The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 2 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing two species of temperance: chastity and virginity.

The virtue of chastity is “that perfection of the sensitive appetite which makes man master of all the impulses that bear him towards the things of marriage.” A special form of chastity is the virtue of virginity, which is “the firm and absolute purpose, made holy by a vow, of renouncing for ever the pleasures of marriage.”

The sin opposed to chastity is voluptuousness. This consists in “using things on account of the pleasure attached thereunto which nature has ordained for the conservation of the human species, whether this be by deed, or desire, or thought willed, in which pleasure is taken; for this is contrary to the natural order whose office it is to control the use of such things.” This sin has many forms, such as fornication, the sin against nature, adultery, incest, rape, sexual abuse, and sacrilege by abusing a person consecrated to God. Fornication is “directly opposed to the good order of the things of marriage as regards the end of marriage, which is the welfare and the education of offspring.” The sin against nature is “opposed directly and wholly to the first and essential end of marriage, which is the birth of offspring.” Voluptuousness is a capital sin which “carries men away by its extreme vehemence.” The offspring of voluptuousness are “blindness of mind, rashness, unmindfulness, inconstancy, self-love, hatred of God, cleaving to the present life, and horror of the world to come.” All these sins have in common, although in varying degrees, that “the mind is absorbed by the flesh.”

Father Pegues mentions that the gift of fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, corresponds to both the moral virtue of temperance and the theological virtue of hope, but to each under different aspects. “The gift of fear corresponds to the theological virtue of hope in so far as man reveres God directly by reason of His infinite greatness and avoids offending Him; and it corresponds to the virtue of temperance in so far as the respect that it inspires with regard to God’s greatness makes man avoid those things which are more offensive to God, and these are the pleasures of the senses.” The gift of fear of the Lord is more excellent than the virtue of temperance because “temperance puts these things aside only in that measure of which man is able of himself by the light of reason or of faith; whereas the gift of fear makes him avoid them according to the personal action of the Holy Ghost.”

Finally, Father Pegues notes that two precepts of the Decalogue refer to temperance: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”

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

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