St. Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologica

(Benziger Bros. edition, 1947)
Translated by
Fathers of the English Dominican Province

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Deinde considerandum est de contentione. Et circa hoc quaeruntur duo. We must now consider contention, in respect of which there are two points of inquiry:
Primo, utrum contentio sit peccatum mortale. (1) Whether contention is a mortal sin?
Secundo, utrum sit filia inanis gloriae. (2) Whether it is a daughter of vainglory?

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Whether contention is a mortal sin?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod contentio non sit peccatum mortale. Peccatum enim mortale in viris spiritualibus non invenitur. In quibus tamen invenitur contentio, secundum illud Luc. XXII, facta est contentio inter discipulos Iesu, quis eorum esset maior. Ergo contentio non est peccatum mortale. Objection 1: It would seem that contention is not a mortal sin. For there is no mortal sin in spiritual men: and yet contention is to be found in them, according to Lk. 22:24: "And there was also a strife amongst" the disciples of Jesus, "which of them should... be the greatest." Therefore contention is not a mortal sin.
Praeterea, nulli bene disposito debet placere peccatum mortale in proximo. Sed dicit apostolus, ad Philipp. I, quidam ex contentione Christum annuntiant; et postea subdit, et in hoc gaudeo, sed et gaudebo. Ergo contentio non est peccatum mortale. Objection 2: Further, no well disposed man should be pleased that his neighbor commit a mortal sin. But the Apostle says (Phil. 1:17): "Some out of contention preach Christ," and afterwards he says (Phil. 1:18): "In this also I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." Therefore contention is not a mortal sin.
Praeterea, contingit quod aliqui vel in iudicio vel in disputatione contendunt non aliquo animo malignandi, sed potius intendentes ad bonum, sicut illi qui contra haereticos disputando contendunt. Unde super illud, I Reg. XIV, accidit quadam die etc., dicit Glossa, Catholici contra haereticos contentiones commovent, ubi prius ad certamen convocantur. Ergo contentio non est peccatum mortale. Objection 3: Further, it happens that people contend either in the courts or in disputations, without any spiteful purpose, and with a good intention, as, for example, those who contend by disputing with heretics. Hence a gloss on 1 Kgs. 14:1, "It came to pass one day," etc. says: "Catholics do not raise contentions with heretics, unless they are first challenged to dispute." Therefore contention is not a mortal sin.
Praeterea, Iob videtur cum Deo contendisse, secundum illud Iob XXXIX, numquid qui contendit cum Deo tam facile conquiescit? Et tamen Iob non peccavit mortaliter, quia dominus de eo dicit, non estis locuti recte coram me, sicut servus meus Iob, ut habetur Iob ult. Ergo contentio non semper est peccatum mortale. Objection 4: Further, Job seems to have contended with God, according to Job 39:32: "Shall he that contendeth with God be so easily silenced?" And yet Job was not guilty of mortal sin, since the Lord said of him (Job 42:7): "You have not spoken the thing that is right before me, as my servant Job hath." Therefore contention is not always a mortal sin.
Sed contra est quod contrariatur praecepto apostoli, qui dicit II ad Tim. II, noli verbis contendere. Et Gal. V contentio numeratur inter opera carnis, quae qui agunt, regnum Dei non possident, ut ibidem dicitur. Sed omne quod excludit a regno Dei, et quod contrariatur praecepto, est peccatum mortale. Ergo contentio est peccatum mortale. On the contrary, It is against the precept of the Apostle who says (2 Tim. 2:14): "Contend not in words." Moreover (Gal. 5:20) contention is included among the works of the flesh, and as stated there (Gal. 5:21) "they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God." Now whatever excludes a man from the kingdom of God and is against a precept, is a mortal sin. Therefore contention is a mortal sin.
Respondeo dicendum quod contendere est contra aliquem tendere. Unde sicut discordia contrarietatem quandam importat in voluntate, ita contentio contrarietatem quandam importat in locutione. Et propter hoc etiam cum oratio alicuius per contraria se diffundit, vocatur contentio, quae ponitur unus color rhetoricus a Tullio, qui dicit, contentio est cum ex contrariis rebus oratio efficitur, hoc pacto, habet assentatio iucunda principia, eadem exitus amarissimos affert. I answer that, To contend is to tend against some one. Wherefore just as discord denotes a contrariety of wills, so contention signifies contrariety of speech. For this reason when a man contrasts various contrary things in a speech, this is called "contentio," which Tully calls one of the rhetorical colors (De Rhet. ad Heren. iv), where he says that "it consists in developing a speech from contrary things," for instance: "Adulation has a pleasant beginning, and a most bitter end."
