Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.117 a.2

Whether liberality is about money?



Objection: 1. It seems that liberality is not about money. For every moral virtue is about operations and passions. Now it is proper to justice to be about operations, as stated in Ethic. v, 1. Therefore, since liberality is a moral virtue, it seems that it is about passions and not about money.
2. Further, it belongs to a liberal man to make use of any kind of wealth. Now natural riches are more real than artificial riches, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 5,6). Therefore liberality is not chiefly about money.
3. Further, different virtues have different matter, since habits are distinguished by their objects. But external things are the matter of distributive and commutative justice. Therefore they are not the matter of liberality.

On the contrary The Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "liberality seems to be a mean in the matter of money."
I answer that According to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1) it belongs to the liberal man to part with things. Hence liberality is also called open-handedness [largitas], because that which is open does not withhold things but parts of them. The term "liberality" seems also to allude to this, since when a man quits hold of a thing he frees it [liberat], so to speak, from his keeping and ownership, and shows his mind to be free of attachment thereto. Now those things which are the subject of a man's free-handedness towards others are the goods he possesses, which are denoted by the term "money." Therefore the proper matter of liberality is money.

Reply to Objection: 1. As stated above (Article [1], ad 3), liberality depends not on the quantity given, but on the heart of the giver. Now the heart of the giver is disposed according to the passions of love and desire, and consequently those of pleasure and sorrow, towards the things given. Hence the interior passions are the immediate matter of liberality, while exterior money is the object of those same passions.
2. As Augustine says in his book De Disciplina Christi (Tract. de divers, i), everything whatsoever man has on earth, and whatsoever he owns, goes by the name of "'pecunia' [money], because in olden times men's possessions consisted entirely of 'pecora' [flocks]." And the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1): "We give the name of money to anything that can be valued in currency."
3. Justice establishes equality in external things, but has nothing to do, properly speaking, with the regulation of internal passions: wherefore money is in one way the matter of liberality, and in another way of justice.



Whether using money is the act of liberality?



Objection: 1. It seems that using money is not the act of liberality. For different virtues have different acts. But using money is becoming to other virtues, such as justice and magnificence. Therefore it is not the proper act of liberality.
2. Further, it belongs to a liberal man, not only to give but also to receive and keep. But receiving and keeping do not seem to be connected with the use of money. Therefore using money seems to be unsuitably assigned as the proper act of liberality.
3. Further, the use of money consists not only in giving it but also in spending it. But the spending of money refers to the spender, and consequently is not an act of liberality: for Seneca says (De Benef. v): "A man is not liberal by giving to himself." Therefore not every use of money belongs to liberality.

On the contrary The Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1): "In whatever matter a man is virtuous, he will make the best use of that matter: Therefore he that has the virtue with regard to money will make the best use of riches." Now such is the liberal man. Therefore the good use of money is the act of liberality.
I answer that The species of an act is taken from its object, as stated above (I-II 18,2). Now the object or matter of liberality is money and whatever has a money value, as stated in the foregoing Article (ad 2). And since every virtue is consistent with its object, it follows that, since liberality is a virtue, its act is consistent with money. Now money comes under the head of useful goods, since all external goods are directed to man's use. Hence the proper act of liberality is making use of money or riches.

Reply to Objection: 1. It belongs to liberality to make good use of riches as such, because riches are the proper matter of liberality. On the other hand it belongs to justice to make use of riches under another aspect, namely, that of debt, in so far as an external thing is due to another. And it belongs to magnificence to make use of riches under a special aspect, in so far, to wit, as they are employed for the fulfilment of some great deed. Hence magnificence stands in relation to liberality as something in addition thereto, as we shall explain farther on (Question [134]).
2. It belongs to a virtuous man not only to make good use of his matter or instrument, but also to provide opportunities for that good use. Thus it belongs to a soldier's fortitude not only to wield his sword against the foe, but also to sharpen his sword and keep it in its sheath. Thus, too, it belongs to liberality not only to use money, but also to keep it in preparation and safety in order to make fitting use of it.
3. As stated (Article [2], ad 1), the internal passions whereby man is affected towards money are the proximate matter of liberality. Hence it belongs to liberality before all that a man should not be prevented from making any due use of money through an inordinate affection for it. Now there is a twofold use of money: one consists in applying it to one's own use, and would seem to come under the designation of costs or expenditure; while the other consists in devoting it to the use of others, and comes under the head of gifts. Hence it belongs to liberality that one be not hindered by an immoderate love of money, either from spending it becomingly, or from making suitable gifts. Therefore liberality is concerned with giving and spending, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1). The saying of Seneca refers to liberality as regards giving: for a man is not said to be liberal for the reason that he gives something to himself.



