Summa Th. III EN Qu.86 a.4
Objection: 1. It would seem that no debt of punishment remains after the guilt has been forgiven through Penance. For when the cause is removed, the effect is removed. But the guilt is the cause of the debt of punishment: since a man deserves to be punished because he has been guilty of a sin. Therefore when the sin has been forgiven, no debt of punishment can remain.
2. Further, according to the Apostle (Rm 5) the gift of Christ is more effective than the sin of Adam. Now, by sinning, man incurs at the same time guilt and the debt of punishment. Much more therefore, by the gift of grace, is the guilt forgiven and at the same time the debt of punishment remitted.
3. Further, the forgiveness of sins is effected in Penance through the power of Christ's Passion, according to Rm 3,25: "Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in His Blood . . . for the remission of former sins." Now Christ's Passion made satisfaction sufficient for all sins, as stated above (Questions ,49,79, Article ). Therefore after the guilt has been pardoned, no debt of punishment remains.
On the contrary It is related (2S 12,13) that when David penitent had said to Nathan: "I have sinned against the Lord," Nathan said to him: "The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die. Nevertheless . . . the child that is born to thee shall surely die," which was to punish him for the sin he had committed, as stated in the same place. Therefore a debt of some punishment remains after the guilt has been forgiven.
I answer that As stated in the FS, Question , Article , in mortal sin there are two things, namely, a turning from the immutable Good, and an inordinate turning to mutable good. Accordingly, in so far as mortal sin turns away from the immutable Good, it induces a debt of eternal punishment, so that whosoever sins against the eternal Good should be punished eternally. Again, in so far as mortal sin turns inordinately to a mutable good, it gives rise to a debt of some punishment, because the disorder of guilt is not brought back to the order of justice, except by punishment: since it is just that he who has been too indulgent to his will, should suffer something against his will, for thus will equality be restored. Hence it is written (Ap 18,7): "As much as she hath glorified herself, and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her."Since, however, the turning to mutable good is finite, sin does not, in this respect, induce a debt of eternal punishment. Wherefore, if man turns inordinately to a mutable good, without turning from God, as happens in venial sins, he incurs a debt, not of eternal but of temporal punishment. Consequently when guilt is pardoned through grace, the soul ceases to be turned away from God, through being united to God by grace: so that at the same time, the debt of punishment is taken away, albeit a debt of some temporal punishment may yet remain.
Reply to Objection: 1. Mortal sin both turns away from God and turns to a created good. But, as stated in the FS, Question , Article , the turning away from God is as its form while the turning to created good is as its matter. Now if the formal element of anything be removed, the species is taken away: thus, if you take away rational, you take away the human species. Consequently mortal sin is said to be pardoned from the very fact that, by means of grace, the aversion of the mind from God is taken away together with the debt of eternal punishment: and yet the material element remains, viz. the inordinate turning to a created good, for which a debt of temporal punishment is due.
2. As stated in the FS, Question , Articles ,8; FS, Question , Article , it belongs to grace to operate in man by justifying him from sin, and to co-operate with man that his work may be rightly done. Consequently the forgiveness of guilt and of the debt of eternal punishment belongs to operating grace, while the remission of the debt of temporal punishment belongs to co-operating grace, in so far as man, by bearing punishment patiently with the help of Divine grace, is released also from the debt of temporal punishment. Consequently just as the effect of operating grace precedes the effect of co-operating grace, so too, the remission of guilt and of eternal punishment precedes the complete release from temporal punishment, since both are from grace, but the former, from grace alone, the latter, from grace and free-will.
3. Christ's Passion is of itself sufficient to remove all debt of punishment, not only eternal, but also temporal; and man is released from the debt of punishment according to the measure of his share in the power of Christ's Passion. Now in Baptism man shares the Power of Christ's Passion fully, since by water and the Spirit of Christ, he dies with Him to sin, and is born again in Him to a new life, so that, in Baptism, man receives the remission of all debt of punishment. In Penance, on the other hand, man shares in the power of Christ's Passion according to the measure of his own acts, which are the matter of Penance, as water is of Baptism, as stated above (Question , Articles ,3). Wherefore the entire debt of punishment is not remitted at once after the first act of Penance, by which act the guilt is remitted, but only when all the acts of Penance have been completed.
