes suffer persecution on account of their position or wealth.” Both these commentaries show that the words of the Psalm are understood as being an allusion to material poverty.
4. St. Paul says (2 Cor. viii. 9): You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, being rich, He became poor for your sakes,” i.e., “in the world” (Gloss). That the poverty of Christ ought to be imitated is proved by the Gloss in the following words: “Let no one despise himself. He who inhabits a poor dwelling is rich in conscience, and he sleeps more peacefully on the ground, than the wealthy man can rest amidst his gold and purple. Fear not then in your misery, to approach Him who has put on our poverty.”
5. our Lord asked for hospitality. We know this by His words to Zacchaeus: “ Come down quickly; for today I must abide in your house” (Luke xix. 5). The Gloss says: “He offers Himself, although He has not been invited. For He knew the disposition of Zacchaeus’ heart, although he had uttered no word of invitation.
6. We read in St. Mark xi. “Having viewed all things round about, when now the eventide was come.” The Gloss understands these words to mean: “ having looked all around Him to see if any would offer Him hospitality. For He was so poor and so carefully avoided flattering any man that He found none to shelter Him in all that large city.” Hence we see that the poverty of our Lord was so extreme that He possessed nothing with which to hire a lodging, but sought and hoped for hospitality from others. It is, therefore, blasphemous to say that it is unlawful to beg.
7. The same lesson is taught by the example of the Apostles. They were instructed by our Lord not to take with them on their way what they needed for their journey (Matt. x, Mark vi, Luke ix). They could not have taken what they needed as a right; they must, therefore, have begged for it.
8. Again, the same fact is made evident by the conduct of the Apostles after the resurrection of Christ. St. John says (3 Eph. v. 7.): “For his name, they went out” (“away,” as the Gloss expresses it), “taking nothing from the Gentiles.” Hence they went forth without the necessities of life. These, therefore, they must have gained by begging,
9. A man is more strictly bound to provide for himself than for others. Now the Apostles asked for alms for “the poor of the saints who were in Jerusalem.” If then it be lawful to beg for our brethren, it is equally right to do so for ourselves.
10. The example of St. Alexis shows that mendicancy is permissible. This Saint, having renounced all things for the love of Christ, lived not by work, but by begging. He asked for alms even from the servants whom his father sent to seek him; and he thanked God that he received chanty from them. His sanctity was made known by a voice from Heaven. This voice was heard by the Pope, by the Emperors Arcadius and Honorius, and by the people of Rome assembled in the basilica of St. Peter. The voice announced that the preservation of Rome was due to the merits of Alexis. After the death of the Saint, his fame was spread by means of many miracles; and he was canonised. His feast is solemnly observed by the whole Roman Church.
11. St. Jerome, writing to Oceanus in praise of Fabiola, says of her that “she desired to sacrifice her riches and to live on charity.” Had this wish been sinful on her part, she could not have been commended for it.
12. What is unlawful cannot be imposed by this Church as a penance. But for certain grave offences, a sinner may be enjoined to make a pilgrimage and to beg his way. Hence mendicancy is not sinful, but may be a penitential exercise. It may, therefore, be practised, together with other works of penance, for the love of God, and as a means to perfection.
13. As vigils, fasting and suchlike macerations of the flesh are employed as means to combat concupiscence, so everything that tends towards humiliation diminishes pride, which is as much to be avoided as lust, since, as St. Gregory says, spiritual sins are the more heinous. Now no penitential exercise can be more humiliating than mendicancy, for man is naturally ashamed of begging. Hence as fasting and watching, regarded in the light of bridles to concupiscence, pertain to the state of perfection; mendicancy likewise, embraced for the love of Christ and for the sake of humility, pertains to the same state.
14. Again, the charity of Christ is more liberal than is the friendship of the world. Now even in human friendship, friends make no difficulty about asking each other for what they need, particularly in cases where some return can be made for what is given. The form in which such return is made is of no consequence, as the philosopher says (V Ethic.). Hence it is permissible for a man, even though he be in good health, to ask for the love of God for what he needs, especially as he can make a return to the donor by prayers and spiritual works.
15. It is lawful to ask another for a favour, if, by so doing, we give him a chance of improving his condition. Now by giving alms, a man betters his condition by meriting eternal life. Hence it cannot be unlawful to ask for charity.
16. The needs of the poor cannot be relieved unless they be known; and they cannot be known unless they be revealed. Hence if it is right for any to be in a state of destitution, it is right for them to beg for what they need. But, as we have already proved, it is lawful for men to reduce themselves to such poverty for the love of God that even (as St. Augustine says in De opere monachorum) their manual labour does not suffice to support them. It is, therefore, justifiable in them to beg.
We shall now prove that it is right to give alms to mendicant religious.
1. St. John says (3 John), “Dearly beloved, do faithfully whatever you do for the brethrens and for strangers.” He immediately points out to whom he refers by saying: “For his name they went out” (i.e., “ leaving their own possessions,” Gloas). And again, “We, therefore, ought to receive such.” The Gloss here remarks: “John had renounced all things, but he speaks of himself as belonging to the number of the rich, in order to make those whom he addresses more prompt and more ready in helping the needy.” Hence it is praiseworthy to give alms to those who, for the love of Christ, live without possessions of their own.
2. We read in Matt. x. 41, “He who receives a just man in the name of a just man shall receive the reward of a just man.” The Gloss remarks that “on this account he is called just.” The Gloss also adds, “Someone may therefore say: ‘We shall thus receive false prophets, and the traitor Judas.’ But the Lord, foreseeing this objection, says not that persons are to be received but their names; and that he who receives another shall not be deprived of a reward on account of the unworthiness of the object of his charity.” Hence we must conclude that alms are to be given to those who bear, even though unjustly, the name of sanctity.
3. St. Paul (Rom. xv.) praises the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia for their resolution to make a collection for the poor among the saints. The Gloss remarks hereon: “These men devoted themselves wholly to the Divine service, heeding no worldly matters, and caring only to set an example of holy living to those who believed.” The Achaians and Macedonians had made a collection for these good men; and St. Paul invites the Romans to do the same. Hence we see that alms may be given to the poor of Christ.
4. The Gloss says, commenting on the words (2 Cor. vii), “let your abundance supply their want,” i.e., “the want of those who have renounced all earthly things.” These words are a further confirmation of the opinion which we have already expressed.
5. Again, on the words, “But you, brethren, be not weary of well doing” (1 Thes. iii. 14), the Gloss observes that “‘well doing’ here signifies doing good to the poor.” Another commentary says: “Because, although they work, they are still in need of certain things. Thus, St. Paul warns the faithful that if they have the means of supplying the necessities of the servants of God, they should not be remiss in so doing.” A man cannot be blamed for generosity; he, only, deserves a rebuke who, while able to work, prefers to lead an idle life. Hence it is praiseworthy to give alms to the servants of God, whether they work or not, even though they may be to. blame for not working.
6. St. Jerome says, when writing against Vigilantius: “We do not deny that if anyone is able to do so and is generously minded, he may give alms to all poor men, even to Samaritans and Jews. The Apostle teaches that charity is to be given to all men, but chiefly to those who are of the household of the Faith. It is of such that our Lord says: ‘Make friends with the mammon of iniquity, who will receive you into everlasting dwellings.’ But can these poor persons, whose physical degradation corresponds with their mental depravity, receive us into everlasting dwellings, when they possess no home at the present time and have no hope of any habitation in the future? It is not simply the poor, but the poor in spirit, that are called ‘blessed.’ And it is of such that the Psalmist writes: ‘Blessed is the man who understands concerning the needy and the poor’ (Ps. xi.). In order to succour the ordinary poor, alms are necessary, not understanding. In order to assist the holy poor mentioned in the beatitude, there must be intelligence, in order that alms may be given to him who is grieved and ashamed to accept them, and who, reaping material advantage, sows spiritual good.” Hence we see that it is better to give alms to the poor who are holy than to any others.
7. On the words, “he has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor,” (2 Cor. ix.), the Gloss thus comments: “If the reward of him who gives to the poor is great, how much greater shall be the prize awarded to him who ministers to the saints? For anyone may be poor, even though he be wicked.” This is a further argument, in favour of the opinion that we have just expressed.
8. St. Jerome comments thus on the words: “Let him who is instructed in the word communicate to him who instructs him” (Gal. vi. 6): “St. Paul commands that were infirm disciples and carnal men, to contribute to the material needs of the masters from whom they have received spiritual instruction, and who, being entirely devoted to study, lack the necessities of life.” Hence we see that alms are to be given not to such as work with their hands, but to those that are engaged in the study of the Scripture.
9. St. Jerome likewise writes to Paulinus: “He is rather to be considered a courtier than a monk, who always, or often, talks of money, and who takes no heed of the alms which belong to all.” From which words it is evident that alms are to be given to monks and to all others, and that monks have a right to speak of asking for charity.
10. We read in decret. dist. xlii: “If any man contemn those who faithfully prepare the agapes, or banquets of the poor, and call the brethren together for the glory of God, and despises the work they do, let such an one be anathema.” It is, therefore, a crime worthy of excommunication, to condemn the practice of almsgiving.
11. We read in Prov. xxi. 13: “He who stops his ear against the cry of the poor shall also cry himself, and he shall not be heard.” The Gloss observes: “These words refer to the poor considered generally, not only to the sick or destitute. For he who prefers to judge his neighbour, rather than to pity his sinfulness, shows that he himself is not free from guilt, nor worthy to be beard by the Divine mercy.” Alms then are to be given to all who are poor, even though they are in robust health.
12. On the words of Ps. ciii: “Bringing forth grass for cattle, and herbs for the service of men,” the Gloss says: “The, earth, being fertile, was able to provide grass (i.e., material subsistence) for cattle (i.e., for Preachers), in order that they who preach the Gospel may live by the Gospel. If the earth does not bring forth this temporal support for preachers it is barren. If it produces these material good things it is bearing fruit.” And again: “Preachers have a right to material assistance, since they impart spiritual gifts. It is of these that it is written: ‘Blessed is he who anticipates the voice of him who asks.’ You should not act towards the ox that treads the grain as you act towards the beggar who passes by. You give to the one who asks, for you have read, ‘Give to him who asks of you!’ But you should likewise give to him who does not ask.” Again, the Gloss says: “Give to every one who asks, whoever he may be, recognising in his person Him to Whom you give. But, much more, give to the servant of God, the soldier of Christ, who does not ask.” Hence we see that if we are to bestow alms on all the poor, even on those who do not beg for them, preachers ought in an especial manner to be assisted by those who hear them.
13. In St. Luke xvi. 9 we read: “Make yourselves friends with the mammon of iniquity.” Here the Gloss remarks: “This text does not refer to the poor indiscriminately, but to those who can receive us unto everlasting dwellings.” Now the poor of Christ, beyond all others, can receive us into everlasting dwellings, for they, together with Christ, will be our judges. Therefore, it is especially to these that we should give alms.
We must now reply to the objections of our opponents.
1. To the argument that “temporal possessions blind the eyes of the wise,” we reply that temporal possessions may be understood in a twofold sense. First they may be considered as hoarded up. Now to accept them in order thus to treasure them is an act of covetousness which blinds the eyes of the soul and causes it to decline from justice. But temporal things may also be accepted in order to supply necessary food and clothing; and to accept them for this reason is not cupidity and does not blind the eyes of the soul. This distinction is grounded on the words of St. Paul (1 Tim. vi. 8): “Having food and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content.” The Gloss remarks: “He who goes beyond that finds what is evil.” Hence it is added: “For those who would become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil.”
2. There are two kinds of slavery, namely, the slavery of fear and the slavery of love. He who accepts gifts from cupidity is enslaved by fear; for the things acquired by cupidity are possessed in fear. Now we ought to be free from this servitude and we ought to be the servants of Christ. For, as St. Paul says (Rom. viii. 15), “You have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear.” They who accept gifts in charity are the bondsmen of love, and the servants of Christ are not free from this bondage. Hence St. Paul says (2 Cor. iv. 5), “We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord, and ourselves your servants, through Jesus.” Hence he who, in order to fulfil the duties of charity, accepts alms for his bodily sustenance, incurs not a bondage unworthy of the servants of Christ, but only such as befits the servants of the Lord.
S. The act of giving is, in itself, more meritorious than that of receiving. Hence Aristotle says (IV Ethic.), “The act of liberality is greater in giving than in receiving, although a liberal man may both give and receive. There is nothing, however, to prevent the act of receiving from being, at times, from some special circumstance, the more commendable. It would then although exceptionally, be more praiseworthy than that of giving.” If then nothing is considered in a poor man, save the fact that he accepts charity, the rich man who gives the alms, is more blessed than the poor man who receives it, But circumstances may render the recipient of charity more meritorious, than the giver. Thus a man who, for the love of Christ, has made himself voluntarily poor and accepts alms is more blessed than the rich man who bestows the gift. Hence the Gloss remarks: “The Lord does not prefer rich men who give alms to the poor who have renounced all for His sake; but He gives the greatest glory to those who, after forsaking all their possessions, labour with their hands in order to have something to give to those in need.” Now this conduct is certainly very commendable in those who are not engaged in more important occupations. And, it would be most perfect, if religious, without detriment to such occupation could, as we have before said, perform some manual labour and give their earnings in charity. But religious are not bound to do everything that is perfect; they are only bound to accomplish what their vows oblige them to.
4. It is no burden to the Church if religious live on alms, seeing that although they produce great fruits in the Church, their wants are very small. In fact, such religious do, in reality, lighten the expenses of the Church; for they perform at very small cost labour for which others, who are not satisfied with so little, would require much larger sums. Neither do mendicant orders deprive the poor of their rights; for, by their counsel and influence, much larger sums are given to the poor than they themselves receive. And further, these religious before entering their monastery, gave away all their goods to the poor, who have thus received far more than the alms bestowed on mendicant orders.
5. The decree cited in this objection is misquoted. This is evident by the words of Gratian, given in the next chapter. These authorities forbid the Church to receive not such as were originally rich but left all things, as did Peter, Matthew and Paul, or who, like Zwehaeus, distributed their goods to the poor, or presented them to the Church, as did the early Christians who sold all that they had, and laid the price at the feet of the Apostles. What is forbidden to the Church is to receive those who, while living in the house of their parents, or refusing to sacrifice their patrimony, desire at the mine time to enjoy ecclesiastical benefices.
6. St. Augustine speaks of those religious who live idle lives and, being of no use to those who maintain them, are forced to gain their bread by flattery. For no one will support a useless person unless his favour be secured by adulation. But those religious to whom charity is extended for the love of Christ and who, in exchange for material assistance, confer spiritual benefits, have no need to flatter their benefactors. For those who relieve them do so for the love of Christ, who has said, “he who receives you, receives Me” (Matt. x. 40). Now as the Gloss says, “nothing is received in the Apostles save what is in Christ.” Hence they who, for the love of God, become poor, and beg and live on alms need not resort to flattery. Those who are really driven to servility and adulation are wealthy sycophants who, in order to preserve and increase their riches, are obliged to flatter the sovereigns on whom, they depend. Thus St. Chrysostom writes, (super Matth.): “Princes and soldiers and subjects are obliged to flatter, and to stand in need of many things. They are reduced to ignominious servility; they live in fear; hence they are exposed to the suspicion and calumny of those that envy them. Far other is the lot of the poor.”
7. It is true that to receive is not an act of liberality (excepting in so far as receiving stands in relation to giving). But, in those who, for the love of Christ, have made themselves poor, it is an act of humility to accept as alms the necessities of life; and humility is a greater virtue than liberality.
8. St. Augustine, in the place quoted in the objection, had two reasons for rebuking monks who desired to live on alms. First, he reproved them for failing into the error of believing manual labour to be contrary to the evangelical precept: “Be not solicitous for your body” (Matt. vi. 25). Secondly, he reproached them for the sloth which caused them to desire to escape from the laborious lives which they had led in the world. He says that it by no means suits artisans to be idle in a life where senators work hard. He does not, however, forbid those who in the world lived on their own income, or those occupied in ecclesiastical offices, to live on alms after the example of the early Christians of the Church of Jerusalem. This is plain to anyone who will read his words with care. Religious are not forbidden to live like poor men on alms, even though they cannot, by preaching, claim a right to do so. For charity is given with a different intention to the preacher and to the mendicant, as the Gloss observes on the words in Ps. cxiii., “bringing forth grass for cattle.”
9. Prelates who preach the Gospel have, as we have said, a right to accept the necessities of life from their subjects. For recompense is due not to power or authority, but to labour. Likewise, when religious preach by episcopal authority, it stands to reason that they must be assisted by those to whom they minister. But there are other reasons which make it fitting that religious should have their wants supplied by the charity of the faithful. They have left all things for Christ. They minister at the altar, and the Holy sacrifice profits all men. They also devote themselves to the study of Holy Scripture, to prayer, to contemplation, and to other spiritual exercises which are all beneficial to the whole Church.
10. There is nothing inconsistent in the fact that one man accepts assistance as his due, and that another receives it as a favour and charity. The alms given to a preacher are but the just return for his labour; but assistance may be rendered to all poor men, not as their due recompense, but out of a spirit of charity.
11. More harm was done in the Church by the teaching of the false prophets, from whom St. Paul, by labouring with his hands, took away the occasion of living on the charity of the faithful, than was done by the Apostle’s supporting himself by his own labour. Now on the contrary, the Church derives profit from the example of humility set by the mendicant orders who live on alms and devote themselves to the salvation of souls instead of to manual labour. This advantage outweighs the harm done by a few men who live on charity as an excuse for their sloth. There is, therefore, no reason why the poor of the Church should cease to receive alms, in order to take away the occasion of those who make bad use of them.
12. It was the custom amongst the Jews that their teachers should be maintained by the people. At the preaching of the Gospel, this custom became general among the faithful. When the Gentiles were first converted, the Apostles refused to ask or accept assistance from them, fearing lest they might take scandal. There is now, however, no reason to fear such scandal. Indeed, the example of moderation in food and clothing set by religious, is a subject rather of edification than of scandal. They who profess to be scandalized at the sight of religious accepting alms are like the Pharisee who, as we are told in St. Matt. xv., took scandal at our Lord, and whom He told His disciples to ignore. The case would be very different were religious to accept alms, not in order to provide for themselves the necessities of life, but for the sake of amassing wealth or of indulging in riotous living.
13. To the thirteenth objection, we may reply, as St. Jerome replied to Vigilantius that according to the same reasoning virginity is not a good thing, “for if all were virgins, the human race would cease.” Again, “virtue is rare and desired by few; it would be wonderful if all men resembled those few of whom it is said: ‘many indeed are called but few are chosen.’” This is the answer to the thirteenth objection. The works of perfection are so difficult that but very few attempt to accomplish them. There is, therefore, no grounds for fearing that the world will cease to exist on account of the perfection of its inhabitants.
We must now proceed to answer the arguments of those who maintain that it is not lawful to seek alms by begging.
1. The words: “ There shall be no poor man and no beggar amongst you,” do not forbid persons to embrace the condition of poverty and mendicity. These words prohibit men to leave their neighbours in a condition of misery, which forces them to beg. This is proved by the words. occurring in the same chapter of Deuteronomy: “of your countrymen and neighbour you shall not have power to demand it again.” On these words, the Gloss observes: “Although all men be our neighbours, we are chiefly bound to show mercy to those who, together with ourselves, are the members of Christ.” Hence although charity is enjoined, mendicity is not forbidden.
2. The Gloss interprets the words, “ I have not seen tho,just man forsaken by God,” to mean: “I have not seen the seed of the just man perishing for want of spiritual food, i.e. the Word of God; for the Word of God is always with him.” But, if this text be understood to refer to material bread, it means that the just are not reduced to beggary by necessity, or because God has deserted them; since it is said: “I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Hebr. xvi. 5). The words do not mean that just men may not, for love of God, embrace poverty, although they did not do so in the days of the Psalmist. For such works of perfection were reserved for the time of Grace.
3. It is not unfitting that what indicted on one man as a penalty may be, in another, a self-imposed work of justice. Criminals have their goods confiscated as a legal punishment; but this is no reason why other men may not despoil themselves of their possessions for the love of God. Again, beggary may fall upon sinners as a Divine chastisement; but this is no reason why mendicity, voluntarily embraced for Christ, should not be a work of justice.
4. The Gloss understands the text quoted in the fourth objection to mean that men are not to beg avariciously. Otherwise the commentary would not be in harmony with the text. The text says: “that you want nothing of any man’s.” Now they beg avariciously who seek, not merely necessary food and clothing, but who further desire to amass riches. This, as has been already pointed out, is made clear by the words in 1 Tim. vi. quoted above.
15. There are two kinds of mendicity, namely, voluntary and compulsory. Those reduced to beggary against their will, are liable to be tempted to impatience. Voluntary mendicity, which does not proceed from avarice, has the merit of humility. Hence St. Augustine does not forbid voluntary mendicity. He simply teaches that the occasion of compulsory beggary should be avoided by the poor of Christ by means of manual labour. This is evident by his words: “that they may not be compelled by need etc.
6. The sixth objection is quite irrelevant to the matter in hand. For the words of St. Jerome refer to the habit of asking for and accepting superfluities. This is evident by what he says in his letter to the priest Nepotian.
7. The law referred to, applies to sturdy beggars who were useless to the state and who, living idle lives, defrauded other poor people of their rights. The law in question speaks of them as slothful men. Of this class are gluttons who beg for food which they may eat in idleness. Religious cannot, except in malice, be held to belong to this class. It need not always be a heinous sin which is punished severely; for chastisement is inflicted not merely as a penalty for guilt, but also as a warning to the offender or to others. Hence at times a heavy penalty is awarded to an offence which, though not heinous in itself, is habitual. This is done in order that it may act as a deterrent to the criminal. The chapter quoted in the objection refers only to punishment inflicted to avenge sin.
8. Those of whom St. Augustine speaks begged not merely for necessities, but for superfluities. Their holiness, therefore, was not true, but hypocritical. This is made clear by the fact that he speaks of their “desiring luxurious poverty,” or “the recompense of feigned sanctity.” In thus acting they were, of course, reprehensible.
9. Shame results from a base action: baseness is opposed to beauty. Hence baseness, and the shame consequent upon it, must be distinguished according to the kind of beauty to which it is opposed. Beauty may be either spiritual or physical. Spiritual beauty consists in a well ordered soul, and in abundance of spiritual gifts. Hence all that arises from a deficiency of spiritual good, or which points to spiritual disorder, is base. Physical beauty consists in symmetry of body and in the due proportion of such things as pertain to corporeal perfection. Bodily deformity or deficiency is, in a certain sense, base. And as both spiritual and physical beauty are loved and desired, spiritual and physical deformity cause a certain shame. Thus, a man is ashamed of being poor or unsightly or ignorant or awkward. Since spiritual deformity is always reprehensible, all that produces the shame of such deformity ought to be avoided. We speak not of the confession of sins, for the shiner is ashamed, not of his confession, but of the guilt which he acknowledges. But holy men think little of physical defect or deformity. In fact, they embrace it willingly for the love of Christ and for the sake of perfection. Hence the ignominy that accompanies such physical deformity is not always an object of contempt. Sometimes, indeed, it is worthy of high praise, as when it is assumed for the sake of humility. Now beggary is shameful, inasmuch as it is a disgrace attached to a material deficiency. For a beggar acknowledges that he is poor and is often subject to the one to whom he appeals for the relief of his needs. But beggary undertaken for the sake of Christ deserves honour rather than contempt.
