Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.102
We must now consider observance and its parts, the considerations of which will manifest the contrary vices.
Under the head of observance there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether observance is a special virtue, distinct from other virtues?
(2) What does observance offer?
(3) Of its comparison with piety.
Objection: 1. It seems that observance is not a special virtue, distinct from other virtues. For virtues are distinguished by their objects. But the object of observance is not distinct from the object of piety: for Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii) that "it is by observance that we pay worship and honor to those who excel in some kind of dignity." But worship and honor are paid also by piety to our parents, who excel in dignity. Therefore observance is not a distinct virtue from piety.
2. Further, just as honor and worship are due to those that are in a position of dignity, so also are they due to those who excel in science and virtue. But there is no special virtue whereby we pay honor and worship to those who excel in science and virtue. Therefore observance, whereby we pay worship and honor to those who excel in dignity, is not a special virtue distinct from other virtues.
3. Further, we have many duties towards those who are in a position of dignity, the fulfilment of which is required by law, according to Rm 13,7, "Render . . . to all men their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due," etc. Now the fulfilment of the requirements of the law belongs to legal justice, or even to special justice. Therefore observance is not by itself a special virtue distinct from other virtues.
On the contrary Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii) reckons observance along with the other parts of justice, which are special virtues.
I answer that As explained above (Question , Articles ,3; Question ), according to the various excellences of those persons to whom something is due, there must needs be a corresponding distinction of virtues in a descending order. Now just as a carnal father partakes of the character of principle in a particular way, which character is found in God in a universal way, so too a person who, in some way, exercises providence in one respect, partakes of the character of father in a particular way, since a father is the principle of generation, of education, of learning and of whatever pertains to the perfection of human life: while a person who is in a position of dignity is as a principle of government with regard to certain things: for instance, the governor of a state in civil matters, the commander of an army in matters of warfare, a professor in matters of learning, and so forth. Hence it is that all such persons are designated as "fathers," on account of their being charged with like cares: thus the servants of Naaman said to him (2R 5,13): "Father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing," etc.Therefore, just as, in a manner, religion, whereby worship is given to find piety, whereby we worship our so under piety we find observance, whereby worship and honor are paid to persons in positions of dignity.
Reply to Objection: 1. As stated above (Question , Article , ad 2), religion goes by the name of piety by way of supereminence, although piety properly so called is distinct from religion; and in the same way piety can be called observance by way of excellence, although observance properly speaking is distinct from piety.
2. By the very fact of being in a position of dignity a man not only excels as regards his position, but also has a certain power of governing subjects, wherefore it is fitting that he should be considered as a principle inasmuch as he is the governor of others. On the other hand, the fact that a man has perfection of science and virtue does not give him the character of a principle in relation to others, but merely a certain excellence in himself. Wherefore a special virtue is appointed for the payment of worship and honor to persons in positions of dignity. Yet, forasmuch as science, virtue and all like things render a man fit for positions of dignity, the respect which is paid to anyone on account of any excellence whatever belongs to the same virtue.
3. It belongs to special justice, properly speaking, to pay the equivalent to those to whom we owe anything. Now this cannot be done to the virtuous, and to those who make good use of their position of dignity, as neither can it be done to God, nor to our parents. Consequently these matters belong to an annexed virtue, and not to special justice, which is a principal virtue.Legal justice extends to the acts of all the virtues, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Objection: 1. It seems that it does not belong to observance to pay worship and honor to persons in positions of dignity. For according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei x), we are said to worship those persons whom we hold in honor, so that worship and honor would seem to be the same. Therefore it is unfitting to define observance as paying worship and honor to persons in positions of dignity.
2. Further, it belongs to justice that we pay what we owe: wherefore this belongs to observance also, since it is a part of justice. Now we do not owe worship and honor to all persons in positions of dignity, but only to those who are placed over us. Therefore observance is unfittingly defined as giving worship and honor to all.
