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II Sentences, Distinction 43, Question 1

Concerning the Sin against the Holy Spirit


a. 4: utrum peccatum in spiritum sanctum sit
irremissibile.

Article 4: Whether the sin against the Holy Spirit


is unforgivable.

ad quartum sic proceditur. videtur quod


peccatum in spiritum sanctum non sit
irremissibile.

It would seem that the sin against the Holy Spirit


is not unforgivable.

remissio enim peccati fit per gratiam. sed ubi


abundavit delictum, superabundavit et gratia,
rom. 5, 20. cum ergo peccatum in spiritum
sanctum sit gravissimum, videtur quod
maxime sit remissibile.

Objection 1: For the forgiveness of sin is brought


about through grace. But where sin abounds,
grace abounds even more, as it is said at
Romans 5:20. Therefore, since the sin against
the Holy Spirit is most grave, it would seem that it
is most forgivable.

praeterea, caritas est perfectior spe, et fides


prior ea. sed peccatum oppositum fidei,
scilicet infidelitas, et oppositum caritati,
scilicet odium, sunt remissibilia. ergo et
desperatio, quae opponitur spei, est
remissibilis, et eadem ratione aliae species
peccati in spiritum sanctum.

Objection 2: Furthermore, love (caritas) is more


perfect that hope, and faith is prior to them both.
But the sin opposed to faith, namely infidelity,
and to love, namely hatred, are forgivable.
Therefore, despair, which is opposed to hope, is
forgivable, and, for the same reason, the other
species of the sin against the Holy Spirit (as
well).

praeterea, quatuor dicuntur in nobis sicut


poenalitates ex peccato primi hominis
provenisse, scilicet ignorantia, infirmitas,
concupiscentia et malitia. sed infirmitas et
ignorantia excusando peccatum, remissibile
ipsum reddunt. ergo et eadem ratione, malitia;
et ita peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quod est
ex certa malitia, remissibile erit.

Objection 3: Furthermore, four things are said to


be in us as punishments procured by reason of
the first sin of man, namely ignorance, infirmity,
concupiscence, and malice. But infirmity and
ignorance, by excusing one from sin, make (the
first sin of man) appear to be forgivable.
Therefore, and for the same reason, (is this to be
said with respect to) malice. And in this way the
sin against the Holy Spirit, which is by reason of
a definite malice, will be forgivable.

praeterea, in hoc dicitur homo ab angelo


differre quod homo habet vertibilitatem
electionis mutabilem, angelus vero
immutabilem, quia ab eo quod semel eligit,
nunquam removetur. sed peccatum in
spiritum sanctum est peccatum hominis. ergo
si homo per electionem in ipsum consentiat,
iterum potest hanc electionem mutare, et ab
eo discedere. sed peccatum remittitur per hoc
quod ab eo receditur. ergo peccatum in
spiritum sanctum est remissibile.

Objection 4: Furthermore, man differs from the


angels in that man's choice is vertible and
mutable, whereas an angel's choice is immutable
(and invertible). For once an angel chooses, it is
never drawn back (from what it has chosen). But
the sin against the Holy Spirit is a sin of man.
Therefore if man consents through choice itself,
he is able to alter his choice again, and to depart
from (what had been previously chosen). But sin
is remitted in so far as one draws back from it.
Therefore, the sin against the Holy Spirit is
forgivable.

praeterea, irremissibile tollit potentiam

Objection 5: Furthermore, the unforgivable

remissionis. cum ergo dicitur peccatum in


spiritum sanctum irremissibile, aut negatur
potentia remissionis ex parte remittentis, aut
ex parte ejus cui fit remissio. non primo modo:
quia potentia ipsius dei, qui solus peccata
dimittit, est infinita, ad omnium peccatorum
remissionem se extendens. similiter nec
secundo modo: quia potentia ad remissionem
ex parte ejus cui fit remissio, est liberum
arbitrium in statu viae existens, quod etiam
post peccatum in spiritum sanctum manet.
ergo peccatum in spiritum sanctum nullo
modo est irremissibile.

destroys the capacity for forgiveness. When,


therefore, it is said that the sin against the Holy
Spirit is unforgivable, the capacity for forgiveness
is negated either on the part of the one forgiving,
or on the part of him to whom forgiveness is
given. It cannot be in the first way for the power of
God Himself, who alone forgives sins, is infinite,
extending itself to the forgiveness of all sins.
Similarly, it cannot be in the second way,
because the capacity for forgiveness on the part
of the one to whom forgiveness is given is the
free choice of the will existing in this earthly
condition, which remains even after the sin
against the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the sin against
the Holy Spirit is in no way unforgivable

in contrarium sunt auctoritates quae in littera


inducuntur.

