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Consequently covetousness is a special sin, forasmuch as
it is an immoderate love of having possessions, which are
comprised under the name of money, whence covetousness
(avaritia) is denominated.

Since, however, the verb to have, which seems to have been
originally employed in connection with possessions whereof
we are absolute masters, is applied to many other things
(thus a man is said to have health, a wife, clothes, and so
forth, as stated in De Prcedicamentis), consequently the term
covetousness has been ampHfied to denote all immoderate
desire for having anything whatever. Thus Gregory says

Q. ii8. Art. 2 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 148

in a homily (xvi. in Ev.) that covetousness is a desire not only
for money, hut also for knowledge and high places, when
prominence is immoderately sought after. In this way covetous-
ness is not a special sin : and in this sense Augustine speaks
of covetousness in the passage quoted in the First Objec-
tion. Wherefore this suffices for the Reply to the First

Reply Obj. 2. All those external things that are subject to
the uses of human life are comprised under the term money,
inasmuch as they have the aspect of useful good. But there
are certain external goods that can be obtained by money,
such as pleasures, honours, and so forth, which are desirable
under another aspect. Wherefore the desire for such things
is not properly called covetousness, in so far as it is a special

Reply Obj. 3. This gloss speaks of the inordinate concu-
piscence for anything whatever. For it is easy to understand
that if it is forbidden to covet another's possessions, it is
also forbidden to covet those things that can be obtained
by means of those possessions.

Third Article,
whether covetousness is opposed to liberality ?

We proceed thus to the Third Article : —

Objection i. It seems that covetousness is not opposed
to liberality. For Chrysostom, commenting on Matth. v. 6,
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, says
[Horn. XV. in Matth.) that there are two kinds of justice, one
general, and the other special, to which covetousness is
opposed: and the Philosopher says the same (Ethic, v. 2).
Therefore covetousness is not opposed to liberality.

Obj. 2. Further, The sin of covetousness consists in a man's
exceeding the measure in the things he possesses. But this
measure is appointed by justice. Therefore covetousness
is directly opposed to justice and not to Hberality.

Obj. 3. Further, Liberality is a virtue that observes the
mean between two contrary vices, as the Philosopher states

149 CO VETOUSNESS Q. 1 18. Art. 3

[Ethic, i. 7; iv. i). But covetousness has no contrary and
opposite sin, according to the Philosopher [Ethic, v. i, 2).
Therefore covetousness is not opposed to hberaUty.

On the contrary, It is written (Eccles. v. 9) : ^ covetous man
shall not he satisfied with money, and he that loveth riches shall
have no fruits from them. Now not to be satisfied with money
and to love it inordinately are opposed to Uberality, which
observes the mean in the desire of riches. Therefore covetous-
ness is opposed to liberaHty.

/ answer that, Covetousness denotes immoderation with
regard to riches in two ways. First, immediately in respect
of the acquisition and keeping of riches. In this way a man
obtains money beyond his due, by stealing or retaining
another's property. This is opposed to justice, and in this
sense covetousness is mentioned (Ezech. xxii. 27): Her
princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey
to shed blood . . . and to run after gains through covetousness.
Secondly, it denotes immoderation in the interior affections
for riches; for instance, when a man loves or desires riches
too much, or takes too much pleasure in them, even if he be
unwilling to steal. In this way covetousness is opposed to
liberality, which moderates these affections, as stated above
(Q. CXVIL, A. 2, ad 3, A. 3, ad 3, A. 6). In this sense covet-
ousness is spoken of (2 Cor. ix. 5): That they would . . .
prepare this blessing before promised, to be ready, so as a
blessing, not as covetousness, where a gloss observes : Lest
they should regret what they had given, and give but little.

Reply Obj. i. Chrysostom and the Philosopher are speak-
ing of covetousness in the first sense : covetousness in the
second sense is called illiberality* by the Philosopher.

Reply Obj. 2. It belongs properly to justice to appoint
the measure in the acquisition and keeping of riches from
the point of view of legal due, so that a man should neither
take nor retain another's property. But liberality appoints
the measure of reason, principally in the interior affections,
and consequently in the exterior taking and keeping of
money, and in the spending of the same, in so far as these

* dveXevBcpia.

Q. ii8. Art. 4 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 150

proceed from the interior affection, looking at the matter
from the point of view not of the legal but of the moral debt,
which latter depends on the rule of reason.