Objection: 1. It would seem that all the remnants of sin are removed when a mortal sin is forgiven. For Augustine says in De Poenitentia [*De vera et falsa Poenitentia, the authorship of which is unknown]: "Our Lord never healed anyone without delivering him wholly; for He wholly healed the man on the Sabbath, since He delivered his body from all disease, and his soul from all taint." Now the remnants of sin belong to the disease of sin. Therefore it does not seem possible for any remnants of sin to remain when the guilt has been pardoned.
2. Further, according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv), "good is more efficacious than evil, since evil does not act save in virtue of some good." Now, by sinning, man incurs the taint of sin all at once. Much more, therefore, by repenting, is he delivered also from all remnants of sin.
3. Further, God's work is more efficacious than man's. Now by the exercise of good human works the remnants of contrary sins are removed. Much more, therefore, are they taken away by the remission of guilt, which is a work of God.
On the contrary We read (Mc 8,22) that the blind man whom our Lord enlightened, was restored first of all to imperfect sight, wherefore he said (Mc 8,24): "I see men, as it were trees, walking"; and afterwards he was restored perfectly, "so that he saw all things clearly." Now the enlightenment of the blind man signifies the delivery of the sinner. Therefore after the first remission of sin, whereby the sinner is restored to spiritual sight, there still remain in him some remnants of his past sin.
I answer that Mortal sin, in so far as it turns inordinately to a mutable good, produces in the soul a certain disposition, or even a habit, if the acts be repeated frequently. Now it has been said above (Article ) that the guilt of mortal sin is pardoned through grace removing the aversion of the mind from God. Nevertheless when that which is on the part of the aversion has been taken away by grace, that which is on the part of the inordinate turning to a mutable good can remain, since this may happen to be without the other, as stated above (Article ). Consequently, there is no reason why, after the guilt has been forgiven, the dispositions caused by preceding acts should not remain, which are called the remnants of sin. Yet they remain weakened and diminished, so as not to domineer over man, and they are after the manner of dispositions rather than of habits, like the "fomes" which remains after Baptism.
Reply to Objection: 1. God heals the whole man perfectly; but sometimes suddenly, as Peter's mother-in-law was restored at once to perfect health, so that "rising she ministered to them" (Lc 4,39), and sometimes by degrees, as we said above (Question , Article , ad 2) about the blind man who was restored to sight (Mc 8,25). And so too, He sometimes turns the heart of man with such power, that it receives at once perfect spiritual health, not only the guilt being pardoned, but all remnants of sin being removed as was the case with Magdalen (Lc 7); whereas at other times He sometimes first pardons the guilt by operating grace, and afterwards, by co-operating grace, removes the remnants of sin by degrees.
2. Sin too, sometimes induces at once a weak disposition, such as is the result of one act, and sometimes a stronger disposition, the result of many acts.
3. One human act does not remove all the remnants of sin, because, as stated in the Predicaments (Categor. viii) "a vicious man by doing good works will make but little progress so as to be any better, but if he continue in good practice, he will end in being good as to acquired virtue." But God's grace does this much more effectively, whether by one or by several acts.
Objection: 1. It would seem that the forgiveness of guilt is not an effect of penance as a virtue. For penance is said to be a virtue, in so far as it is a principle of a human action. But human action does nothing towards the remission of guilt, since this is an effect of operating grace. Therefore the forgiveness of guilt is not an effect of penance as a virtue.
2. Further, certain other virtues are more excellent than penance. But the forgiveness of sin is not said to be the effect of any other virtue. Neither, therefore, is it the effect of penance as a virtue.
3. Further, there is no forgiveness of sin except through the power of Christ's Passion, according to He 9,22: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." Now Penance, as a sacrament, produces its effect through the power of Christ's Passion, even as the other sacraments do, as was shown above (Question , Articles ,5). Therefore the forgiveness of sin is the effect of Penance, not as a virtue, but as a sacrament.