1st. on the contrary: There are the authorities


cited in the (Lombard's) text.

praeterea, peccatum virtuti opponitur. sed de


virtute perfectissima, scilicet caritate, dicitur, 1
corinth. 13, quod nunquam excidit, quamvis
multi eam amittant. ergo et peccatum in
spiritum sanctum, quod est gravissimum
peccatorum, debet dici irremissibile, etsi
quandoque remittatur.

2nd. on the contrary: Furthermore, sin is opposed


to virtue. But concerning the most perfect of
virtues, namely love, 1 Corinthians 13 says that
nothing escapes it, although many lose it.
Therefore, the sin against the Holy Spirit, which
is the most grave of sins, ought to be called
unforgivable, even if it is at times forgiven.

respondeo dicendum, quod de peccato in


Response: There are two opinions concerning
spiritum sanctum duplex est opinio, ut ex
the sin against the Holy Spirit, as can be
littera colligi potest. quidam enim accipientes gathered from the (Lombard's) text. Some, taking
impoenitentiam prout est circumstantia
impenitence as a circumstance of sin (as was
peccati, ut dictum est, assignant quinque
said previously), designate five species of the sin
species peccati in spiritum sanctum, quae
against the Holy Spirit which were numbered
scilicet supra impoenitentiae connumeratae previously of impenitence. They say that not any
sunt; et dicunt, quod nulla illarum specierum of those species have the complete aspect of the
habet complete rationem peccati in spiritum sin against the Holy Spirit except in so far as this
sanctum nisi secundum quod adjungitur ei
circumstance is added to it, namely that they
haec circumstantia, ut scilicet usque ad
endure in despair and obstinacy right up until
mortem in desperatione vel obstinatione
death. In this, the sin against the Holy Spirit is
perdurent; et secundum hoc dicitur peccatum said to be unforgivable because in no way is it
in spiritum sanctum irremissibile, quia
forgiven or can be forgiven, since after death man
nunquam remittitur vel remitti potest: quia post is established in grace or in sin, according to
mortem homo confirmatur in gratia vel in
what he was in the moment of his death, as
peccato, secundum quod fuit in statu mortis
Ecclesiastes 11:3 states "In what place soever a
suae, ut dicitur ecclesiastici 11, 3: lignum in tree shall fall, there shall it be." But this position
quocumque loco ceciderit, ibi erit. sed istud
does not appear to be fitting. For every sin, either
non videtur esse conveniens: quia secundum against the Father or the Son, which endures
hoc omne peccatum quod usque ad mortem right up until death is unforgivable. Thus the sin
perdurat, irremissibile est, sive sit in patrem, against the Holy Spirit would not be unforgivable
sive in filium; et ita peccatum in spiritum
in a way different from (the sins against) the
sanctum non esset alio modo irremissibile
Father and the Son, a position which is contrary

quam peccatum in patrem vel filium, quod est


contra textum evangelii. nisi forte diceretur,
quod omne peccatum in patrem vel in filium,
est peccatum veniale; quia gregorius dicit in 4
dialog. peccata venialia etiam post hanc
vitam remitti. sed hoc est expresse falsum:
quia ignorantia non sic semper excusat
peccatum ut non sit damnabile, sed ut sit
minus damnabile. et ideo alii dicunt, quod
impoenitentia, quae dicit continuam
durationem peccati usque ad mortem, non est
necessaria ad hoc quod sit peccatum in
spiritum sanctum, quia etiam uno solo motu
voluntatis potest homo in spiritum sanctum
peccare, sicut et in ceteris peccatis contingit;

to the text of the Evangelist. Unless, perhaps, it


be said that every sin against the Father or the
Son is a venial sin. For Gregory says in his 4th.
Dialogue that even venial sins are forgiven after
this life. However, this is expressly false since
ignorance does not thus always excuse from sin
so that it is not damnable, but rather so that it
might be less damnable. For this reason, others
state that impenitence, which designates the
continuous duration in sin right up until death,
need not be (a necessary condition for a sin
being) a sin against the Holy Spirit. For even in
one sole movement of the will, a man can sin
against the Holy Spirit, as occurs with certain
sins.

et secundum hos assignantur species peccati


in spiritum sanctum sex, sicut dictum est;
secundum hos autem oportet dicere, quod
peccatum in spiritum sanctum non dicitur
irremissibile quia nunquam remittatur, sed
quia non habet de se aptitudinem ad hoc
quod remissibile sit; et hoc praecipue propter
tres causas.

According to these considerations, such people


assign six species of the sin against the Holy
Spirit, as was said previously. With respect to
these, however, one should say that the sin
against the Holy Spirit is not designated
unforgivable because it is at no time forgiven, but
rather because it does not have a suitability in
itself for it to be forgivable. This especially has
three causes.

una est ex causa movente ad peccandum:


quandoque enim infirmitas, vel ignorantia
ejus qui peccat, peccatum causant, quae nata
sunt peccatum excusare in parte vel in toto,
propter hoc quod involuntarium causant, vel
simpliciter vel secundum quid: et tunc
peccatum remissibile dicitur quod habet in se
unde facile remittatur propter hoc quod ex
causa excusante procedit. peccatum autem
quod ex industria fit, nullam rationem
excusationis habet; et ideo dicitur
irremissibile, quia non habet in se unde
excusetur, et propter hoc ad remittendum sit
facile.