10. A man who is asked for charity ought not to be wearied, if the petition is properly made. And if he is wearied, the fault lies in him for giving alms in order to free himself from importunity, rather than with him who asks in a becoming manner, for the relief of his needs. But, if the petition is not rightly made, the fault lies with the petitioner.
We shall next undertake to answer, in their proper order, the arguments of those who hold that religious who preach may not live on charity, or beg for alms.
1. It by no means follows that because preachers live on alms, they must necessarily be flatterers. When they preach without flattery, they often find but small favour among wicked and carnal-minded men, although they are approved of by the good; in face, sometimes they have to suffer at the hands of those whose favour they could not win without adulation. At other times they are well received by good men who do not wish to be flattered. They thus resemble Lord who, at times, had no roof to shelter Him, and at other times was entertained by many and who received the ministry of women who followed Him, as we read in Luke (viii.). Thus likewise the Apostles sometimes endured great distress; and at other times they were well supplied, behaving with discretion under both circumstances. “I know,” says St. Paul (Phil. iv. 12), “ how to abound and how to suffer want.” Vicissitudes of this description are the common experience of poor preachers in our own days.
2. Preachers, by asking for charity, do nothing that can be an occasion of avarice. Avarice is an inordinate love of possessing. It is not inordinate to wish to have necessary food and clothing. “Having what to eat, and wherewith to be clothed, with these we are content” (1 Tim. vi. 8). Hence poor men are not, by begging for the necessities of life, exposed to any danger of avarice.
3. Prewhers ought not to desire material assistance as their primary end or object. They may, however ask for such temporal goods as a secondary end, or as the means whereby they may be enabled to achieve their primary end, which is the preaching of the Gospel. Commenting on the words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice” (Matt. vi. 36), the Gloss says: “By these words, our Lord shows us that we are not to desire temporal things as our chief and most necessary good. We are to seek the Kingdom of Heaven, and to set it before us as our end, and do all things for the attainment of that end. Let us then eat in order to preach, but not preach in order to eat.”
4. The stipend which preachers receive is due to them for their work. They have a twofold right to the alms which they accept. A debt may be due by a double right. Some have a right to payment as a debt of legal justice due to them. Such a debt is the one resulting from the compact made between a workman and his employer, whereby the labourer can sue his employer for his wages. Others can likewise claim a reward as a debt of friendly justice. For when one man does a service to another, it is only fair that the other should make the best return within his power, although his friend cannot legally compel him to make any return. Aristotle speaks of this twofold sort of justice in VIII Ethics. I maintain, therefore, that when a prelate is set over the people, they have a right to demand spiritual ministrations from him; and he has a right to claim material assistance from them. But the people cannot claim spiritual service from any save prelates. Neither on the other hand, even though they preach by the permission of prelates, can any of the clergy who are not prelates, claim material assistance from the laity. They can only do so if they are appointed to be, in all things, the vicars of prelates. Hence we see that the poor who render no service whatsoever stand on a different footing in the matter of accepting alms, to religious who preach by permission of prelates, and are not themselves prelates, and to prelates themselves. For the poor accept everything gratis; and thus are mere mendicants. But preachers who are not prelates accept charity as a recompense due to them, although they cannot enforce its payment. Bishops, however, have compulsory power and can exact payment as a right. Nevertheless, if he who has the right to demand something does not assert this right, but begs for what he needs as if it were a free gift, he does no harm to anyone; but by his example he shows the beauty of humility.
The fifth objection is answered by saying that St. Paul wished to show that he had as good a right as the other Apostles to receive the donations of the faithful. And in order to make good this point, he began by proving that he was an Apostle just like the other Apostles.
6. The false apostles were unjust usurpers when they accepted the contributions of the faithful. Three reasons prove this. First, they taught a doctrine that was false and contrary to the Gospel. For, as the Gloss observes, on the words “we likewise beseech you, brethren” (Rom. xvi.), “ they forced believers to follow Jewish rites.” Secondly, they preached without any commission from the true Apostles. Therefore St. Paul says that they “came in privately.” Thirdly, they behaved as if they possessed the authority of Apostles. Now as the objection ignores these three points, the reasoning contained in it is worthless.
17. Preaching religious beg for what is, according to the second mode of justice, due to them; for a debt is a matter of justice. But they are the more to be commended, in as much as they ask for that which is their due as though it were a free gift.
8. Prelates who receive tithes and offerings from their people, and who duly minister to them, may elect certain coadjutors to assist them more efficiently in so doing. Such conduct is not unfair to the faithful. For if the laity give more temporal alms than is agreed upon, they receive, in return, more spiritual assistance than the prelates are obliged to give. Furthermore, their alms are not taken as a right, but are accepted thankfully and humbly.
9. Everyone may renounce what is owing to him. Thus, although bishops are bound to support those whom they send to preach, the preachers may renounce their claim to such support. They do not, for this reason, become a burden on the people to whom they are sent. For they ask nothing from them but necessary food; and this they do not claim as a right but beg for as alms, according as each one of their hearers may have determined in his heart. They thus imitate the example of St. Paul (2 Cor. viii-ix).
10. Hypocrites were rebuked by our Lord for seeking gain by means of prayer and of superstitious practices. The Gloss says: “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, for by your superstitions you aim at nothing save at despoiling those who listen to you.” But it is rash to pass this judgment on anyone, for his private motive is the secret of each man’s own heart.
11. Preachers have no right to consort with persons of bad character, if there is danger that the vices of such persons may be attributed to them also, and if their preaching may, for this reason, fall into discredit. St. Gregory says: “If a man’s conduct is despised, his preaching will be contemned.” The Gloss speaks in like manner. If, however, preachers, without losing their own reputation, make friends with men of bad character in order to reform them, it is a praiseworthy act. It is done in imitation of our Lord. For we read in Matt. ix. 11, “The scribes and Pharisees said to his disciples: why does your Master eat with publicans and sinners? “The Gloss observes that Christ, by so doing, “gave His disciples an example of mercy.” But if sinners do not esteem it a favour that the preachers of the Gospel should consort with them, the fault lies with them, not with the preachers,
12. If those who preach the Word accept from their hearers the necessities of life, they do not sell the Gospel. For, as we have already said, material gain is not their primary motive in preaching. The Gloss, on the words: “let the priests that rule well” (1 Tim. v.), remarks: “Good and faithful dispensers of the Word ought not to attain heavenly glory only, but likewise earthly honour that so they may not have cause for sadness.” Again, “Alms are given from charity, and accepted through necessity. Nevertheless the Gospel is not venal. It is not preached in exchange for earthly goods. They who proclaim it do so for the sake of eternal happiness. For, were they to sell so great a treasure, they would show that they held it in contempt. Let preachers then, accept from the people as a necessity the means of existence, and let them receive from the Lord the reward of their labours. For they do not regard the alms of the faithful as a recompense or a motive for their work. Their ministry is one of love. They accept what is given them as a stipend whereby they may procure the supplies which are necessary to enable them to continue their labours.”
13. Although there might have been some appearance of evil in the conduct of the Apostles if they had taken alms from the Gentiles to whom they preached the Faith, and if they had thereby introduced a new custom, it cannot now be considered disedifying if preachers accept alms from the faithful. For this custom is sanctioned by the Gospel; and those to whom charity is given need it not for superfluities, but for the necessities of life. It is evident also that religious do not preach for the sake of gain; for the alms that they receive are far inferior in amount to the worldly possessions which they renounced for the love of Christ.
We will next reply, one by one, to the arguments brought to show that alms ought not to be given to religious:
1. The words “call the poor, from whom you have at present nothing to expect,” mean only that in giving alms the intention of receiving a reward must not be present to the mind, though they may receive it in the future. For there is no one so poor that he may not, in some case of emergency, be of use to us. This is made clear by the following words of the Gloss: “If you invite others in order to be invited yourself, you may deceive yourself.” Neither are we to understand that there will be no eternal reward for those who call together rich men or their own kinsfolk, for such an invitation may proceed from charity, and may be given for the love of God. Hence the Gloss says: “Those who invite the poor expect a future recompense; those who call together their friends and brethren, or wealthy people, have their reward now. But if, like the sons of Job, they entertain rich persons for the love of God, then He who commands us to practise brotherly love will reward such hospitality equally with other works of charity.” But we are not to conclude that it is a sin to entertain our kinsfolk, even from mere natural affection, but only that such hospitality does not deserve an everlasting recompense. The Gloss remarks: “Our Lord does not forbid us to call together our wealthy friends, and our kinsmen, as if it were criminal to do so. He only tells us that such an invitation, will not be rewarded with eternal life.”
2. The saying of St. Augustine, adduced in the second, objection, is to be understood in the same sense as that of Sirach (xii. 4), “Give to the merciful, and uphold not the sinners.” The Gloss observes on this text: “Do not encourage sinners in their sinful ways; do not hold communication with them, as they do who entertain actors, and suffer the poor of Christ to hunger.” But he who gives to a sinner who is in want, not in order to encourage him to sin, but because he recognises him as a man, assists not a sinner but a just man, because he loves not the sinner but human nature. It is better, however, to withhold an alms, than to give it to a man because he is a sinner, or in order to cause him to sin. But it does not follow that we may not bestow charity on the poor of Christ who do no manual work. For, as we have already shown, they commit no sin by omitting to perform such labour. And even were their omission criminal, we would not be assisting them because they are sinners, but because they are in distress.
3. He who asks in an unbecoming manner should not obtain what he demands; he should rather bo corrected. But he who begs befittingly should, if possible, receive what he asks for. Hence St. Gregory, XXL Moral., says on the words of Job: “ If I have denied to the poor what they desired,” that “the holy man, in this saying, bears testimony to himself that he not only assisted the poor in their needs, but condescended to their desires. But what is to be done when the poor ask for things that are not expedient for them to have? Or, since in Holy Scripture, the poor are spoken of as being humble, are we to consider that they ought to have only those things for which they ask with humility? It is certain that we ought to give them those things that they beg humbly for, i.e. that they ask for out of necessity, not out of covetousness. For it would be great pride if they were to beg for what is unsuited to their condition of poverty.” We should, therefore, unhesitatingly, assist the poor in their necessities, and we should. rebuke those who ask for superfluities.
4. As it is said in the fourth objection, we must refuse alms when, by giving them, we would encourage the recipients to commit injustice; but we should not refuse such assistance in cases of extreme necessity. But as mendicant religious ask for alms not for criminal purposes, but for the furtherance of their sacred labours, this proposition does not apply to them.
5. St. Ambrose does not say, in the words referred to, that infirmity of health or the shame experienced by those who beg are to be considered as reasons for giving alms. We give alms on account of the need of those who ask for them. What St. Ambrose says is that we should give more abundantly to those who are sick and to those who are ashamed of begging. He does not say that we are not to give to those who are in good health, and to those who are not ashamed to beg; but that, other things being equal, the sick and retiring are especially deserving of our charity. But sickness and reluctance to beg are not the only conditions which should, excite our charity. We must also consider the reputation of the one who asks us, his claims upon us, his needs, etc. It is not only those who have lost their fortune by accident who feel ashamed to beg. Religious, who have voluntarily renounced all things for the love of God, experience the reluctance. For they often belong to noble families; and shame at begging is therefore natural to them. But in religious this natural shame, like other passions, is perhaps more fully subject to reason than is the case with laymen.
6. Although there may be many reasons for giving more abundant alms to one man than to another, we cannot conclude for any one reason that one man always deserves more assistance than others. Thus the fact that a man is in greater need than are others is not always a reason why he should be helped more than others. For a man in less distressed circumstances might be able to show cause why he should receive more assistance from us than a neighbour poorer than he. Aristotle teaches (Ethics IX) that the preponderating reason for relieving another is his claim upon us. For, except under very peculiar circumstances, we are more strictly bound to pay a debt than to give a favour. Now as we owe preachers the necessities of life as a stipend for their labours, we are bound in a special manner to bestow our alms upon them, especially when they are in distress. This is a debt of justice. This, therefore, we ought to pay, unless there are many grave reasons to prevent our so doing.
7. In reply to the seventh difficulty we must say that ‘there are two sorts of happiness, spiritual and material. There are likewise two kinds of misery, spiritual and material. Religious, who have made themselves voluntarily poor have not to suffer spiritual misery, which is absolute misery. Rather, our Lord calls them “blessed” (Matt. v.; Luke vi.). They are, however, subject to physical distress, and are therefore worthy objects of material relief.
8. Kinship is one reason for giving alms more abundantly in some cases than in others. It is not, however, the only standard whereby our charity is to be proportioned. Therefore, it does not follow, as we have already said, that we are always to give most assistance to those most nearly related to us.
How Religious Are Attacked by Their Enemies for Many Frivolous Reasons
WE will now proceed to refute the malicious accusations brought against religious. These are inspired by the presumption of their enemies. We may, in this connection, aptly quote the words of St. Gregory (V Moral.), “No one would presume to correct the faults of the Saints, unless he entertained a better opinion of himself than of them.” St. Jerome likewise says to Sabinianus: “Lest you should find yourself solitary in evildoing, you pretend that the servants of God have also committed crimes. You do not know that you are speaking iniquity against another and are opening open your mouth against Heaven. It is no wonder that some servants of God are blasphemed by you, since your ancestors have called their father Beelzebub.” The calumniators of religious, being determined that nothing shall be wanting to fill the measure of their malice, pervert their judgment in a twofold manner. They pass unjust condemnation both on persons and on things. This double perversity of judgment is recognised by the Gloss in the commentary on the text, “Judge not before the time” (1 Cor. iv). On these words the Gloss says: “We must beware lest we be deceived by a false opinion. We cannot know the consciences of men, nor have true and certain knowledge of this affair; nor can we be sure whether such or such a man is moral or immoral, whether he is just or unjust. Let us ourselves abhor immorality and injustice and love justice and morality. We know, in the truth of God, that some things are to be desired and that others avoided. Let us then desire those things that we ought to desire, and avoid those things that we ought to avoid; in order that we may be forgiven if, at times or even often, we do not pass a true judgment upon men.” But as, according to the Gloss, it is worse to entertain a false opinion about things than about men, let us attack the greater evil in the first place, and consider how the enemies of religious pervert their judgment as to facts. We will then consider their false opinions about persons.
The assailants of religious pervert their judgment about facts in two ways. They first of all declare that the good manifestly wrought by religious is evil. Thus they fulfil the words of Sirach (xi. 33), “he lies in wait, and turns good into evil; and on the elect he will lay a blot.” Then they pretend that the indifferent actions of religious are wrong. Now by condemning the good works of religious as evil, they pass judgment on themselves, and they prove that those whom they blame are highly to be commended. They condemn religious because their virtuous lives are offensive to them. St. Gregory, speaking of men of this description, says (VI Moral.), “The wicked man detracts from the reputation of the just, and he never ceases to condemn and to blame the good actions which he himself neglects to perform.” Detractors of religious, by blaming them, give the best proof of their innocence. They imitate the princes of Daniel, who said in their malice against that prophet, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, unless perhaps concerning the law of his God.” On these words, the Gloss observes: “O spotless life, wherein his enemies could detect no guilt, save in the law which he observes.” Now the only ground of detraction which they can find against religious, and the only reason for holding them up to contempt, is the law of God to which they are faithful.
1. They blame them on account of the poor habit which they wear.
2. They condemn them for their charity to others and for compassionately assisting their neighbours in the management of their affairs.
3. They complain that religious, who have here no abiding city, wander from city to city to preach the Word of God.
4. They find fault with them for studying.
5. They blame them for preaching in a systematic and fluent style.
Now by thus condemning religious, their assailants show that they despise their poverty, their mendicancy, and their teaching, and that they are opposed to the good fruit which, by episcopal permission, they are enabled to produce in souls.
The Poverty of the Religious Habit is the First Point on Which They Are Assailed
They bring up many arguments against the religious custom of wearing a poor habit:
1. They quote the words of our Lord, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in the clothing of sheep” etc. (Matt. vii, 15). This warning they apply to those who wear poor clothing; and, Hence they seek to Prove that religious ought to be suspected of being fibe prophets.
2. The Gloss, on the words “Behold a pale horse (Rev. vi.), comments as follows: “The devil, finding that he cannot further his schemes against the Church either by persecution or by open heresy, sends forth false brethren who, under the disguise of the religious habit, possess the nature of roan and black horses and pervert the faith.”
3. It is said again that in the early days of the Church an order was sent from Rome to the Bishops of Gaul, commanding them to rebuke those who, under a pretext of humility, chose to wear contemptible garments unlike the ordinary dress of the time. This decree is said to be preserved in the register of the Roman Church, although there are no traces of it in the body of the decretals. This alleged Papal command is held to be a proof that men, at least those who live in the world, are not justified in wearing garments unfitted to their station.
4. St. Augustine says (III De doctrina Christiana), “Whoever makes a more limited use of temporal things than is customary with those among whom he lives, is guilty either of superstition or of indiscretion.” Hence he who wears clothing, meaner than that worn by those around him, is deserving of blame.
5. St. Jerome, writing to Nepotianus, says: “Wear neither sad-coloured, nor white garments. Sumptuous apparel and slovenly dress are equally to be avoided. For the one denotes luxury, and the other vain glory.” Hence we see the error of dressing in a beggarly fashion.
6. St. Paul says (Rom. xiv. 17), “The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink.” On these words, the Gloss observes: “It matters little of what quality our food may be, or what quantity we may consume, so long as our nourishment is adapted to the condition of those with whom we live and of our own, and to the requirements of our health.” For the same reason, the fashion of a man’s clothing has no connection with virtue, provided that he wear what is becoming to his condition. Hence it is no mark of a truly religious man to wear a mean dress as a sign of contempt of the world.
7. Hypocrisy would seem to be the worst of all sins. For, our Lord inveighed more forcibly against hypocrites than against any other class of sinner. St. Gregory says (Pastoral.), “ None do more harm in the Church than sinners who have a reputation for, or appearance of, sanctity.” Hypocrisy lurks under shabby clothing, just as costliness of attire betokens luxury or stimulates men to pride. It is more sinful, therefore, to exceed the limits of discretion by poverty of attire than by gaudiness of apparel.
8. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us an example of the perfection of holiness and of religion. But, he wore a precious garment, namely, a coat woven throughout (John xix. 23). Such clothes are normally sewn with silk and gold. The fact that the soldiers would not divide it, but cast lots for it, is a proof that it must have been costly. Hence wearing mean clothing can be no part of religion.
9. The Sovereign Pontiff wears costly silken robes; the kings of old were clad in scarlet; and it would not have been praiseworthy in them had they worn contemptible garments. For the same reason, it is not meritorious on the part of anyone, to wear garments unbecoming his station; rather, the shabbiness of his clothing brings humility into disrepute.
We will now expose the fallacy contained in the foregoing arguments.
1. We read (XXI, quaest. IX), “All extravagance or ornateness of attire is unbecoming Holy Orders. Therefore, it behoves all bishops or ecclesiastics who attire themselves in costly or showy garments to amend; for if they persist in so doing, a penalty will be laid upon them.” It is added later on, “And if any should be, found to ridicule those who wear poor and religious garments, let him do penance.” In the early ages of the Church, every man consecrated to God wore coarse and common clothing. For, as St. Basil says, all that is worn not out of necessity but for the sake of adornment is accounted as pride. Hence plainness of attire is to be encouraged; all ostentation is to be avoided; and they who speak ill of men who wear poor garments are to be severely punished.
2. We are confirmed in this by the example of St. John, who wore a garment made of camel’s hair (Matt. ii). The Gloss, hereon, observes, that “he who preached penance, wore a garment of penance, and that such poverty of apparel was as praiseworthy in him, as it would have been unseemly in a wealthy man. Another commentary says that, “a servant of God ought to use clothing not for pleasure or adornment, but for the purpose of necessary covering.” The Gloss also observes, on St. Mark. i, that the Baptist’s garment of camel’s hair was the raiment befitting preachers. Hence we learn that the servants of God, especially such as preach penance, ought to wear the garb of humility.
3. We are told once more (Heb. xi.) that the prophets of old, such as Elijah and others, wandered about in sheep’s skins, in goat skins.” The word melota is used indiscriminately for undressed sheep skin, or goat skin, and it signifies consequently a very rough and harsh covering for the body. The Gloss says that the same word is used for camel’s hair.
4. We are told of Sts. Hilarion, Arsenius, and of other Fathers of the desert, that they wore the very coarsest clothing.
5. We read the following words in Revelation (xi. 3): “I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” This, the Gloss interprets to mean: “They shall preach penance both by word and example.” Another commentary remarks on the same text, “You ought, in preaching, to follow their example.” From this we must understand that they who preach penance ought to wear a penitential garment.
6. St. Gregory, in his homily on the text, “There was a certain rich man,” strongly inculcates the lesson, that poverty of clothing is as much to be commended, as extravagance of apparel is to be condemned. We quote his words: “Some men consider, that there is no sin in excessive daintiness and magnificence of attire. But, if such were the case, the Word of God would not expressly tell us that the rich man who was tormented in hell had worn purple and fine linen. No one dresses in an ostentatious manner save for the sake of vainglory, and in order to outdo others in splendour. For the very fact that a man does not deck himself out when there is none to see him, proves that he wears his fine garments from motives of vainglory. We shall see more clearly the fault committed by extravagance of dress, if we compare it with the virtue of humility displayed in mean apparel. For, were it not a virtue to wear contemptible garments, the Evangelist would not have expressly told us that the clothing of St. John the Baptist was of camel’s hair.”
7. On the words of St. Peter (1 Pet. iii. 3), “Whose adorning let it not be outward plaiting of the hair” etc., the Gloss makes the following commentary: “As St. Cyprian says, they who are clad in silk and scarlet cannot put on Christ. They who are adorned with gold and pearls, and suchlike gauds, have lost the ornament of heart and of body. If the women whom St. Peter admonishes in the text we have quoted were married women, who might have alleged their husbands as an excuse for their vanity in dress, how much more ought virgins, who have no such excuse, to take to heart the warning of the Apostle? “It is clear therefore that in ecclesiastics, sumptuousness of apparel is far more to be deprecated than it is in women.