Reply Ohj. 3. Covetousness as opposed to justice has no
opposite vice: since it consists in having more than one
ought according to justice, the contrary of which is to have
less than one ought, and this is not a sin but a punishment.
But covetousness as opposed to liberality has the vice of
prodigality opposed to it.

Fourth Article. ^

whether covetousness is always a mortal sin ?

We proceed thus to the Fourth Article : —

Objection i. It seems that covetousness is always a mortal
sin. For no one is worthy of death save for a mortal sin.
But men are worthy of death on account of covetousness.
For the Apostle after saying (Rom. i. 29) : Being filled with
all iniquity . . . fornication, covetousness (Douay, — avarice),
etc., adds [verse 33) : They who do such things are worthy oj
death. Therefore covetousness is a mortal sin,

Ohj. 2,. Further, The least degree of covetousness is to
hold to one's own inordinately. But this seemingly is a
mortal sin: for Basil says [Serm. super. Luc. xii. 18): It is
the hungry man's bread that thou keepest back, the naked
man's cloak that thou hoardest, the needy man's money
that thou possessest, hence thou despoilest as many as thou
mightest succour.

Now it is a mortal sin to do an injustice to another, since
it is contrary to the love of our neighbour. Much more
therefore is all covetousness a mortal sin.

Ohj. 3. Further, No one is struck with spiritual blindness
save through a mortal sin, for this deprives a man of the
light of grace. But, according to Chrysostom,* Lust for
money hrings darkness on the soul. Therefore covetousness,
which is lust for money, is a mortal sin.

On the contrary, A gloss on i Cor. iii. 12, // any man build

* Horn. XV. in the Opus Imperfectum, falsely ascribed to S. John

151 COVETOUSNESS Q. 1 1 8. Art. 4

upon this foundation, says (cf. S. Augustine, De Fide et
Oper, xvi.) that he builds wood, hay, stubble, who thinks in
the things of the world, how he may please the world, which
pertains to the sin of covetousness. Now he that builds
wood, hay, stubble, sins not mortally but venially, for it
is said of him that he shall be saved, yet so as by fire. There-
fore covetousness is sometimes a venial sin.

I answer that, As stated above (A. 3) covetousness is two-
fold. In one way it is opposed to justice, and thus it is a
mortal sin in respect of its genus. For in this sense covetous-
ness consists in the unjust taking or retaining of another's
property, and this belongs to theft or robbery, which are
mortal sins, as stated above (Q. LXVI., AA. 6, 8). Yet
venial sin may occur in this kind of covetousness by reason
of imperfection of the act, as stated above (Q. LXVI., A. 6,
ad 3), when we were treating of theft.

In another way covetousness may be taken as opposed
to Hberality: in which sense it denotes inordinate love of
riches. Accordingly, if the love of riches becomes so great
as to be preferred to charity, in such wise that a man,
through love of riches, fear not to act counter to the love of
God and his neighbour, covetousness will then be a mortal
sin. If, on the other hand, the inordinate nature of his love
stops short of this, so that although he love riches too much,
yet he does not prefer the love of them to the love of God,
and is unwilling for the sake of riches to do anything in
opposition to God or his neighbour, then covetousness is a
venial sin.

Reply Obj. i. Covetousness is numbered together with
mortal sins, by reason of the aspect under which it is a
mortal sin.

Reply Obj. 2. Basil is speaking of a case wherein a man is
bound by a legal debt to give of his goods to the poor, either
through fear of their want or on account of his having too

Reply Obj. 3. Lust for riches, properly speaking, brings
darkness on the soul, when it puts out the light of charity,
by preferring the love of riches to the love of God.

Q. ii8. Art. 5 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 152

Fifth Article,
whether covetousness is the greatest of sins ?

We proceed thus to the Fifth Article : —

Objection i. It seems that covetousness is the greatest of
sins. For it is written (Ecclus. x. 9) : Nothing is more wicked
than a covetous man, and the text continues : There is not a
more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth
even his own soul to sale. Tully also says [De Offic, i., under
the heading — True magnanimity is based chiefly on two
things) : Nothing is so narrow or little minded as to love money.
But this pertains to covetousness. Therefore covetousness
is the most grievous of sins.

Obj. 2. Further, The more a sin is opposed to charity, the
more grievous it is. Now covetousness is most opposed to
charity: for Augustine says (QQ. LXXXIII. qu. 36) that
greed is the bane of charity. Therefore covetousness is the
greatest of sins.

