The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 4 of 5

Continuing Father Pegues’ discussion of virtues associated with temperance, we now discuss modesty and two of its species.

The virtue of modesty “restrains the sensitive appetite in things that are less difficult to regulate than those which are the object of temperance, continence, clemency, and meekness.” These “less difficult” things are “the desire of one’s own excellence; the desire to know; the exterior actions of the body; and lastly, one’s exterior as regards the manner of dress.”

The virtue of external modesty is “that perfection in the sensitive appetite which makes everything in a person’s exterior as regards his movements, gestures, words, the tone of his voice, and of his general attitude, to be what it ought to be according to the status of the person, and this in such way that nothing whatever is offensive in his conduct.” Modesty extends to one’s manner of dress “to the exclusion of unseemly fashion or disorderly negligence. Many sin in that they do not keep a just measure as regards the excesses of what is called fashion, and which may prove an occasion of sin to others. To exceed in this way is against the virtue of modesty and at the same time against the virtue of chastity.” External modesty also extends to amusements and recreation, so that a person “plays, amuses, or recreates himself as it behooves, avoiding both excess and defect.”

The virtue of studiousness “makes man control in conformity with right reason the desire to know and to learn.”

The sin opposed to studiousness is the sort of curiosity that is an “inordinate desire to know what one has no right to know, or to know what may prove a source of danger to virtue owing to one’s weakness.” This curiosity is committed both “as regards knowledge in general, or as regards that knowledge which effects the senses and the passions.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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