Contrarietas autem locutionis potest attendi dupliciter, uno modo, quantum ad intentionem contendentis; alio modo, quantum ad modum. In intentione quidem considerandum est utrum aliquis contrarietur veritati, quod est vituperabile, vel falsitati, quod est laudabile. In modo autem considerandum est utrum talis modus contrariandi conveniat et personis et negotiis, quia hoc est laudabile (unde et Tullius dicit, in III Rhet., quod contentio est oratio acris ad confirmandum et confutandum accommodata), vel excedat convenientiam personarum et negotiorum, et sic contentio est vituperabilis. Now contrariety of speech may be looked at in two ways: first with regard to the intention of the contentious party, secondly, with regard to the manner of contending. As to the intention, we must consider whether he contends against the truth, and then he is to be blamed, or against falsehood, and then he should be praised. As to the manner, we must consider whether his manner of contending is in keeping with the persons and the matter in dispute, for then it would be praiseworthy, hence Tully says (De Rhet. ad Heren. iii) that "contention is a sharp speech suitable for proof and refutation"—or whether it exceeds the demands of the persons and matter in dispute, in which case it is blameworthy.
Si ergo accipiatur contentio secundum quod importat impugnationem veritatis et inordinatum modum, sic est peccatum mortale. Et hoc modo definit Ambrosius contentionem, dicens, contentio est impugnatio veritatis cum confidentia clamoris. Si autem contentio dicatur impugnatio falsitatis cum debito modo acrimoniae, sic contentio est laudabilis. Si autem accipiatur contentio secundum quod importat impugnationem falsitatis cum inordinato modo, sic potest esse peccatum veniale, nisi forte tanta inordinatio fiat in contendendo quod ex hoc generetur scandalum aliorum. Unde et apostolus, cum dixisset, II ad Tim. II, noli verbis contendere, subdit, ad nihil enim utile est, nisi ad subversionem audientium. Accordingly if we take contention as denoting a disclaimer of the truth and an inordinate manner, it is a mortal sin. Thus Ambrose [*Cf. Gloss. Ord. in Rom. i, 29] defines contention: "Contention is a disclaimer of the truth with clamorous confidence." If, however, contention denote a disavowal of what is false, with the proper measure of acrimony, it is praiseworthy: whereas, if it denote a disavowal of falsehood, together with an inordinate manner, it can be a venial sin, unless the contention be conducted so inordinately, as to give scandal to others. Hence the Apostle after saying (2 Tim. 2:14): "Contend not in words," adds, "for it is to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers."
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod in discipulis Christi non erat contentio cum intentione impugnandi veritatem, quia unusquisque defendebat quod sibi verum videbatur. Erat tamen in eorum contentione inordinatio, quia contendebant de quo non erat contendendum, scilicet de primatu honoris; nondum enim erant spirituales, sicut Glossa ibidem dicit. Unde et dominus eos consequenter compescuit. Reply to Objection 1: The disciples of Christ contended together, not with the intention of disclaiming the truth, since each one stood up for what he thought was true. Yet there was inordinateness in their contention, because they contended about a matter which they ought not to have contended about, viz. the primacy of honor; for they were not spiritual men as yet, as a gloss says on the same passage; and for this reason Our Lord checked them.
Ad secundum dicendum quod illi qui ex contentione Christum praedicabant reprehensibiles erant, quia quamvis non impugnarent veritatem fidei, sed eam praedicarent, impugnabant tamen veritatem quantum ad hoc quod putabant se suscitare pressuram apostolo veritatem fidei praedicanti. Unde apostolus non gaudebat de eorum contentione, sed de fructu qui ex hoc proveniebat, scilicet quod Christus annuntiabatur, quia ex malis etiam occasionaliter subsequuntur bona. Reply to Objection 2: Those who preached Christ "out of contention," were to be blamed, because, although they did not gainsay the truth of faith, but preached it, yet they did gainsay the truth, by the fact that they thought they would "raise affliction" to the Apostle who was preaching the truth of faith. Hence the Apostle rejoiced not in their contention, but in the fruit that would result therefrom, namely that Christ would be made known—since evil is sometimes the occasion of good results.
Ad tertium dicendum quod secundum completam rationem contentionis prout est peccatum mortale, ille in iudicio contendit qui impugnat veritatem iustitiae, et in disputatione contendit qui intendit impugnare veritatem doctrinae. Et secundum hoc Catholici non contendunt contra haereticos, sed potius e converso. Si autem accipiatur contentio in iudicio vel disputatione secundum imperfectam rationem, scilicet secundum quod importat quandam acrimoniam locutionis, sic non semper est peccatum mortale. Reply to Objection 3: Contention is complete and is a mortal sin when, in contending before a judge, a man gainsays the truth of justice, or in a disputation, intends to impugn the true doctrine. In this sense Catholics do not contend against heretics, but the reverse. But when, whether in court or in a disputation, it is incomplete, i.e. in respect of the acrimony of speech, it is not always a mortal sin.
Ad quartum dicendum quod contentio ibi sumitur communiter pro disputatione. Dixerat enim Iob, XIII cap., ad omnipotentem loquar, et disputare cum Deo cupio, non tamen intendens neque veritatem impugnare, sed exquirere; neque circa hanc inquisitionem aliqua inordinatione vel animi vel vocis uti. Reply to Objection 4: Contention here denotes an ordinary dispute. For Job had said (13:3): "I will speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God": yet he intended not to impugn the truth, but to defend it, and in seeking the truth thus, he had no wish to be inordinate in mind or in speech.