3. Further, not only do we owe honor to persons of dignity who are placed over us; we owe them also fear and a certain payment of remuneration, according to Rm 13,7, "Render . . . to all men their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." Moreover, we owe them reverence and subjection, according to He 13,17, "Obey your prelates, and be subject to them." Therefore observance is not fittingly defined as paying worship and honor.
On the contrary Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii) that "it is by observance that we pay worship and honor to those who excel in some kind of dignity."
I answer that It belongs to persons in positions of dignity to govern subjects. Now to govern is to move certain ones to their due end: thus a sailor governs his ship by steering it to port. But every mover has a certain excellence and power over that which is moved. Wherefore, a person in a position of dignity is an object of twofold consideration: first, in so far as he obtains excellence of position, together with a certain power over subjects: secondly, as regards the exercise of his government. In respect of his excellence there is due to him honor, which is the recognition of some kind of excellence; and in respect of the exercise of his government, there is due to him worship, consisting in rendering him service, by obeying his commands, and by repaying him, according to one's faculty, for the benefits we received from him.
Reply to Objection: 1. Worship includes not only honor, but also whatever other suitable actions are connected with the relations between man and man.
2. As stated above (Question ), debt is twofold. One is legal debt, to pay which man is compelled by law; and thus man owes honor and worship to those persons in positions of dignity who are placed over him. The other is moral debt, which is due by reason of a certain honesty: it is in this way that we owe worship and honor to persons in positions of dignity even though we be not their subjects.
3. Honor is due to the excellence of persons in positions of dignity, on account of their higher rank: while fear is due to them on account of their power to use compulsion: and to the exercise of their government there is due both obedience, whereby subjects are moved at the command of their superiors, and tributes, which are a repayment of their labor.
Objection: 1. It seems that observance is a greater virtue than piety. For the prince to whom worship is paid by observance is compared to a father who is worshiped by piety, as a universal to a particular governor; because the household which a father governs is part of the state which is governed by the prince. Now a universal power is greater, and inferiors are more subject thereto. Therefore observance is a greater virtue than piety.
2. Further, persons in positions of dignity take care of the common good. Now our kindred pertain to the private good, which we ought to set aside for the common good: wherefore it is praiseworthy to expose oneself to the danger of death for the sake of the common good. Therefore observance, whereby worship is paid to persons in positions of dignity, is a greater virtue than piety, which pays worship to one's kindred.
3. Further honor and reverence are due to the virtuous in the first place after God. Now honor and reverence are paid to the virtuous by the virtue of observance, as stated above (Article , ad 3). Therefore observance takes the first place after religion.
On the contrary The precepts of the Law prescribe acts of virtue. Now, immediately after the precepts of religion, which belong to the first table, follows the precept of honoring our parents which refers to piety. Therefore piety follows immediately after religion in the order of excellence.
I answer that Something may be paid to persons in positions of dignity in two ways. First, in relation to the common good, as when one serves them in the administration of the affairs of the state. This no longer belongs to observance, but to piety, which pays worship not only to one's father but also to one's fatherland. Secondly, that which is paid to persons in positions of dignity refers specially to their personal usefulness or renown, and this belongs properly to observance, as distinct from piety. Therefore in comparing observance with piety we must needs take into consideration the different relations in which other persons stand to ourselves, which relations both virtues regard. Now it is evident that the persons of our parents and of our kindred are more substantially akin to us than persons in positions of dignity, since birth and education, which originate in the father, belong more to one's substance than external government, the principle of which is seated in those who are in positions of dignity. For this reason piety takes precedence of observance, inasmuch as it pays worship to persons more akin to us, and to whom we are more strictly bound.
Reply to Objection: 1. The prince is compared to the father as a universal to a particular power, as regards external government, but not as regards the father being a principle of generation: for in this way the father should be compared with the divine power from which all things derive their being.
2. In so far as persons in positions of dignity are related to the common good, their worship does not pertain to observance, but to piety, as stated above.