On the contrary Properly speaking, the cause of a thing is that without which it cannot be, since every defect depends on its cause. Now forgiveness of sin can come from God without the sacrament of Penance, but not without the virtue of penance, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 3; Question , Article ); so that, even before the sacraments of the New Law were instituted, God pardoned the sins of the penitent. Therefore the forgiveness of sin is chiefly the effect of penance as a virtue.
I answer that Penance is a virtue in so far as it is a principle of certain human acts. Now the human acts, which are performed by the sinner, are the material element in the sacrament of Penance. Moreover every sacrament produces its effect, in virtue not only of its form, but also of its matter. because both these together make the one sacrament, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 2, Article ). Hence in Baptism forgiveness of sin is effected, in virtue not only of the form (but also of the matter, viz. water, albeit chiefly in virtue of the form) [*The words in brackets are omitted in the Leonine edition] from which the water receives its power---and, similarly, the forgiveness of sin is the effect of Penance, chiefly by the power of the keys, which is vested in the ministers, who furnish the formal part of the sacrament, as stated above (Question , Article ), and secondarily by the instrumentality of those acts of the penitent which pertain to the virtue of penance, but only in so far as such acts are, in some way, subordinate to the keys of the Church. Accordingly it is evident that the forgiveness of sin is the effect of penance as a virtue, but still more of Penance as a sacrament.
Reply to Objection: 1. The effect of operating grace is the justification of the ungodly (as stated in the FS, Question ), wherein there is, as was there stated (Articles ,2,3), not only infusion of grace and forgiveness of sin, but also a movement of the free-will towards God, which is an act of faith quickened by charity, and a movement of the free-will against sin, which is the act of penance. Yet these human acts are there as the effects of operating grace, and are produced at the same time as the forgiveness of sin. Consequently the forgiveness of sin does not take place without an act of the virtue of penance, although it is the effect of operating grace.
2. In the justification of the ungodly there is not only an act of penance, but also an act of faith, as stated above (ad 1: FS, Question , Article ). Wherefore the forgiveness of sin is accounted the effect not only of the virtue of penance, but also, and that chiefly, of faith and charity.
3. The act of the virtue of penance is subordinate to Christ's Passion both by faith, and by its relation to the keys of the Church; and so, in both ways, it causes the forgiveness of sin, by the power of Christ's Passion.To the argument advanced in the contrary sense we reply that the act of the virtue of penance is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, through being an inseparable effect of grace, whereby chiefly is sin pardoned, and which produces its effect in all the sacraments. Consequently it only follows that grace is a higher cause of the forgiveness of sin than the sacrament of Penance. Moreover, it must be observed that, under the Old Law and the law of nature, there was a sacrament of Penance after a fashion, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 2).
We must now consider the forgiveness of venial sins, under which head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether venial sin can be forgiven without Penance?
(2) Whether it can be forgiven without the infusion of grace?
(3) Whether venial sins are forgiven by the sprinkling of holy water, a bishop's blessing, the beating of the breast, the Lord's Prayer, and the like?
(4) Whether a venial sin can be taken away without a mortal sin?
Objection: 1. It would seem that venial sin can be forgiven without penance. For, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 4), it is essential to true penance that man should not only sorrow for his past sins, but also that he should purpose to avoid them for the future. Now venial sins are forgiven without any such purpose, for it is certain that man cannot lead the present life without committing venial sins. Therefore venial sins can be forgiven without penance.
2. Further, there is no penance without actual displeasure at one's sins. But venial sins can be taken away without any actual displeasure at them, as would be the case if a man were to be killed in his sleep, for Christ's sake, since he would go to heaven at once, which would not happen if his venial sins remained. Therefore venial sins can be forgiven without penance.
3. Further, venial sins are contrary to the fervor of charity, as stated in the SS, Question , Article . Now one contrary is removed by another. Therefore forgiveness of venial sins is caused by the fervor of charity, which may be without actual displeasure at venial sin.
On the contrary Augustine says in De Poenitentia [*De vera et falsa Poenitentia, the authorship of which is unknown], that "there is a penance which is done for venial sins in the Church every day" which would be useless if venial sins could be forgiven without Penance.
