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Home > Summa Theologica > Supplement (Appendix I) > Question 1

Question 1. The Quality of Those Souls Who Depart This Life With Original Sin Only

  1. Do these souls suffer from a bodily fire, and are they inflicted with punishment by fire?
  2. Do these souls suffer from a spiritual torment within themselves?

Article 1. Whether those souls which depart with original sin alone, suffer from a bodily fire, and are punished by fire?

Objection 1. It would seem that souls which depart with none but original sin, suffer from a bodily fire and are punished by fire. For Augustine [Fulgentius, De Fide ad Petrum, xxvii] says: "Hold firmly and doubt not that children who depart this life without the sacrament of Baptism will be punished everlastingly." Now punishment denotes sensible pain. Therefore souls which depart this life with original sin alone, suffer from a bodily fire and are tormented with the pain of fire.

Objection 2. Further, a greater fault deserves a greater punishment. Now original sin is greater than venial, because it contains more aversion, since it deprives its subject of grace, whereas venial sin is compatible with grace; and again because original sin is punished eternally, whereas venial sin is punished temporally. Seeing then that venial sin is deserving of the punishment of fire, much more so is original sin.

Objection 3. Further, sins are more severely punished after this life than during lifetime, for in this life there is room for mercy. Now, sensible punishment corresponds to original sin in this life, for children who have only original sin are justly subject to many sensible punishments. Therefore sensible punishment is due to it after this life.

Objection 4. Further, even as in actual sin there is aversion and conversion, so in original sin there is something corresponding to aversion, namely the privation of original justice, and something corresponding to conversion, namely concupiscence. Now the punishment of fire is due to actual sin by reason of the conversion. Therefore it is also due to original sin by reason of concupiscence.

Objection 5. Further, after the resurrection the bodies of children will be either passible or impassible. If they be impassible--and no human body can be impassible except either on account of the gift of impassibility (as in the blessed) or by reason of original justice (as in the state of innocence)--it follows that the bodies of children will either have the gift of impassibility, and thus will be glorious, so that there will be no difference between baptized and non-baptizedchildren, which is heretical, or else they will have original justice, and thus will be without original sin, and will not be punished for original sin, which is likewise heretical. If, on the other hand, they be passible, since everything passible suffers of necessity in the presence of the active, it follows that in the presence of active sensible bodies they will suffer sensible punishment.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Enchiridion xxiii) that the mildest punishment of all will be for those who are burdened with original sin only. But this would not be so, if they were tormented with sensible punishment, because the pain of hell fire is most grievous. Therefore they will not suffer sensible punishment.

Further, the grief of sensible punishment corresponds to the pleasure of sin (Apocalypse 18:7): "As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her." But there is no pleasure in original sin, as neither is there operation, for pleasure follows operation, as stated in Ethic. x, 4. Therefore punishment by fire is not due to original sin.

Further, Gregory Nazianzen in his fortieth sermon, which is entitled On Holy Baptism, distinguishes three classes of unbaptized persons: those namely who refuse to be baptized, those who through neglect have put off being baptized until the end of life and have been surprised by sudden death, and those who, like infants, have failed to receive it through no fault of theirs. Of the first he says that they will be punished not only for their other sins, but also for their contempt of Baptism; of the second, that they will be punished, though less severely than the first, for having neglected it; and of the last he says that "a just and eternal Judge will consign them neither to heavenly glory nor to the eternal pains of hell, for although they have not been signed with Baptism, they are without wickedness and malice, and have suffered rather than caused their loss of Baptism." He also gives the reason why, although they do not reach the glory of heaven, they do not therefore suffer the eternal punishment suffered by the damned: "Because there is a mean between the two, since he who deserves not honor and glory is not for that reason worthy of punishment, and on the other hand he who is not deserving of punishment is not for that reason worthy of glory and honor."

