Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

Sin and The Rule
Summa Theologiae II. II
Question 186 a.9

Is it always a mortal sin if religious contravene what it says in their Rule?

It looks as if it is always a mortal sin for religious to contravene what it says in their Rule: 1.
1. Doing anything contrary to your vow is the kind of sin that brings damnation, as we can see from what the apostle says about widows who want to marry: "They incur damnation because they have made their first promise void." 2. But religious are bound to their Rule by the vow involved in their profession. Therefore they commit mortal sin by contravening the contents of their Rule.
2. A Rule is like a law to which religious are subject. And breaking any of the commandments of the law is a mortal sin. So it looks as if a monk who contravenes what it says in his Rule commits mortal sin.
3. Contempt for the law makes for mortal sin. But if someone keeps
____________________
1.
This was a "topical" question; it had been raised in a Quodlibetal disputation at Christmas 1269 (I a.20) in the form, "Is it a mortal sin for a monk to eat meat?" In his response Thomas generalizes the discussion and tackles the question whether it is a sin for a religious to contravene any of the contents of his Rule (which is the question aired in q. 186 a.9); though Thomas confines himself to male religious, his comments would no doubt be the same about women religious. The background to the question is probably to be sought in the many-sided controversies that surrounded the early Dominicans, which seem to have tempted some of the brethren to score points off their critics by accusing them of being in mortal sin. The General Chapter of 12 34 admonishes the friars "not to preach that it is a mortal sin for monks to eat meat" (MOPH III p. 4:23-4). In similar vein an Oxford Dominican precipitated a major row with the Franciscans in 1269 by "proving" that they were all in a state of mortal sin because of the possessions they owned contrary to their Rule (cf. A. G. Little, The Grey Friars in Oxford [Oxford, 1892], pp. 320-35).
2.
1 Tim. 5:12. Lombard's Gloss (PL 192:353CD) points out that Paul must be talking about widows who have made a vow of chastity, and the same comment is made by Thomas in his lectures on 1 Timothy (Marietti ed., para. 204).

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