I answer that Forgiveness of sin, as stated above (Question , Article ), is effected by man being united to God from Whom sin separates him in some way. Now this separation is made complete by mortal sin, and incomplete by venial sin: because, by mortal sin, the mind through acting against charity is altogether turned away from God; whereas by venial sin man's affections are clogged, so that they are slow in tending towards God. Consequently both kinds of sin are taken away by penance, because by both of them man's will is disordered through turning inordinately to a created good; for just as mortal sin cannot be forgiven so long as the will is attached to sin, so neither can venial sin, because while the cause remains, the effect remains.Yet a more perfect penance is requisite for the forgiveness of mortal sin, namely that man should detest actually the mortal sin which he committed, so far as lies in his power, that is to say, he should endeavor to remember each single mortal sin, in order to detest each one. But this is, not required for the forgiveness of venial sins; although it does not suffice to have habitual displeasure, which is included in the habit of charity or of penance as a virtue, since then venial sin would be incompatible with charity, which is evidently untrue. Consequently it is necessary to have a certain virtual displeasure, so that, for instance, a man's affections so tend to God and Divine things, that whatever might happen to him to hamper that tendency would be displeasing to him, and would grieve him, were he to commit it, even though he were not to think of it actually: and this is not sufficient for the remission of mortal sin, except as regards those sins which he fails to remember after a careful examination.
Reply to Objection: 1. When man is in a state of grace, he can avoid all mortal sins, and each single one; and he can avoid each single venial sin, but not all, as was explained in the FS, Question , Article , ad 2; FS, Question , Article . Consequently penance for mortal sins requires man to purpose abstaining from mortal sins, all and each; whereas penance for venial sins requires man to purpose abstaining from each, but not from all, because the weakness of this life does not allow of this. Nevertheless he needs to have the purpose of taking steps to commit fewer venial sins, else he would be in danger of falling back, if he gave up the desire of going forward, or of removing the obstacles to spiritual progress, such as venial sins are.
2. Death for Christ's sake, as stated above (Question , Article ), obtains the power of Baptism, wherefore it washes away all sin, both venial and mortal, unless it find the will attached to sin.
3. The fervor of charity implies virtual displeasure at venial sins, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Objection: 1. It would seem that infusion of grace is necessary for the remission of venial sins. Because an effect is not produced without its proper cause. Now the proper cause of the remission of sins is grace; for man's sins are not forgiven through his own merits; wherefore it is written (Ep 2,4-5): "God, Who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity, wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by Whose grace you are saved." Therefore venial sins are not forgiven without infusion of grace.
2. Further, venial sins are not forgiven without Penance. Now grace is infused, in Penance as in the other sacraments of the New Law. Therefore venial sins are not forgiven without infusion of grace.
3. Further, venial sin produces a stain on the soul. Now a stain is not removed save by grace which is the spiritual beauty of the soul. Therefore it seems that venial sins are not forgiven without infusion of grace.
On the contrary The advent of venial sin neither destroys nor diminishes grace, as stated in the SS, Question , Article . Therefore, in like manner, an infusion of grace is not necessary in order to remove venial sin.
I answer that Each thing is removed by its contrary. But venial sin is not contrary to habitual grace or charity, but hampers its act, through man being too much attached to a created good, albeit not in opposition to God, as stated in the FS, Question , Article ; SS, Question , Article . Therefore, in order that venial sin be removed, it is not necessary that habitual grace be infused, but a movement of grace or charity suffices for its forgiveness.Nevertheless, since in those who have the use of free-will (in whom alone can there be venial sins), there can be no infusion of grace without an actual movement of the free-will towards God and against sin, consequently whenever grace is infused anew, venial sins are forgiven.
Reply to Objection: 1. Even the forgiveness of venial sins is an effect of grace, in virtue of the act which grace produces anew, but not through any habit infused anew into the soul.
