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CHAPTER CXXVIIThat of no Food is the Use Sinful in itself

EVERYTHING is done rationally, when it is directed according to its due bearing upon a due end. But the due end of the taking of food is the preservation of the health by nourishment. Therefore whatever food can serve that end, may be taken without sin.

2. Of no thing is the use evil in itself unless the thing itself be evil in itself.773773e.g., obscene language, or a bad book. But no food is in its nature evil; because everything is in its nature good (Chap. VII); albeit some particular food may be evil to some particular person, inasmuch as it makes against his bodily health. Therefore of no food, considered as such and such a thing, is the partaking a sin in itself: but it may be a sin, if a person uses it irrationally and not to his health.

3. To apply things to the purpose for which they exist is not in itself evil. But plants exist for the sake of animals, some animals for the sake of 290others, and all for the sake of man (Chap. LXXXI). Therefore to use either plants, or the flesh of animals, either for eating, or for any other purpose for which they are useful to man (vel ad quidquid aliud sunt homini utilia), is not in itself a sin.

4. The defect which makes sin redounds from soul to body, but not backwards from body to soul: for by sin we mean a disorder of the will. But articles of food concern the body immediately, not the soul. Therefore the taking of various foods cannot be in itself a sin, except in so far as it is inconsistent with rectitude of will. And that may come to be in several ways: in one way by some inconsistency with the proper end of food, as when for the pleasure of eating one uses food that disagrees with health either in kind or in quantity. Another way would be when the food becomes not the condition of him who eats it, or of the society in which he lives, as when one is more nice in his food than his means will allow, or violates the social conventions of those with whom he sits at table. A third way would be in the case of certain foods prohibited by some special law: thus in the Old Law sundry meats were forbidden for what they signified; and in Egypt of old the eating of beef was prohibited, lest agriculture should suffer;774774“The male line, if clean, and the male calves, are used for sacrifice by the Egyptians universally; but the females they are not allowed to sacrifice, since they are sacred to Isis” (Herodotus, ii, 41). Rawlinson says, “in order to prevent the breed of cattle being diminished: but some mysterious reason being assigned for it, the people were led to respect an ordinance which might not otherwise have been attended to.” He quotes Porphyry, De abstin. ii, 11, who doubtless was St Thomas’s authority. The sacrifice and eating of bull beef in Egypt is described by Herodotus, ii, 40. and again there is the case of rules prohibiting the use of certain foods in order to check the lower appetites.775775Such rules are the Church laws of fasting and abstinence, and the rules of several religious orders. They are positive enactments only, not inherent in the nature of things, and therefore dispensable.

Hence the Lord says: Not what entereth in at the mouth defiles a man (Matt. xv, 11).776776See further 1 Cor. viii: 1 Cor. x, 19-28: Rom. xiv: 1 Tim. iv, 3, 4. These passages are interesting to the moralist, as showing the incidental binding force of public sentiment, creating a new obligation. There are some remarks on the value of sentiment in ethics in Political and Moral Essays, pp. 279-281. Since eating and the intercourse of the sexes are not things in themselves unlawful, and exterior possessions are necessary for getting food, for rearing and supporting a family, and other bodily wants, it follows that neither is the possession of wealth in itself unlawful, provided the order of reason be observed, — I mean, provided the man possesses justly the things that he has, and does not fix the final end of his will in them,777777According to Aristotle, Politics, i, 9, whatever we desire as a final end, and not merely as a means, we desire without end or measure. Thus to desire wealth is to make a god of Mammon, as some do of pleasure (Matt. vi, 24: Phil. iii, 18), and consequently to stick at nothing that can safely procure it: it is to be the slave of money. Cf. St Paul’s expressions, Rom. vi, 16-20, and the phrase in Thucydides i, 81, δουλεύειν τῇ γῇ, ‘to be the slaves of one’s land,’ i.e., to be ready to make any unpatriotic sacrifice to save one’s estates. and uses them duly for his own and others’ profit.

Hereby is excluded the error of some, who, as Augustine says, “most arrogantly called themselves Apostolics, because they did not receive into their communion married men and proprietors, such as are many monks and clerks whom the Catholic Church now contains: these people are heretics, because, separating themselves from the Church, they think that there is no hope for other persons who make use of what they do without” (De haeresibus, c. 40).778778This curious passage is in the Liber de haeresibus, printed as the genuine work of St Augustine in Tom. viii of the Maurist edition. St Athanasius, Ep. ad Dracont., mentions married monks, though they probably were the exception. The enforcement of clerical celibacy originally went no further than a prohibition of marriage subsequent to ordination. Such a marriage came readily to fall under the prohibition of a second marriage, which underlies the phrase husband of one wife, 1 Tim. iii, 2. Like some other things in the Church, clerical and monastic celibacy developed in time from a gospel germ (Matt. xix) and apostolic practice (1 Cor. vii, 7).

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