The first is by reason of the cause moving one to


sin. Sometimes the infirmity or ignorance of him
who sins cause the sin. (Both infirmity and
ignorance) are understood to excuse sin either in
part or whole, as they bring about the involuntary
(in one's actions), either in itself or according to
something else. Sin, then, is said to be forgivable
which has in itself that by reason of which it is
easily forgiven, namely that it proceed from a
cause which excuses the sin. However, a sin
which arises by reason of intention does not have
the aspect of the excusable, for which reason it is
called unforgivable, namely because it does not
have in itself that by reason of which it is excused
and account of which it would be easy to forgive.

secunda est ratio sumpta ex modo


The second cause is the reasoning undertaken
inclinationis voluntatis in peccatum: quia ut
because of the mode of the will's inclination in
philosophus dicit in 7 ethic., finis in
sin. For, as the Philosopher says in Book VII of
operabilibus est sicut principium
the Nichomachean Ethics, the end in practical
indemonstrabile in speculativis. error autem in matters is like an indemonstrable principle in
speculativis, qui est circa principia
speculative matters. An error in speculative
indemonstrabilia, difficile removeri potest, eo matters, which is about indemonstrable
quod non possunt accipi aliqua magis nota, principles, can, with difficulty, be removed, in that

per quae error improbetur. ita etiam in


practicis, quando aliquis alicui peccato ut fini
adhaeret, quasi in eo suam beatitudinem
constituens, non potest tali peccato de facili
remedium adhiberi: quia nihil est aliud magis
a peccante dilectum, propter cujus
consecutionem hoc in quo ultimum finem
ponit, dimittat. quicumque autem ex electione
peccat, vel ex industria, adhaeret peccato
quod eligit, quasi per se bono, et sic fini; et
ideo tale peccatum non de facili medicinam
recipit; unde philosophusin 7 ethic. per hoc
ostendit quod incontinens, quia ex passione
peccat, sive infirmitate, facilius curatur quam
intemperatus, qui peccat ex electione, sive ex
industria. et hae duae praedictae causae
ostendunt causam irremissibilitatis non solum
in peccato quod proprie dicitur in spiritum
sanctum, sed etiam in quolibet peccato quod
est ex electione.

tertia autem causa quae proprie peccatum in


spiritum sanctum respicit, sumitur ex ejus
objecto: quia peccatum in spiritum sanctum
est ex hoc quod voluntas a se repellit id per
quod remissio peccatorum fit. unde sicut
aegritudo diceretur incurabilis quae fastidium
medicinae faceret; ita et peccatum
irremissibile dicitur per cujus actum spiritualis
medicina directe repellitur: et tamen sicut ille
morbus corporalis virtute divina miraculose
curari potest; ita et hujusmodi peccatum per
misericordiam divinam quasi miraculose
remitti potest.

something better known cannot be grasped by


which the error is disproved. In this way, even in
practical matters, when someone adheres to a
sin as to an end, as if his very beatitude were to
be found in it, he cannot easily apply a remedy to
this sort of sin; for there is nothing else desired
more by the sinner, that he dismisses (such
remedies) for the sake of the attainment of that in
which he finds (his) ultimate end. Anyone who
sins by reason of choice, or by intention, adheres
to the sin which he chooses, as if it were good
itself, and thus (his) end. For this reason this sort
of sin does not easily admit of medicine. Whence,
the Philosopher shows in Book VII of his
Nichomachean Ethics that the incontinent,
because he sins by reason of his passion, or
infirmity, is more easily cured than the
intemperate, who sin by reason of choice, or
intention. These two causes just discussed
display the cause of that for which there is no
forgiveness not only in sin which is properly said
to be against the Holy Spirit, but also in any sin
which is by reason of choice.
The third cause which properly regards the sin
against the Holy Spirit is taken from its object. For
the sin against the Holy Spirit arises in so far as
the will pushes away from itself that through
which the forgiveness of sins comes about.
Hence, just as a sickness is said to be incurable
which brings about a loathing of medicine, so too
a sin is called unforgivable through whose act
spiritual medicine is directly pushed away.
Nevertheless, just as that sickness of the body
can be miraculously cured by the divine power,
so too sins of this kind can be forgiven through
the divine mercy, miraculously, as it were.

ad primum ergo dicendum, quod peccatum in


spiritum sanctum praecludit viam gratiae: et
ideo peccato in spiritum sanctum manente, ex
parte ipsius peccantis non remanet facultas
ad gratiam; sed remoto isto peccato per
immensitatem divinae misericordiae, potest
postmodum esse gratiae abundantia, si homo
maxime humilietur propter gravitatem
praecedentis peccati.