Whether it belongs to a liberal man chiefly to give?


Objection: 1. It seems that it does not belong to a liberal man chiefly to give. For liberality, like all other moral virtues, is regulated by prudence. Now it seems to belong very much to prudence that a man should keep his riches. Wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "those who have not earned money, but have received the money earned by others, spend it more liberally, because they have not experienced the want of it." Therefore it seems that giving does not chiefly belong to the liberal man.
2. Further, no man is sorry for what he intends chiefly to do, nor does he cease from doing it. But a liberal man is sometimes sorry for what he has given, nor does he give to all, as stated in Ethic. iv, 1. Therefore it does not belong chiefly to a liberal man to give.
3. Further, in order to accomplish what he intends chiefly, a man employs all the ways he can. Now a liberal man is not a beggar, as the Philosopher observes (Ethic. iv, 1); and yet by begging he might provide himself with the means of giving to others. Therefore it seems that he does not chiefly aim at giving.
4. Further, man is bound to look after himself rather than others. But by spending he looks after himself, whereas by giving he looks after others. Therefore it belongs to a liberal man to spend rather than to give.

On the contrary The Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "it belongs to a liberal man to surpass in giving."
I answer that It is proper to a liberal man to use money. Now the use of money consists in parting with it. For the acquisition of money is like generation rather than use: while the keeping of money, in so far as it is directed to facilitate the use of money, is like a habit. Now in parting with a thing ---for instance, when we throw something---the farther we put it away the greater the force [virtus] employed. Hence parting with money by giving it to others proceeds from a greater virtue than when we spend it on ourselves. But it is proper to a virtue as such to tend to what is more perfect, since "virtue is a kind of perfection" (Phys. vii, text. 17,18). Therefore a liberal man is praised chiefly for giving.

Reply to Objection: 1. It belongs to prudence to keep money, lest it be stolen or spent uselessly. But to spend it usefully is not less but more prudent than to keep it usefully: since more things have to be considered in money's use, which is likened to movement, than in its keeping, which is likened to rest. As to those who, having received money that others have earned, spend it more liberally, through not having experienced the want of it, if their inexperience is the sole cause of their liberal expenditure they have not the virtue of liberality. Sometimes, however, this inexperience merely removes the impediment to liberality, so that it makes them all the more ready to act liberally, because, not unfrequently, the fear of want that results from the experience of want hinders those who have acquired money from using it up by acting with liberality; as does likewise the love they have for it as being their own effect, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1).
2. As stated in this and the preceding Article, it belongs to liberality to make fitting use of money, and consequently to give it in a fitting manner, since this is a use of money. Again, every virtue is grieved by whatever is contrary to its act, and avoids whatever hinders that act. Now two things are opposed to suitable giving; namely, not giving what ought suitably to be given, and giving something unsuitably. Wherefore the liberal man is grieved at both: but especially at the former, since it is more opposed to his proper act. For this reason, too, he does not give to all: since his act would be hindered were he to give to everyone: for he would not have the means of giving to those to whom it were fitting for him to give.
3. Giving and receiving are related to one another as action and passion. Now the same thing is not the principle of both action and passion. Hence, since liberality is a principle of giving, it does not belong to the liberal man to be ready to receive, and still less to beg. Hence the verse:In this world he that wishes to be pleasing to many Should give often, take seldom, ask never.' But he makes provision in order to give certain things according as liberality requires; such are the fruits of his own possessions, for he is careful about realizing them that he may make a liberal use thereof.
4. To spend on oneself is an inclination of nature; hence to spend money on others belongs properly to a virtue.



Whether liberality is a part of justice?