8. An outward act which reveals the virtue of the heart is, even though liable to abuse, very commendable. Poverty of clothing comes into this category. Thus, St. Jerome, writing to the monk Rustieus, says: “A lowly garb betokens a noble mind. A coarse tunic denotes contempt of the world, provided that the soul of one thus clad is not puffed up with pride, and that his words are not inconsistent with his garment.” Hence the habit of wearing coarse clothes is, in itself, one to be adopted, if at the same time pride is banished from the heart.
9. That which wins the Divine mercy, cannot be wrong. Now many, even great, sinners have, by assuming a garb of penance, gained the mercy of heaven. We are told of the impious Ahab (1 Kings xxi. 27) that “when he, had heard these words (i.e. of Elijah) he rent his garments and put haircloth upon his flesh and fasted and slept in sackcloth. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Thesbite, saying: Have you not seen Ahab humbled before me? Therefore, because he has humbled himself for my sake, I will not bring the evil in his days.” Nevertheless, the humility of Ahab was not, as the Gloss says, true humility of heart. Again, in the third chapter of the book of Jonah we read: “The word came to the king of Niniveh, and he rose up out of his throne and cast away his robe from him and put on sackcloth and sat in ashes.” He also ordered all his subjects to do likewise. Hence we see that humility of clothing is acceptable to God.
10. Aristotle (X Ethic.) proves that “virtue consists not only in interior, but likewise in exterior acts. He is here speaking of the moral virtues. Now humility is, in a certain sense, a moral virtue; for it belongs neither to the intellectual nor to the theological virtues. Hence it consists not merely in interior but likewise in exterior acts. As self-contempt pertains to humility, it follows that it is consistent with humility for a man to render himself exteriorly contemptible.
11. Evil is never disguised, save under an appearance of good. Now hypocrites cloak their malice under a guise of humility. Hence a humble garb has in itself an appearance of good, and therefore in itself it is commendable, although it is liable to abuse.
12. As fasting and almsdeeds are praiseworthy exercises of penance, so the habit of wearing a contemptible dress is likewise a commendable custom, although some may make a bad use of it. From all that we have said, while admitting the possibility of its abuse, we maintain that in itself the wearing of a humble dress is praiseworthy, as being an act of penitence and humility practised by some who, by their station in life, have a right to costly clothing; just as many have the laudable habit of fasting and abstaining who might, according to their condition, make use of flesh meat. But both fasting and wearing a contemptible clothing may, for some exceptional reason, be evil, if for instance it is practised in a manner annoying to those with whom we live, or if it is done from motives of vainglory. The same remark applies to prayer and to almsdeeds, as our Lord himself teaches (Matt. vi).
We will now reply to the other objections, alleged against the religious habit.
1. The fact that false prophets make use of sheep’s clothing to deceive the faithful is rather in favour of the habit of wearing poor clothing than against it. For hypocrites would not thus disguise their malice, unless a contemptible garb carried with it an appearance of good. Otherwise the Scriptures which, as we are told (2 Pet. iii.), that heretics abuse, ought to be reprobated. The same might be said of piety, which heretics often pretend (2 Tim. iii.). Hence the Gloss says, on St. Matt. vii, that false prophets are recognised not by their garments, but by their works. Again, the Gloss adds that sheep should not lay aside their clothing, even though, at times wolves may assume it as a disguise.
2. The devil would not clothe his emissaries in a religious habit if this habit were not, in itself a token of goodness. But this is no reason why virtuous persons should not wear the religious habit; nor is it a reason why all who wear it should be accounted wicked (Gloss on Matt, vii). Hence St. Jerome asks in his book against Helvidius, “Does the fact that it is sinful to pretend to be a virgin, make virginity itself a crime?”
3. The prohibition, quoted in this objection was not published because poverty of clothing is in itself reprehensible, but because it is assumed by some men or the purposes of deception.
4. The quotation of St. Augustine, cited in this objection, applies, only, to such rigour of life as causes dissension amongst those with whom we have to live. For, if it be understood absolutely, everyone who fasts when others do not fast would deserve blame. This idea is, of course, absurd.
5. The words here quoted from St. Jerome apply not to the use, but to the abuse, of a poor and lowly garb. He utters a warning against the vainglory which may arise from such a custom. In his epistles to the monk Rusticus, and to the nobleman Pammachius, he commends poverty and humility of clothing. This is evident from his epistle to Pammachius on the death of Paulina.
6. The use of exterior things may be regarded from a double point of view. Their use is indifferent if we consider the nature of the things themselves. If, however, we regard the end for which we use them, their use is commendable in proportion to the excellence of that end. For example, fasting practised as a means of overcoming lust is more commendable than the eating of ordinary food with giving of thanks. Jovinian denied this proposition; but he was refuted in this and in his other errors by St. Jerome. Hence poverty of clothing, when it is intended as humiliation for the soul and as a conquest over the body, is in itself more to be commended than ordinary clothing. Consequently, as religion is evidenced by fasting, so, on the same grounds, is it seen in humility of attire.
7. The fact that the assumption of poor garments for hypocritical purposes is a great sin does not prove that poverty of apparel is itself more sinful than extravagance of attire. For poverty of clothing is not as closely connected with hypocrisy as splendour of attire is related to pride and luxury. Ostentation in dress leads of itself and directly to pride and luxury. It is therefore in itself culpable. But meanness of attire does not of itself directly tend to hypocrisy. Hypocrisy results from the abuse of a humble fashion of dress, just as it may result from the abuse of any other good work. Now the more excellent a work is, the more reprehensible is its abuse. Therefore the heinousness of hypocrisy is a testimony in favour of poverty of apparel and of the other external penitential works of which hypocrisy is the abuse. We do not mean, however, that hypocrisy is absolutely speaking the greatest of sins. For unbelief, whereby a man lies against God, is a more heinous crime than dissimulation, whereby he lies against himself.
8. It is not credible that our Lord Jesus Christ should have been clad in costly clothing. For He commended St. John in that he was not clothed soft garments. The Pharisees laid great stress on exterior sanctity. They accused Christ Himself of being a glutton, a wine bibber, and a friend of publicans; so would they have accused the Baptist had he worn soft garments. Thesoldiers who mocked our Lord would not have clothed Him in a purple garment as a mark of sovereignty, if His own tunic had been woven with silk and gold. The soldiers who cast lots for His seamless coat did so, not because it was of costly material, but for the sake of their own profit. For, had it been divided, it would have been of no use to any of them. This alone suffices to prove that His garment was not valuable. Had it been of rich material, they would have divided it. But, as the Gloss says, our Lord’s seamless coat was a figure of the unity of the Church.
9. Certain stations in life have a dress proper to them, just as each religious order has its own habit. The robes of the kings of old, and of the Sovereign Pontiff at the present time must be considered as the insignia of their office. And, just as a religious has no right to wear a meaner habit than the one belonging to his order, (though it is praiseworthy in him to wear the poorest allowed by the statutes of his rule), so neither would it have been lawful for monarchs of former days, nor for the Sovereign Pontiff in these times, to wear apparel unbecoming their dignity. But the case is different with regard to princes and other men, who have no fixed robes of state. It is not reprehensible in them if they wear the poorest garments compatible with their station. Michal cried out in mockery of David, (2 Sam. vi. 20), “How glorious was the King of Israel today, uncovering himself before the handmaids of his servants, and he was naked as if one of the buffoons should be naked.
And David answered: I will both play, and will make myself meaner than I have done; and I will be little in my own eyes.” Again, Esther, speaking to the Almighty, said (Esther xiv. 16), “You know my necessity that I abominate the sign of my pride and glory which is upon my head in the days of my public appearance; and I do not wear it in the days of my silence.” Hence we see that it is praiseworthy, even in kings and princes if, when they can do so without scandal or without detriment to their authority, they are content with humble apparel.
The Attacks Brought Against Religious on Account of Their Works of Charity
As religious are charged with meddling in other people’s concerns, we will now consider the grounds on which these accusations are based.
1. The following words of St. Paul are quoted that you use your endeavour to be quiet, and that you do your own business” (1 Thes. iv. 11). They also cite the commentary of the Gloss, “leaving the affairs of other people alone, as is profitable for the amendment of your own life.”
2. St. Paul says, “We have heard that there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling” (2 Thes. iii. 11). On this passage the Gloss remarks, “Do men who act thus, contrary to the law of the Lord, deserve to be supported by the alms of others?”
13. “No man being a soldier to God, entangles himself with secular business” (2 Tim. ii.) “of any kind whatsoever,” adds the Gloss. Now as the affairs of other people are frequently of a worldly nature, it is maintained that religious ought never to concern themselves with the business of their neighbours.
This opinion is directly opposed to the teaching of St. James, who says: “Now religion pure and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and the widow in their tribulation” (Jam. i. 22), i.e. “to help those who are in distress and have no other assistance,” as the Gloss explains.
“I commend to you Phoebe, our sister, that you assist her in whatever business she shall have need of you” (Ron. xvi. 1). The Gloss says that the Apostle here speaks of a woman who had gone to Rome on some business. He commends her to the care of the Romans. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, for so you shall fulfil the law of Christ,” St. Paul also writes to the Galatians (vi. 2).
These words, all prove that it is commendable in a man to be as anxious about his neighbour’s interests as if they were his own. Nevertheless, two faults are to be avoided in the exercise of this fraternal charity. We must beware of being so occupied about other people’s affairs as to neglect our own. St. Paul warns us against this error, saying, “Endeavour to be quiet,” i.e. free from curiosity (Gloss), and “do your own business,” (1 Thes. iv.), “leaving other people’s alone” (Gloss). We are here commanded to mind our own concerns, rather than those of our neighbours. St. Paul also warns us (2 Thess. iii.) against helping others in any illicit proceedings, or assisting them from an unlawful motive. Hence the Gloss says on the words “curiously meddling”: Do men who thus act contrary to the law of the Lord deserve to be supported by the alms of others? For their God is their belly, and with unworthy solicitude they seek to provide themselves with the necessities of life.” Their iniquitous motive is proved by the fact that they desire only their own material advantage. That they seek, with reprehensible anxiety, to procure such advantage proves that they are engaged in some unlawful business. This is our answer to the two first accusations brought against religious who assist their neighbour.
To the third charge we answer that according to the explanation of the Gloss, those occupations are to be called secular, in which men are engaged in making money, but not by manual labour. To this class belong all mercantile pursuits. Religious are forbidden to involve themselves in any business of this description. They may not, for instance, trade in another man’s interest. There is no reason, however, against their performing charitable offices for their neighbours, such as giving him advice, or interceding for him.
How Religious Are Attacked on Account of the Journeys Which They Undertake for the Salvation of Souls
WE will in this chapter, consider the charges brought against religious on account of their journeying.
1. St. Paul says (2 Thess. iii. 11), “We have heard that there are some among you that walk disorderly.” On account of this text, religious who travel, are called by their enemies wanderers (gyrovagi).
2. The following words of St. Augustine are likewise, quoted against them, “Some monks,” he says, “bear no commission; yet they are never quiet, never settled, never at rest” (De opere Monachorum).
3. On the words, “Whichever house you enter, there abide” (Mark vi. 10), the Gloss says: “It is not becoming in a preacher, to run from house to house and to change the place wherein he enjoys hospitality.”
4. The following words of Isaiah, (xxx. 7), are quoted in the same sense: “Therefore, have I cried concerning this: It is pride; only sit still [Vulgate],” i.e., “abide in your own land “ (Gloss).
5. Again, we read in the Prophet Jeremias (xiv. 10): These people have loved to move their feet, they have not rested and have not pleased the Lord.”
This accusation of restlessness, brought against preachers, is nothing new. For Dionysius, in his letter to Apolophanius, says that when he was still a Gentile, he used to call St. Paul a wanderer round the world, because he obeyed the command of our Lord. “Go therefore into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark xvi. 15).
1. In the Gospel of St. John (xv. 16), we, also, read that Christ said to His disciples: “I have chosen you that you should go, and should bring forth fruit.”
2. The journeyings of preachers are symbolised by the words in Job, (xxxvii, 11), “ The clouds spread their light; they go round about, whithersoever the Will of Him who governs them leads them, to whatever he commands them on the face of the whole earth.” The Gloss hereon observes: “The clouds that spread their light typify holy preachers who by word and deed propagate the example of a good life and who illuminate all around them, because by their preaching they enlighten the ends of the earth.
3. Again the words in Job (xxxviii. 25), “Who gave a course to violent showers?” is interpreted, by the Gloss and by St. Gregory (Moral.) of the journeys of preachers.
4. We read (Zech. vi, 7), “The strong horse came out, eager to patrol the earth.” The Gloss again understands these words to refer to the Apostles and to other preachers.
5. St. Paul says (Rom. xvi.), “Salute those who are of Narcissus’ household.” The Gloss remarks that this Narcissus is said, in other codices, to have been a priest who journeyed about in order to confirm the brethren in the faith.
6. “When they shall rush in to Jacob” (i.e., “ to preach,” says the Gloss), “they shall fill the face of the world with seed” (Isa. xxvii. 6), i.e. the seed of preaching” (Gloss).
7. In the Book of Proverbs (vi. 3) we find the words: “Run about, make haste, stir up your friend” (i.e. “from the sleep of sin,” Gloss). Now sinners are awakened by preaching. Therefore, journeys undertaken by preachers for the salvation of souls are praiseworthy.
8. “This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures” (Ezek. i. 13). St. Gregory writes (homil. V, I part super Ezech.): “Pastors of souls, who have undertaken the duty of feeding their flock, ought but rarely to change their place of abode. But, they who journey abroad to preach are as wheels of fire, which move from place to place by the force of the flame of that holy desire which both consumes the preacher and inflames his hearers.” This passage teaches us two lessons, viz. that it is permissible for others, besides prelates, to preach; and that preachers ought to move from place to place, instead of remaining always in one spot.
9. St. Gregory, in the same homily, commenting on the words of Ezek. i., “When they walked, it was like the voice of a multitude, like the noise of an army,” says, “The camps of preachers move from one place to another, labouring for the salvation of souls.” We see, therefore, from all the passages that have been cited that the journeys undertaken by preachers in their zeal for souls are highly to be commended.
But, we must note that the Holy Scripture blames three classes of men who wander about. The first class consists of those whose restless and changeable class disposition causes them to roam hither and thither, and whose journeys produce no fruit. The second class is composed of those who travel about in hopes of material profit. The third class is formed of those whose journeys are undertaken from some evil motive, and to accomplish some sinful end. Of all these three orders of men, St. Jude writes: “Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, and after the error of Balaam, they have for reward poured out themselves. These are spots in their banquets, feasting together without fear, feeding themselves, clouds without water which are carried about by winds, trees of the autumn, unfruitful” (Epist. i. 11). By these words is typified the unfruitfulness of journeys which are undertaken through frivolous motives. The Apostle blames the men of whom we have been speaking for the levity, or inordinate desires, which cause them to travel abroad. The Gloss says that the words of St. Jude refer to those who seek food by unworthy means or inquisitive disquiet.
2. St. Augustine, when he speaks of monks, who, although they bear no commission, are never settled, never quiet, means that their journeys are undertaken from frivolous or avaricious motives. This is clear by the context, wherein he blames them for running about,in quest of lucre.
3. The words quoted from St. Mark vi and Luke x. plainly allude to men whose inordinate desires induce them to run from house to house in hopes of being supplied more abundantly with food by one family than by another.
4. The text of Isaiah (xxx.) warns us against that inconstancy of mind, which tempts the man whose soul does not rest in God, to flit from one object to another, finding rest in none. The words, in their literal sense, refer to the Jews who, not satisfied with the Divine assistance accorded to them, desired to go down into Egypt to seek protection from the Egyptians. The words quoted from Jeremias are likewise a warning against that love of wandering about which arises from lightness of mind. This appears by the context, “These people have loved to move their feet.” For, they who move easily, delight in motion. And the Gloss, on this passage, explains the movement of the feet to mean movement of the affections.
Attacks Made on Religious Because They Study
WE now proceed to consider the objections brought against the studious life led by religious.
1. We find (2 Tim. iii. 7) certain persons, who were a danger to the Church, accused of “ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth.” For this reason, it is considered a suspicious circumstance when religious are fond of study.
2. St. Gregory makes the following remarks on the words of Job xvi., “My enemy has looked at me with terrible eyes”: “The Incarnate Truth,” he writes (XIII Moral.), “chose for His preachers such as were poor, simple, and unlearned. But, on the other hand, the astute and double-tongued man, filled with the knowledge of this world, whom at the end of time the Apostate Angel will elect to propagate his falsehood, will be damned.” Hence religious, because they exercise the office of preaching in a learned manner, are regarded as the forerunners of Antichrist.
3. “I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb” (Rev. xiii. 11). On these words of the Apocalypse the Gloss remarks: “The description of the tribulation which will be caused by Antichrist and his princes is followed by a narrative of the evils which will befall the Church, by means of the apostles of Antichrist, who will travel throughout the entire world.” Again, “coming up out of the earth” signifies “ going forth to preach” (Gloss). On the words “it had two horns” the Gloss remarks: “These preachers are said to have two horns, because they will profess to imitate the innocent and spotless life of our Lord, to work miracles resembling His, and to preach His doctrine; or else because they will usurp to themselves the two Testaments.” Hence it would appear that they who go forth to preach, with the knowledge of the two Testaments, and with an appearance of sanctity, are the apostles of Antichrist.
4. “Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies (1 Cor. viii. 1). Now as religious are in a peculiar manner bound to the practice of humility, they ought to abstain from knowledge.
5. Of St. Benedict, patriarch of religious, we are told that “he withdrew from the study of literature, and that his learning was unlearned and his wisdom untaught” (St. Greg, II Moral.). Hence after his example, religious should desist from study.
6. St. Paul (2 Thes. iii.), reproves those who neglected manual labour, and indulged themselves in curiosity and sloth. As then the acquisition of knowledge is curiosity, religious ought not to abandon manual labour for the sake of study.
Now those who have been quoted above are not the originators of the error we are refuting. Julian the Apostate was the first to conceive this idea. He, as we are told in ecclesiastical history, forcibly prevented Christians from acquiring knowledge. Those therefore who imitate him, by forbidding religious to study, act in a manner opposed to the precepts of Scripture. We read, for instance, in Isaiah (v. 13): “Therefore is my people led away captive, because they had not knowledge.” “Because,” remarks the Gloss, “they would not have knowledge.” Now voluntary ignorance could not deserve punishment, were not knowledge praiseworthy.
2. In the Prophet Hosea (iv. 5) we read: “In the night I have made your mother to be silent. My people have been silent, because they had no knowledge; because you rejected knowledge, I will reject you that you shall not do the office of priesthood to me.” This text clearly shows how severely ignorance will be punished.
3. In Ps. cxviii. 66, we read: “Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge.” On these words, the Gloss says: “Teach me goodness, i.e. inspire me, with charity; teach me discipline, i.e. give me patience; teach me knowledge, i.e. enlighten my mind. For that knowledge is useful, whereby a man becomes known to himself.”
4. St. Jerome writes to the monk Rusticus: “Let a book be never absent from your eyes or hand.” Again, “Love the knowledge of the Scriptures, and you will not love the vices of the flesh.” The same saint likewise writes to the monk Paulinus: “Holy ignorance is only profitable to itself, and inasmuch as when accompanied by the example of a good life it edifies the Church of Christ. It is harmful, when it is powerless against those who impugn her doctrine.” Hence the learning of the saints is preferable to the holiness of the unlearned. In the same epistle, after enumerating the books of holy Scripture, St. Jerome continues: “I beseech you, brother, let these books be the companions of your life and the subject of your meditation. I know nothing but these, and seek no other thing. Don’t you see that in this way you may on earth enjoy the Kingdom of heaven?” A heavenly life then consists in the, constant study of Holy Scripture.
5. St. Paul points out that knowledge of the Scriptures is essential to preachers. For, he says (1 Tim. iv. 13), “Till I come attend unto reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.” It is evident from this that a knowledge of what they are to teach, is necessary for those whose duty it is to preach and to exhort.
6. St. Jerome writes to the monk Rusticus: “Spend much time in learning what you must later on teach.” Once more he writes to the same, “If you desire to enter the clerical state, study, in order that you may teach.”
7. St. Gregory says, in his Pastorale: “It is eminently necessary that they who accept the office of preachers should not desist from sacred study.”
8. The life of religious is established primarily for contemplation; but, as Hugh of St. Victor says, reading is part of contemplation. Hence religious have a right to apply themselves to study.
9. They are best capable of prosecuting their studies with success, who are least embarrassed by earthly ties. We read in Isaiah (xxviii. 9), “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand the hearing? Those who are weaned from the milk, who are drawn away from the breasts.” The Commentary says, (in VII Physic.) that chastity and the other virtues, whereby the desires of the flesh are curbed, are special aids to the acquisition of speculative knowledge. Now as religious consecrate themselves to a life of continence and abstinence, they are peculiarly fitted for study.
10. St. Jerome proves, moreover, in a letter Pammachius the monk that it is commendable in religious to devote themselves, not only to sacred learning, but to secular study. “If,” he says, “you are enamoured of the spouse knowledge, whom you have taken captive (that is to say if your heart is enthralled by the beauty of secular knowledge), cut off the tresses of this maiden, and remove the ornaments from her head, whereby I mean, heed not, when you study, the meretricious charms of language. Bathe your spouse, learning, in the salt of prophetic wisdom; and then, resting with her, speak saying: ‘Her left hand is under my head, and with her right hand she will embrace me.’ Then, shall this captive raise up around you a numerous offspring, and this Moabitess shall become an Israelite in truth.” Hence we may understand that it is permissible for religious to occupy themselves with secular branches of learning if, according to the rule of Holy Scripture, they avoid all that may be reprehensible.
11. St. Augustine (II De doctrina christiana) says: “Those philosophers, especially of the Platonic School, whose teaching is true and consistent with the Faith, are not to be feared. On the contrary, we may make use of them, as we may despoil those who are in unjust possession of our property.”
12. On the words, “Daniel purposed in his heart” (Dan. i.), the Gloss says: “He who would not eat at the king’s table, lest he should thereby be defiled; he would never have studied the science of the Egyptians, had he considered it to be sinful. He studied it, however, not in order to follow it, but to judge and confute it. Now if a man, ignorant of mathematics, undertakes to argue with a mathematician, or if one who knows nothing of philosophy enter the lists against philosophers, what does he do, save expose himself to ridicule?”
From all that has been said, we see then that it is advisable for religious, and especially for preachers, to be learned, and that above all things they ought to have a good knowledge of Holy Scripture.
We will now proceed to answer the arguments brought forward by those who condemn learning in religious.
1. The words (2 Tim. iii.), “Ever learning, and never attaining to a knowledge of the truth,” are a rebuke, not to such as are ever learning, but to those whose study withdraws them from the Faith, and who, therefore, never attain to the knowledge of the truth. Such men are “ reprobates at heart and blinded to the faith.”
