Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.184 a.8

Whether parish priests and archdeacons are more perfect than religious?

Objection: 1. It would seem that also parish priests and archdeacons are more perfect than religious. For Chrysostom says in his Dialogue (De Sacerdot. vi): "Take for example a monk, such as Elias, if I may exaggerate somewhat, he is not to be compared with one who, cast among the people and compelled to carry the sins of many, remains firm and strong." A little further on he says: "If I were given the choice, where would I prefer to please, in the priestly office, or in the monastic solitude, without hesitation I should choose the former." Again in the same book (ch. 5) he says: "If you compare the toils of this project, namely of the monastic life, with a well-employed priesthood, you will find them as far distant from one another as a common citizen is from a king." Therefore it would seem that priests who have the cure of souls are more perfect than religious.
2. Further, Augustine says (ad Valerium, Ep. xxi): "Let thy religious prudence observe that in this life, and especially at these times, there is nothing so difficult, so onerous, so perilous as the office of bishop, priest, or deacon; while in God's sight there is no greater blessing, if one engage in the fight as ordered by our Commander-in-chief." Therefore religious are not more perfect than priests or deacons.
3. Further, Augustine says (Ep. lx, ad Aurel.): "It would be most regrettable, were we to exalt monks to such a disastrous degree of pride, and deem the clergy deserving of such a grievous insult," as to assert that 'a bad monk is a good clerk,' "since sometimes even a good monk makes a bad clerk." And a little before this he says that "God's servants," i.e. monks, "must not be allowed to think that they may easily be chosen for something better," namely the clerical state, "if they should become worse thereby," namely by leaving the monastic state. Therefore it would seem that those who are in the clerical state are more perfect than religious.
4. Further, it is not lawful to pass from a more perfect to a less perfect state. Yet it is lawful to pass from the monastic state to a priestly office with a cure attached, as appears (XVI, qu. i, can. Si quis monachus) from a decree of Pope Gelasius, who says: "If there be a monk, who by the merit of his exemplary life is worthy of the priesthood, and the abbot under whose authority he fights for Christ his King, ask that he be made a priest, the bishop shall take him and ordain him in such place as he shall choose fitting." And Jerome says (Ad Rustic. Monach., Ep. cxxv): "In the monastery so live as to deserve to be a clerk." Therefore parish priests and archdeacons are more perfect than religious.
5. Further, bishops are in a more perfect state than religious, as shown above (Article [7]). But parish priests and archdeacons. through having cure of souls, are more like bishops than religious are. Therefore they are more perfect.
6. Further, virtue "is concerned with the difficult and the good" (Ethic. ii, 3). Now it is more difficult to lead a good life in the office of parish priest or archdeacon than in the religious state. Therefore parish priests and archdeacons have more perfect virtue than religious.

On the contrary It is stated (XIX, qu. ii, cap. Duce): "If a man while governing the people in his church under the bishop and leading a secular life is inspired by the Holy Ghost to desire to work out his salvation in a monastery or under some canonical rule, since he is led by a private law, there is no reason why he should be constrained by a public law." Now a man is not led by the law of the Holy Ghost, which is here called a "private law," except to something more perfect. Therefore it would seem that religious are more perfect than archdeacons or parish priests.
I answer that When we compare things in the point of super-eminence, we look not at that in which they agree, but at that wherein they differ. Now in parish priests and archdeacons three things may be considered, their state, their order, and their office. It belongs to their state that they are seculars, to their order that they are priests or deacons, to their office that they have the cure of souls committed to them.Accordingly, if we compare these with one who is a religious by state, a deacon or priest by order, having the cure of souls by office, as many monks and canons regular have, this one will excel in the first point, and in the other points he will be equal. But if the latter differ from the former in state and office, but agree in order, such as religious priests and deacons not having the cure of souls, it is evident that the latter will be more excellent than the former in state, less excellent in office, and equal in order.We must therefore consider which is the greater, preeminence of state or of office; and here, seemingly, we should take note of two things, goodness and difficulty. Accordingly, if we make the comparison with a view to goodness, the religious state surpasses the office of parish priest or archdeacon, because a religious pledges his whole life to the quest of perfection, whereas the parish priest or archdeacon does not pledge his whole life to the cure of souls, as a bishop does, nor is it competent to him, as it is to a bishop, to exercise the cure of souls in chief, but only in certain particulars regarding the cure of souls committed to his charge, as stated above (Article [6], ad 2). Wherefore the comparison of their religious state with their office is like the comparisons of the universal with the particular, and of a holocaust with a sacrifice which is less than a holocaust according to Gregory (Hom. xx in Ezech.). Hence it is said (XIX, qu. i, can. Clerici qui monachorum.): "Clerics who wish to take the monastic vows through being desirous of a better life must be allowed by their bishops the free entrance into the monastery."This comparison, however, must be considered as regarding the genus of the deed; for as regards the charity of the doer it happens sometimes that a deed which is of less account in its genus is of greater merit if it be done out of greater charity.On the other hand, if we consider the difficulty of leading a good life in religion, and in the office of one having the cure of souls, in this way it is more difficult to lead a good life together with the exercise of the cure of souls, on account of outward dangers: although the religious life is more difficult as regards the genus of the deed, by reason of the strictness of religious observance. If, however, the religious is also without orders, as in the case of religious lay brethren, then it is evident that the pre-eminence of order excels in the point of dignity, since by holy orders a man is appointed to the most august ministry of serving Christ Himself in the sacrament of the altar. For this requires a greater inward holiness than that which is requisite for the religious state, since as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. vi) the monastic order must follow the priestly orders, and ascend to Divine things in imitation of them. Hence, other things being equal, a cleric who is in holy orders, sins more grievously if he do something contrary to holiness than a religious who is not in holy orders: although a religious who is not in orders is bound to regular observance to which persons in holy orders are not bound.