2. Venial sin is never forgiven without some act, explicit or implicit, of the virtue of penance, as stated above (Article ): it can, however, be forgiven without the sacrament of Penance, which is formally perfected by the priestly absolution, as stated above (Question , Article ). Hence it does not follow that infusion of grace is required for the forgiveness of venial sin, for although this infusion takes place in every sacrament, it does not occur in every act of virtue.
3. Just as there are two kinds of bodily stain, one consisting in the privation of something required for beauty, e.g. the right color or the due proportion of members, and another by the introduction of some hindrance to beauty, e.g. mud or dust; so too, a stain is put on the soul, in one way, by the privation of the beauty of grace through mortal sin, in another, by the inordinate inclination of the affections to some temporal thing, and this is the result of venial sin. Consequently, an infusion of grace is necessary for the removal of mortal sin, but in order to remove venial sin, it is necessary to have a movement proceeding from grace, removing the inordinate attachment to the temporal thing.
Objection: 1. It would seem that venial sins are not removed by the sprinkling of holy water, a bishop's blessing, and the like. For venial sins are not forgiven without Penance, as stated above (Article ). But Penance suffices by itself for the remission of venial sins. Therefore the above have nothing to do with the remission of venial sins.
2. Further, each of the above bears the same relation to one venial sin as to all. If therefore, by means of one of them, some venial sin is remitted, it follows that in like manner all are remitted, so that by beating his breast once, or by being sprinkled once with holy water, a man would be delivered from all his venial sins, which seems unreasonable.
3. Further, venial sins occasion a debt of some punishment, albeit temporal; for it is written (1Co 3,12 1Co 3,15) of him that builds up "wood, hay, stubble" that "he shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Now the above things whereby venial sins are said to be taken away, contain either no punishment at all, or very little. Therefore they do not suffice for the full remission of venial sins.
On the contrary Augustine says in De Poenitentia [*Hom. 30 inter 1; Ep. cclxv] that "for our slight sins we strike our breasts, and say: Forgive us our trespasses," and so it seems that striking one's breast, and the Lord's Prayer cause the remission of venial sins: and the same seems to apply to the other things.
I answer that As stated above (Article ), no infusion of fresh grace is required for the forgiveness of a venial sin, but it is enough to have an act proceeding from grace, in detestation of that venial sin, either explicit or at least implicit, as when one is moved fervently to God. Hence, for three reasons, certain things cause the remission of venial sins: first, because they imply the infusion of grace, since the infusion of grace removes venial sins, as stated above (Article ); and so, by the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, and by all the sacraments of the New Law without exception, wherein grace is conferred, venial sins are remitted. Secondly, because they imply a movement of detestation for sin, and in this way the general confession [*i.e. the recital of the Confiteor or of an act of contrition], the beating of one's breast, and the Lord's Prayer conduce to the remission of venial sins, for we ask in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses." Thirdly, because they include a movement of reverence for God and Divine things; and in this way a bishop's blessing, the sprinkling of holy water, any sacramental anointing, a prayer said in a dedicated church, and anything else of the kind, conduce to the remission of venial sins.
Reply to Objection: 1. All these things cause the remission of venial sins, in so far as they incline the soul to the movement of penance, viz., the implicit or explicit detestation of one's sins.
2. All these things, so far as they are concerned, conduce to the remission of all venial sins: but the remission may be hindered as regards certain venial sins, to which the mind is still actually attached, even as insincerity sometimes impedes the effect of Baptism.
3. By the above things, venial sins are indeed taken away as regards the guilt, both because those things are a kind of satisfaction, and through the virtue of charity whose movement is aroused by such things.Yet it does not always happen that, by means of each one, the whole guilt of punishment is taken away, because, in that case, whoever was entirely free from mortal sin, would go straight to heaven if sprinkled with holy water: but the debt of punishment is remitted by means of the above, according to the movement of fervor towards God, which fervor is aroused by such things, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Objection: 1. It would seem that venial sin can be taken away without mortal sin. For, on Jn 8,7: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," a gloss says that "all those men were in a state of mortal sin: for venial offenses were forgiven them through the legal ceremonies." Therefore venial sin can be taken away without mortal sin.