2. When St. Gregory says that the preachers of Antichrist are learned in the knowledge of this world, he refers to those preachers who make use of earthly learning to draw their hearers to sin and to worldly desires. For, in the context to the words we have quoted, he cites the following verse of Isaiah (xviii. 1): “Woe to the land, the winged cymbal that sends ambassadors by the sea, and in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters.” Upon these words, St. Gregory makes this comment: “Paper is made from the reed papyrus. What then shall we understand by the bulrushes, or reeds, of which the prophet is speaking, save earthly learning? The vessels of bulrushes then ate the hearts of worldly men; and to send ambassadors upon the waters in vessels of bulrushes, is to base our preaching on the arguments of carnal wisdom, and to attract our hearers to sin.”
3. The words of the Gloss, quoted in the third objection, refer (as may be plainly seen by comparing this passage with many others) to preachers whom Antichrist will, at his coming into the world, send forth. Neither is the fact that the knowledge of the Old and the New Testament may be abused an argument against religious possessing such knowledge; unless we likewise say that because they may make a hypocritical display of innocence and purity of life, these virtues are therefore to be reprobated.
4. To the objection that “science puffs up,” we reply that it certainly does so, unless it is accompanied by charity. Thus, the Gloss says: “Knowledge alone puffs up, and again: “Add charity to your knowledge, and your knowledge will be useful.” Hence to those who practise works of mercy, learning will not be very dangerous. But if we are to avoid knowledge because it leads to pride, we ought, on the same grounds, to desist from any good work. For, St. Augustine says, “Pride insinuates itself into good actions, in order to render them worthless.”
5. To the argument, founded on the example of St. Benedict, we reply that this Saint did not forego study from a dread of learning, but from fear of the effects of a worldly life and society. Thus, St. Gregory tells us that “being in Rome, St. Benedict applied himself to liberal studies, and to literature; but perceiving that many of those around him fell into sin, he withdrew the foot with which he had stepped out into the world, fearing lest, if he attained to worldly learning, he might likewise fall into the abyss of sin.” Therefore, they are worthy of all praise who abandon the life of worldly students and retire into a monastery, where they may prosecute their studies.
6. To the last objection proposed, we reply that idle and inordinate curiosity is a danger attendant not only on study, but on all other mental occupation; and that superfluous anxiety, which is engendered by curiosity, is reprehensible. But in the words of St. Paul (2 Tim. iii,), quoted as an argument against religious, the Apostle, as the Gloss points out, rebukes those who, from an undue desire for material gain, entangle themselves in their neighbours’ concerns. To speak of study of Holy Scripture as a life of idleness is flatly to contradict the Gloss. For, on the words of Ps. cxviii, “My eyes have fainted,” the commentary says: “As he is not idle who only studies the word of God, neither can he who performs manual labour be more justly accused of sloth, than he who is occupied with the study of divinity. Such learning is the greatest of all work; and Mary, who listened to our Lord, is preferred before Martha, who ministered to Him.”
Attacks Brought Against Religious on Account of Their Systematic Method of Preaching
WE Will now proceed to examine the objections brought against religious, on the score of their methodical and carefully prepared manner of preaching.
St. Paul says, “not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void” (1 Cor. i. 17). This the Gloss understands to mean, “not with eloquence or tropes of language. For the preaching of Christ does not need pompous words, lest it should proceed rather from the cunning of human wisdom than from truth.” It is, therefore, alleged that because religious preach with fluency and eloquence, they must be false apostles.
2. We read in the same Epistle to the Corinthians (ii, 1), “When I came to you, I came not in loftiness of speech,” i.e., says the Gloss, “I did not reason with you, nor use logical arguments. I displayed no wisdom. Neither did I, in my preaching, treat of the speculations of physical science.” St. Paul continues, “My speech and preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom.” The Gloss adds, “even though my words were convincing, their power was not, like those of false Apostles, due to human wisdom.” Hence we are to conclude that religious who preach learnedly, must be false apostles.
3. St. Paul again, writes: “ For although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge” (2 Cor. xi. 6). The Gloss remarks upon this passage that the Apostle called himself “rude in speech,” because he did not use flowery language. The commentary further adds, “The words, ‘rude of speech,’ apply not to the Apostles, who were not eloquent, but to the false Apostles who knew how to combine choice phrases. But on account of the accuracy of their language, the Corinthians preferred the impostors to the preachers of the truth. For in religious matters, a power which convinces is needed, not a string of words.”
4. We read in the Second Book of Esdra (xiv.25): “Their children spoke half in the speech of Azotus... they spoke according to the language of this and that people. And I chided them and laid my curse on them.” The Gloss understands by “ the language of Azotus,” a rhetorical style of speech. Therefore, they who mingle rhetoric or philosophy with the words of Scripture are worthy of excommunication.
5. Isaiah says (i. 22): “Your wine is mingled with water. Now wine signifies the teaching of Holy Scripture. They, therefore, who mingle with this doctrine the water of human wisdom, are exceedingly reprehensible.
6. On the words of Isaiah (xv. 1): “In the night, Ar of Moab is laid waste,” the Gloss understands by “Ar of Moab,” the “adversary of God, viz., human wisdom, whose walls are built up by means of reasoning, and which in the night is laid waste and put to silence.” From this comparison we may see how much they are to be blamed who, in instruction on sacred subjects, employ earthly wisdom or eloquence.
7. We find in Proverbs vii., the following words: “I have covered my bed with painted tapestry brought from Egypt.” The Gloss comments: “The painted tapestry from Egypt is symbolic of flowery eloquence, or of cunning reasoning, derived from heathen sources. Heresy glories in adorning its pernicious doctrines with language of this description.” Hence we are to understand how criminal a thing it is to use eloquence and earthly learning in expounding the faith.
8. St. Paulsays to Timothy (1Tim. iii. 7): “He (i.e, a bishop) must have a good testimony of those who are without, lest he fall into reproach,” “or,” as the Gloss says, “lest he be despised, both by believers and by infidels.” Now if certain religious preach in a learned and eloquent style, bishops who cannot equal them will be contemned by their people. Hence learned and eloquent preaching, practised among religious, is a danger to the Church.
1. The foregoing arguments may be answered by the following words of St. Jerome addressed to the great orator of Rome. “What cause do you have to wonder” (the Saint asks) “that at times we, in our little writings, adduce examples drawn from the literature of the world? or that we sully the whiteness of the Church by the defilement of heathen authors? You would stop marvelling at our acting thus were you not wholly possessed by Tully, and ignorant of the Scripture and of their Commentators, Volcatius excepted. Who does not know that Moses and the prophets quote from the books of the Gentiles? and that Solomon makes use of the philosophers, citing some of their opinions, and refuting others?” St. Jerome then proceeds to show that from the time of the Apostles, the canonical writers and their exponents, have mingled human wisdom and eloquence with Holy Scripture. When he has enumerated a long list of writers who have thus acted, he concludes by saying: “All these have so filled their books with the sayings of the philosophers that it is difficult to know which most to admire in them, their secular learning or their knowledge of Scripture.” At the end of his Epistle, St. Jerome adds: “I beg you, therefore, to remind him who finds fault with us, on this score that it is unwise for a toothless man to envy the teeth of those who eat, or for a mole to grudge eyes to a goat.” Hence it follows that it is commendable to make use of human eloquence and wisdom in the Divine service, and that they who blame others for so doing resemble blind men who envy those who can see, and ignorant men who blaspheme against what they cannot understand, as we read in the Epistle of St. Jude.
2. St. Augustine (IV De doctrina christiana) says: “If any man wish to speak not only learnedly but eloquently, it will profit him to read, hear and try to imitate those who are eloquent.” Hence they whose duty it is to expound the Holy Scripture must be careful to speak eloquently and fluently, for the greater advantage of those who hear them.
3. In the same book, St. Augustine continues: Someone may here enquire, whether they who have by their profitable authority compiled the canon for us, are to be called learned only, or eloquent also.” He goes on to prove that these authors are eloquent, and that they have adorned their style with rhetoric. He then concludes as follows: “Let us acknowledge then that our canonical writers are not merely learned, but likewise eloquent, making use of an elegance of style befitting them.”
4. In the book before quoted, St. Augustine says: An eloquent preacher must, in order to induce his hearers to do what is right, not merely instruct and delight them, but he must likewise convince them.” He shows, by eloquent passages taken from the Fathers, how those holy men instructed, charmed and convinced their hearers. Hence it becomes plain that he who has to preach or to expound the scriptures must make use both of eloquence and secular learning. The same lesson is taught by St. Gregory and St. Ambrose, who are both remarkable for elegance of diction. St. Augustine likewise Dionysius and St. Basil have interspersed their works with many passages culled from secular authors. Even St. Paul himself makes use of a heathen authority in his preaching, as may be seen in the eighteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and in the first chapter of the Epistle to Titus.
5. St. Gregory, commenting on the words in Job ix., “who makes Arcturus and Orion” etc., observes: “These names were given to the stars by devotees of earthly wisdom. As they who are wise with the wisdom of God make use, in Holy Scripture, of the wisdom of the world, so God Himself, the Creator of mankind, uses for the benefit of mankind our human language.” This passage is a further proof that the teachers of Holy Scripture may lawfully employ human eloquence and learning.
But, we must remember that although an elegant style of preaching is at times commendable, it is likewise under certain circumstances reprehensible. It is reprehensible when it is used from motives of vainglory, or when beauty of language or a show of learning are esteemed as the chief essentials in preaching, and lead to the neglect or denial of the articles of faith which, being beyond the ken of human reason, are esteemed but lightly by earthly science. Again, they who consider eloquence and fluency of speech to be the chief essentials of preaching, strive to attract attention to themselves, rather than to the truths they utter. It was for preaching in this manner that the false Apostle incurred the reproach of St. Paul (2 Cor. xi. 6).
The Gloss, in the comment on the words, “not in the persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Cor. i.), remarks: “The false apostles, fearing lest they should be considered ignorant by the wise men of the world, preached Christ deceitfully by their human wisdom, for they studied human eloquence, and they avoided all that the world accounts foolish.” But it is praiseworthy to make use in preaching of a harmonious and learned style, provided this is done, not from ostentatious motives, but in order to instruct our hearers and to convince our opponents.
It is commendable to use eloquence and learning ia preaching when the primary motive in so doing is not elegance of diction, but the more profitable teaching of Holy Scripture, in whose service eloquence is used. When we act thus, we fulfil the words of St. Paul, “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (1 Cor. x., 5). It was in this manner that the Apostle himself made use eloquence. Hence St. Augustine says (IV De doctrina christiana) that in “the Apostolic preaching, wisdom led the way and eloquence followed in its wake; but wisdom did not despise its follower eloquence.” The teachers of the Church, in later times have, for the same reason made a greater use of learning and eloquence; for the first chosen to preach the Gospel were not philosophers, but fishermen and peasants. These, in their turn, converted orators and philosophers. Thus our Faith consists not in human wisdom, but in the power of God, “that no flesh should glory in his eight” (1 Cor. i. 29). (See likewise the Gloss on the verse, “For see your vocation, brethren.”)
This explanation is our answer to the two first objections against religious preaching in an eloquent and learned style. To the third argument, we will reply in the words of St. Augustine (IV De doctr. christ.). When commenting on the words, “although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge,” he observes that St. Paul spoke thus, in condescension to his detractors, but that he does not acknowledge that he was ignorant. This is a proof that in a teacher learning is more profitable than eloquence. St. Angustine continues that the Apostle “did not hesitate to declare that he possessed learning, without which he could not have been the doctor of the Gentiles.” But even if we understand this text as an affirmation, we cannot assume that St. Paul made no use of eloquence in preaching. All that we can conclude is that he did not, like rhetoricians, make fluency and elegance of style his main object in preaching, or else that he had some defect in his speech. The Gloss understands the words, “although I be rude in speech,” to mean, “although I do not use ornamental language” or “although I have an impediment in my speech.” Now the false Apostles considered eloquence to be the essential part of preaching. They were, therefore, preferred by the Corinthians to St. Paul.
To the fourth argument we reply that when one substance is wholly transformed into another, there no longer exists a mixture. In a true mixture, one of two substances is converted into a third. Hence when a preacher, in expounding Holy Scripture, makes use of human learning subject to the truths of faith, the wine of Holy Scripture is not adulterated; it remains pure. Adulteration of the Scripture would consist in adding something to it which would destroy its truth. The Gloss observes: “He who, instead of correcting his hearers by means of the Scriptures, makes the Scriptural precepts subservient to their auditors does, by his teaching, adulterate the wine of truth.” These Words are a reply also to the fifth objection.
The passage from the Gloss quoted in the sixth argument refers to that human wisdom which is hostile to God. Now human wisdom is always set up in opposition to the Divine wisdom when men consider human learning to be paramount in importance, and when they endeavour to make the truths of faith subservient to the teaching of human science. This error is the origin of all heresy. The Gloss gives the same explanation of the text which was quoted from Proverbs in the seventh objection.
To the eighth argument we reply that good men ought not to be prevented from doing good for fear that others, who do not equally well, should be despised. It is, rather, those who make themselves contemptible who ought to be suppressed. Thus, the fact that certain prelates, from their worldly mode of life, are disedifying, when compared to religious, is no reason why religious should desist from a life of perfection. Again, the eloquence of religious is not to be blamed because the preaching of certain prelates is, on account of its lack of eloquence, but lightly esteemed.
Accusations Levelled Against Religious, on the Grounds That They Recommend Themselves and the Orders to Which They Belong
AS we have before said, religious are calumniated for performing actions which, in themselves are perfectly indifferent. We will now, therefore, enquire into the grounds on which these false charges are based. Religious are accused:
1. Of commending themselves and their order, and of procuring from others letters of recommendation.
2. Of refuting, instead of bearing with, the detractions of their enemies.
3. Of going to law.
4. Of causing their persecutors to be punished.
S., Of desiring to please men.
S. Of rejoicing in the good which God wonderfully does through them.
7. Of frequenting the courts of kings and princes.
Accusations That Religious Procure Letters of Recommendation
1. The enemies of religious try to prove that they ought not to commend themselves, by quoting the verse of St. Paul (Rom. xvi.), “by pleasing speeches and good words,” together with the following commentary on this passage, taken from the Gloss: “False Apostles commend their tradition by fair words, which deceive the simple-minded.” Hence when religious commend their order and thus attract others to join it, they prove themselves to be false apostles. They resemble the Pharisees, to whom our Lord said: “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you go round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte” (Matt. xxiii. 15).
2. We read (2 Cor. iii. 1), “Do we begin again to commerhd ourselves?” As if, says the Gloss, “we were obliged by another to do so. Far be this from us.” Hence religious have no right to commend themselves.
3. In the same chapter we read: “Do we need (as some do) letters of commendation to you, or from you? The men here referred to,” says the Gloss, are false apostles, who have no virtue to commend them.” Hence we see that to require letters of recommendation is to be a false apostle.
4. Again, St. Paul says: “by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves” (2 Cor. iv.); “without,” as the Gloss says, “comparing ourselves with our adversaries.” Hence religious who commend their own order in preference to others are not true Apostles.
5. In the same chapter (2 Cor. iv. 5) the Apostle likewise says: “For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ.” They who commend themselves preach themselves and are therefore no true imitators of the Apostles.
6. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (x. 12) we read the following words: “We dare not match or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves,” i.e., says the Gloss, “who commend themselves falsely.” Hence they who commend themselves would appear to be false apostles.
7. Again, we read (2 Cor. x. 18), “Not he who commends himself is approved, but he whom God commends.” “Therefore, those who commend themselves are not commended by God.
8. Again, “let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips” (Prov. xxvii. 2). “He who boasts and puffs himself up stirs up quarrel” (Prov. xxviii. 25). These two verses point out the unrighteousness of self-commendation.
9. Our Lord says, (John viii. 54), “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.” Hence men who commend themselves, do most convincingly prove their own nothingness.
These are the chief arguments brought in support of the dictum that no one is justified in commending either himself or his order. We shall now proceed to show, from the Old and New Testaments that certain holy men have not hesitated to praise themselves.
1. In the Second Book of Esdras (v. 18), Nehemiah ays, in commendation of his own conduct, “Yet I did not require my yearly allowance as governor; for the people were very much impoverished. Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done.”
2. Job says, (xxxi. 1), “I made a covenant with my eyes that I would not so much as think upon a virgin.” Again (xxiv. 14), “ I was clad with justice; and I clothed myself with my judgment as with a robe.” In both the chapters cited, the patriarch says many other things to his own praise.
3. St. Paul says: “I venture not to speak of anything but what Christ has done through me” (Rom. xv.), and again in the same chapter, “From Jerusalem round about, as far as to Illyricum, I have replenished the Gospel of Christ,”
4. The same Apostle likewise says, “ I have laboured more abundantly than all of them” (1 Cor. xv. 10); and “If any man dare... I dare also” (2 Cor. xxi. 21). In the same epistle he writes many other things to his own commendation.
5. Writing to the Galatians (i. 16), he says, “I did not condescended to flesh and blood.” In this and the following chapter we find many similar utterances. We also see that St. Paul commended his state of life. For (2 Cor. iii. 6) he says: “Who also has made us fit ministers of the New Testament, not in the letter but in the spirit.” In this chapter again, he adds many other expressions in praise of the Apostolic dignity. Hence a religious is justified in extolling his order and in thus attracting others to enter it.
6. St. Paul commends the perfection of virginity, and exhorts others to this state in which he himself lived, saying: “I would that all men were like myself “ (1 Cor. vii. 7). Hence it is permissible for religious, living in a state of perfection, to commend their mode of life. Self-commendation, therefore, though at times reprehensible, is likewise, on certain occasions, praiseworthy. St. Gregory in, his Homily upon Ezekiel (ix, part I), writes as follows: “Just and perfect men do at times extol their own virtues, and make known the favours which they have received. They are not inspired to act thus by motives of ostentation, but from a desire to draw those to whom they preach to a more perfect life by means of their own example. Thus, St. Paul, in order to divert the attention of the Corinthians from false preachers, tells them how he was rapt to Paradise. When perfect men speak of their own virtues, they imitate Almighty God who extols His own magnificence to men, in order to make Himself known to them.” St. Gregory proceeds to note the circumstances in which men are justified in commending themselves. Then, in the following words, he warns his readers against rash and ill-considered self-praise. “We must remember,” he says, “that perfect men never disclose their own good deeds, unless urged to do so by necessity, or by desire of their neighbour’s profit. Thus St. Paul, after narrating his virtues to the Corinthians, concludes by saying: ‘I have become foolish; you have compelled me.’ At times good men are obliged to speak of themselves, if not for their neighbours’ sake, at least for their own. Thus, holy Job, under the pressure of physical pain, and reproached by his friends for impiety, violence to his neighbour and oppression, was driven to the verge of despair. Then, in self-defence, he called to memory his good deeds, saying: ‘I was an eye to the blind,’ etc. He did not enumerate his virtues from desire of praise, but, merely, to reanimate his confidence in God.”
It is clear then from what has already been said, that men are justified in commending themselves not from motives of vanity, but for the sake of their own spiritual advantage, or that of their neighbour. The most cogent reason which should induce a perfect man to commend his state of perfection, is, the wish to enkindle in others, a desire for the same perfection. Thus, it is permissible for a Christian to commend Christianity to infidels, in order to convert them to the Faith, and in proportion to the sanctity of men, we see them possessed with this zeal for souls. Thus St. Paul said (Acts xxvi. 29), “Little or much, I wish before God that not only you but all who are listening to me today would come to be as I am.”
We now proceed to reply to the objections adduced against religious.
1. The words quoted from the Gloss on Rom. xvi, about those who falsely commend their traditions refer, as we see by the context, to the traditions of false preachers who endeavoured to induce the Gentiles to follow Hebrew customs, and tried by their fluent language to commend these rites to the ignorant heathens. The word “tradition” is not applied to any state of true religion, but to false doctrine and heresy.
2. Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees (Matt. xxiii.) not for their anxiety to make proselytes, but for imbuing their converts with erroneous ideas, or for setting them so bad an example that at the sight of their vices, their proselytes relapsed into paganism. For this cause, the Pharisees deserved greater condemnation (see Gloss on Matt. xxiii.). The words quoted ‘from 2 Cor. iii, “Do we begin to commend ourselves,” mean that the Apostles extolled themselves, not from vainglory, but inspired by the motives mentioned by St. Gregory above.
3. To the third argument we reply that St. Paul did not prohibit the use of letters of recommendation. He merely showed that they were not needful for true Apostles, as they were for false teachers who had no virtues to commend them as the Gloss explains. At times, however, holy men do need letters of commendation. They want them, not on their own account, but for the sake of others, who know neither their virtue nor their authority. Thus, St. Paul commended Timothy, saying: “Now if Timothy comes, see that he be with you without fear. For he works the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. xvi. 10). Again, in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians (19), he says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly... for I have no man so of the same mind.” Again, in the Epistle to the Colossians (iv. 10), he writes, “Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments.” And writing to the Romans (xvi. 1) he says: “I commend to you Phoebe, our sister” etc. Thus we see that in the Apostolic times, it was customary to provide teachers or other persons who must be sent to distant churches with testimonials, or letters of recommendation.
4. To the fourth argument, we answer that as holy men do not commend themselves, for the sake of their own glory, but for the advantage of others, so they likewise sometimes prefer themselves to others. Thus just men prefer themselves to sinners, in order that sinners may be avoided and justice imitated. Thus St. Paul says (2 Cor. ii. 23), “They are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise) I am more.” Sometimes, also, good men commend themselves in order that they may be held in credit by men; for if they are despised by those to whom they preach, they cannot influence them. We know that St. Paul preferred himself, in one point, to the other apostles, though they were true apostles. For he says (1 Cor. “His grace in me has not been void; but I have laboured more abundantly than all they.” Now they are the less reprehensible who prefer their state to one less perfect, in proportion as such a comparison is divested of anything that savours of vainglory. In this manner, St. Paul (2 Cor. iii.) compares the ministers of the New Testament to those of the Old Law; and he prefers the status of Doctor, to which he belonged, to the other ranks in the Church. On this point he says (1 Tim. v. 17), “Let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine.” It may be said that the Gloss, on this passage, as quoted above, is misinterpreted. For St. Paul speaks of the recommendation, not of words, but of deeds; whereby the Apostles commended themselves to the conscience of men. He shows likewise that the true Apostles proved themselves by their works to be better than the false Apostles. Hence when the Gloss says, “without comparing them to their adversaries,” the signification is that the Apostles did incomparably more than their adversaries. Hence the true meaning of the Gloss, is the exact contrary of that assigned to it.
5. The answer to the fifth objection is given in the following words of the Gloss. “We preach not ourselves, i.e., our preaching is directed not to our own honour or advantage, but to the glory of Christ.” Now the Saints at times commend themselves; but they do so not for their own glory, but to the praise of God, and for the spiritual benefit of their neighbour.