Reply to Objection: 1. We might answer briefly these quotations from Chrysostom by saying that he speaks not of a priest of lesser order who has the cure of souls, but of a bishop, who is called a high-priest; and this agrees with the purpose of that book wherein he consoles himself and Basil in that they were chosen to be bishops. We may, however, pass this over and reply that he speaks in view of the difficulty. For he had already said: "When the pilot is surrounded by the stormy sea and is able to bring the ship safely out of the tempest, then he deserves to be acknowledged by all as a perfect pilot"; and afterwards he concludes, as quoted, with regard to the monk, "who is not to be compared with one who, cast among the people . . . remains firm"; and he gives the reason why, because "both in the calm end in the storm he piloted himself to safety." This proves nothing more than that the state of one who has the cure of souls is fraught with more danger than the monastic state; and to keep oneself innocent in face of a greater peril is proof of greater virtue. on the other hand, it also indicates greatness of virtue if a man avoid dangers by entering religion; hence he does not say that "he would prefer the priestly office to the monastic solitude," but that "he would rather please" in the former than in the latter, since this is a proof of greater virtue.
2. This passage quoted from Augustine also clearly refers to the question of difficulty which proves the greatness of virtue in those who lead a good life, as stated above (ad 1).
3. Augustine there compares monks with clerics as regards the pre-eminence of order, not as regards the distinction between religious and secular life.
4. Those who are taken from the religious state to receive the cure of souls, being already in sacred orders, attain to something they had not hitherto, namely the office of the cure, yet they do not put aside what they had already. For it is said in the Decretals (XVI, qu. i, can. De Monachis): "With regard to those monks who after long residence in a monastery attain to the order of clerics, we bid them not to lay aside their former purpose."On the other hand, parish priests and archdeacons, when they enter religion, resign their cure, in order to enter the state of perfection. This very fact shows the excellence of the religious life. When religious who are not in orders are admitted to the clerical state and to the sacred orders, they are clearly promoted to something better, as stated: this is indicated by the very way in which Jerome expresses himself: "So live in the monastery as to deserve to be a clerk."
5. Parish priests and archdeacons are more like bishops than religious are, in a certain respect, namely as regards the cure of souls which they have subordinately; but as regards the obligation in perpetuity, religious are more like a bishop, as appears from what we have said above (Articles [5],6).
6. The difficulty that arises from the arduousness of the deed adds to the perfection of virtue; but the difficulty that results from outward obstacles sometimes lessens the perfection of virtue---for instance, when a man loves not virtue so much as to wish to avoid the obstacles to virtue, according to the saying of the Apostle (1Co 9,25), "Everyone that striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things": and sometimes it is a sign of perfect virtue---for instance, when a man forsakes not virtue, although he is hindered in the practice of virtue unawares or by some unavoidable cause. In the religious state there is greater difficulty arising from the arduousness of deeds; whereas for those who in any way at all live in the world, there is greater difficulty resulting from obstacles to virtue, which obstacles the religious has had the foresight to avoid.


We must now consider things pertaining to the episcopal state. Under this head there are eight points of inquiry:

(1) Whether it is lawful to desire the office of a bishop?

(2) Whether it is lawful to refuse the office of bishop definitively?

(3) Whether the better man should be chosen for the episcopal office?

(4) Whether a bishop may pass over to the religious state?

(5) Whether he may lawfully abandon his subjects in a bodily manner?

(6) Whether he can have anything of his own?

(7) Whether he sins mortally by not distributing ecclesiastical goods to the poor?

(8) Whether religious who are appointed to the episcopal office are bound to religious observances?

Whether it is lawful to desire the office of a bishop?