I answer that, Punishment should be proportionate to fault, according to the saying of Isaias (27:8), "In measure against measure, when it shall be cast off, thou shalt judge it." Now the defect transmitted to us through our origin, and having the character of a sin does not result from the withdrawal or corruption of a good consequent upon human nature by virtue of its principles, but from the withdrawal or corruption of something that had been superadded to nature. Nor does this sin belong to this particular man, except in so far as he has such a nature, that is deprived of this good, which in the ordinary course of things he would have had and would have been able to keep. Wherefore no further punishment is due to him, besides the privation of that end to which the gift withdrawn destined him, which gift human nature is unable of itself to obtain. Now this is the divine vision; and consequently the loss of this vision is the proper and only punishment of original sin after death: because, if any other sensible punishment were inflicted after death for original sin, a man would be punished out of proportion to his guilt, for sensible punishment is inflicted for that which is proper to the person, since a man undergoes sensible punishment in so far as he suffers in his person. Hence, as his guilt did not result from an action of his own, even so neither should he be punished by suffering himself, but only by losing that which his nature was unable to obtain. On the other hand, those who are under sentence for original sin will suffer no loss whatever in other kinds of perfection and goodness which are consequent upon human nature by virtue of its principles.

Reply to Objection 1. In the authority quoted punishment denotes, not pain of sense, but only pain of loss, which is the privation of the divine vision, even as in Scripture the word "fire" is often wont to signify any kind of punishment.

Reply to Objection 2. Of all sins original sin is the least, because it is the least voluntary; for it is voluntary not by the will of the person, but only by the will of the origin of our nature. But actual sin, even venial, is voluntary by the will of the person in which it is; wherefore a lighter punishment is due to original than to venial sin. Nor does it matter that original sin is incompatible with grace; because privation of grace has the character, not of sin, but of punishment, except in so far as it is voluntary: for which reason that which is less voluntary is less sinful. Again it matters not that actual venial sin is deserving of temporal punishment, since this is accidental, for as much as he who falls venially has sufficient grace to attenuate the punishment. For if venial sin were in a person without grace, it would be punished eternally.

Reply to Objection 3. There is no parity between pain of sense before and after death, since before death the pain of sense results from the power of the natural agent, whether the pain of sense be interior as fever or the like, or exterior as burning and so forth. Whereas after death nothing will act by natural power, but only according to the order of divine justice, whether the object of such action be the separate soul, on which it is clear that fire cannot act naturally, or the body after resurrection, since then all natural action will cease, through the cessation of the first movable which is the cause of all bodily movement and alteration.

Reply to Objection 4. Sensible pain corresponds to sensible pleasure, which is in the conversion of actual sin: whereas habitual concupiscence, which is in original sin, has no pleasure. Hence, sensible pain does not correspond thereto as punishment.

Reply to Objection 5. The bodies of children will be impassible, not through their being unable in themselves to suffer, but through the lack of an external agent to act upon them: because, after the resurrection, no body will act on another, least of all so as to induce corruption by the action of nature, but there will only be action to the effect of punishing them by order of the divine justice. Wherefore those bodies to which pain of sense is not due by divine justice will not suffer punishment. On the other hand, the bodies of the saints will be impassible, because they will lack the capability of suffering; hence impassibility in them will be a gift, but not in children.

Article 2. Whether these same souls suffer spiritual affliction on account of the state in which they are?

Objection 1. It would seem that the souls in question suffer spiritual affliction on account of the state wherein they are, because as Chrysostom says (Hom. xxiii in Matth.), the punishment of God in that they will be deprived of seeing God will be more painful than their being burned in hell fire. Now these souls will be deprived of seeing God. Therefore they will suffer spiritual affliction thereby.

Objection 2. Further, one cannot, without suffering, lack what one wishes to have. But these souls would wish to have the divine vision, else their will would be actually perverse. Therefore since they are deprived of it, seemingly they also suffer.

Objection 3. Further, if it be said that they do not suffer, because they know that through no fault of theirs they are deprived thereof, on the contrary: Freedom from fault does not lessen but increases the pain of punishment: for a man does not grieve less for that he is disinherited or deprived of a limb through no fault of his. Therefore these souls likewise, albeit deprived of so great a good through no fault of theirs, suffer none the less.

Objection 4. Further, as baptized children are in relation to the merit of Christ, so are unbaptized children to the demerit of Adam. But baptized children receive the reward of eternal life by virtue of Christ's merit. Therefore the unbaptized suffer pain through being deprived of eternal life on account of Adam's demerit.

Objection 5. Further, separation from what we love cannot be without pain. But these children will have natural knowledge of God, and for that very reason will love Him naturally. Therefore since they are separated from Him for ever, seemingly they cannot undergo this separation without pain.