Objection: 1. It seems that liberality is not a part of justice. For justice regards that which is due. Now the more a thing is due the less liberally is it given. Therefore liberality is not a part of justice, but is incompatible with it.
2. Further, justice is about operation as stated above (Question [58], Article [9]; I-II 60,2 I-II 60,3): whereas liberality is chiefly about the love and desire of money, which are passions. Therefore liberality seems to belong to temperance rather than to justice.
3. Further, it belongs chiefly to liberality to give becomingly, as stated (Article [4]). But giving becomingly belongs to beneficence and mercy, which pertain to charity, as state above (Questions [30],31). Therefore liberality is a part of charity rather than of justice.

On the contrary Ambrose says (De Offic. i): "Justice has to do with the fellowship of mankind. For the notion of fellowship is divided into two parts, justice and beneficence, also called liberality or kind-heartedness." Therefore liberality pertains to justice.
I answer that Liberality is not a species of justice, since justice pays another what is his whereas liberality gives another what is one's own. There are, however, two points in which it agrees with justice: first, that it is directed chiefly to another, as justice is; secondly, that it is concerned with external things, and so is justice, albeit under a different aspect, a stated in this Article and above (Article [2], ad 3). Hence it is that liberality is reckoned by some to be a part of justice, being annexed thereto as to a principal virtue.

Reply to Objection: 1. Although liberality does no consider the legal due that justice considers, it considers a certain moral due. This due is based on a certain fittingness and not on an obligation: so that it answers to the idea of due in the lowest degree.
2. Temperance is about concupiscence in pleasures of the body. But the concupiscence and delight in money is not referable to the body but rather to the soul. Hence liberality does not properly pertain to temperance.
3. The giving of beneficence and mercy proceeds from the fact that a man has a certain affection towards the person to whom he gives: wherefore this giving belongs to charity or friendship. But the giving of liberality arises from a person being affected in a certain way towards money, in that he desires it not nor loves it: so that when it is fitting he gives it not only to his friends but also to those whom he knows not. Hence it belong not to charity, but to justice, which is about external things.



Whether liberality is the greatest of the virtues?


Objection: 1. It seems that liberality is the greatest of the virtues. For every virtue of man is a likeness to the divine goodness. Now man is likened chiefly by liberality to God, "Who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not" (Jc 1,5). Therefore liberality is the greatest of the virtues.
2. Further, according to Augustine (De Trin. vi, 8), "in things that are great, but not in bulk, to be greatest is to be best." Now the nature of goodness seems to pertain mostly to liberality, since "the good is self-communicative," according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv). Hence Ambrose says (De Offic. i) that "justice reclines to severity, liberality to goodness." Therefore liberality is the greatest of virtues.
3. Further, men are honored and loved on account of virtue. Now Boethius says (De Consol. ii) that "bounty above all makes a man famous": and the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 1) that "among the virtuous the liberal are the most beloved." Therefore liberality is the greatest of virtues.

On the contrary Ambrose says (De Offic. i) that "justice seems to be more excellent than liberality, although liberality is more pleasing." The Philosopher also says (Rhet. i, 9) that "brave and just men are honored chiefly and, after them, those who are liberal."
I answer that Every virtue tends towards a good; wherefore the greater virtue is that which tends towards the greater good. Now liberality tends towards a good in two ways: in one way, primarily and of its own nature; in another way, consequently. Primarily and of its very nature it tends to set in order one's own affection towards the possession and use of money. In this way temperance, which moderates desires and pleasures relating to one's own body, takes precedence of liberality: and so do fortitude and justice, which, in a manner, are directed to the common good, one in time of peace, the other in time of war: while all these are preceded by those virtues which are directed to the Divine good. For the Divine good surpasses all manner of human good; and among human goods the public good surpasses the good of the individual; and of the last named the good of the body surpasses those goods that consist of external things. Again, liberality is ordained to a good consequently, and in this way it is directed to all the aforesaid goods. For by reason of his not being a lover of money, it follows that a man readily makes use of it, whether for himself. Or for the good of others, or for God's glory. Thus it derives a certain excellence from being useful in many ways. Since, however, we should judge of things according to that which is competent to them primarily and in respect of their nature, rather than according to that which pertains to them consequently, it remains to be said that liberality is not the greatest of virtues.