3. The rendering of honor or worship should be proportionate to the person to whom it is paid not only as considered in himself, but also as compared to those who pay them. Wherefore, though virtuous persons, considered in themselves, are more worthy of honor than the persons of one's parents, yet children are under a greater obligation, on account of the benefits they have received from their parents and their natural kinship with them, to pay worship and honor to their parents than to virtuous persons who are not of their kindred.
We must now consider the parts of observance. We shall consider (1) dulia, whereby we pay honor and other things pertaining thereto to those who are in a higher position; (2) obedience, whereby we obey their commands.
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether honor is a spiritual or a corporal thing?
(2) Whether honor is due to those only who are in a higher position?
(3) Whether dulia, which pays honor and worship to those who are above us, is a special virtue, distinct from latria?
(4) Whether it contains several species?
Objection: 1. It seems that honor does not denote something corporal. For honor is showing reverence in acknowledgment of virtue, as may be gathered from the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 5). Now showing reverence is something spiritual, since to revere is an act of fear, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1). Therefore honor is something spiritual.
2. Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 3), "honor is the reward of virtue." Now, since virtue consists chiefly of spiritual things, its reward is not something corporal, for the reward is more excellent than the merit. Therefore honor does not consist of corporal things.
3. Further, honor is distinct from praise, as also from glory. Now praise and glory consist of external things. Therefore honor consists of things internal and spiritual.
On the contrary Jerome in his exposition of 1Tm 5,3, "Honor widows that are widows indeed," and (1Tm 5,17), "let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy of double honor" etc. says (Ep ad Ageruch.): "Honor here stands either for almsgiving or for remuneration." Now both of these pertain to spiritual things. Therefore honor consists of corporal things.
I answer that Honor denotes a witnessing to a person's excellence. Therefore men who wish to be honored seek a witnessing to their excellence, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 5; viii, 8). Now witness is borne either before God or before man. Before God, Who is the searcher of hearts, the witness of one's conscience suffices. wherefore honor, so far as God is concerned, may consist of the mere internal movement of the heart, for instance when a man acknowledges either God's excellence or another man's excellence before God. But, as regards men, one cannot bear witness, save by means of signs, either by words, as when one proclaims another's excellence by word of mouth, or by deeds, for instance by bowing, saluting, and so forth, or by external things, as by offering gifts, erecting statues, and the like. Accordingly honor consists of signs, external and corporal.
Reply to Objection: 1. Reverence is not the same as honor: but on the one hand it is the primary motive for showing honor, in so far as one man honors another out of the reverence he has for him; and on the other hand, it is the end of honor, in so far as a person is honored in order that he may be held in reverence by others.
2. According to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 3), honor is not a sufficient reward of virtue: yet nothing in human and corporal things can be greater than honor, since these corporal things themselves are employed as signs in acknowledgment of excelling virtue. It is, however, due to the good and the beautiful, that they may be made known, according to Mt 5,15, "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house." In this sense honor is said to be the reward of virtue.
3. Praise is distinguished from honor in two ways. First, because praise consists only of verbal signs, whereas honor consists of any external signs, so that praise is included in honor. Secondly, because by paying honor to a person we bear witness to a person's excelling goodness absolutely, whereas by praising him we bear witness to his goodness in reference to an end: thus we praise one that works well for an end. On the other hand, honor is given even to the best, which is not referred to an end, but has already arrived at the end, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 5).Glory is the effect of honor and praise, since the result of our bearing witness to a person's goodness is that his goodness becomes clear to the knowledge of many. The word "glory" signifies this, for "glory" is the same as (kleria), wherefore a gloss of Augustine on Rm 16,27 observes that glory is "clear knowledge together with praise."
Objection: 1. It seems that honor is not properly due to those who are above us. For an angel is above any human wayfarer, according to Mt 11,11, "He that is lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist." Yet an angel forbade John when the latter wished to honor him (Ap 22,10). Therefore honor is not due to those who are above us.