Obj. 3. Further, The gravity of a sin is indicated by its
being incurable: wherefore the sin against the Holy Ghost
is said to be most grievous, because it is irremissible. But
covetousness in an incurable sin : hence the Philosopher says
(Ethic, iv. i) that old age and helplessness of any kind make men
illiberal. Therefore covetousness is the most grievous of sins.

Obj. 4. Further, The Apostle says (Eph. v. 5) that covetous-
ness is a serving of idols. Now idolatry is reckoned among
the most grievous sins. Therefore covetousness is also.

On the contrary, Adultery is a more grievous sin than theft,
according to Prov. vi. 30. But theft pertains to covetous-
ness . Therefore covetousness is not the most grievous of sins .

/ answer that. Every sin, from the very fact that it is an
evil, consists in the corruption or privation of some good:
while, in so far as it is voluntary, it consists in the desire
of some good. Consequently the order of sins may be con-
sidered in two ways. First, on the part of the good that is
despised or corrupted by sin, and then the greater the good
the graver the sin. From this point of view a sin that is

153 COVETOUSNESS Q. ii8. Art. 5

against God is most grievous; after this comes a sin that is
committed against a man's person, and after this comes a
sin against external things, which are deputed to man's use,
and this seems to belong to covetousness. Secondly, the
degrees of sin may be considered on the part of the good
to which the human appetite is inordinately subjected; and
then the lesser the good, the more deformed is the sin : for it
is more shameful to be subject to a lower than to a higher
good. Now the good of external things is the lowest of
human goods : since it is less than the good of the body, and
this is less than the good of the soul, which is less than the
Divine good. From this point of view the sin of covetous-
ness, whereby the human appetite is subjected even to
external things, has in a way a greater deformity. Since,
however, corruption or privation of good is the formal
element in sin, while conversion to a mutable good is the
material element, the gravity of the sin is to be judged from
the point of view of the good corrupted, rather than from
that of the good to which the appetite is subjected. Hence
we must assert that covetousness is not simply the most
grievous of sins.

Reply Ohj. i. These authorities speak of covetousness
on the part of the good to which the appetite is subjected.
Hence (Ecclus. x. 10) it is given as a reason that the covetous
man setteth his own soul to sale ; because, to wit, he exposes
his soul — that is, his life — to danger for the sake of money.
Hence the text continues : Because while he liveth he hath cast
away — that is, despised — his bowels, in order to make money.
Tully also adds that it is the mark of a narrow mind, namely,
that one be willing to be subject to money.

Reply Ohj. 2. Augustine is taking greed generally, in
reference to any temporal good, not in its special accepta-
tion for covetousness : because greed for any temporal good
is the bane of charity, inasmuch as a man turns away from
the Divine good through cleaving to a temporal good.

Reply Ohj. 3. The sin against the Holy Ghost is incurable
in one way, covetousness in another. For the sin against
the Holy Ghost is incurable by reason of contempt : for

Q. ii8. Art. 5 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 154

instance, because a man contemns God's mercy, or His
justice, or some one of those things whereby man's sins are
healed: wherefore incurability of this kind points to the
greater gravity of the sin. On the other hand, covetousness
is incurable on the part of a human defect; a thing which
human nature ever seeks to remedy, since the more deficient
one is the more one seeks relief from external things, and
consequently the more one gives way to covetousness.
Hence incurability of this kind is an indication not of the
sin being more grievous, but of its being somewhat more

Reply Ohj. 4. Covetousness is compared to idolatry on
account of a certain likeness that it bears to it : because the
covetous man, like the idolater, subjects himself to an ex-
ternal creature, though not in the same way. For the idolater
subjects himself to an external creature by paying it Divine
honour, whereas the covetous man subjects himself to an
external creature by desiring it immoderately for use, not
for worship. Hence it does not follow that covetousness
is as grievous a sin as idolatry.

Sixth Article,
whether covetousness is a spiritual sin ?

We proceed thus to the Sixth A rticle : —

Objection i. It seems that covetousness is not a spiritual
sin. For spiritual sins seem to regard spiritual goods. But
the matter of covetousness is bodily goods, namely, external
riches. Therefore covetousness is not a spiritual sin.