Reply to Objection: 1. God's giving proceeds from His love for those to whom He gives, not from His affection towards the things He gives, wherefore it seems to pertain to charity, the greatest of virtues, rather than to liberality.
2. Every virtue shares the nature of goodness by giving forth its own act: and the acts of certain other virtues are better than money which liberality gives forth.
3. The friendship whereby a liberal man is beloved is not that which is based on virtue, as though he were better than others, but that which is based on utility, because he is more useful in external goods, which as a rule men desire above all others. For the same reason he becomes famous.


VICES OPPOSED TO LIBERALITY (Questions [118]-122)


Q118: OF THE VICES OPPOSED TO LIBERALITY, AND IN THE FIRST PLACE, OF COVETOUSNESS (EIGHT ARTICLES)




We must now consider the vices opposed to liberality: and (1) covetousness; (2) prodigality.

Under the first head there are eight points of inquiry:

(1) Whether covetousness is a sin?

(2) Whether it is a special sin?

(3) To which virtue it is opposed;

(4) Whether it is a mortal sin?

(5) Whether it is the most grievous of sins?

(6) Whether it is a sin of the flesh or a spiritual sin?

(7) Whether it is a capital vice?

(8) Of its daughters.



Whether covetousness is a sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that covetousness is not aa sin. For covetousness [avaritia] denotes a certain greed for gold [aeris aviditas*], because, to wit, it consists in a desire for money, under which all external goods may be comprised. [*The Latin for covetousness "avaritia" is derived from "aveo" to desire; but the Greek (philargyria) signifies literally "love of money": and it is to this that St. Thomas is alluding (cf. Article [2], Objection [2])]. Now it is not a sin to desire external goods: since man desires them naturally, both because they are naturally subject to man, and because by their means man's life is sustained (for which reason they are spoken of as his substance). Therefore covetousness is not a sin.
2. Further, every sin is against either God, or one's neighbor, or oneself, as stated above (I-II 72,4). But covetousness is not, properly speaking, a sin against God: since it is opposed neither to religion nor to the theological virtues, by which man is directed to God. Nor again is it a sin against oneself, for this pertains properly to gluttony and lust, of which the Apostle says (1Co 6,18): "He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body." In like manner neither is it apparently a sin against one's neighbor, since a man harms no one by keeping what is his own. Therefore covetousness is not a sin.
3. Further, things that occur naturally are not sins. Now covetousness comes naturally to old age and every kind of defect, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. iv, 1). Therefore covetousness is not a sin.

On the contrary It is written (He 13,5): "Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with such things as you have."
I answer that In whatever things good consists in a due measure, evil must of necessity ensue through excess or deficiency of that measure. Now in all things that are for an end, the good consists in a certain measure: since whatever is directed to an end must needs be commensurate with the end, as, for instance, medicine is commensurate with health, as the Philosopher observes (Polit. i, 6). External goods come under the head of things useful for an end, as stated above (Question [117], Article [3]; I-II 2,1). Hence it must needs be that man's good in their respect consists in a certain measure, in other words, that man seeks, according to a certain measure, to have external riches, in so far as they are necessary for him to live in keeping with his condition of life. Wherefore it will be a sin for him to exceed this measure, by wishing to acquire or keep them immoderately. This is what is meant by covetousness, which is defined as "immoderate love of possessing." It is therefore evident that covetousness is a sin.

Reply to Objection: 1. It is natural to man to desire external things as means to an end: wherefore this desire is devoid of sin, in so far as it is held in check by the rule taken from the nature of the end. But covetousness exceeds this rule, and therefore is a sin.
2. Covetousness may signify immoderation about external things in two ways. First, so as to regard immediately the acquisition and keeping of such things, when, to wit, a man acquires or keeps them more than is due. In this way it is a sin directly against one's neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them, for temporal goods cannot be possessed by many at the same time. Secondly, it may signify immoderation in the internal affection which a man has for riches when, for instance, a man loves them, desires them, or delights in them, immoderately. In this way by covetousness a man sins against himself, because it causes disorder in his affections, though not in his body as do the sins of the flesh.As a consequence, however, it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man contemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.
3. Natural inclinations should be regulated according to reason, which is the governing power in human nature. Hence though old people seek more greedily the aid of external things, just as everyone that is in need seeks to have his need supplied, they are not excused from sin if they exceed this due measure of reason with regard to riches.