2. Further, honor is due to a person in acknowledgment of his virtue, as stated above (Article ; Question , Article ). But sometimes those who are above us are not virtuous. Therefore honor is not due to them, as neither is it due to the demons, who nevertheless are above us in the order of nature.
3. Further, the Apostle says (Rm 12,10): "With honor preventing one another," and we read (1P 2,17): "Honor all men." But this would not be so if honor were due to those alone who are above us. Therefore honor is not due properly to those who are above us.
4. Further, it is written (Tb 1,16) that Tobias "had ten talents of silver of that which he had been honored by the king": and we read (Esther 6:11) that Assuerus honored Mardochaeus, and ordered it to be proclaimed in his presence: "This honor is he worthy of whom the king hath a mind to honor." Therefore honor is paid to those also who are beneath us, and it seems, in consequence, that honor is not due properly to those who are above us.
On the contrary The Philosopher says (Ethic. i, 12) that "honor is due to the best."
I answer that As stated above (Article ), honor is nothing but an acknowledgment of a person's excelling goodness. Now a person's excellence may be considered, not only in relation to those who honor him, in the point of his being more excellent than they, but also in itself, or in relation to other persons, and in this way honor is always due to a person, on account of some excellence or superiority.For the person honored has no need to be more excellent than those who honor him; it may suffice for him to be more excellent than some others, or again he may be more excellent than those who honor him in some respect and not simply.
Reply to Objection: 1. The angel forbade John to pay him, not any kind of honor, but the honor of adoration and latria, which is due to God. Or again, he forbade him to pay the honor of dulia, in order to indicate the dignity of John himself, for which Christ equaled him to the angels "according to the hope of glory of the children of God": wherefore he refused to be honored by him as though he were superior to him.
2. A wicked superior is honored for the excellence, not of his virtue but of his dignity, as being God's minister, and because the honor paid to him is paid to the whole community over which he presides. As for the demons, they are wicked beyond recall, and should be looked upon as enemies, rather than treated with honor.
3. In every man is to be found something that makes it possible to deem him better than ourselves, according to Ph 2,3, "In humility, let each esteem others better than themselves," and thus, too, we should all be on the alert to do honor to one another.
4. Private individuals are sometimes honored by kings, not that they are above them in the order of dignity but on account of some excellence of their virtue: and in this way Tobias and Mardochaeus were honored by kings.
Objection: 1. It seems that dulia is not a special virtue distinct from latria. For a gloss on Ps 7,1, "O Lord my God, in Thee have I put my trust," says: "Lord of all by His power, to Whom dulia is due; God by creation, to Whom we owe latria." Now the virtue directed to God as Lord is not distinct from that which is directed to Him as God. Therefore dulia is not a distinct virtue from latria.
2. Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 8), "to be loved is like being honored." Now the charity with which we love God is the same as that whereby we love our neighbor. Therefore dulia whereby we honor our neighbor is not a distinct virtue from latria with which we honor God.
3. Further, the movement whereby one is moved towards an image is the same as the movement whereby one is moved towards the thing represented by the image. Now by dulia we honor a man as being made to the image of God. For it is written of the wicked (Sg 2,22-23) that "they esteemed not the honor of holy souls, for God created man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him." Therefore dulia is not a distinct virtue from latria whereby God is honored.
On the contrary Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x), that "the homage due to man, of which the Apostle spoke when he commanded servants to obey their masters and which in Greek is called dulia, is distinct from latria which denotes the homage that consists in the worship of God."
I answer that According to what has been stated above (Question , Article ), where there are different aspects of that which is due, there must needs be different virtues to render those dues. Now servitude is due to God and to man under different aspects: even as lordship is competent to God and to man under different aspects. For God has absolute and paramount lordship over the creature wholly and singly, which is entirely subject to His power: whereas man partakes of a certain likeness to the divine lordship, forasmuch as he exercises a particular power over some man or creature. Wherefore dulia, which pays due service to a human lord, is a distinct virtue from latria, which pays due service to the lordship of God. It is, moreover, a species of observance, because by observance we honor all those who excel in dignity, while dulia properly speaking is the reverence of servants for their master, dulia being the Greek for servitude.