6.-7. The sixth argument is answered by the following words from the Gloss. “We do not communicate with certain other men (i.e., false apostles), who are not sent by God nor approved by Him, but who commend themselves by certain actions.” From these words, we cannot conclude that they who are sent by the prelates of the Church, may not commend themselves, when God commends them so munificently by bestowing the gifts of grace upon them. This is likewise the answer to the seventh objection.
8.-9. To the eighth and ninth objections we reply that the authors cited in them, speak of the self-praise whereby some men commend themselves inspired by motives of vain glory.
10. The tenth objection is answered by the following passage from the interlinear commentary on the words, “If I glorify only myself,” etc. The glory of those who glorify themselves is nothing. But the case is far otherwise with those whom God glorifies by the bestowal of His heavenly favours.
The Charges That Religious Resist Their Detractors
WE will next consider the arguments, whereby, the assailants of religious try to prove that they are not justified in offering any resistance to such as detract them.
1. The Gloss on the words (1 Cor. xii.), “ No one can say the Lord Jesus,” etc., has the following passage: “ Christians ought to be humble and to bear reproach and not to desire to be flattered.” Therefore, religious who do not endure reproach prove that they are not true Christians.
2. In 2 Cor. xii. 12, St. Paul says: “The signs of my Apostleship have been wrought on you in all patience.” On which text the Gloss observes: “The Apostle makes special mention of patience, as being an essential of virtue.” Hence they who perform the apostolic function of preaching ought to be remarkable for their patience, according to the words of the Psalmist (xci. 15), “They will be very patient, so that they can proclaim” [Vulgate]. They ought to bear with the malice of their detractors and to offer no resistance to it.
3. “Have I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” asks St. Paul (Gal. iv. 16). The comment of the Gloss on this verse is: “The carnal-minded man will not suffer himself to be reproved as though he were in the wrong.” Hence they who will not bear rebuke show that they live according to the flesh. Again, on the words in Phil. iii., “Beware of dogs,” the Gloss says: “Understand that such men are dogs, not because they lack reason, but because they are used to barking at truth to which they are unaccustomed.” Again “as dogs,” says the Gloss, “obey habit rather than reason, so false apostles bark at truth in an irrational manner and rend it.” They therefore who rage against those who reprove them for their vices, hereby prove that they are false Apostles.
4. St. Gregory says, in his Pastorals: “He who is bent upon wrong doing, and desires that others should conceal his sin, shows that he loves himself better than truth. For, he will not suffer truth to be defended at his own cost.” “God is truth” (John xiv.). They, therefore, who will not allow themselves to be corrected, show that they love themselves better than God. They are, consequently, in a state of damnation.
5. What has been already said on the subject is further confirmed by the words of the Book of Proverbs (ix. 8), “Do no rebuke a scorner, lest he hate you. Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.” It is likewise supported by the following passages from the Old and New Testament.
“He who hates to be reproved, walks in the steps of a sinner” (Sirach xxi. 6). “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not” (Rom. xii. 14). “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who calumniate you” (Luke vi. 28). “We are reviled and we bless; we are persecuted and we suffer it” (1 Cor. iv. 12). All the texts which we have cited seem to prove that it is the duty of perfect men, and especially of preachers of the Gospel, not to resist those that speak ill of them.
It can however be shown that at times apostolic men are justified in opposing their calumniators, as we shall now see.
1. “We do not say,” says St. Paul (Rom. iii. 8), “as we are slandered and as some affirm that we say, let us do evil that there may come good. Their damnation is just.” The commentary of the Gloss on this passage, runs as follows: “ Certain perverse men, who misunderstand us and who are inclined to blame us, assert that this is our teaching. Their damnation is just.” In these words, the Apostle infers that no credit is be given to his detractors; and thus he resists them.
2. In his 3rd Epistle (x.), St. John writes: “If I come, I will advertise the works which he does, with malicious words prating against us.” On this verse, the Gloss comments in the following terms. “We ought not, by our own fault, to stir up detraction against ourselves, lest we cause our slanderers to perish. If our enemies, animated by their own malignity, revile us, we ought to endure such treatment patiently, to the increase of our merit. It is right, however, at times to suppress their slanders, lest by propagating evil reports against us they gain the ears and harden the hearts of those who would otherwise have listened to our preaching.”
3. In the following words St. Paul shows (2 Cor. x. 10) that he thought it right to resist those who slandered him. “For his epistles, indeed, say they are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech is contemptible. Let such a one think this that such as we are in word, by epistles when absent, so also we will be in deed when present.” The Apostle thus treats those who speak ill of him.
4. St. Gregory in his Homily upon Ezekiel (ix. Part 1) says, “They who occupy so conspicuous a position that their lives are regarded as an example for imitation, ought, if they can do so, to silence the detractions propagated against them. For these slanders may reach the ears of those who would otherwise have listened to their preaching. They may cause them to refuse to hear their words, and thus become hardened in their sins.” Now they who practise a life of perfection are regarded by all men as a model for imitation. It is, therefore, their duty to suppress the calumnies set afoot against them.
5. St. Augustine (II de Trinit.) writes: “Modest and gracious charity gladly admits the kisses of the dove; but chaste and cautious humility avoids the dog’s bite; solid truth likewise repels it.” Hence we see that detraction is, at times, to be avoided, and, at times, is to be combatted.
6. We learn the same lesson from the example of a multitude of Saints. Thus Saints Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Bernard, and many others wrote apologies and epistles defending themselves against the attacks of their enemies.
In the matter of reproof, we must draw a distinction between those who rebuke others in a legitimate manner and with a desire for their correction, and those who bring false charges against their neighbour. Men of the first class should be not only tolerated, but loved. Those of the second category must be patiently endured, when their calumnies do not cause much scandal or produce much injury amongst those who hear them. At other times, however, they must, if possible, be suppressed, not on account of the personal reputation of their victims, but for the sake of the public welfare. But if such detractions cannot be silenced, they must be borne with patience. Thus St. Gregory says, in the Homily before quoted, “As just men may at times, without arrogance, acknowledge the good that they do; so they can, without undue solicitude for their personal reputation, silence the tongues of those that speak against them. But, when their slanderers cannot be silenced, they must be patiently endured. Calumny in itself is not to be feared. We must only be on our guard, lest the dread of being slandered should cause us to desist from doing right.”
We will now examine, and refute, the arguments of our opponents.
1. True Christians bear reproof, when administered to them for the sake of correction. They resist, however, accusations brought against them in order to overthrow their work. More especially do they resist, when such charges are blasphemies, directed not only against their person, but against the truth which they preach.
2. Apostolic men ought certainly to practise patience. When they resist detraction, they do so not out of impatience, but from love of truth.
3. Carnal-minded men hate those who rebuke them in charity. It is not, however, carnal minded to oppose those who calumniate the truth.
4. The passage of the Gloss quoted in the fourth argument refers to men who unreasonably slander the truth and injure its preaching. They who, under pretext of patience, permit falsehoods about the truth to be disseminated are like the “dumb dogs, not able to bark, of which Isaiah speaks (lvi. 10).
5. If they who will not suffer the truth to be defended at their own expense show that they love themselves more than the truth, they equally love themselves better than the truth who, rather than suffer their own peace to be disturbed, leave the assailants of truth unanswered. Hence it is love of truth which inspires holy men to resist its detractors.
6. The following reply will serve as an answer to all the remaining objections. The authors quoted in these objections counsel us to love those who correct us justly, and they forbid us to pursue, with hatred or impatience, those that malign us. They advise us, on the contrary, to love and pray for our detractors. Holy men amply fulfil this duty; even while they refute the charges brought against them by their enemies.
Religious Are Condemned for Going to Law
WE will now consider the arguments brought forward to prove that religious ought not to go to law, nor to allow themselves to be defended by force of arms.
1. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians (vi. 7), we find the following passage: “There is plainly a fault among you that you have lawsuits one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” On these words, the Gloss observes: “Perfect men should simply to ask for what belongs to them, avoiding contention or legal proceedings.” Hence as religious are in a state of perfection, they ought not to contend with anyone.
2. our Lord says, (Matt. v. 40): “ If a man will contend with you in judgment and take away your coat, let go your cloak also unto him.” “These three precepts,” remarks the Gloss, “embody the perfection of justice.” Hence religious, who profess to lead a life of perfection, ought not to go to law; they ought rather to suffer themselves to be despoiled of their goods.
3. Again, we read, (Luke vi. 29), “Do not stop him who takes away your cloak... If someone takes away your goods, do not ask for them back.” The Gloss says: “This rule respecting our garments applies likewise to our other possessions.” Religious, therefore, who are specially bound to the observance of these precepts, ought neither to prevent others from robbing them, nor to ask for their property to be returned.
4. Our Lord gave the following order to His Apostles: Whoever does not receive you, nor hear your words, go forth from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matt. x. 14). The same precept is recorded by Luke (ix. 5). From these words we see that Apostles, and Apostolic and perfect men, ought not to litigate if they are not received into a town, or hamlet or a society.
5. “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom nor the church of God” (1 Cor. xi. 16). They, therefore, who institute legal proceedings depart from the Apostolic rule of perfection.
6. Charity does not seek her own,” the Apostle writes (1 Cor. xiii. 5), or as the Gloss explains, “requires not that her own property should be returned to her.” Therefore men who go to law to secure the restitution of their goods, have not charity.
7. St. Gregory (XIII Moral.) says: “He that for the sake of some earthly possession disagrees with another, shows that he loves a material good better than his neighbour. This is contrary to the order of charity.” They then who disturb their neighbour’s peace in order to recover their own property, sin against charity.
8. St. Jerome gives the following rule: “As long as threefold truth [cf. Summa theologiae, I, q. 16, a. 1, ad 1] be preserved, anything should be done or left undone to avoid scandal.” Now a man can, without any injury to the threefold truth, suffer himself to be despoiled of his goods; ando if he, in order to recover them, institutes a lawsuit, to the disturbance and scandal of his neighbour, he is acting against charity. Food is essential for the maintenance of life; but we may abstain from food, in order to avoid scandalising our neighbour. “If meat scandalizes my brother I will never eat flesh” (1 Cor. viii. 13). If then in order to avoid giving scandal, we are to refrain from so necessary a thing as food, we ought, with far greater reason, to renounce any other temporal good rather than disturb or scandalize our neighbour.
On the other hand, we can adduce proofs that holy men are at times justified in availing themselves of the protection of the law.
1. St. Paul, when in danger of being delivered to the Jews, appealed to the hearing of Augustus (Acts xxv) i.e., he appealed to the Roman law. An appeal is to go to a higher judgment. Therefore, perfect men may go to law.
2. We know, by the example of the same saint that it is at times lawful for apostolic men to be defendedby armed force. For in the Acts of the Apostles (xxiii.) we read that St. Paul procured his rescue from the snares of his enemies by means of an army.
3. We know further that it is permissible for holy men sometimes to defend themselves, especially in the case of an ecclesiastical judgment. For, when Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch, no small contest arose between them and those who taught the brethren that they must be circumcised. Then Paul and Barnabas went up to the Apostles in Jerusalem about this question. St. Paul, alluding to this discussion, speaks of the “ false brethren, smuggled in, who came in privately to spy our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into servitude. We did not submit to them even for a moment” (Gal. ii. 4). Hence religious and perfect men may appeal to an ecclesiastical court in defence of their liberty.
4. St. Gregory expressly says (XXXI Moral.) “that religious may defend their property by legal means” On the words of Job (chap. x. 16), “he has laboured in vain,” St. Gregory says: “When the care of our material property imposes upon us the necessity for travelling, we must, if we are despoiled of our possessions, at times endure our loss. At other times we must, while taking every pains to preserve charity, prevent such robbery. We should act thus not only to secure our own property, but, still more to prevent those who would pillage us from losing their souls. Hence in defending our possessions against rapine, our chief care ought to be not so much to guard ourselves against loss, as to save our enemies from committing sin.”
5. St.Gregory likewise commenting on the words of Job (xxiv. 26), “he goeth forward to meet armed men,” says, “we are generally left in peace and quiet if we care not to confront the wicked for the sake of justice. But, if our heart is inflamed with desire for eternal life and our mind is truly enlightened, we shall, as far as circumstances permit or the cause require, throw ourselves into the breach in defence of righteousness. We shall go forth to intercept the wicked in their misdeeds, even though they do not seek us out. For, when unjust men aim their blows at the virtue that we love in others, they wound us also, even though they may seem to venerate our person.” Hence we see that it is the duty of perfect men to defend others who may be attacked, even though they themselves are not provoked.
6. It is a charitable office to deliver the oppressed from their oppressors. “I broke the jaws of the wicked man, and out of his teeth I took away the prey “ (Job xxix. 17). “Deliver those who are being led to death” (Prov. xxiv. 11). “Rescue the poor, and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner” (Ps. lxxxi. 4). Now we are bound to perform charitable offices, primarily towards those most closely connected with us. Hence, as religious are most closely bound to their religious brethren, they ought in charity to oppose those who oppress their order. By this and by all the preceding arguments, we learn that religious not only may, but ought to resist the violence and artifices of their enemies.
We must remember that the assailants of religious orders attack them, sometimes in spiritual and sometimes in temporal matters. When religious are oppressed in what concerns their spiritual rights, they ought to resist their oppressors with all their might, especially when the questions involved affect not only themselves, but others. For religious embrace the religious life solely in order to be free to devote themselves to spiritual interests. If their spiritual liberty is curtailed, their object in becoming religious is frustrated. Consequently, as it is a point of perfection for them to carry out their object, it is likewise a point of perfection for them to resist all the obstacles which may be placed in the way of its attainment.
If religious are attacked as to their material interests, perfection demands that so long as their injury be of a private and personal nature, they should bear it patiently, as St. Gregory reminds us, lest by resistance they incite their enemies to violence. If, however, the damage inflicted on them affects not only their own, but the common welfare (even in temporal matters), they ought, as far as possible, to resist their oppressors. It is not perfection but indolence and cowardice to endure such oppression when it might be resisted. For, as we have just said, everyone is bound in charity to defend his neighbour from injury as far as he is able to do so, according to the words of the Book of Proverbs (xxiv. 11): “Deliver those who are being led to death” etc.
We will now proceed to examine the objections brought against our proposition.
1. By the words of St. Paul, quoted in the first objection, some things are forbidden to all men; others are forbidden to the perfect only. All men, as we know by the Gloss, are forbidden to plead a cause before a heathen tribunal, or to assert their rights by contention or by fraud. Perfect men are forbidden to go to law in order to obtain the restoration of their property. This rule applies, however, as Gratian tells us (XIX, quaest. I, cap. Episcopus) to the restoration of private property. It is as lawful for them to recover common possessions, as it is for them to hold them. For their common property belongs not to themselves, but to the Church. Therefore, when they sue for its restitution, they are seeking to recover what they hold for the Church. This Gloss is not authentic but magisterial. It is taken from St. Augustine, who holds that it is allowable and pardonable for imperfect men to go to law, but that such a course is not becoming in the perfect. But, if it be not lawful for those in a state of perfection to appeal to a legal tribunal, such a course cannot be permissible for bishops, since the episcopal state is one of higher perfection than is the religious. Otherwise, an appointment to a bishopric would not be promotion for a religious.
The fact that a man has embraced a state of perfection does not render things unlawful for him which before were lawful, unless by vow he has bound himself to refrain from them. Hence it is no more unlawful for a man to go to law after he has become a religious than it was before he embraced the religious state, unless indeed, by instituting legal proceedings, he should violate his vow of poverty or should occasion scandal. Litigation would be an infraction of the vow of poverty, were a religious to contend for some private property, since by his vow the possession of such property is interdicted to him. It may be added, and perhaps with truth, that the words of the Gloss to which reference has been made do not apply to a state of perfection, such as is the religious state. For religions have no personal possessions; and hence the Gloss could not say absolutely that they might claim their own property. The words of the Gloss must, rather, be understood to refer to the perfect in charity, i.e., to those who possess perfect charity, in whatsoever state of life they may be. Although they do not sin by making a legal claim to their property, they nevertheless, by so doing, diminish the perfection of their charity. Hence the Gloss does not say that it is forbidden for perfect men to go to law, but that it is unbecoming in them to do so. But in certain cases it is not even unbecoming in them to institute legal proceedings.
(a) The first of such cases, is, when a dispute has arisen concerning a spiritual matter. Thus, we read in the Acts that when dissension arose at Antioch on the question of circumcision, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to submit the point to the Apostles (Acts xv). Again, St. Paul speaks of “false brethren smuggled in” (Gal. ii. 4).
(b) The second case is that in which contention arises on some matter (even though it be a temporal concern) which may be a cause of spiritual harm. St. Paul, although he longed “to be dissolved and to be with Christ” (Phi. i.), appealed to the Roman law for release when he saw that his death or imprisonment would be an obstacle to the spreading of the Gospel.
(c) The third case is that in which material loss may accrue to another, especially to the poor. We defraud others if, through our negligence, we suffer them to be robbed. If they are under our charge, our fault becomes more grievous. By such negligence, we do not offer to God a perfect sacrifice. For “he who offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor is like one who sacrifices a son in the presence of his father” (Sirach xxxiv. 24).
(d) The fourth case is when the contention involves our neighbour’s spiritual welfare, in as much as he would lose his soul were he to keep the property of another. Hence St. Gregory, on the words of Job (xxxix. 16), “he has laboured in vain,” says: “At times it is our duty to bear with patience the robbery our goods; at other times we must charitably resist those who cheat us. This we do, not from self interest, but lest, through their dishonesty, they should lose their souls” (XXXI Moral.).
(e) The fifth case is when the example of dishonesty would deprave many: “Because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear” (Sirah viii. 11).
2 and 3. We answer the second and third objections that, as the Gloss says, “the perfection of justice is established in three precepts.” First, “if one shall strike you on the right cheek, offer him the other.” Secondly, “if anyone will contend with you in judgment and take your coat from you, let your cloak go also.” Thirdly, “whoever would force you to go one mile, go with him another mile.” The third precept is not to be understood literally, for we do not read that it was so interpreted, either by Christ or by His disciples: “If anyone force us one mile, we must be prepared, if need be, to go another with him.” Again, St. Augustine, speaking of the first of these three precepts, says in his book De mendacio, that it is to be understood to signify that a man must be prepared, for the sake of truth, to suffer not only buffets, but any torments in a spirit of charity to those that inflict them. Literal obedience to the precept is not enjoined; since neither our Lord nor St. Paul turned the other cheek. The third precept must be understood in the same sense, namely, that a man must be ready to endure any material loss in the cause of righteousness and charity. But, as we have said before, cases arise in which, without any prejudice either to charity or truth, we are justified in legally asserting our claims to property.
4. Our Lord ordered His Apostles to shake the dust from their feet as a witness against those who refused to receive them. “Shake off the dust from your feet, as a testimony to them” (Matt. x. 14). The Gloss, commenting on the words, “shake off the dust,” says: “Do so, as a witness of the travail which you have fruitlessly endured on their behalf.” This shall be an appeal to to Divine judgment. That this is what our Lord meant, we know by His words: “Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city” (Matt., x 15). By these words, our Lord instructs His disciples, to depart from those that will not receive them. For they, like infidels, are reserved for the final judgment of God. St. Paul says of unbelievers: “Those who are without, God will judge” (1 Cor. v. 13). Those that are within are committed to the judgment of the Church. Hence if any man desire to be received into the Church, and those who belong to the fold refuse to communicate with him, he should appeal not to the judgment of God, but to the tribunal of the Church.
5. Contention is forbidden to all those who are weak in faith. The words of St. Paul (1 Cor. vi.), “Already indeed there is plainly a fault,” are thus explained by the Gloss: “The audacious clamour of contention wars against the truth.” The same explanation is given of the words in the Epistle to the Romans (i. 29), “murder, contention.” Hence they who appeal for justice, without noisy assertion of their claim, are not contentious.
6. It is not true that none can, without a violation of charity, demand the restitution of their goods. What is true is that when avarice leads a man to demand such restitution, he is not acting in charity. On the words, “charity seeks not her own,” the Gloss says: “Charity seeks not her own, for she does not love money.” However, as we have seen from a passage of St. Gregory, already quoted, zeal for fraternal correction may at times stimulate a man to demand the restoration of his property.
7. If a man go to law, he need not necessarily be in discord with his neighbour. Although peace of heart should not be lost for the sake of any earthly gain, it does not follow that it is never permissible to make a legal claim to our property. Peace of mind may be preserved in a law court, as on a battle field. Otherwise, war would be always unlawful.
8. A man who justly claims the restitution of his goods does not actively give scandal. If scandal is taken at his action, he is merely the passive cause of such scandal. There are two kinds of scandal. There is a Pharisaical scandal, by which men, out of malice, take scandal at their neighbour and cause scandal to him. When our Lord was told that the Pharisees were scandalized at Him, He said: “ Let them alone; they are blind and leaders of the blind” (Matt. xv. 14). There is likewise the scandal taken by weak and ignorant persons. When possible, we must avoid giving this scandal; but we must not do anything wrong out of fear of occasioning it. Now it is wrong to suffer the property of the Church to be pillaged; and, even at the risk of giving scandal, we must resist such injustice. Thus St. Thomas of Canterbury defended the rights of the Church, at the sacrifice of his life, making no account of the scandal taken by the King of England. Even if he could, without sin, have suffered the Church to be robbed, the fear of being a passive cause of scandal, would not have been sufficient cause to justify him in permitting such pillage to take place. It is also possible to obviate giving scandal to weaker brethren by speaking to them gently and pointing out that it is really more to our neighbour’s advantage to check him in a course of injustice than it would be to suffer him, by indulgence, to fall into a habit of dishonesty. Furthermore, a man is more strictly bound to preserve himself from taking scandal than to avoid scandalizing others. Therefore, if he knows that unless he reclaims his own possessions, he will himself be scandalized, it is his duty to demand them.
9. Though it be true that food is essential to the preservation of life, this proposition does not apply to every kind of food. A man may abstain from one dish, and live on another. Hence it may be better, for the sake of avoiding scandal, to refrain from one kind of food, rather than to abandon certain temporal possessions. For, by not requiring their restitution, we may, as has been said, occasion sin.
Religious Are Blamed for Causing Their Persecutors to Be Punished
WE must next expose the grounds on which religious, are expected to allow their enemies to persecute them with impunity.
1. We read in the Gospel of St. Matthew (v. 44): “Do good to those who hate you; pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.” Again, in Luke (vi) the same precept is given. If we are to do good to our persecutors, we certainly ought not to cause evil to befall them.
2. “Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. v., 16). On this passage, the Gloss comments in the following words: “He who undertakes the office of preacher, ought not to inflict evil, but to’ suffer it.” Hence preachers who procure the punishment of their persecutors, prove themselves, thereby, to be false preachers.
3. “To no man rendering evil for evil” (Rom. xii., 17). Again in the same chapter it is written: “Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved.” Hence those who cause their adversaries to be punished, act in disobedience to St. Paul.