Whether covetousness is a special sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that covetousness is not a special sin. For Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. iii): "Covetousness, which in Greek is called (philargyria), applies not only to silver or money, but also to anything that is desired immoderately." Now in every sin there is immoderate desire of something, because sin consists in turning away from the immutable good, and adhering to mutable goods, as state above (I-II 71,6, Objection [3]). Therefore covetousness is a general sin.
2. Further, according to Isidore (Etym. x), "the covetous [avarus] man" is so called because he is "greedy for brass [avidus aeris]," i.e. money: wherefore in Greek covetousness is called (philargyria), i.e. "love of silver." Now silver, which stands for money, signifies all external goods the value of which can be measured by money, as stated above (Question [117], Article [2], ad 2). Therefore covetousness is a desire for any external thing: and consequently seems to be a general sin.
3. Further, a gloss on Rm 7,7, "For I had not known concupiscence," says: "The law is good, since by forbidding concupiscence, it forbids all evil." Now the law seems to forbid especially the concupiscence of covetousness: hence it is written (Ex 20,17): "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Therefore the concupiscence of covetousness is all evil, and so covetousness is a general sin.

On the contrary Covetousness is numbered together with other special sins (Rm 1,29), where it is written: "Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, covetousness" [Douay: 'avarice'], etc.
I answer that Sins take their species from their objects, as stated above (I-II 72,1). Now the object of a sin is the good towards which an inordinate appetite tends. Hence where there is a special aspect of good inordinately desired, there is a special kind of sin. Now the useful good differs in aspect from the delightful good. And riches, as such, come under the head of useful good, since they are desired under the aspect of being useful to man. Consequently covetousness is a special sin, forasmuch as it is an immoderate love of having possessions, which are comprised under the name of money, whence covetousness [avaritia] is denominated.Since, however, the verb "to have," which seems to have been originally employed in connection with possessions whereof we are absolute masters, is applied to many other things (thus a man is said to have health, a wife, clothes, and so forth, as stated in De Praedicamentis), consequently the term "covetousness" has been amplified to denote all immoderate desire for having anything whatever. Thus Gregory says in a homily (xvi in ) that "covetousness is a desire not only for money, but also for knowledge and high places, when prominence is immoderately sought after." In this way covetousness is not a special sin: and in this sense Augustine speaks of covetousness in the passage quoted in the First Objection.

Reply to Objection: 1. Wherefore this suffices for the Reply to the First Objection.
2. All those external things that are subject to the uses of human life are comprised under the term "money," inasmuch as they have the aspect of useful good. But there are certain external goods that can be obtained by money, such as pleasures, honors, and so forth, which are desirable under another aspect. Wherefore the desire for such things is not properly called covetousness, in so far as it is a special vice.
3. This gloss speaks of the inordinate concupiscence for anything whatever. For it is easy to understand that if it is forbidden to covet another's possessions it is also forbidden to covet those things that can be obtained by means of those possessions.


Whether covetousness is opposed to liberality?



Objection: 1. It seems that covetousness is not opposed to liberality. For Chrysostom, commenting on Mt 5,6, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice," says, (Hom. xv in Matth.) that there are two kinds of justice, one general, and the other special, to which covetousness is opposed: and the Philosopher says the same (Ethic. v, 2). Therefore covetousness is not opposed to liberality.
2. Further, the sin of covetousness consists in a man's exceeding the measure in the things he possesses. But this measure is appointed by justice. Therefore covetousness is directly opposed to justice and not to liberality.
3. Further, liberality is a virtue that observes the mean between two contrary vices, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. i, 7; iv, 1). But covetousness has no contrary and opposite sin, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 1,2). Therefore covetousness is not opposed to liberality.

On the contrary It is written (Qo 5,9): "A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money, and he that loveth riches shall have no fruits from them." Now not to be satisfied with money and to love it inordinately are opposed to liberality, which observes the mean in the desire of riches. Therefore covetousness is opposed to liberality.
I answer that Covetousness denotes immoderation with regard to riches in two ways. First, immediately in respect of the acquisition and keeping of riches. In this way a man obtains money beyond his due, by stealing or retaining another's property. This is opposed to justice, and in this sense covetousness is mentioned (Ez 22,27): "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood . . . and to run after gains through covetousness." Secondly, it denotes immoderation in the interior affections for riches; for instance, when a man loves or desires riches too much, or takes too much pleasure in them, even if he be unwilling to steal. In this way covetousness is opposed to liberality, which moderates these affections, as stated above (Question [117], Article [2], ad 3, Article [3], ad 3, Article [6]). In this sense covetousness is spoken of (2Co 9,5): "That they would . . . prepare this blessing before promised, to be ready, so as a blessing, not as covetousness," where a gloss observes: "Lest they should regret what they had given, and give but little."