Reply to Objection: 1. Just as religion is called piety by way of excellence, inasmuch as God is our Father by way of excellence, so again latria is called dulia by way of excellence, inasmuch as God is our Lord by way of excellence. Now the creature does not partake of the power to create by reason of which latria is due to God: and so this gloss drew a distinction, by ascribing latria to God in respect of creation, which is not communicated to a creature, but dulia in respect of lordship, which is communicated to a creature.
2. The reason why we love our neighbor is God, since that which we love in our neighbor through charity is God alone. Wherefore the charity with which we love God is the same as that with which we love our neighbor. Yet there are other friendships distinct from charity, in respect of the other reasons for which a man is loved. In like manner, since there is one reason for serving God and another for serving man, and for honoring the one or the other, latria and dulia are not the same virtue.
3. Movement towards an image as such is referred to the thing represented by the image: yet not every movement towards an image is referred to the image as such, and consequently sometimes the movement to the image differs specifically from the movement to the thing. Accordingly we must reply that the honor or subjection of dulia regards some dignity of a man absolutely. For though, in respect of that dignity, man is made to the image or likeness of God, yet in showing reverence to a person, one does not always refer this to God actually.Or we may reply that the movement towards an image is, after a fashion, towards the thing, yet the movement towards the thing need not be towards its image. Wherefore reverence paid to a person as the image of God redounds somewhat to God: and yet this differs from the reverence that is paid to God Himself, for this in no way refers to His image.
Objection: 1. It seems that dulia has various species. For by dulia we show honor to our neighbor. Now different neighbors are honored under different aspects, for instance king, father and master, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. ix, 2). Since this difference of aspect in the object differentiates the species of virtue, it seems that dulia is divided into specifically different virtues.
2. Further, the mean differs specifically from the extremes, as pale differs from white and black. Now hyperdulia is apparently a mean between latria and dulia: for it is shown towards creatures having a special affinity to God, for instance to the Blessed Virgin as being the mother of God. Therefore it seems that there are different species of dulia, one being simply dulia, the other hyperdulia.
3. Further, just as in the rational creature we find the image of God, for which reason it is honored, so too in the irrational creature we find the trace of God. Now the aspect of likeness denoted by an image differs from the aspect conveyed by a trace. Therefore we must distinguish a corresponding difference of dulia: and all the more since honor is shown to certain irrational creatures, as, for instance, to the wood of the Holy Cross.
On the contrary Dulia is condivided with latria. But latria is not divided into different species. Neither therefore is dulia.
I answer that Dulia may be taken in two ways. In one way it may be taken in a wide sense as denoting reverence paid to anyone on account of any kind of excellence, and thus it comprises piety and observance, and any similar virtue whereby reverence is shown towards a man. Taken in this sense it will have parts differing specifically from one another. In another way it may be taken in a strict sense as denoting the reverence of a servant for his lord, for dulia signifies servitude, as stated above (Article ). Taken in this sense it is not divided into different species, but is one of the species of observance, mentioned by Tully (De Invent. Rhet. ii), for the reason that a servant reveres his lord under one aspect, a soldier his commanding officer under another, the disciple his master under another, and so on in similar cases.
Reply to Objection: 1. This argument takes dulia in a wide sense.
2. Hyperdulia is the highest species of dulia taken in a wide sense, since the greatest reverence is that which is due to a man by reason of his having an affinity to God.
3. Man owes neither subjection nor honor to an irrational creature considered in itself, indeed all such creatures are naturally subject to man. As to the Cross of Christ, the honor we pay to it is the same as that which we pay to Christ, just as the king's robe receives the same honor as the king himself, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. iv).
We must now consider obedience, under which head there are six points of inquiry:
(1) Whether one man is bound to obey another?
(2) Whether obedience is a special virtue?
(3) Of its comparison with other virtues;
(4) Whether God must be obeyed in all things?
(5) Whether subjects are bound to obey their superiors in all things?