On the contrary, If unbaptized children have interior sorrow after death, they will grieve either for their sin or for their punishment. If for their sin, since they cannot be further cleansed from that sin, their sorrow will lead them to despair. Now sorrow of this kind in the damned is the worm of conscience. Therefore these children will have the worm of conscience, and consequently theirs would not be the mildest punishment, as Augustine says it is [See 1, "On the contrary"]. If, on the other hand, they grieve for their punishment, it follows, since their punishment is justly inflicted by God, that their will opposes itself to divine justice, and thus would be actually inordinate, which is not to be granted. Therefore they will feel no sorrow.

Further, right reason does not allow one to be disturbed on account of what one was unable to avoid; hence Seneca proves (Ep. lxxxv, and De ira ii, 6) that "a wise man is not disturbed." Now in these children there is right reason deflected by no actual sin. Therefore they will not be disturbed for that they undergo this punishment which they could nowise avoid.

I answer that, on this question there are three opinions. Some say that these children will suffer no pain, because their reason will be so much in the dark that they will not know that they lack what they have lost. It, however, seems improbable that the soul freed from its bodily burden should ignore things which, to say the least, reason is able to explore, and many more besides. Hence others say that they have perfect knowledge of things subject to natural reason, and know God, and that they are deprived of seeing Him, and that they feel some kind of sorrow on this account but that their sorrow will be mitigated, in so far as it was not by their will that they incurred the sin for which they are condemned. Yet this again would seem improbable, because this sorrow cannot be little for the loss of so great a good, especially without the hope of recovery: wherefore their punishment would not be the mildest. Moreover the very same reason that impugns their being punished with pain of sense, as afflicting them from without, argues against their feeling sorrow within, because the pain of punishment corresponds to the pleasure of sin; wherefore, since original sin is void of pleasure, its punishment is free of all pain. Consequently others say that they will know perfectly things subject to natural knowledge, and both the fact of their being deprived of eternal life and the reason for this privation, and that nevertheless this knowledge will not cause any sorrow in them. How this may be possible we must explore.

Accordingly, it must be observed that if one is guided by right reason one does not grieve through being deprived of what is beyond one's power to obtain, but only through lack of that which, in some way, one is capable of obtaining. Thus no wise man grieves for being unable to fly like a bird, or for that he is not a king or an emperor, since these things are not due to him; whereas he would grieve if he lacked that to which he had some kind of claim. I say, then, that every man who has the use of free-will is adapted to obtain eternal life, because he can prepare himself for grace whereby to merit eternal life [Cf. I-II, 109, 5 and 6]; so that if he fail in this, his grief will be very great, since he has lost what he was able to possess. But children were never adapted to possess eternal life, since neither was this due to them by virtue of their natural principles, for it surpasses the entire faculty of nature, nor could they perform acts of their own whereby to obtain so great a good. Hence they will nowise grieve for being deprived of the divine vision; nay, rather will they rejoice for that they will have a large share of God's goodness and their own natural perfections. Nor can it be said that they were adapted to obtain eternal life, not indeed by their own action, but by the actions of others around them, since they could be baptized by others, like other children of the same condition who have been baptized and obtained eternal life: for this is of superabundant grace that one should be rewarded without any act of one's own. Wherefore the lack of such a grace will not cause sorrow in children who die without Baptism, any more than the lack of many graces accorded to others of the same condition makes a wise man to grieve.

Reply to Objection 1. In those who, having the use of free-will, are damned for actual sin, there was aptitude to obtain eternal life, but not in children, as stated above. Consequently there is no parity between the two.

Reply to Objection 2. Although the will may be directed both to the possible and to the impossible as stated in Ethic. iii, 5, an ordinate and complete will is only of things which in some way are proportionate to our capability; and we grieve if we fail to obtain this will, but not if we fail in the will that is of impossibilities, and which should be called "velleity" [Cf. I-II, 13, 5, ad 1; III, 21, 4] rather than "will"; for one does not will such things absolutely, but one would if they were possible.

Reply to Objection 3. Everyone has a claim to his own inheritance or bodily members, wherefore it is not strange that he should grieve at their loss, whether this be through his own or another's fault: hence it is clear that the argument is not based on a true comparison.

Reply to Objection 4. The gift of Christ surpasses the sin of Adam, as stated in Romans 5:15, seqq.. Hence it does not follow that unbaptized children have as much of evil as the baptized have of good.

Reply to Objection 5. Although unbaptized children are separated from God as regards the union of glory, they are not utterly separated from Him: in fact they are united to Him by their share of natural goods, and so will also be able to rejoice in Him by their natural knowledge and love.

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.
Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.
APPROBATIO ORDINIS
Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ

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