The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 3 of 5

In his exposition of the virtue of temperance, Father Pegues discusses virtues associated with temperance. These are continence, clemency, meekness, and modesty.

The virtue of continence consists in “choosing not to follow the violent movements of passion, and this for some motive of reason.” The sin opposed to continence is incontinence, which consists in this: “that man gives way to the violence of passion and becomes its slave.”

The virtue of clemency “moderates the degree of external punishment to be meted out to someone so that it does not exceed the right limits of reason.”

The virtue of meekness “controls the interior movement of the passion which is called anger.”

Three sins opposed to clemency and meekness are the sinful type of anger, cruelty, and savagery. Sinful anger is “a movement of the irascible appetite which seeks unjust avengement, or an avengement which is just but which is sought with too much temper.” There are three species of this sort of anger: “the anger of those who are fretful and who become angry at the slightest cause; the anger of those who are bitter, who forget with difficulty an injury done to them; and the anger of those who are revengeful, who without ceasing seek the punishment of those by whom they have been wronged.” This sort of anger is a capital sin because “men are particularly borne towards the seeking of revenge in satisfaction for an injury done them.” The offspring of sinful anger are “indignation, excitement of the mind, contumely, clamour, blasphemy, and quarrelling.” There is also a sin opposed to anger; it is “the lack of anger when reason demands it, for there is a just anger which is the result of the right will to punish when punishment is due.”

The type of cruelty that is opposed to clemency is “a kind of crudity or rawness of soul owing to which one seeks to increase punishment beyond the just limits fixed by reason.” Savageness is “something absolutely inhuman which delights in the infliction of punishment, taking pleasure therein merely because it is an evil. Savageness is directly opposed to the gift of piety.”

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

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