(6) Whether the faithful are bound to obey the secular power?
Objection: 1. It seems that one man is not bound to obey another. For nothing should be done contrary to the divine ordinance. Now God has so ordered that man is ruled by his own counsel, according to Si 15,14, "God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel." Therefore one man is not bound to obey another.
2. Further, if one man were bound to obey another, he would have to look upon the will of the person commanding him, as being his rule of conduct. Now God's will alone, which is always right, is a rule of human conduct. Therefore man is bound to obey none but God.
3. Further, the more gratuitous the service the more is it acceptable. Now what a man does out of duty is not gratuitous. Therefore if a man were bound in duty to obey others in doing good deeds, for this very reason his good deeds would be rendered less acceptable through being done out of obedience. Therefore one man is not bound to obey another.
On the contrary It is prescribed (He 13,17): "Obey your prelates and be subject to them."
I answer that Just as the actions of natural things proceed from natural powers, so do human actions proceed from the human will. In natural things it behooved the higher to move the lower to their actions by the excellence of the natural power bestowed on them by God: and so in human affairs also the higher must move the lower by their will in virtue of a divinely established authority. Now to move by reason and will is to command. Wherefore just as in virtue of the divinely established natural order the lower natural things need to be subject to the movement of the higher, so too in human affairs, in virtue of the order of natural and divine law, inferiors are bound to obey their superiors.
Reply to Objection: 1. God left man in the hand of his own counsel, not as though it were lawful to him to do whatever he will, but because, unlike irrational creatures, he is not compelled by natural necessity to do what he ought to do, but is left the free choice proceeding from his own counsel. And just as he has to proceed on his own counsel in doing other things, so too has he in the point of obeying his superiors. For Gregory says (Moral. xxxv), "When we humbly give way to another's voice, we overcome ourselves in our own hearts."
2. The will of God is the first rule whereby all rational wills are regulated: and to this rule one will approaches more than another, according to a divinely appointed order. Hence the will of the one man who issues a command may be as a second rule to the will of this other man who obeys him.
3. A thing may be deemed gratuitous in two ways. In one way on the part of the deed itself, because, to wit, one is not bound to do it; in another way, on the part of the doer, because he does it of his own free will. Now a deed is rendered virtuous, praiseworthy and meritorious, chiefly according as it proceeds from the will. Wherefore although obedience be a duty, if one obey with a prompt will, one's merit is not for that reason diminished, especially before God, Who sees not only the outward deed, but also the inward will.
Objection: 1. It seems that obedience is not a special virtue. For disobedience is contrary to obedience. But disobedience is a general sin, because Ambrose says (De Parad. viii) that "sin is to disobey the divine law." Therefore obedience is not a special virtue.
2. Further, every special virtue is either theological or moral. But obedience is not a theological virtue, since it is not comprised under faith, hope or charity. Nor is it a moral virtue, since it does not hold the mean between excess and deficiency, for the more obedient one is the more is one praised. Therefore obedience is not a special virtue.
3. Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxxv) that "obedience is the more meritorious and praiseworthy, the less it holds its own." But every special virtue is the more to be praised the more it holds its own, since virtue requires a man to exercise his will and choice, as stated in Ethic. ii, 4. Therefore obedience is not a special virtue.
4. Further, virtues differ in species according to their objects. Now the object of obedience would seem to be the command of a superior, of which, apparently, there are as many kinds as there are degrees of superiority. Therefore obedience is a general virtue, comprising many special virtues.
On the contrary obedience is reckoned by some to be a part of justice, as stated above (Question ).
I answer that A special virtue is assigned to all good deeds that have a special reason of praise: for it belongs properly to virtue to render a deed good. Now obedience to a superior is due in accordance with the divinely established order of things, as shown above (Article ), and therefore it is a good, since good consists in mode, species and order, as Augustine states (De Natura Boni iii) [*Cf. FP, Question , Article ]. Again, this act has a special aspect of praiseworthiness by reason of its object. For while subjects have many obligations towards their superiors, this one, that they are bound to obey their commands, stands out as special among the rest. Wherefore obedience is a special virtue, and its specific object is a command tacit or expreSS, because the superior's will, however it become known, is a tacit precept, and a man's obedience seems to be all the more prompt, forasmuch as by obeying he forestalls the express command as soon as he understands his superior's will.