Response to Objection 1: The sin against the


Holy Spirit precludes the path to grace. For this
reason, with the sin against the Holy Spirit
remaining, the capacity for grace does not remain
on the part of the one who sins. But when this
very sin has been removed through the
immensity of the divine mercy, the abundance of
grace can be present afterwards, if the person is
most humbled on account of the gravity of the
aforesaid sin.

ad secundum dicendum, quod spes directe


est eorum in quae sicut in ultimum finem

Response to Objection 2: Hope directly is of


those things to which we tend as to an ultimate

tendimus: et ideo remotio spei tollit finem; et end. For this reason withdrawal of hope destroys
ideo desperatio est irremissibile peccatum,
the end, and thus despair is an unforgivable sin,
sicut et error principiorum est insanabilis.
just as an error of principles is incurable. Love,
caritas autem non tantum est finis, sed et
however, is not only of the end, but it is also of
eorum quae sunt ad finem; scilicet
those things which lead to the end, namely of
proximorum: et ideo si peccatur contra
proximate things. Thus, if one sins against one's
caritatem proximi, non tamen propter hoc
love of proximate things, nevertheless one does
directe peccatur contra caritatem dei; unde ex not sin on account of this directly against the love
parte illa manet via ad curationem. si autem of God. Hence on the part of that (sin), the way to
directe contra caritatem dei peccatur, prout est cure remains. If, however, one directly sins
directio finis, sic irremissibile peccatum erit in against the love of God, as He is the direction of
spiritum sanctum;et hoc est quando quis
the end, it will thus be an unforgivable sin against
invidet gratiae, qua etiam reconciliatus est.
the Holy Spirit, and this when one envies grace
similiter etiam dicendum de fide, quia
to which he has been reconciled. The same is to
infidelitas potest procedere vel ex ignorantia be said concerning faith because infidelity can
et sic habet pallium excusationis et facile
proceed either from ignorance, and thus have the
remittitur; vel est ex certa malitia, et sic est
"dress" (so to speak) of the excusable and the
peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quod est
easily forgiven, or from definite malice, and thus
impugnatio veritatis agnitae.
be a sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the
resisting of the known truth.
ad tertium dicendum, quod malitia non causat
involuntarium sicut infirmitas et ignorantia: et
ideo non oportet quod peccatum excuset vel
alleviet, sicut illa faciunt. vel dicendum, quod
malitia ex qua peccatum quod in spiritum
sanctum dicitur, procedit, nominat quemdam
actum peccati, ut actum desperationis vel
obstinationis, et hujusmodi, et non sumitur
secundum quod est poena, prout dicit
defectum quemdam rationalis animae,
secundum quem in malum facile inclinabilis
est.

Response to Objection 3: Malice is not the cause


of the involuntary, or of infirmity and ignorance.
Thus, it is not fitting that it (malice) excuses or
alleviates, as those do (namely infirmity and
ignorance). Or, it should be said that malice from
which proceeds that sin which is said to be
against the Holy Spirit, designates a certain act of
sin, for example, the act of despair, obstinacy, or
other such acts, and is not to be understood in so
far as it is a penalty, for example, as it designates
a defect of the rational soul, according to which it
is easily inclinable to evil.

ad quartum dicendum, quod peccatum


aliquod potest esse irremissibile dupliciter:
vel ex genere peccati, et sic peccatum in
spiritum sanctum irremissibile dicitur; vel ex
statu peccantis; et sic omne peccatum in quo
via finitur, est irremissibile, sive sit hominis
sive angeli; et secundum hoc accipitur
differentia hominis et angeli: quia status viae
in angelis finitur statim post primam
electionem; non autem sic est in hominibus.

Response to Objection 4: A sin can be


unforgivable in two ways, either by reason of the
kind of sin, and thus the sin against the Holy
Spirit is called unforgivable, or by reason of the
condition of the sinner, and thus every sin in
which (the condition or state of one's) life (or
journey) is completed is unforgivable, either of
man or of the angels. And according to this, a
difference between man and the angels is
understood, for the condition of life (or of the
journey) in the angels is completed immediately
after their first choice, not, however, is this so
among men.

ad quintum dicendum, quod cum dicitur


peccatum irremissibile, non privatur potentia

Response to Objection 5: When a sin is called


unforgivable, one does not lack that absolute

absolute ad remissionem, sed magis aptitudo power to forgive, but rather the aptitude or the
vel facilitas quaedam.
facility.

Stephen Loughlin
(sjl1@desales.edu)

The Aquinas Translation Project


(http://www4.desales.edu/~philtheo/loughlin/ATP/index.html)