Reply to Objection: 1. Chrysostom and the Philosopher are speaking of covetousness in the first sense: covetousness in the second sense is called illiberality [*(aneleutheria)] by the Philosopher.
2. It belongs properly to justice to appoint the measure in the acquisition and keeping of riches from the point of view of legal due, so that a man should neither take nor retain another's property. But liberality appoints the measure of reason, principally in the interior affections, and consequently in the exterior taking and keeping of money, and in the spending of the same, in so far as these proceed from the interior affection, looking at the matter from the point of view not of the legal but of the moral debt, which latter depends on the rule of reason.
3. Covetousness as opposed to justice has no opposite vice: since it consists in having more than one ought according to justice, the contrary of which is to have less than one ought, and this is not a sin but a punishment. But covetousness as opposed to liberality has the vice of prodigality opposed to it.



Whether covetousness is always a mortal sin?



Objection: 1. It seems that covetousness is always a mortal sin. For no one is worthy of death save for a mortal sin. But men are worthy of death on account of covetousness. For the Apostle after saying (Rm 1,29): "Being filled with all iniquity . . . fornication, covetousness [Douay: 'avarice']," etc. adds (Rm 1,32): "They who do such things are worthy of death." Therefore covetousness is a mortal sin.
2. Further, the least degree of covetousness is to hold to one's own inordinately. But this seemingly is a mortal sin: for Basil says (Serm. super. Luc. xii, 18): "It is the hungry man's bread that thou keepest back, the naked man's cloak that thou hoardest, the needy man's money that thou possessest, hence thou despoilest as many as thou mightest succor."Now it is a mortal sin to do an injustice to another, since it is contrary to the love of our neighbor. Much more therefore is all covetousness a mortal sin.
3. Further, no one is struck with spiritual blindness save through a mortal sin, for this deprives a man of the light of grace. But, according to Chrysostom [*Hom. xv in the Opus Imperfectum, falsely ascribed to St. Chrysostom], "Lust for money brings darkness on the soul." Therefore covetousness, which is lust for money, is a mortal sin.

On the contrary A gloss on 1Co 3,12, "If any man build upon this foundation," says (cf. St. Augustine, De Fide et Oper. xvi) that "he builds wood, hay, stubble, who thinks in the things of the world, how he may please the world," which pertains to the sin of covetousness. Now he that builds wood, hay, stubble, sins not mortally but venially, for it is said of him that "he shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Therefore covetousness is some times a venial sin.
I answer that As stated above (Article [3]) covetousness is twofold. In one way it is opposed to justice, and thus it is a mortal sin in respect of its genus. For in this sense covetousness consists in the unjust taking or retaining of another's property, and this belongs to theft or robbery, which are mortal sins, as stated above (Question [66], Articles [6],8). Yet venial sin may occur in this kind of covetousness by reason of imperfection of the act, as stated above (Question [66], Article [6], ad 3), when we were treating of theft.In another way covetousness may be take as opposed to liberality: in which sense it denotes inordinate love of riches. Accordingly if the love of riches becomes so great as to be preferred to charity, in such wise that a man, through love of riches, fear not to act counter to the love of God and his neighbor, covetousness will then be a mortal sin. If, on the other hand, the inordinate nature of his love stops short of this, so that although he love riches too much, yet he does not prefer the love of them to the love of God, and is unwilling for the sake of riches to do anything in opposition to God or his neighbor, then covetousness is a venial sin.

Reply to Objection: 1. Covetousness is numbered together with mortal sins, by reason of the aspect under which it is a mortal sin.
2. Basil is speaking of a case wherein a man is bound by a legal debt to give of his goods to the poor, either through fear of their want or on account of his having too much.
3. Lust for riches, properly speaking, brings darkness on the soul, when it puts out the light of charity, by preferring the love of riches to the love of God.




Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.117 a.2