Reply to Objection: 1. Nothing prevents the one same material object from admitting two special aspects to which two special virtues correspond: thus a soldier, by defending his king's fortress, fulfils both an act of fortitude, by facing the danger of death for a good end, and an act of justice, by rendering due service to his lord. Accordingly the aspect of precept, which obedience considers, occurs in acts of all virtues, but not in all acts of virtue, since not all acts of virtue are a matter of precept, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Moreover, certain things are sometimes a matter of precept, and pertain to no other virtue, such things for instance as are not evil except because they are forbidden. Wherefore, if obedience be taken in its proper sense, as considering formally and intentionally the aspect of precept, it will be a special virtue, and disobedience a special sin: because in this way it is requisite for obedience that one perform an act of justice or of some other virtue with the intention of fulfilling a precept; and for disobedience that one treat the precept with actual contempt. On the other hand, if obedience be taken in a wide sense for the performance of any action that may be a matter of precept, and disobedience for the omission of that action through any intention whatever, then obedience will be a general virtue, and disobedience a general sin.
2. Obedience is not a theological virtue, for its direct object is not God, but the precept of any superior, whether expressed or inferred, namely, a simple word of the superior, indicating his will, and which the obedient subject obeys promptly, according to Titus 3:1, "Admonish them to be subject to princes, and to obey at a word," etc.It is, however, a moral virtue, since it is a part of justice, and it observes the mean between excess and deficiency. Excess thereof is measured in respect, not of quantity, but of other circumstances, in so far as a man obeys either whom he ought not, or in matters wherein he ought not to obey, as we have stated above regarding religion (Question , Article ). We may also reply that as in justice, excess is in the person who retains another's property, and deficiency in the person who does not receive his due, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 4), so too obedience observes the mean between excess on the part of him who fails to pay due obedience to his superior, since he exceeds in fulfilling his own will, and deficiency on the part of the superior, who does not receive obedience. Wherefore in this way obedience will be a mean between two forms of wickedness, as was stated above concerning justice (Question , Article ).
3. Obedience, like every virtue requires the will to be prompt towards its proper object, but not towards that which is repugnant to it. Now the proper object of obedience is a precept, and this proceeds from another's will. Wherefore obedience make a man's will prompt in fulfilling the will of another, the maker, namely, of the precept. If that which is prescribed to him is willed by him for its own sake apart from its being prescribed, as happens in agreeable matters, he tends towards it at once by his own will and seems to comply, not on account of the precept, but on account of his own will. But if that which is prescribed is nowise willed for its own sake, but, considered in itself, repugnant to his own will, as happens in disagreeable matters, then it is quite evident that it is not fulfilled except on account of the precept. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xxxv) that "obedience perishes or diminishes when it holds its own in agreeable matters," because, to wit, one's own will seems to tend principally, not to the accomplishment of the precept, but to the fulfilment of one's own desire; but that "it increases in disagreeable or difficult matters," because there one's own will tends to nothing beside the precept. Yet this must be understood as regards outward appearances: for, on the other hand, according to the judgment of God, Who searches the heart, it may happen that even in agreeable matters obedience, while holding its own, is nonetheless praiseworthy, provided the will of him that obeys tend no less devotedly [*Cf. Question , Article ] to the fulfilment of the precept.
4. Reverence regards directly the person that excels: wherefore it admits a various species according to the various aspects of excellence. Obedience, on the other hand, regards the precept of the person that excels, and therefore admits of only one aspect. And since obedience is due to a person's precept on account of reverence to him, it follows that obedience to a man is of one species, though the causes from which it proceeds differ specifically.
Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.102