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Whether contention is a daughter of vainglory?

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod contentio non sit filia inanis gloriae. Contentio enim affinitatem habet ad zelum, unde dicitur I ad Cor. III, cum sit inter vos zelus et contentio, nonne carnales estis, et secundum hominem ambulatis? Zelus autem ad invidiam pertinet. Ergo contentio magis ex invidia oritur. Objection 1: It would seem that contention is not a daughter of vainglory. For contention is akin to zeal, wherefore it is written (1 Cor. 3:3): "Whereas there is among you zeal [Douay: 'envying'] and contention, are you not carnal, and walk according to men?" Now zeal pertains to envy. Therefore contention arises rather from envy.
Praeterea, contentio cum clamore quodam est. Sed clamor ex ira oritur; ut patet per Gregorium, XXXI Moral. Ergo etiam contentio oritur ex ira. Objection 2: Further, contention is accompanied by raising of the voice. But the voice is raised on account of anger, as Gregory declares (Moral. xxxi, 14). Therefore contention too arises from anger.
Praeterea, inter alia scientia praecipue videtur esse materia superbiae et inanis gloriae, secundum illud I ad Cor. VIII, scientia inflat. Sed contentio provenit plerumque ex defectu scientiae, per quam veritas cognoscitur, non impugnatur. Ergo contentio non est filia inanis gloriae. Objection 3: Further, among other things knowledge seems to be the matter of pride and vainglory, according to 1 Cor. 8:1: "Knowledge puffeth up." Now contention is often due to lack of knowledge, and by knowledge we do not impugn the truth, we know it. Therefore contention is not a daughter of vainglory.
Sed contra est auctoritas Gregorii, XXXI Moral. On the contrary stands the authority of Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 14).
Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut supra dictum est, discordia est filia inanis gloriae, eo quod discordantium uterque in suo proprio stat, et unus alteri non acquiescit; proprium autem superbiae est et inanis gloriae propriam excellentiam quaerere. Sicut autem discordantes aliqui sunt ex hoc quod stant corde in propriis, ita contendentes sunt aliqui ex hoc quod unusquisque verbo id quod sibi videtur defendit. Et ideo eadem ratione ponitur contentio filia inanis gloriae sicut et discordia. I answer that, As stated above (Question [37], Article [2]), discord is a daughter of vainglory, because each of the disaccording parties clings to his own opinion, rather than acquiesce with the other. Now it is proper to pride and vainglory to seek one's own glory. And just as people are discordant when they hold to their own opinion in their hearts, so are they contentious when each defends his own opinion by words. Consequently contention is reckoned a daughter of vainglory for the same reason as discord.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod contentio, sicut et discordia, habet affinitatem cum invidia quantum ad recessum eius a quo aliquis discordat vel cum quo contendit. Sed quantum ad id in quo sistit ille qui contendit, habet convenientiam cum superbia et inani gloria, inquantum scilicet in proprio sensu statur, ut supra dictum est. Reply to Objection 1: Contention, like discord, is akin to envy in so far as a man severs himself from the one with whom he is discordant, or with whom he contends, but in so far as a contentious man holds to something, it is akin to pride and vainglory, because, to wit, he clings to his own opinion, as stated above (Question [37], Article [2], ad 1).
Ad secundum dicendum quod clamor assumitur in contentione de qua loquimur ad finem impugnandae veritatis. Unde non est principale in contentione. Et ideo non oportet quod contentio ex eodem derivetur ex quo derivatur clamor. Reply to Objection 2: The contention of which we are speaking puts on a loud voice, for the purpose of impugning the truth, so that it is not the chief part of contention. Hence it does not follow that contention arises from the same source as the raising of the voice.
Ad tertium dicendum quod superbia et inanis gloria occasionem sumunt praecipue a bonis, etiam sibi contrariis, puta cum de humilitate aliquis superbit, est enim huiusmodi derivatio non per se, sed per accidens, secundum quem modum nihil prohibet contrarium a contrario oriri. Et ideo nihil prohibet ea quae ex superbia vel inani gloria per se et directe oriuntur causari ex contrariis eorum ex quibus occasionaliter superbia oritur. Reply to Objection 3: Pride and vainglory are occasioned chiefly by goods even those that are contrary to them, for instance, when a man is proud of his humility: for when a thing arises in this way, it does so not directly but accidentally, in which way nothing hinders one contrary from arising out of another. Hence there is no reason why the "per se" and direct effects of pride or vainglory, should not result from the contraries of those things which are the occasion of pride.

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