2. Further, no infusion of grace is required for the remission of venial sin. but it is required for the forgiveness of mortal sin. Therefore venial sin can be taken away without mortal sin.
3. Further, a venial sin differs from a mortal sin more than from another venial sin. But one venial sin can be pardoned without another, as stated above (Article , ad 2; Question , Article ). Therefore a venial sin can be taken away without a mortal sin.
On the contrary It is written (Mt 5,26): "Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence," viz., from the prison, into which a man is cast for mortal sin, "till thou repay the last farthing," by which venial sin is denoted. Therefore a venial sin is not forgiven without mortal sin.
I answer that As stated above (Question , Article ), there is no remission of any sin whatever except by the power of grace, because, as the Apostle declares (Rm 4,8), it is owing to God's grace that He does not impute sin to a man, which a gloss on that passage expounds as referring to venial sin. Now he that is in a state of mortal sin is without the grace of God. Therefore no venial sin is forgiven him.
Reply to Objection: 1. Venial offenses, in the passage quoted, denote the irregularities or uncleannesses which men contracted in accordance with the Law.
2. Although no new infusion of habitual grace is requisite for the remission of venial sin, yet it is necessary to exercise some act of grace, which cannot be in one who is a subject of mortal sin.
3. Venial sin does not preclude every act of grace whereby all venial sins can be removed; whereas mortal sin excludes altogether the habit of grace, without which no sin, either mortal or venial, is remitted. Hence the comparison fails.
We must now consider the return of sins which have been taken away by Penance: under which head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether sins which have been taken away by Penance return simply through a subsequent sin?
(2) Whether more specially as regards certain sins they return, in a way, on account of ingratitude?
(3) Whether the debt of punishment remains the same for sins thus returned?
(4) Whether this ingratitude, on account of which sins return, is a special sin?
Objection: 1. It would seem that sins once forgiven return through a subsequent sin. For Augustine says (De Bapt. contra Donat. i, 12): "Our Lord teaches most explicitly in the Gospel that sins which have been forgiven return, when fraternal charity ceases, in the example of the servant from whom his master exacted the payment of the debt already forgiven, because he had refused to forgive the debt of his fellow-servant." Now fraternal charity is destroyed through each mortal sin. Therefore sins already taken away through Penance, return through each subsequent mortal sin.
2. Further, on Lc 11,24, "I will return into my house, whence I came out," Bede says: "This verse should make us tremble, we should not endeavor to explain it away lest through carelessness we give place to the sin which we thought to have been taken away, and become its slave once more." Now this would not be so unless it returned. Therefore a sin returns after once being taken away by Penance.
3. Further, the Lord said (Ez 18,24): "If the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity . . . all his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered." Now among the other "justices" which he had done, is also his previous penance, since it was said above (Question , Article ) that penance is a part of justice. Therefore when one who has done penance, sins, his previous penance, whereby he received forgiveness of his sins, is not imputed to him. Therefore his sins return.
4. Further, past sins are covered by grace, as the Apostle declares (Rm 4,7) where he quotes Ps 31,1: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered." But a subsequent mortal sin takes away grace. Therefore the sins committed previously, become uncovered: and so, seemingly, they return.
On the contrary The Apostle says (Rm 11,29): "The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." Now the penitent's sins are taken away by a gift of God. Therefore the sins which have been taken away do not return through a subsequent sin, as though God repented His gift of forgiveness.Moreover, Augustine says (Lib. Resp. Prosperi i [*Cf. Prosper, Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum ii]): "When he that turns away from Christ, comes to the end of this life a stranger to grace, whither does he go, except to perdition? Yet he does not fall back into that which had been forgiven, nor will he be condemned for original sin."