4. We read in the Legends of Saints Simon and Jude that when the general of the King of Persia wished to punish the heathen priests who had persecuted these Saints, the Apostles cast themselves at his feet and implored the pardon of their enemies. For, they said, they did not wish to be the cause of death to any of those to whom they came to preach salvation. Hence, they who cause their assailants to be punished are not true, but false apostles.
5. “As then he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him that was after the Spirit, so also it is now” (Gal. iv. 29). St. Augustine observes, on this passage: “Who are those who are born according to the flesh?—The lovers of the world. Who are those who are after the Spirit?—The lovers of heaven and of Christ,” They, therefore, who cause others to be perseouted, must, seemingly, be lovers of the world.
4. “ Let us not be made desirous of vainglory” (Gal. v. 26). The Gloss says that “vain glory is the desire for victory, where no reward is gained.” Now those who wish to see their enemies worsted are desirous of victory. Hence it is by no means permissible for holy men to wish to see persecution arise against their opponents.
7. When St, Luke and St. John said to our Lord: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?” He rebuked them, saying, “You do not know of what spirit you are.” They, therefore, who are filled with the Holy Spirit ought no to cause others to be punished.
On the other hand, examples can be adduced, proving that holy men have inflicted chastisement, or caused it to be inflicted.
1. Our Lord “drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple; their money He poured out and their tables He overthrew” (John ii. 14).
2. St. Peter condemned Ananias and Saphira to death, in punishment of their deceit (Acts v.).
3. St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked upon Elymas the Magician, and said: “O full of all guile and of all deceit, child of the devil, enemy of all justice, you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord. And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you; you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time” (Acts xiii. 10). Here we have an example of an Apostle, both rebuking and punishing a sinner.
4. In the first Epistle to the Corinthians (v. 3), we read the following words: “I have already judged, as though I were present, him that has done so. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you, being gathered together with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus deliver such an person to Satan, for the destruction of his flesh.” The meaning of this, is, says the Gloss, “that Satan may inflict on him bodily torments.” Here, we have another proof of chastisement, inflicted by an Apostle on an evildoer.
5. In the Canticle of Canticles (ii. 15) we read: “Catch us the little foxes.” By which words the Gloss understands, “Pursue and overcome schismatics and heretics.” “For (as another Gloss explains) it will not suffice for us to spend our lives in preaching and setting a good example, unless we correct those that are in error, and preserve the weak from their snares.”
6. Dionysius says (IV De Div. Nom.) “that the angels are not wicked, although they punish wicked men. Now the ecclesiastical hierarchy is modelled on the heavenly. Hence a man may, without any malice, punish evildoers, or procure their punishment.
7. We read (23 Qaest. cap. Qui potest), “ To neglect to check evil is to encourage it; and he who fails to put down public crime may legitimately be suspected of secret connivance at it.” Hence not only is it lawful to resist and punish offenders, but it is sinful not to do so.
8. Job (xxxix. 21) says of the horse, by which preachers are typified, “He goes to meet armed men”, because, says the Gloss, “a preacher opposes injustice in defence of the truth, even when this duty is not imposed upon him.” Thus we see that holy preachers must wrestle with impiety, even when impious men do not attack them. But, the Saints act this way not out of hatred, but out of love. Thus, St. Paul, as the Gloss observes, when he delivered, “such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. V. 3), did so that the Spirit might be saved; whereby we see that his act was inspired not by malice, but by charity. The Gloss further adds: “Elijah and other good men also punished certain sinners by death. By so doing, they inspired the living with a salutary fear, and diminished the number of sins which might have been committed by those whom they condemned to death.” Hence the chastisement inflicted by holy men on sinners cannot strictly be called persecution. For they do not punish them for the sake of making them suffer, but in order either to correct or check them in their sins, or else in order to deliver others from their oppression, or to restrain others from crime by fear of punishment. Sometimes, however, this chastisement may metaphorically be called persecution. Thus, St. Augustine writing to the Count Boniface (23, quaest. 4, cap. Si ecclesia) says “that the persecution inflicted by the wicked on the Church of Christ is unjust, and that inflicted by the Church on sinners is just.”
9. David says (Ps. xvii. 38), “I will pursue after my enemies... till they are consumed.” Again, “The man that detracted his neighbour in private, I persecuted.” (Ps. c. 5).
We will now proceed to answer the arguments used by the enemies of religious, to prove that they are acting unlawfully in causing their persecutors to be punished.
1. It has already been proved that when holy men cause punishment to be inflicted on their enemies, they act not out of malice, but out of love. Hence they do their enemies good, rather than harm.
2. Preachers ought not, in causing their adversaries to be punished, to make their discomfiture their chief object. Their aim in chastising their enemies ought to be their conversion, or the benefit of others.
3. He who, out of zeal for virtue, causes another to be punished, does not return “evil for evil,” but rather good for evil; since the punishment inflicted is of benefit to him who suffers it. Punitive measures are at times remedial, says Aristotle (2 Ethic). And Dionysius observes (IV De Div. Nom.): “It is not an evil thing to be punished, but to deserve punishment.” The prohibition against returning blow for blow means that we must not strike another out of malice or from revenge.
4. The Saints, as we have said, never punish others, nor cause, them to be punished, save out of desire for their amendment, or for the public welfare. If men are suffered to commit crime with impunity, they wax bold and become hardened in sin. “Because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear” (Eccl. viii. 11). Therefore, the Saints inflict penalties on evildoers; but, when they see that indulgence would be more profitable to them, they remit the punishment Web is due. The Gloss remarks on the words, “You know not of what spirit you are” (Luke ix.), “It is not well always to take vengeance on the guilty, for at times mercy will avail more in bringing them to patience, and the fallen to amendment.” For this reason, Simon and Jude averted punishment from their enemies.
5. The lovers of this world unjustly, as St. Augustine says, persecute those who love God; and they, in turn, are justly persecuted by them.
6, The saints, as we have already said, do not cause others to be punished, save in the hope of causing them to amend. The benefit of their neighbour they count as their reward. Hence they cannot be said to incur the stigma of vain glory.
7. The seventh objection is answered by the Gloss. The Apostles, it explains, were untutored men at the time they spoke thus; they were ignorant of the way in which they might cause others to amend. Therefore, they spoke, not out of zeal for their neighbour’s correction; nor out of desire to check vice; but from aspirit of revenge. our Lord reproved them for their ignorance. At a later time, however, when he had instructed them in a spirit of true charity, he gave thom authority to punish sinners. Such power they exercised towards Ananias and Saphira, whose death was profitable both in inspiring the living with awe, and in preventing the guilty man and woman from adding to their crimes. The same comment is made by the Gloss on the words in 1 Cor. v. 3, “to hand over such a one to Satan.” Or we may say that our Lord forbade the disciples to call down fire on the Samaritans, because He knew that they would be more easily converted by mercy. The Gloss also accepts this view: “The Samaritans who, in this place, were saved from fire, believed with greater firmness.”
Religious Are Accused of Seeking to Find Favour with Men
WE will, in this chapter, examine the arguments brought forward to prove that religious ought not to seek to please men.
1. We read in Ps. lii. 6, “God has scattered the bones of those who please men; they have been confounded, because God has despised them.”
2. St. Paul says (Gal. i. 10): “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Hence religious, who profess to be the servants of Christ, ought not to seek to please men.
3. We read in 1 Cor. iv. the following words: “Even to this hour we both hunger and thirst.” On this passage, the Gloss says, “The Apostles, by preaching fearlessly and without flattery and by reproving the evildoers, won no favour with men.” Hence religious, who are bound to preach the truth freely, ought not to seek to please men.
4. “He who is charged with the gifts of the bridegroom and seeks to find favour with the bride, commits adultery in his heart,” says St. Gregory (Pastoral.). Now the bride is the Church, the bridegroom being God’s minister. Therefore, religious who, although ministers of God, seek the friendship of men, are guilty of spiritual adultery.
5. The desire to win human favour is the outcome of self-love; and, as St. Gregory remarks (Pastoral.), “love of self renders a man indifferent to his Creator.” Hence, in so far as a man strives to render himself popular with his fellow-men, he becomes estranged from God.
6. Religious ought to beware of anything savouring of vice; and, as popularity may render a man suspected of vice, as Aristotle says (IV Ethic.), religious ought not to desire to be popular.
These are the chief arguments brought forward by those who seek to prove that religious ought, under no circumstances, to desire to win human favour. It will now be our duty to expose the fallacy which underlies these objections.
1. St. Paul says (Rom. xv. 2), “ Let every one of you please, his neighbour to good, unto edification.”
2. He likewise says, “Be without offence to the Jews and to the Gentiles and to the church of God, as I also in all things please all men” (1 Cor. x. 32).
3. St. Paul likewise says (Rom. xii. 17), “providing good things, not only in the sight of God, but also in sight of all men.” Now this exhortation would be meaningless if it were wrong for men to consider how they may please their neighbours. Therefore, everyone ought to take thought how he may please others.
4. We read in St. Matt (v. 16), “So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Now men will not be moved to glorify God by the sight of good works which do not please them. Hence it is the duty of everyone to take care that his works may be such as will please his neighbour.
We must, however, remember that three circumstances may make it unlawful in us to seek to please men. First, desire of human approbation must not be the primary motive of our actions. We ought to seek to please men for the sake of their salvation and for the glory of God. This is what is meant by the words in the Pastorale of St. Gregory: “Good priests should seek to please men, not in order to be loved by them, but in order that by winning their esteem, they may draw them to the desire of truth. They ought to wish to gain the hearts of their hearers in order to lead them to the love of God. For it is very difficult for an unpopular preacher to gain an audience.” He adds, “St. Paul points out this lesson in the words: ‘I please all men in all things.’” St. Paul likewise says: “If I should please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Hence St. Paul did please men, and did not please them. For when he wished to please them, he desired to win their favour not for himself, but for the truth.
Secondly, we may not displease God in order to please men. This is the interpretation given by St. Jerome to the words in Galatians, “if I should please men,” etc. “If” he says, “we can please both God and men, we must please men. But if we cannot please men without displeasing God, we ought to please God rather than men.”
Thirdly, it happens at times that a man does all that in him lies, and yet he is rashly judged by others. If he does his best, and yet is misjudged by men, he ought to be content that his conscience assures him that he is approved by God, without distressing himself on account of the false judgments of men. The Gloss makes the following comments on the words, “if I should please men” etc. (Gal. i.): “Some men are false judges, backbiter, and fault-finders. They try to cast suspicion on what they do not see, and to asperse deeds on which no suspicion has alighted. Against such as these, the testimony of our own conscience is our best defence.”
We shall have no difficulty in refuting the remaining objections.
1 and 2. “ God has scattered the bones of those who please men,” is to be understood, as applying to those who make the favour of men the chief object of their ambition, and who, in order to please mortals, are ready to offend God. The words of Gal. i., “If I should please men,” are to be understood in the same sense.
3. Although preachers of the truth may be hated by sinners who are unwilling to amend their lives, they gain the favour of those who desire instruction. “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prov. ix 8).
4. The words of St. Gregory, quoted as an objection to our proposition, refer to those who make it their sole ambition to find favour with men, and who desire to be loved with a love due to God alone, even though they do not commit any overt offence against Him. That this is the sense of the passage is clearly shown by its context, which runs as follows: “He is an enemy to our Redeemer, who desires, for the sake of his good works, to be loved by the Church.”
5. The words of St. Gregory, quoted in the fifth objection, are to be understood, as referring to that inordinate self love which causes men to seek, merely for their own sake, to please their neighbour.
6. The word to seek popularity (esse placidum) used in the sixth objection, means not simply one who seeks to please men, but one who desires to an excessive degree to please them, and who is willing to do wrong for the sake of pleasing them. He who merely seeks to please others in an ordinate manner ought to be called a friend, and is so called by the Philosopher.
Objections Brought Against Religious, Because They Rejoice At the Good Works Which God Effects Through Their Instrumentality
THE following arguments are the chief of those adduced to prove that religious ought not to rejoice at the good works, which God effects by means of them.
1. It is written in the Gospel of Luke (x. 20), “Rejoice not in this that spirits are subject unto you.” Religious ought not, therefore, to rejoice on account of any of the other great works which God effects by means of them.
2. Job says (xxxi. 25): “If I have rejoiced over my great riches, and because my hand had gotten much– If I beheld the sun when it shined, and the moon going in brightness, and my heart in secret rejoiced– ” “May evil befall me,” is the conclusion to be understood, though it is not expressed. St. Gregory (22 Moral.) makes the following commentary on this passage: “Knowledge had not puffed up this holy man; therefore he scorned to exult at his wealth. The greatness of his work had not elated him; therefore, he did not look at the brightness of the sun. He did not covet renown; therefore he took no heed to the moon, sailing in her radiance through the heaven:” Hence it is clear that no one ought to rejoice on account of knowledge or fame, or mighty works.
3. The degree in which men glory in anything, is proportionate to the joy they take in it. Now man should not glory in his possessions. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches” (Jer. ix. 23). From this text we learn likewise that no man should glory in the good effected by him. Our adversaries strive from it to prove that religious have no right to glory in the great works which God accomplishes by means of them.
1. The fallacy of this argument is shown by the words which we read in the Acts of the Apostles (ii. 22). We are told that at the preaching of some of the faithful, “a great number, believing, were converted to the Lord. And the tidings came to the ears of the Church that was at Jerusalem touching these things; and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch. When he came saw the grace of God, he rejoiced.” Here, we see how the Apostles were filled with joy, at the good work done in the Church, by their brethren and fellow-labourers.
2. We, further, read (Acts xv. 3) that “Paul and Barnabas being brought on their way by the Church, passed through Phenice and Samaria, relating the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.”
3. St. Paul again addresses the Philippians (iv. 1): “ Dearly beloved brethren, and most desired, my joy, and my crown.” He evidently and openly rejoiced in those whom he had converted to Christ. Why then may not religious and other men rejoice at the great works which God effects by, their means, and especially at the conversion of others?
4. We return thanks only for what we consider to be a favour granted to us. Now no one receives a favour without rejoicing at it. If then it is not permissible to rejoice at great deeds which God does by means of us, we have no reason to thank Him for them. This proposition is, of course, absurd.
5. Aristotle says (I Ethic.): “No one is just who does not rejoice at works of justice.” This sentiment agrees with the verse of the Psalm (xcix. 2): “ Serve the Lord with gladness.” No work of the Lord is so magnificent as is the work of justice, whereby He is served, Therefore, holy men ought to rejoice that God effects this great work by their instrumentality.
We must bear in mind that joy appertains only to what is good, and that it ought to be proportioned to the degree of goodness existent in the things at which we rejoice. Hence we ought to find our greatest joy in the highest good. We may rejoice in other things, but we ought not to find perfect joy in them. This is to be sought for only in the highest good. Now he who rejoices at the good which God effects by his means rejoices rightly, if he places his joy in God, i.e., if he rejoices because the good wrought through his instrumentality tends to the glory of God, and to his own and his neighbour’s salvation. But if he rejoices in any other spirit, he rejoices in his own works and commits sin. Hence St. Gregory, explaining the words of Job already quoted, says (22 Moral.): “At times holy men rejoice on account of the good repute in which they are held. But as they only desire to be esteemed for the sake of doing more good amongst those to whom they preach, they rejoice when they are thought well of, not for the sake of their own honour, but for the profit of others. It is one thing to seek human favour, and another to rejoice at the improvement which we effect in our neighbour?’
The remaining objections will easily be answered.
1. The words, “rejoice not in this, that spirits are subject to you” (Luke x. 20), are to be understood as an order to the Apostles to rejoice, not on account of their victory over evil spirits, but on account of the glory of God. The Gloss says: “They are forbidden to rejoice at the abasement of the devil, who fell through pride; they are rather to exult at the honour given to God.” Or else we may understand that the Apostles were commanded not to rejoice at the fall of Satan as if that were the highest good. For he might have been overcome without any merit on their part. Their chief joy was to be, as our Lord told them, that their names were “written in Heaven: (Luke x. 20).
2. The words quoted from Job (xxxi. 25) are to be understood of the joy which produces elation of spirit. For it is pride for a man to rejoice in the works wrought by God through his agency as if they were a subject for vain glory.
3. He who refers the glory of his works to God, rejoices not in himself, but in God, to whom he refers all that can be a cause for glory.
Religious Are Blamed for Frequenting the Courts of Sovereigns
Wit will now examine the grounds, on which, it is alleged that religious ought not to be intimate with the families of royal, or noble, personages.
1. In the Gospel of St. Matthew (xi. 8) we read: “Behold those who are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings.” Now “soft garments” are not fitting for religious, who profess to lead a life of penance. Therefore, religious ought not to frequent the houses of kings and princes. The Gloss says (on this text): “Preaching and austerity of life are not compatible with the dwellings of those that live in luxury, and are haunted by flatterers, clothed in soft garments.”
2. He spoke with them concerning the Kingdom of God (Luke ix.). On these words the Gloss says: “Christ imparted the nourishment of heavenly grace not to those who dwelt in idleness in the synagogues, i.e, the abodes of earthly dignity, but to those who sought Him in desert places.” If then the religious Weis ordained as a means of acquiring grace, religious ought not to dwell among those who are in the high places of this world.
3. St. Jerome writesin the following terms to Paulinus the priest: “Shun assemblies of men, exalted offices, honourable salutations, banquets, and all such pleasures which, as chains, bind you to the earth.” Now it is at the courts of princes that assemblies and banquets are chiefly held. Therefore, religious ought not to frequent courts.
4. Boethius says in his book De Consolatione that they who glory in power, seek either to reign themselves or to become attached to reigning sovereigns.” Now, as it is highly reprehensible in religious who have chosen a life of humility to glory in power, they ought not to frequent the households of kings.
5. Honour leads to pride of life, which is one of the three things most to be reprobated. Religious who have renounced the world, ought to avoid all that pertains to honour. Now, as preaching at the courts of kings or princes or before a large concourse of people is an honourable function, religious ought not to undertake it, nor should they frequent the company of royal personages.
This proposition is manifestly false, as is proved by the example of many holy men who have dwelt among kings and princes. Joseph lived at the court of Pharaoh, who “made him master of his house, and ruler of all his possessions” (Ps. civ. 21). Moses was reared by the daughter of another Pharaoh, and was instructed in Egyptian lore (Acts vii.). Nathan the prophet was numbered among the confidants of David and of Solomon. Daniel dwelt in the court of the king of Babylon, who made him governor of all his provinces and, at his desire, set Sidrach, Misach, and Abednego over public works. Commenting on the text, “Daniel himself was in the king’s palace” (Dan. ii. 49), the Gloss says that “he dwelt at the king’s side, and was honoured by him, and was familiar with him.” Nehemiah was the cup-bearer of the Persian King (Nehem., i.). Mardochai became ruler in the court of Assuerus (Esther viii.).
In the New Testament we likewise find examples of holy men who dwelt with royal personages. Thus St. Paul writes: “All the saints salute you, especially those that are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. iv.). We read that St. Sebastian was one of the first favourites at the court of Diocletian. St. John and St. Paul, in like manner, were attached to the household of Constantine Augustus. St. Gregory likewise says in the Prologue to his Morals that “he dwelt in an earthly palace, to which many of his monastic brethren had, inspired by fraternal charity, followed him.” It is not, therefore, unlawful for religious or perfect men to dwell in the courts of Kings.
In order to establish this controversy on a solid basis, we must remark that holy men seek certain things for their own sake, and certain other things for the sake of their neighbours. For their own sake, they would prefer to adhere to Christ by contemplation, either in this world, in so far as human infirmity will permit them so to do, or in the next world, where contemplation is made perfect. For the sake of others, however, charity urges them at times to interrupt their much-loved contemplation, and to expose themselves to the stress of active life. Hence while by desire they enjoy the quiet of contemplation, for the sake of their neighbour’s salvation they patiently endure the toil of action. Thus St. Paul says (Phil. i. 23): “I am straitened between two: having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ... but to abide still in the flesh is needful for you.” St, Gregory says (Homil. XLII. part 1 super Ezech.): “One sole consolation remains to the soul enamoured of the heavenly Bridegroom, but not yet admitted to His presence. She delights in working for the salvation of her neighbour, and in enkindling in the souls of others the fire of Divine love.” This is the reason why the saints at times mingle with men, and seek the favour and friendship of the great. They are led to do so, not from desire of popularity or advancement, but in order to lead others to salvation. For as St. Augustine says (8 Confess.): “They who are well known are in a position to assist many in this work of their salvation; and they are followed by many.” The Saint adds: “The enemy is most surely defeated in him whom he has held most securely, and by whose example he holds many others.” Now many proud men are held by the reputation of nobility, and many others by that of authority. Hence the saints, inspired by charity, seek the friendship of those who are noble and powerful, in order, by their means, to become an instrument of salvation to many. Did they act thus for any other motive, their conduct would be reprehensible. St. Gregory says (Pastorale), “He who desires to be useful to others, gives an example to all, since the only begotten Son of God left the bosom of the Father for the salvation of all men.”
With this preface, we shall be able, easily, to refute all the objections made by our opponents.
1. The words quoted from St. Matthew (xi.), “They who are clothed in soft garments,” apply manifestly to those who frequent the houses of kings for the sake of luxury. The words of the Gloss, quoted in the same objection, refer to those who dwell idly in cities, or indolently enjoy high offices. But the saints repose only in God; they find their rest in Him alone. To be obliged to consort with a number of men, or to accept posts of honour is to them weariness, rather than an enjoyment.
2. St. Jorome’s advice to Paulinus, is a warning against leading a public life, for the sake of pleasure, instead of for utility. He shows this plainly by speaking of banquets and all such pleasures. He makes this evident by the words which are subjoined: “You should flee from these as from the chains of pleasure.”
S. The words of Boethius contain a great truth. But it does not follow, because they who glory in power seek the company of the powerful, that therefore everyone who frequents the society of the powerful must necessarily glory in power. For, as we have already shown, the saints seek the company of men in high station, from a very different motive.
4. Again, though it be an honourable function to preach to a great concourse of men, the Saints do so not from desire of celebrity, but for the glory of God, imitating Him who said: I seek not my own glory but that of Him who sent me” (John vii. 18).
The Enemies of Religious Seek, in Every Way, to Defame Them
WE have hitherto spoken of the false judgments passed by the enemies of religious about things. We will next consider the falsehoods uttered by them about persons.
It may perhaps appear that detraction uttered against persons ought to be borne by them without refutation. St. Gregory says, “ The blame of wicked men is a testimony to the innocence of our life. For if we are offensive to those who displease God, it is a proof that our life must be upright” (IX Homil. part 1, super Ezech.). Again, we read (John xv. 18), “If the world hates you, know that it has first hated Me.” St. Paul likewise teaches us that the judgments of men are to be lightly esteemed, saying (1 Cor. iv. 3): “To me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day.” We can especially afford to despise human opinion when we have the testimony of a good conscience, and when we can say with Job: “My witness is in heaven” (xvi. 20).