Ohj. 2. Further, Spiritual sin is condivided with sin of the
flesh. Now covetousness is seemingly a sin of the flesh, for
it results from the corruption of the flesh, as instanced in
old people who, through corruption of carnal nature, fall
into covetousness. Therefore covetousness is not a spiritual

Ohj. 3. Further, A sin of the flesh is one by which man's
body is disordered, according to the saying of the Apostle
(i Cor. vi. 18), He that committeth fornication sinneth against

155 COVETOUSNESS Q. ii8. Art. 6

his own body. Now covetousness disturbs man even in his
body; wherefore Chrysostom {Horn. xxix. in Matth.) com-
pares the covetous man to the man who was possessed by
the devil (Mark v.) and was troubled in body. Therefore
covetousness seems not to be a spiritual sin.

On the contrary, Gregory {Moral, xxxi.) numbers covetous-
ness among spiritual vices.

I answer that, Sins are seated chiefly in the affections : and
all the affections or passions of the soul have their term
in pleasure and sorrow, according to the Philosopher
{Ethic, ii. 5). Now some pleasures are carnal and some
spiritual. Carnal pleasures are those which are consum-
mated in the carnal senses — for instance, the pleasures of the
table and sexual pleasures: while spiritual pleasures are
those which are consummated in the mere apprehension of
the soul. Accordingly, sins of the flesh are those which are
consummated in carnal pleasures, while spiritual sins are
consummated in pleasures of the spirit without pleasure of
the flesh. Such is covetousness: for the covetous man
takes pleasure in the consideration of himself as a possessor
of riches. Therefore covetousness is a spiritual sin.

Reply Ohj. i. Covetousness with regard to a bodily object
seeks the pleasure, not of the body but only of the soul,
forasmuch as a man takes pleasure in the fact that he
possesses riches : wherefore it is not a sin of the flesh. Never-
theless by reason of its object it is a mean between purely
spiritual sins, which seek spiritual pleasure in respect of
spiritual objects (thus pride is about excellence), and purely
carnal sins, which seek a purely bodily pleasure in respect
of a bodily object.

Reply Ohj. 2. Movement takes its species from the term
whereto and not from the term wherefrom. Hence a vice of
the flesh is so called from its tending to a pleasure of the
flesh, and not from its originating in some defect of the

Reply Ohj. 3. Chrysostom compares a covetous man to
the man who was possessed by the devil, not that the former
is troubled in the flesh in the same way as the latter, but by

Q. ii8. Art. 7 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 156

way of contrast, since while the possessed man, of whom
we read in Mark v., stripped himself, the covetous man
loads himself with an excess of riches.

Seventh Article,
whether covetousness is a capital vice ?

We proceed thus to the Seventh Article : —

Objection i. It seems that covet ousness is not a capital
vice. For covetousness is opposed to liberality as the mean,
and to prodigality as extreme. But neither is liberality a
principal virtue, nor prodigality a capital vice. Therefore
covetousness also should not be reckoned a capital vice.

Obj. 2. Further, As stated above (I.-H., Q. LXXXIV.,
AA. 3, 4), those vices are called capital which have principal
ends, to which the ends of other vices are directed. But
this does not apply to covetousness: since riches have the
aspect, not of an end, but rather of something directed to
an end, as stated in Ethic, i. 5. Therefore covetousness is
not a capital vice.

Obj. 3. Further, Gregory says {Moral, xv.) that covetous-
ness arises sometimes from pride, sometimes from fear. For
there are those who, when they think that they lack the needful
for their expenses, allow the mind to give way to covetousness.
And there are others who, wishing to be thought more of, are
incited to greed for other people's property. Therefore covetous-
ness arises from other vices instead of being a capital vice
in respect of other vices.

On the contrary, Gregory {Moral, xxxi.) reckons covetous-
ness among the capital vices.

/ answer that. As stated in the Second Objection, a capital
vice is one which under the aspect of end gives rise to other
vices: because when an end is very desirable, the result is
that through desire thereof man sets about doing many
things either good or evil. Now the most desirable end is
happiness or feHcity, which is the last end of human hfe,
as stated above (I. -II., Q. I., AA. 4, 7, 8) : wherefore the more
a thing is furnished with the conditions of happiness, the

157 COVETOUSNESS Q. ii8. Art. 7

more desirable it is. Also one of the conditions of happiness
is that it be self-sufficing, else it would not set man's
appetite at rest, as the last end does. Now riches give great
promise of self-sufficiency, as Boethius says {De Consol. iii.) :
the reason of which, according to the Philosopher [Ethic, v. 5),
is that we use money in token of taking ^possession of some-
thing, and again it is written (Eccles. x. 19): All things obey
money. Therefore covetousness, which is desire for money,
is a capital vice.