I answer that As stated above (Question , Article ), mortal sin contains two things, aversion from God and adherence to a created good. Now, in mortal sin, whatever attaches to the aversion, is, considered in itself, common to all mortal sins, since man turns away from God by every mortal sin, so that, in consequence, the stain resulting from the privation of grace, and the debt of everlasting punishment are common to all mortal sins. This is what is meant by what is written (Jc 2,10): "Whosoever . . . shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all." On the other hand, as regards their adherence they are different from, and sometimes contrary to one another. Hence it is evident, that on the part of the adherence, a subsequent mortal sin does not cause the return of mortal sins previously dispelled, else it would follow that by a sin of wastefulness a man would be brought back to the habit or disposition of avarice previously dispelled, so that one contrary would be the cause of another, which is impossible. But if in mortal sins we consider that which attaches to the aversion absolutely, then a subsequent mortal sin [causes the return of that which was comprised in the mortal sins before they were pardoned, in so far as the subsequent mortal sin] [*The words in brackets are omitted in the Leonine edition.] deprives man of grace, and makes him deserving of everlasting punishment, just as he was before. Nevertheless, since the aversion of mortal sin is [in a way, caused by the adherence, those things which attach to the aversion are*] diversified somewhat in relation to various adherences, as it were to various causes, so that there will be a different aversion, a different stain, a different debt of punishment, according to the different acts of mortal sin from which they arise; hence the question is moved whether the stain and the debt of eternal punishment, as caused by acts of sins previously pardoned, return through a subsequent mortal sin.Accordingly some have maintained that they return simply even in this way. But this is impossible, because what God has done cannot be undone by the work of man. Now the pardon of the previous sins was a work of Divine mercy, so that it cannot be undone by man's subsequent sin, according to Rm 3,3: "Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"Wherefore others who maintained the possibility of sins returning, said that God pardons the sins of a penitent who will afterwards sin again, not according to His foreknowledge, but only according to His present justice: since He foresees that He will punish such a man eternally for his sins, and yet, by His grace, He makes him righteous for the present. But this cannot stand: because if a cause be placed absolutely, its effect is placed absolutely; so that if the remission of sins were effected by grace and the sacraments of grace, not absolutely but under some condition dependent on some future event, it would follow that grace and the sacraments of grace are not the sufficient causes of the remission of sins, which is erroneous, as being derogatory to God's grace.Consequently it is in no way possible for the stain of past sins and the debt of punishment incurred thereby, to return, as caused by those acts. Yet it may happen that a subsequent sinful act virtually contains the debt of punishment due to the previous sin, in so far as when a man sins a second time, for this very reason he seems to sin more grievously than before, as stated in Rm 2,5: "According to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath," from the mere fact, namely, that God's goodness, which waits for us to repent, is despised. And so much the more is God's goodness despised, if the first sin is committed a second time after having been forgiven, as it is a greater favor for the sin to be forgiven than for the sinner to be endured.Accordingly the sin which follows repentance brings back, in a sense, the debt of punishment due to the sins previously forgiven, not as caused by those sins already forgiven but as caused by this last sin being committed, on account of its being aggravated in view of those previous sins. This means that those sins return, not simply, but in a restricted sense, viz., in so far as they are virtually contained in the subsequent sin.
Reply to Objection: 1. This saying of Augustine seems to refer to the return of sins as to the debt of eternal punishment considered in itself, namely, that he who sins after doing penance incurs a debt of eternal punishment, just as before, but not altogether for the same "reason." Wherefore Augustine, after saying (Lib. Resp. Prosperi i [*Cf. Prosper, Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum ii]) that "he does not fall back into that which was forgiven, nor will he be condemned for original sin," adds: "Nevertheless, for these last sins he will be condemned to the same death, which he deserved to suffer for the former," because he incurs the punishment of eternal death which he deserved for his previous sins.
2. By these words Bede means that the guilt already forgiven enslaves man, not by the return of his former debt of punishment, but by the repetition of his act.
3. The effect of a subsequent sin is that the former "justices" are not remembered, in so far as they were deserving of eternal life, but not in so far as they were a hindrance to sin. Consequently if a man sins mortally after making restitution, he does not become guilty as though he had not paid back what he owed; and much less is penance previously done forgotten as to the pardon of the guilt, since this is the work of God rather than of man.
4. Grace removes the stain and the debt of eternal punishment simply; but it covers the past sinful acts, lest, on their account, God deprive man of grace, and judge him deserving of eternal punishment; and what grace has once done, endures for ever.
Summa Th. III EN Qu.86 a.4