On further consideration, we shall, however, see that it is more prudent for religious to silence the tongues of their detractors. This is evident for three reasons:
1. First, when religious are defames, it is not the reputation of one man, or even of two or three that suffers. The calumny affects the whole body of religious. Hence their defamers ought to be manfully resisted, or else the whole flock of Christ may be torn by the teeth of wolves. Our Lord says: “The hireling sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees” (John x. 12). The Gloss remarks that by the “wolf,” is meant either, “they who ravage the Church by violence, or the devil who, spiritually, scatters the faithful.” The cowardly pastors whom Christ calls hirelings, are thus reproved by Ezekiel (xiii. 5): “You have not gone up to face the enemy, nor have you set up a wall for the house of Israel.”
2.”Religious ought to resist their detractors, because they not only require a good conscience for their own sake, they likewise need fair reputation in order to carry weight with those to whom they preach. The Gloss, speaking of detraction, says on the words of St. Paul (Gal. iv.), “Cast out the handmaid,” etc., “All who seek for earthly happiness in the Church, belong still to Ishmael. These are they who wage war against spiritual men and defame them, and whose lips utter evil things, and whose tongues are full of guile.” Therefore religious ought to resist those who thus detract them. St. Gregory likewise observes, in the homily already quoted: “They who occupy a position in which they are looked up to as an example, ought, if possible, to silence the voice of their detractors, lest the faithful, believing these calumnies, refuse to listen to preaching and become hardened in a sinful life.” St. John, writing to Gaius (Ep. iii), says of Diotrephes: “If I come, I will advertise the works which he does with malicious words prating against us.” And St. Paul writes in like manner (2 Cor. x, 10), “His epistles, indeed, they say they weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible.”
3. Religious ought to resist their detractors because they strive not only to defame religious life, but to abolish it entirely. They strive to induce bishops to cause all men to avoid religious, and to refuse to assist them in their needs. This policy is represented by the following words from Isaiah (vii. 5), “Syria has taken counsel against you, unto the evil of Ephraim and the sons of Romelia, saying, ‘Let us go up to Judah and rouse it up, and draw it away to us,’ but the Lord God says: ‘It shall not stand, and this shall not be.’” The same description of plot is mentioned in Jeremiah (ii. 19): “They devised counsels against me, saying: ‘Let us... cut him off from the land of the living, and let his name be remembered no more.’” But, as Jacob said, “let not my soul go into their counsel” (Gen. xlix, 6). The cruelty of such detraction ought not to be tolerated; for religious may say with Esther (vii. 4), “We are given up, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish. And, it would be better we were sold as bondsmen and bondswomen. That evil might be borne with, and I would have mourned in silence.” In Sirach (iv. 26) we find this exhortation: “Accept no person against your own person, nor against your soul a lie.”
In order that religious may effectually resist their detractors, we will note the four forms which detraction generally takes. If any evil exists among good men, (1) that evil will be exaggerated. (2) Doubtful facts will be given to the world as certainties. (3) Falsehoods will be invented. (4) Good deeds will be travestied to wear a bad appearance.
First of All by Exaggerating Any Evil That May Exist Among Them
Now any evil which may exist among religious can be exaggerated in three ways.
Firstly, in order of time. Thus, a crime committed by a religious before his conversion may be recalled to the public mind, in order to put him to shame. The words, “Men shall be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. iii.) are applied to religious. They are accused of coming from a life of crime into a religious order, which their enemies call “creeping into houses.” St. Gregory exposes the falsity of this accusation. Commenting on the words, “Iron is taken out of the earth” (Job xxviii.), he says (18 Moral.): “Iron shall be taken out of the earth when the champion of the Church is delivered from the earthly bonds that have held him captive.” A man ought not to be despised for what he formerly was, after he has begun to lead a new life. St. Paul, after enumerating the vices of the Corinthians, concludes by saying (1 Cor. vi. 11): “Such some of you were, but you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified.” Hence the interpretation given by the opponents of religious to the text is contrary to the meaning of St. Paul. For the Apostle did not intend to say that those to whom he wrote had led sinful lives, and afterwards begun to creep into houses. Creeping into houses is one of the vices for which he rebukes them.
Secondly, if any evil prevails among religious, their enemies exaggerate it with regard to persons. Thus the faults committed by two or three individuals are attributed to all religious. Thus it may be said that in certain cases some men are not content with the food set before them, but seek better living elsewhere. Even should this accusation is occasionally true of certain individuals, that is no reason why it should be levelled at all religious in general. Hence St. Augustine, writing to Vincent the Donatist, says (23 Quaest. VI, cap. Quicumque): “If any man, not justly, but avariciously, retains the goods of the poor which you held in the name of the Church, the fact is displeasing to us. You, however, will have some difficulty in proving it. We bear with some men whom we are not able to correct or to punish. We cannot forsake the granary of the Lord on account of the chaff contained therein; nor can we break His nets, because of the worthless fish that they have caught.” For the fact that certain men among religious commit crimes is no reason for defaming the whole religious body. Otherwise, the treachery of Judas ought to have been attributed to the whole College of the Apostles on account of the words, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John vi. 71). St. Gregory, commenting on the words of Cant. (ii. 2), “As a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters,” says: “There cannot be bad men without good, nor good without bad.” Of the bad we may use the words of St. John (1 Epist. ii. 19): “They went out from us; but they were not of us.”
Thirdly, the enemies of religious exaggerate the degree of any evil that may prevail among them. Thus, the venial offences of religious are represented to the world as heinous crimes. St. John tells us that no one can live in the world without sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves “ (1 John, i. 8). But the men of whom we have been speaking magnify the slight faults observable even in the perfect, and speak of them as though they were serious crimes. Thereby they disobey the exhortation of the Book of Proverbs (xxiv. 15): “ Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just,” They call religious false apostles, because they say that they seek hospitality the houses of the wealthy, where they will be best fed; because they assist others in their affairs in order to be entertained by them; because they accept material assistance from those to whom they preach; and on other grounds of the like nature. Now though such actions be faulty, they cannot be called grave crimes, nor ought those guilty of them to be on that account named sinners or false apostles. The Gloss, commenting on the verse in Gal. ii., “We, by nature, are Jews and not of the Gentiles, sinners,” This epithet (i.e. sinner), is not used in the Scriptures of those who, although they live upright and praiseworthy lives, are not wholly free from sin.” This observation applies to those who see the mote in their brother’s eye, but not the beam in their own (Matt. iii. 3). The Gloss further remarks that “many, laden with grave sins, are so filled with envy, hatred and malice that they would rather blame and condemn their neighbour for his lesser offences, than strive to correct him.” In short, those who venomously attack religious for small faults, and remain unconscious of their own serious defects, are precisely those of whom our Lord said that they strain a gnat and swallow a camel (Mat. xxxiii. 24).
The Enemies of Religious Spread Abroad Against Them Reports of Which the Truth is Doubtful, for Instance, They Accuse Religious of Seeking Popularity and of Desiring to Gain Glory for Themselves, Instead of Labouring for the Glory of God
WE will next consider how the enemies of religious propagate against them accusations, of which the truth is doubtful.
Doubt exists about future events, and also about the workings of a man’s heart. Nevertheless, the enemies of the religious life do not hesitate to assert that religious will eventually become both immoral and unbelieving. They also profess to be able to read the hearts of religious, and accuse them of desiring popularity, of seeking their own glory instead of the glory of God, and of many other things of like nature. Such accusations convict their authors of rash judgment. “Let us not therefore judge one another, any more,” says St. Paul (Rom. xiv. 13). The Gloss hereon observes: “We judge rashly, if we pass sentence on the secret things of another man’s heart, or if we foretell what a man, who now seems either good or bad, will be in the future.” Such judgments proceed either from pride or envy; and the authors of them prefer rather to blame and to backbite other men, than to correct or improve them. They likewise lay claim to the power of Almighty God, to whom alone it belongs to read the future and the secrets of man’s heart. Isaiah says (xli. 23), “Show the things that are to come hereafter, and we shall know that you are gods.” Jeremiah likewise says (xvii. 9): “The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord who search the heart.” St. Paul writes (1 Cor. iv. 5), “Judge not before the time.” The Gloss remarks on these words: “It is an insult to the judge, if his slave presume to anticipate him in pronouncing sentence.” These words apply to those who pass judgment on causes which the Lord reserves to Himself.
The Enemies of Religious Propagate Distinct Falsehoods Concerning Them, Affirming, for Instance That Religious Are False Apostles, False Prophets, and False Christs
WE have still to consider the falsehoods propagated against religious by their enemies.
The opponents of religious are not content with calumniating their victims; they strive likewise to cast upon them suspicion of being guilty of heinous crimes. They assert that religious are worthy of detestation, and that they are unfit society for other men. They fill up the measure of their detraction by declaring religious to be responsible for all the evils which have ever come upon the Church, or which ever shall assail her; and they declare that religious are likewise accountable for every trouble under which the Church at present labours. They are further accused of being the false apostles who disturbed the primitive Church, and also of being the thieves, robbers and “creepers into houses” against which the Church has for all time been warned; and they are also said to be those heralds of Antichrist who, in the latter days of the Church, are to bring danger upon her.
We will in due order refute these calumnies. Religious are accused of being false apostles. In order to show how untruly this epithet is applied to religious, we must first examine what is meant by false apostles. In the Holy Scripture we find other expressions of the same kind, such as false prophets, and false Christs. The following words of St. Peter (2 Pet. ii, 1), “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there shall be lying teachers among you” apply to all these disseminators of falsehood. For the office of a preacher and an apostle, is to be a mediator between the Lord and His people, by preaching the Word of God. Thus St. Paul says (2 Cor. v. 20): For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors, God as it were, exhorting by us.” Now a man may be a false apostle or a false prophet for one of two reasons. First, he may not be sent by God: “I did not send prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. xxiii. 21). Secondly, a false apostle or prophet will proclaim not the Word of God, but his own inventions: “Hearken not to the words of the prophets that prophesy to you and deceive you; they speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. xxiii. 16). Both these two accusations are brought against false prophets and apostles in the following words of Ezechiel (xiii, 6): “They see vain things, and they foretell lies, saying: ‘The Lord says’; whereas the Lord has not sent them” Alluding to the pertinacity of such false teachors, the Prophet adds: “They have persisted to confirm what they have said.” When Jeremiah was condemned as a false prophet, he hastened to exculpate himself from both these charges. He said: “In truth the Lord sent me to you.” This refers to the first accusation. He adds: “to speak all these words in your hearing.” This is his defence against the second charge (Jer. xxvi. 15).
The false apostles of the New Testament were recognisable likewise by these two characteristics, viz., first that they were not sent by God, and secondly that they propagated false doctrine. Now preachers bearing a commission from the bishops of the Church are sent by God. St. Augustine, in his Epistle to Orosius, interprets the word apostle as signifying send. “There are,” he says, “four kinds of Apostles. Those sent by God, those sent by God by means of man, those sent by man alone, those who are sent by their own inclination. Moses was sent by God, Joshua by God and man. They who in our times are raised by public favour to the priesthood are sent by man alone. False prophets are sent by none; they go forth at their own desire.” The Saint adds: “He should be considered as sent by God, who is not chosen out by human praise or flattery, but who is recommended by the excellence of his life and by the wishes of apostolic priests.” Those who preached heretical doctrine were likewise called false apostles. This we know by the testimony both of St. Paul and of the Gloss, on his words. When the Apostle writes (Gal. i. 16): “Only there are some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ,” the Gloss comments: “These were the false apostles who said that the Gospel was opposed to the law of Moses.”
Again, on the words, “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets” (Mark xiii. 22), the Gloss says: This verse is to be understood as referring the heretics who attacked the Church, declaring that they were Christs. The first of these impostors was Simon Magus; the last will be Antichrist.” He who preaches without, any commission to do so, or teaches false doctrine, does so inspired by some bad motive, either of covetousness, or pride, or vain glory. Such men are deprived of the grace of God; and consequently commit sins, more or less heinous. But everyone who preaches for the sake of gain or popularity is not, necessarily a false apostle or false prophet; otherwise there would be no distinction between a hireling and a false apostle. They who preach for the sake of anything save of the glory of God and the good of souls are hirelings; let their preaching be true or false, authorised or unauthorised. But such men cannot be called false prophets, unless they either bear no commission, or teach false doctrine. In the same way, every sinner who administers the sacraments, or preaches the Word of God, is not necessarily a false apostle or a false prophet. For true prelates are true apostles; although at times they may be sinful.
Thus, the detractors of religious who call them false prophets or false apostles are, by their own words, convicted of folly or malice. For the fact that religious may be guilty of sins more or less heinous, such as seeking their own glorification, taking vengeance on their enemies, and the like, cannot make them false prophets or false apostles, provided that they bear a commission to preach, and that they teach true doctrine, The enemies of religious do not presume to question the orthodoxy of their preaching. To the arguments against the right of religious to preach, we have already fully replied. It remains then for us to say that those who accuse religious of being false apostles or false prophets are themselves guilty of falsehood. They may, with the same deceitfulness, accuse others of the same crime. The fact that false apostles have done many things which other sinners and even just men have done, is no reason for calling those other men false apostles also. We have, however, already shown the fallacy of such an argument.
The Enemies of Religious Impute to Them All the Evils From Which the Church Has Ever Suffered. They Also Accuse Them of Being Wolves and Robbers and of Creeping Into Houses
WE must now examine the grounds on which religious are accounted responsible for all the evils which have ever overtaken the Church.
The enemies of religious accuse them of being wolves and robbers, because, they say, they enter the fold (ie. by preaching, and hearing confessions) by a door which is not the legitimate one. By this assertion, they prove their own folly. For, as the Gloss reminds us, Christ is the door. No prelate is the door; for, as the Gloss adds, Christ has reserved this office to Himself. Hence they who do not enter the fold by the door are Jews, Gentiles, philosophers, Pharisees and heretics, who enter not by Christ; not those who do not enter by means of a bishop.
Religious are called thieves, because they are accused of stealing what is not their own, by converting the sheep of Christ not to His doctrine, but to their own tenets. They are called robbers, because they are accused of slaying the sheep which they steal. The words of the Gloss are, interpreted in this sense. But, granted that it be justifiable to say that those who preach Christ truly, but without permission from a bishop, are thieves and robbers, this accusation cannot, as we have already shown, be made with regard to religious, unless we hold that a bishop or the Pope is not the immediate superior of anyone under the jurisdiction of a parish priest.
Religious are likewise termed ravening wolves; because they are said to minister to the spiritual needs of the faithful, in order to fatten on their material goods, just as wolves devour sheep. In this, they are clearly deceived. Our Lord draws a distinction between a wolf and a hireling. The vices which the enemies of religious attribute to wolves, the Gloss attributes to a hireling: “A hireling is one who seeks what belongs to Christ, and who serves God, not for His own sake, but in the hope of a reward.” Hence they, whose sole crime is to preach for the sake of temporal gain are hirelings. They who physically ill-treat the faithful, as do tyrants, or who spiritually scatter them, as do the devil and heretics, his ministers, are wolves. This is made dear by the words in the Acts of the Apostles (xx. 29), “I know that after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you.” On this text the Gloss says: “These wolves signify heretics, who are insidious, cruel and strong in controversy.” Again, the words in the Gospel of St. Matthew (vii. 15), “Within they are ravening wolves,” are specially applied by the Gloss to heretics, who, “in the malice of their hearts and in their desire to injure souls, resemble wolves, whether they pursue the faithful by exterior persecution, or deprave them by false teaching.” We have already pointed out that it is a rash judgment to assert that a man’s chief motive in ministering spiritually to his neighbour is the hope of reaping material advantage.
Religious are accused of creeping into houses because they are said to hear confessions without permission from the parish priests. Thus they creep into men’s consciences. Those who accuse them of so doing quote, in support of their opinion, the following words from the Gloss (on 2 Tim. iii.): “They creep into houses, i.e., they investigate the qualities of men, and lead captive those whom they judge fitting disciples.” Now priests cannot know the characteristics of men, save by confession.
As these words of the Gloss are considered, by the enemies of religious, conclusive evidence in support of their accusations, we will examine what is the true meaning of this passage. St. Paul foretold that “the latter days of the Church would be times of peril, and that there would be men, lovers of themselves” etc. “The term latter days,” writes St. Augustine to Hesychius, “is sometimes used of the Apostolic times.” Thus we read in the prophet Joel (ii. 28): “In the latter days I will pour out my spirit.” St. Peter said that this prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii. 16). Sometimes, however, the latter days are understood as meaning the Last Day, “I will raise him no at the last day” (John vi. 55). In the passage to which reference has been made, however, the latter days must be taken to mean the time nearest to the Last Day. For the Apostle speaks of the future, when he says: “In the last days shall come dangerous times.” These words agree with those that we find in the Gospel of St. Matthew (xxiv. 12), “Because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” The Gloss reminds us of the words of St. Paul, “Men shall be lovers of themselves.” These are not to be understood as meaning that the vice of self-love or any other vice has at any time been absent from the world, but that it will increase in proportion as malice increases. There were in the primitive Church some men tainted with these vices; otherwise St. Paul would not have told Timothy avoid them. And, as if Timothy had asked him, how he was to avoid what did not exist, says the Apostle by way of answer. “Of this sort are they who creep into houses” (2 Tim. iii.). The vices which he mentions in the first place were to exist in years to come; but that of creeping into houses was an evil of his own time. He speaks of “they who creep,” not of they who will creep, and of “they who lead captive,” not of they who “will lead captive.” We are not to suppose that although using the present tense, he can have intended his words to be taken in the future tense. For, as St. Augustine says, in the same Epistle, “there were in the early Church men distinguished by creeping into houses.” The words signify men, ensnared by the vices which will flourish in the latter days.
This is more expressly shown by the words in the Epistle to Titus (i. 10): “There are also many disobedient, vain talkers, and seducers; especially they who are of the circumcision, who must be reproved, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” By those then who creep into houses,” are meant men who cunningly introduce themselves into families and propagate false doctrine, or those who insinuate themselves into the consciences of men and bind them with the chains of error. Such men St. Paul calls “men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim. iii).
The expression “reprobate concerning the faith” cannot be understood of men who are to appear in the future. St. Paul does not say: “They who now creep into houses, will be reprobate concerning the faith.” He speaks in the present tense, just as when he says, “these resist the truth.” Their folly shall be manifest to all men. The Gloss says, “that they shall be made manifest by means of the good,” and it reminds us that “these words were verified, especially by St. John, who overcame the heretics of the East.” Thus, it is plain that the words of St. Paul apply to heretics. Hence even were it true that religious hear confessions without any licence from their bishops, the foregoing passage from St. Paul would not be applicable to them, unless they can be proved to teach heretical doctrine. Hence the whole fabric which has been built upon to prove that religious who hear confeasions are responsible for the evils which will hereafter come upon the Church, falls to the ground.
We have already proved the right of religious to hear confessions; and we have seen, also, the benefit which results from their so doing.
The Enemies of Religious Attribute to Them the Evils Which Will Befall the Church in the Latter Days. They Try to Prove That the Times of Antichrist Are At Hand
WE will now consider how the enemies of religious attribute to them all the evils which will befall the Church in her latter days, by declaring that they are the forerunners of Antichrist. They adduce two arguments, in support of this proposition. (1) They say that the days of Antichrist are at hand. (2) They say that religious are the emissaries of Antichrist, because they preach and hear confessions.
1. They try to prove that the latter days of the world are at hand, by the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. x. 11), “These things are written for our correction upon whom the ends of the world are come.” They also quote the words of St. John (1John. ii. 18), “Little children, it is the last hour.” St. Paul writes again (Heb. x. 37): “For yet a little and a very little while, and he who is to come will come, and will make no delay.” In the Epistle of St. James (v. 9) we read: “Behold the Judge standeth before the door.” Those who quote these texts in support of their arguments maintain that as so long a time has elapsed since the apostolic times, the advent of Antichrist must be imminent.
We may, of course, gather from these passages that the time of Antichrist is at hand. For Holy Scripture always speaks of time as being very short in comparison to eternity. Thus, in St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (vii 29), we read: “The time is short.” In this sense, the interpretation given to these words by our opponents is not reprehensible. Nevertheless, the texts which they quote cannot be considered as a confirmation of their opinion that the days which are to be dreaded in the days of Antichrist are immediately imminent, and that they are caused by the religious of our day, into whose conduct (they say) it the bishops should make enquiries. It is presumption to conclude, from the texts just quoted, that Antichrist is to come within some definite period of time, be it seven years, or a hundred, or a thousand years. Our Lord said to His disciples, when they asked Him: “It is not for you to know” (Acts ii. 7) As St. Augustine writes to Hesychius: “If it was not for the disciples to know, much less is it for any others.” Again, we read (Matt. xxiv. 36): “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven.” And in the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians (ii, 2) we read: “We beseech you, brethren... that you not be easily moved from your sense... as if the day ofthe Lord were at hand.”
St. Augustine says (Epist. ad Hesychium): “You say the Gospel tells us that no man knows that day or hour. I tell you, as far as my understanding will suffice, that no man can know the month nor the year of the coming of the Lord. This seems as if the words had been understood to mean that, though none can say in what year the Lord will come, it is possible to know in what septet or decade of years his coming may be expected.” St. Augustine further says: “Although we cannot understand this, I would ask you whether we can know the time of the coming of the Lord, so far as to be able to say: He will come within the next fifty, or hundred years, or within some period more or less extended?” And again: “If you say that you cannot understand, I agree with you.”
2. Certain men were condemned in the early days of the Church for teaching, as men teach now, that the coming of the Lord was imminent. We have this on the authority of St. Jerome (De illustr. viris), and of Eusebius, (Ecclesiast. Histor.). No period, either long or short, can be determined, in which is to be expected the end of the world, or the coming of Christ or of Antichrist. It is for this reason that we are told that “the day of the Lord shall come as a thief” (1 Thes. v. 2), and that as “in the days of Noah they knew not till the flood came and took them all away, so also shall the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. xxiv). St. Augustine, in his Epistle to Hesychius, speaks of three classes of men who made assertions respecting the coming of our Lord. One class expects Him soon; another later; and the third declares its ignorance of the time of His coming. This last opinion meets with the approbation of St. Augustine, and he censures the presumption of the others.
Those who say that the second advent is at hand, try to establish the following argument. The last age begins with the coming of Christ. Foregoing ages have not lasted longer than a thousand years. As then much more than a thousand years have elapsed since the coming of Christ, His second coming must be shortly expected. This argument is answered by St. Augustine (83 Quaest. LX) as follows: “Age is supposed to include a time equal to the aggregate of all the periods that have elapsed.” He compares this latter time to old age. Then he concludes by saying: “It is thus uncertain by what generations the final period of time, which begins with the coming of our Lord and is to end with the end of the world, is to be counted.” God has chosen, for some wise purpose, to keep this hidden. So it is written in the Gospel. St. Paul also declares that “the day of the Lord is to come like a thief in the night.”