Reply Ohj. i. Virtue is perfected in accordance with
reason, but vice is perfected in accordance with the inclina-
tion of the sensitive appetite. Now reason and sensitive
appetite do not belong chiefly to the same genus, and conse-
quently it does not follow that principal vice is opposed to
principal virtue. Wherefore, although liberality is not a
principal virtue, since it does not regard the principal good
of the reason, yet covetougness is a principal vice, because
it regards money, which occupies a principal place among
sensible goods, for the reason given in the Article.

On the other hand, prodigality is not directed to an end
that is desirable principally, indeed it seems rather to result
from a lack of reason. Hence the Philosopher says [Ethic.
iv. i) that a prodigal man is a fool rather than a knave.

Reply Ohj. 2. It is true that money is directed to some-
thing else as its end : yet in so far as it is useful for obtaining
all sensible things, it contains, in a way, all things virtually.
Hence it has a certain likeness to happiness, as stated in the

Reply Ohj. 3. Nothing prevents a capital vice from arising
sometimes out of other vices, as stated above (Q. XXXVI.,
A. 4, a^ i: I.-II., Q. LXXXIV., A. 4), provided that itself
be frequently the source of others.

Q. ii8. Art. 8 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 158

Eighth Article.

whether treachery, fraud, falsehood, perjury, rest-
lessness, violence, and insensibility to mercy are
daughters of covetousness ?

We proceed thus to the Eighth Article : —

Objection i. It seems that the daughters of covetousness
are not as commonly stated, namely, treachery, fraud, false-
hood, perjury, restlessness, violence, and insensibility to mercy.
For covetousness is opposed to liberality, as stated above
(A. 3). Now treachery, fraud, and falsehood are opposed
to prudence, perjury to religion, restlessness to hope, or to
charity which rests in the beloved object, violence to justice,
insensibility to mercy. Therefore these vices have no con-
nection with covetousness.

Obj. 2. Further, Treachery, fraud and falsehood seem to
pertain to the same thing, namely, the deceiving of one's
neighbour. Therefore they should not be reckoned as
different daughters of covetousness.

Obj. 3. Further, Isidore {Comment, in Deut.) enumerates
nine daughters of covetousness; which are lying, fraud,
theft, perjury, greed of filthy lucre, false witnessing, violence,
inhumanity, rapacity. Therefore the former reckoning of
daughters is insufficient.

Obj. 4. Further, The Philosopher [Ethic, iv. i) mentions
many kinds of vices as belonging to covetousness which he
calls illiberality, for he speaks of those who are sparing,
tight-fisted, skinflints,'^ misers, ^ who do illiberal deeds, and of
those who batten on whoredom, usurers, gamblers, despoilers
of the dead, and robbers. Therefore it seems that the afore-
said enumeration is insufficient.

Obj. 5. Further, Tyrants use much violence against their
subjects. But the Philosopher says {ibid.) that tyrants who
destroy cities and despoil sacred places are not to be called
illiberal, i.e. covetous. Therefore violence should not be
reckoned a daughter of covetousness.

* KVflLVOTrplcrTTJS. t KlfX^LKeS.

159 COVETOUSNESS g. hS.Art.s

On the contrary, Gregory {Moral, xxxi.) assigns to covetous-
ness the daughters mentioned above.

/ answer that, The daughters of covetousness are the vices
which arise therefrom, especially in respect of the desire of
an end. Now since covetousness is excessive love of possess-
ing riches, it exceeds in two things. For in the first place
it exceeds in retaining, and in this respect covetousness gives
rise to insensibility to mercy, because, to wit, a man's heart
is not softened by mercy to assist the needy with his riches.*
In the second place it belongs to covetousness to exceed in
receiving, and in this respect covetousness may be considered
in two ways. First as in the thought [affectu). In this way
it gives rise to restlessness, by hindering man with excessive
anxiety and care, for a covetous man shall not he satisfied with
money (Eccles. v. 9). Secondly, it may be considered in
the execution {effectu). In this way the covetous man, in
acquiring other people's goods, sometimes employs force,
which pertains to violence, sometimes deceit, and then if he
has recourse to words, it is falsehood, if it be mere words,
perjury if he confirm his statement by oath; if he has recourse
to deeds, and the deceit affects things, we have fraud ; if
persons, then we have treachery, as in the case of Judas, who
betrayed Christ through covetousness.

Reply Ohj. i. There is no need for the daughters of a

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