3. Those who believe in the speedy coming of Antichrist, say that his appearance is heralded by eight signs.
(1) They quote the words of Daniel (vii. 25) concerning Antichrist: “He shall think himself able to change times.” That is to say, according to the Gloss, “ His pride is so excessive that he strives to alter laws and ceremonies.” On account of these words the days of Antichrist are said to be at hand, because certain men try to alter the Gospel of Christ into another gospel, which they call “eternal.” The Gospel of which they speak is a certain Introduction to the books of Joachim, which is condemned by the Church. Or else it is the doctrine of Joachim, whereby they say the Gospel of Christ is altered. But granted that this hypothesis were true, it would be no token of the approach of Antichrist. For even in the days of the Apostles, certain men tried to alter the Gospel of Christ. Thus St. Paul says (Gal. i. 6): “I wonder that you are soon removed from him who called you into the grace of Christ, to another Gospel.”
(2) The second sign of the coming of Antichrist is supposed to be found in the words of the Psalmist (ix. 21): “Appoint, O Lord, a lawgiver over them.” This the Gloss interprets to mean “the Antichrist, the giver of an evil law.” As the doctrine which we have already mentioned, which they call the law of Antichrist, was promulgated at Paris, it is thought to be a sign that Antichrist is at hand. But it is not true to say that the doctrine of Joachim, or that which is contained in the Introduction to the Gospel of Joachim, however reprehensible it may be, is the doctrine which will be preached by Antichrist. For Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God. St. Paul says expressly (2 Thes. ii. 4), “So that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.” For if, by the teaching of Antichrist, all false doctrine is to be understood, just as all heretics are called Antichrists; then, the alleged proof of the speedy coming of Antichrist is no proof at all. For from the earliest days of the Church there has never been a time in which heretical teaching has not been disseminated. “Even now there are many Antichrists” (1 John ii. 18). On these words, the Gloss remarks: “All heretics are Antichrists.”
(3) The third supposed sign of the coming of Antichrist is found in the Book of Daniel (v) and in Isaiah (xxi). We read there the account of the hand that wrote Mane, Thecel, Phares on the wall of Babylon. Those who believe that Antichrist is at hand, maintain that the same prediction which formerly was written up in Babylon is now written in the Church. Mane was interpreted to mean, “God has numbered your Kingdom and has finished it”; and the Kingdom of Christ is now numbered, for it has been foretold that it its to endure a thousand two hundred and seventy years. Thecel signified, “You art weighed in the balance and found wanting”; and the “Eternal Gospel” is preferred to the Gospel of Christ. Phares meant your Kingdom is divided, and is given to the Medes and Persians”; and the Kingdom of the Church is now finished and given to others. Thus, the writing on the wall signified both the destruction of the Church and the ruin of Babylon.
This, however, seems a very foolish idea. St. Augustine tells us (18 de Civ. Dei) that certain men said that Christianity was to last for three hundred and sixty-five years, and that at the end of that time it was to cease to exist. Thus, it is no new thing to assign a limit for the duration of Christianity, since this was done even before the time of Augustine. Hence this is no reason for believing Antichrist to be at hand. St. Augustine says likewise (ibid.) that in his time some men estimated that four hundred years, others that five hundred, were to elapse between the Ascension of Christ and His second coming. Others, again, reckoned that this period was to embrace a thousand years. But the words of our Lord, “It is not yours to know the times or the moments” etc. (Acts i. 7), expose the folly of all such suppositions. St. Augustine, furthermore, blames the kind of arguments used in such conjectures. He compares them to the hypothesis of some that as there were ten plagues of Egypt, so there were to be ten persecutions of the Church. He says that such opinions are mere human conjectures, established on no foundation of truth. Those who interpret the handwriting on the wall as prophetic of the speedy coming of Antichrist, show their agreement with the Scripture that they reprobate; because, like the Scripture, they say that the beloved Babylon is soon to be destroyed. But there is no real similitude. For the handwriting in Babylon was divinely displayed, and it was therefore a proof of the truth; but the writing, of which these would-be prophets speak, is a figment of error, on which no argument can be founded.
They take their other five signs from the signs of which our Lord speaks in the Gospel of St. Matthew as portents of His coming.
(4) The fourth sign is taken from the words recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew (xxiv. 29): “Then shall they put you to death, and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” This sign is said to be now fulfilled. For, as men will not endure correction, they persecute those holy ones who reprove them, by hatred, by manifold tribulations, and even by death. But, this is no argument at all. For this sort of persecution befell the Apostles and the martyrs, as our Lord foretold. Hence the fact that the Church suffers persecution at present, is no more proof that the second advent is at hand than it was in the Apostolic age.
(5) The fifth sign is taken from the following words: “Then shall many be scandalised.” This prediction is supposed to be fulfilled, because religious are calumniated and men take scandal at that. But this interpretation of the text is opposed to that of the Gloss which says: “Men shall be scandalised, i.e., they shall fall from the faith, through fear of the greatness of the torments inflicted on believers.” Thus this prediction was fulfilled at the time of the martyrs. It is nothing new for holy men to be spoken ill of by the impious. Even the Apostles were told (Matt. v. 11): “ Blessed are you when men revile you, and speak all that is evil against you untruly.” We also read in ecclesiastical history how tyrants caused faithful Christians to be accused of the blackest crimes.
(6) The sixth sign is taken from the words: “Many false prophets shall arise and shall seduce many.” We are told that this sign is now manifested, because certain religious appear who are called false prophets, because they commend themselves and for other reasons of the same kind. But this interpretation will be seen to be erroneous if we compare it with the Gloss on the passage in the Gospel of St. Mark (xiii), where false prophets are understood to mean heretics, or those who, after the Passion of our Lord and before the destruction of Jerusalem, seduced the Jewish nation. We have also already spoken at length on the subject of false prophets.
(7) The seventh sign is taken from the words: “Because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” It is maintained that we now see the accomplishment of this prediction; inasmuch as those who seem to be the most zealous defenders of the Church, forsake the Gospel of Christ, and adhere to the “Eternal Gospel”, whereby they show that the love which they owe to Christ has grown cold. But this statement is untrue. For those about whom it is made have not abandoned the Gospel of Christ, and do not profess to believe in any other Gospel. But, granted that the accusation were true, there have been in all ages men in the Church who appeared perfect, and yet originated heresies. We may mention Pelagius, Nestorius, and Eutyches. There have also been many others of the same description. But they did not, therefore, prove that their charity had grown cold. For, although they did not follow the teaching of the Gospel, they did not persecute it. There is no need of persecution, where there is no defender of the truth. Such a persecution would revive extinct errors; and, under pretext of refuting them, would teach them to the people; and this is the greatest of dangers. Hence St. Gregory says (14 Moral.) that after Eutyches had died leaving no followers, he would not labour to exterminate his errors, lest he should again fan them into flame.
(8) The eighth sign is taken from the words: This gospel of ‘the Kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world.” These words are said to be fulfilled in themselves, because they proclaim the signs and dangers which they wish all men to avoid, according to the words of St. Paul (2 Tim. iv. 2): “Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season.” We are told that those who do not preach these signs are false apostles, who have not, like the animals mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse, “eyes before and behind,” to know both the future and the past. But this sign is worth nothing. Even in the early ages of the Church, there were, as ecclesiastical history relates, many who proclaimed similar prophecies, and who were on this account reproved by other Catholics of weight. The Gloss on the words, “Many shall come in my name” (Mark xiii) says: “Many, at a time when ruin was imminent, came, proclaiming themselves to be Christs and falsely declaring that freedom was at hand. And many in the Church, even in the Apostolic ages, threatened the faithful with the speedy coming of the Lord.” Hence they who foretell these signs are not numbered among those who proclaim the Gospel, but among those who seduce many. Consequently, when our Lord said, “this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached,” He referred not to the preaching of these vain signs, but to the teaching of the Christian faith which, before His second advent, will be disseminated throughout the whole world. Hence as St. Augustine proves, in his letter to Hesychius, the day of the Lord could not in his time be at hand, since there still existed nations to which the Gospel had not, as yet, been preached. Those who proclaim this sign, themselves fall into the snare which they have prepared for others. For they call a certain new doctrine, “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” and affirm themselves to be the signs which announce the Gospel of the Kingdom. St. Augustine sums up the folly and worthlessness of these five last signs, in the following words: “Perchance, if we diligently compare and examine all that the three Evangelists have said of the coming of Christ, we shall find that it points to His daily advent in His body the Church, of which coming He said: ‘A little while and you shall see the Son of man coming, or sitting’.” (Epist. ad Hesych.).
The Opponents of Religious Life Strive to Prove That Religious Are Antichrists
As the enemies of religious speak much about the dangers which will befall the Church in her latter days, by the instrumentality of those whom they call the emissaries of Antichrist, we will now examine what means they use in order to ascertain who these emissaries of Antichrist will be. They assert that these seducers will be neither barbarians, nor Jews, nor Gentiles. But this opinion is contrary to the prophecy of the Apocalypse: “Satan... shall seduce the nations which are over the four quarters of the Earth, Gog and Magog” (Rev. xx. 7). On these words, the Gloss says: “Satan will first seduce these two nations; he will then proceed to deceive others.” Or, according to another interpretation, by Magog is understood all persecutors who proceeded, at first by secret, and afterwards, by open persecution. Hence barbarians are not excluded from the persecution of Antichrist, as they would persuade us.
But those who affirm that the emissaries of Antichrist will be neither Jews, nor Gentiles, are of opinion that they will be Christians, on account of the words of St. Paul: “Having an appearance indeed of godliness” (2 Tim. iii. 5), i.e., as the Gloss explains, “of the Christian religion.” They hold that the words of the Apostle apply to those by whose instrumentality evil is to befall the Church in the latter days. But, in this assumption they make a great mistake. For St. Paul did not mean that the same men would be guilty of all the vices which he enumerates, but that some of his words would apply to some men, and that other parts of his reproof would be true of other persons. Hence it is not necessary that all those who are likely to endanger the Church should present an appearance of piety. It is merely implied that some of them will do so. In like manner, the early Church suffered persecution from believers and unbelievers alike. “In perils from the Gentiles... in perils from false brethren” (2 Cor. xi. 26).
The emissaries of Antichrist, we are next told, will not be found among the manifestly wicked. This opinion is, however, clearly opposed to the 82nd Psalm. The Gloss explains that the whole of that Psalm treats of the persecution of Antichrist. It adds that among his other emissaries, the “ Philistines “ signify those who are drunk with worldly luxury. St. Gregory likewise (20 Moral.), expounding the words of Job xxx., “Now I am turned into their song,” says: “These are the words of the Church in her latter days, when oppressed by her enemies.” Job says in the same chapter: “The strength of whose hands was to me as nothing, and they were thought unworthy of life.” St. Gregory interprets the passages which follow of those who led manifestly evil and carnal lives.
It is maintained that the ministers of Antichrist will be found among those who seem to be good men. The proof of this assertion is supposed to exist in the words of Our Lord: “Take heed of false prophets” (Mat. vii. 14) and by other texts of the same nature. But, although some of the emissaries of Antichrist may wear an appearance of piety, it is not necessary that they shall all seem godly. Christians of the early Church were persecuted both by the impious and by the apparently pious.
The argument that no one can lead another astray unless he wear an appearance of virtue is untrue. For many more are misled by the pleasures of this world and by fear of its sufferings, than by any seeming godliness.
We are further told that the ministers of Satan will be found among those who devote themselves to study. The proof of this opinion is said to lie in the words of St. Paul, “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii, 7). The inapplicability of this passage to the point in question is shown by the fact that St. Paul was referring not to men who seduce others, but to silly women who suffer themselves to be led astray. Granted, however that the words apply to men who mislead others, they can only refer to those who, in their studies, depart from the way of truth. Hence the text is often interpreted of heretics. Those who hold a contrary opinion, however, quote in support of it the following words of St. Gregory (13 Moral.) on Job xvi.: “My enemy has looked at me with terrible eyes.” “The incarnate Truth,” says St. Gregory, “chose for His preachers poor and simple men. But Antichrist will send as his Apostles men who are cunning and double-tongued and imbued with the wisdom of the world.”
St. Gregory explains in another passage, who will be the learned men whom Antichrist will send. Commenting on the words of Isaiah (xviii. 2), “who sends ambassadors upon the sea, and in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters,” St. Gregory says: “He sends his ambassadors upon the sea, for he scatters his preachers throughout the world. The ‘vessels of bulrushes’ signify the hearts of those who are wise in this world’s wisdom. Hence he who sends ambassadors in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters makes his preachers depend upon the wisdom of the world, and lead their vacillating hearers into sin.” Therefore, the true preachers of Antichrist are learned men, who lead worldly lives and attract men to vice. But even if Antichrist were going to ruin the Church by means of learned men, it would not be by their agency alone.
We are further told that the envoys of Antichrist will be found among those learned men whose opinion is esteemed as peculiarly weighty and valuable. “As if a man should consult God,” it is said of Ahitophel (2 Sam xvi.). The seducers who will appear in the latter days of the Church are supposed to be typified by Ahitophel. For, as Ahitophel adhered first to David, and then to Absalom, so they will take part first with Christ, and then with Antichrist. St. Paul says of them, first that they will have an appearance of godliness, and then that they will be “men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim iii. 5). Stress is also laid on the words, “they came forth from us” (1 John ii. 19), which means, as the Gloss says, “they shared with us in the Sacraments.” But this quotation is no argument. For St. Paul does not say of the men to whom he refers that at first they wore an appearance of piety, and that then, laying it aside, they became infidels. What he means is that while these men had a superficial semblance of godliness, they were at the same time infidels at heart. There are many heretics who agree with the Church about the Sacraments; and there are some who receive the Sacraments, at least exteriorly. Even if, on this account, they are typified by Ahitophel, that would not make it necessary for them to resemble Ahitophel in the astuteness of his counsels. This comparison is purely a figment of the imagination; just as the correspondence between the plagues of Egypt and the persecutions of the Church, is imaginary.
It is likewise maintained that the Apostles of Antichrist will be found among those who have vowed to obey the counsels. The ground for this opinion is supposed to exist in the following passage of St. Gregory. Commenting on the words of Job (xxx) “at the right hand of my rising,” St. Gregory says: “Calamities shall arise at the right hand of my rising. For those who were believed to be chosen members of Christ now come forward to persecute the Church.” These words do not, however, apply, in any special manner, to those who are under an obligation to keep the counsels; for, by the right hand, or the chosen members of Christ, all good men are signified. This we know by the following passage of St. Gregory (ibid.): “All the faithful of Holy Church are spoken of under the name of the right hand.” Even, however, though perfect men be understood by the expression “ right hand,” this is no proof that the passage we have quoted is especially applicable to religious. For men may be perfect in the order of charity, even though they be married. Prelates, in like manner, are in state of perfection. Hence it is not only religious who are meant by the chosen members of Christ. The fallacy contained in this argument makes it easy for us to see what underlies the ensuing one. The enemies of religious assert that religious are the future emissaries of Antichrist, on account of the words: “It will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy, him” (Matt. ii. 13). The Gloss comments on this passage thus: “As soon as Christ came into the world, persecution arose against Him—a type of the future persecution of the Saints.” From this it is argued that, as at the coming of our Lord He was opposed by those who seemed to be the most wise and holy among men, (i.e. the Scribes and Pharisees), so at the end of the world, the faithful of Christ will be attacked by those who will seem to be the best and wisest, viz., by leaxned and religious men. This argument, however, carries no weight. For, not only the Scribes and Pharisees, but the High priests, Annas and Caiphas, and the civil rulers, Herod and Pilate, persecuted our Lord. Neither were all those who persecuted Him Scribes; for some were only Pharisees. Hence this argument does not prove that the future persecutors of the Church are to be learned rather than illiterate religious, or religious rather than bishops, or religious rather than secular sovereigns and dignitaries.
From all the foregoing arguments then they conclude that the heralds of Antichrist will be Christians, apparently virtuous, devoted to study, strong in giving advice, religious men, bound to the observance of the counsels. Thus, although names are not mentioned, the victims of this infamous charge are as clearly designated as if they were named. If Socrates be the son of Sophroniscus, we mean the same person, whether we speak of him as Socrates, or as the son of Sophroniscus. The mode in which the accusation is brought against religious is inexcusable; and it proves that a personal attack is intended.
We will now refute the calumny point by point:
1. The first error lies in defining the heralds of Antichrist as one race of men, when, as we know by the Gloss on Ps. lxxxii, Antichrists will spring from all classes of men.
2. The second error lies in the fact that though diverse authorities may be quoted in support of individual points, no class of men furnishes all the necessary conditions. The emissaries of Satan who will mislead men may, perhaps, exist in great numbers; of which some may be religious, some astute in counsel, some learned etc. But perhaps, among all the number, not one will be found possessing all these qualifications.
3. Even were some such men found amongst religious, other such might likewise be found among men who are not religious. Hence this argument does not tell more against religious than against seculars.
4. If some religious are to be emissaries of Antichrist, all religious will not be his adherents. Perhaps very few religious will join Antichrist, as he is to recruit his ranks from all classes of men.
5 It is praiseworthy to be a Christian, a learned man, a prudent counsellor, and a religious. These
attributes, therefore, are no reason for concluding that their possessor is to be a forerunner of Antichrist. Rather, if we are to believe our Lord’s teaching that “every tree is known by its fruits,” we ought to expect good works from good men, and evil deeds from wicked men. Guided by this rule, we should look for the future emissaries of Satan among bad men.
The Enemies of Religious Endeavour to Cast Suspicion Upon Such of Their Works As Are Clearly Good: E.g., Prayer and Fasting
WE will now examine how, although the opponents of religious cannot affirm that certain works performed by them, such as prayer, fasting, and miracles, are evil, they try nevertheless to represent them in a false light, and to make them appear suspicious.
1. Their first contention is that certain bad men, mentioned in the Old and in the New Testament, practised these works, in order to disguise their wickedness. “Thus it is said that false prophets will come in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. vii. 15), “which means,” (says the Gloss), “that in the sight of men they will, by their prayers, fastings and almsdeeds, resemble the ministers of justice. But their works will avail them nothing, but will rather be imputed to them as sin.” Again, on the words: “Many will say to me,” the Gloss comments: “We must beware of those who work miracles in the name of Christ. Our Lord certainly worked them for the sake of unbelievers, but He warned them not to be deceived, nor to think that a visible miracle is necessarily visible wisdom.” From these words, the enemies of religious conclude that men are not to be accepted on account either of their virtues or of their miracles.
It is, however, easy to see that this opinion is unsound, because it is opposed to the words of our Lord (quoted in Matt. v. 16): “Let men see your good works, and glorify your Father” etc. Again (Matt. xii) He says that “a tree is known by its fruits,” a good tree by its good, and a bad tree by its bad fruits. St. Peter likewise says (1 Pet. ii. 12): “Having your conversation good among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by the good works which they shall see in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.” From these words we see that good works ought to render a man acceptable to his neighbour. In the same way, a man’s miracles render him and his teaching commendable. For our Lord says: “For the works which the Father gave me to accomplish... give testimony to me” (John v. 36). St. Mark likewise says that the Apostles “preached everywhere, the Lord cooperating, with them and confirming the word with signs that followed” (Mark xvi. 20). These signs were a testimony both to the men and to their doctrine.
We do not, of course, say that bad men may not give signs of virtue; we speak only of such things as we are capable of judging. Hence if a man show signs of goodness, we naturally conclude that he is good, unless he give proofs of wickedness, to show us that the good which he has manifested did not proceed from him. The Gloss, commenting on the words, “by their fruits you shall know them,” says: “Judge of men not by their clothing but by their works.” And again, on the words, “he who eats” (Rom. xiv.), the Gloss remarks: “There are certain things, such as blasphemy, theft, and the like, which cannot proceed from a virtuous soul. It is permissible for us to judge of such matters as these; for they come under the category of which Christ spoke saying: ‘By their fruits you shall know them.’ But in doubtful matters, let us put the most favourable construction on our neighbour’s doings.” Thus the authors quoted would have us not to be so deceived by good appearances, as to be led away by them into evil or error. But, if anyone who does not seek to seduce others into vice or error, he should be judged on account of his acts to be a good man. Even if he is in reality wicked, this deception is not a dangerous one, for it does not belong to man to judge the secrets of the heart. On the words, “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. xi. 14), the Gloss says: “If Satan feigns to do or to say something befitting the good angels, and we even believe him to be himself a good angel, our error will not be harmful or even dangerous. But if the devil begins to tempt us by works not his own, we have need of great watchfulness, lest we be led astray.”
The enemies of religious proceed still further in their malice, and declare that the manifest good works done by religious are hypocrisy. Thus, they say, religious commit a heinous crime. But, they themselves herein resemble the Pharisees, who said to our Lord when He was casting out a devil: “By Beelzabub, the prince of devils, He casts out devils” (Matt. xii.; Luke xi. 15). They act like the Pharisees who, as soon as they see another do a good work, ascribe it to hypocrisy. It was to rebuke such judgments that Christ said (Matt. xii. 33): “By their fruits you shall know them.”
Itis easy to see how much harm such assertions may do. For, if the opinion that a man is to be esteemed a hypocrite on account of his good works is generally accepted, persons will be withheld from performing any acts of virtue; and the same will be the case if everyone is called a hypocrite who embraces a state of perfection after committing great sins. St. Gregory (31 Moral.) combats this idea. For, commenting on the words “she has laboured. in vain, no fear constraining her” (Job xxxix.), he writes: “We must remember that our mother the Church nurses certain souls in her tender bosom until she brings them to spiritual maturity. But, such souls have not as yet acquired the habit of holiness, nor are they as yet strong enough to follow the path of perfection.” “But,” he continues, “we have no right to call such men hypocrites; for weakness is one thing, and malice another.” Thus, according to the teaching of St. Gregory, they only deserve to be called hypocrites who undertake to perform works of perfection in order thereby to cloak their wickedness, and to be able the more easily to injure others. Those who, through weakness, may chance to fall into sin, even after embracing a life of perfection, are not hypocrites.
Now that by the Divine assistance, we have refuted the calumnies of malicious men, it becomes evident that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who walk, not according to the flesh, but who carry the cross of the Lord, repressing earthly desires. Much might still be said in confutation of the detractors of religious. But we will leave them to the Divine judgment, since the malice of their heart is clearly revealed by the speech that falls from their lips. To quote the words of Christ (Matt. xii. 34): “How can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” But if, as St. Paul says (2 Tim. ii. 21), “anyone cleanses himself from these” (i.e. by not consenting to, these malicious judgments), “he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and profitable to the Lord, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. ii.).
Those, however, who adopt the opinions of these enemies of religious will blindly follow the blind, and with them will fall into the ditch. But the words which we have spoken will suffice to preserve us from such a fate, if they are sanctified by the blessing of God, to whom be honour and giving of thanks for ever and ever. Amen.