Objection: 1. It would seem that it is lawful to desire the office of a bishop. For the Apostle says (1Tm 3,1): "He that desires [Vulg.: 'If a man desire'] the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." Now it is lawful and praiseworthy to desire a good work. Therefore it is even praiseworthy to desire the office of a bishop.
2. Further, the episcopal state is more perfect than the religious, as we have said above (Question [184], Article [7]). But it is praiseworthy to desire to enter the religious state. Therefore it is also praiseworthy to desire promotion to the episcopal state.
3. Further, it is written (Pr 11,26): "He that hideth up corn shall be cursed among the people; but a blessing upon the head of them that sell." Now a man who is apt, both in manner of life and by knowledge, for the episcopal office, would seem to hide up the spiritual corn, if he shun the episcopal state, whereas by accepting the episcopal office he enters the state of a dispenser of spiritual corn. Therefore it would seem praiseworthy to desire the office of a bishop, and blameworthy to refuse it.
4. Further, the deeds of the saints related in Holy Writ are set before us as an example, according to Rm 15,4, "What things soever were written, were written for our learning." Now we read (Is 6,8) that Isaias offered himself for the office of preacher, which belongs chiefly to bishops. Therefore it would seem praiseworthy to desire the office of a bishop.

On the contrary Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19): "The higher place, without which the people cannot be ruled, though it be filled becomingly, is unbecomingly desired."
I answer that Three things may be considered in the episcopal office. One is principal and final, namely the bishop's work, whereby the good of our neighbor is intended, according to Jn 21,17, "Feed My sheep." Another thing is the height of degree, for a bishop is placed above others, according to Mt 24,45, "A faithful and a wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family." The third is something resulting from these, namely reverence, honor, and a sufficiency of temporalities, according to 1Tm 5,17, "Let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy of double honor." Accordingly, to desire the episcopal office on account of these incidental goods is manifestly unlawful, and pertains to covetousness or ambition. Wherefore our Lord said against the Pharisees (Mt 23,6-7): "They love the first places at feasts, and the first chairs in the synagogues, and salutations in the market-place, and to be called by men, Rabbi." As regards the second, namely the height of degree, it is presumptuous to desire the episcopal office. Hence our Lord reproved His disciples for seeking precedence, by saying to them (Mt 20,25): "You know that the princes of the gentiles lord it over them." Here Chrysostom says (Hom. lxv in Matth.) that in these words "He points out that it is heathenish to seek precedence; and thus by comparing them to the gentiles He converted their impetuous soul."On the other hand, to desire to do good to one's neighbor is in itself praiseworthy, and virtuous. Nevertheless, since considered as an episcopal act it has the height of degree attached to it, it would seem that, unless there be manifest and urgent reason for it, it would be presumptuous for any man to desire to be set over others in order to do them good. Thus Gregory says (Pastor. i, 8) that "it was praiseworthy to seek the office of a bishop when it was certain to bring one into graver dangers." Wherefore it was not easy to find a person to accept this burden, especially seeing that it is through the zeal of charity that one divinely instigated to do so, according to Gregory, who says (Pastor. i, 7) that "Isaias being desirous of profiting his neighbor, commendably desired the office of preacher."Nevertheless, anyone may, without presumption, desire to do such like works if he should happen to be in that office, or to be worthy of doing them; so that the object of his desire is the good work and not the precedence in dignity. Hence Chrysostom* says: "It is indeed good to desire a good work, but to desire the primacy of honor is vanity. For primacy seeks one that shuns it, and abhors one that desires it." [*The quotation is from the Opus Imperfectum in Matth. (Hom. xxxv), falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom.]

Reply to Objection: 1. As Gregory says (Pastor. i, 8), "when the Apostle said this he who was set over the people was the first to be dragged to the torments of martyrdom," so that there was nothing to be desired in the episcopal office, save the good work. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19) that when the Apostle said, "'Whoever desireth the office of bishop, desireth a good work,' he wished to explain what the episcopacy is: for it denotes work and not honor: since (skopos) signifies 'watching.' Wherefore if we like we may render (episkopein) by the Latin 'superintendere' [to watch over]: thus a man may know himself to be no bishop if he loves to precede rather than to profit others." For, as he observed shortly before, "in our actions we should seek, not honor nor power in this life, since all things beneath the sun are vanity, but the work itself which that honor or power enables us to do." Nevertheless, as Gregory says (Pastor. i, 8), "while praising the desire" (namely of the good work) "he forthwith turns this object of praise into one of fear, when he adds: It behooveth . . . a bishop to be blameless," as though to say: "I praise what you seek, but learn first what it is you seek."
2. There is no parity between the religious and the episcopal state, for two reasons. First, because perfection of life is a prerequisite of the episcopal state, as appears from our Lord asking Peter if he loved Him more than the others, before committing the pastoral office to him, whereas perfection is not a prerequisite of the religious state, since the latter is the way to perfection. Hence our Lord did not say (Mt 19,21): "If thou art perfect, go, sell all [Vulg.: 'what'] thou hast," but "If thou wilt be perfect." The reason for this difference is because, according to Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. vi), perfection pertains actively to the bishop, as the "perfecter," but to the monk passively as one who is "perfected": and one needs to be perfect in order to bring others to perfection, but not in order to be brought to perfection. Now it is presumptuous to think oneself perfect, but it is not presumptuous to tend to perfection. Secondly, because he who enters the religious state subjects himself to others for the sake of a spiritual profit, and anyone may lawfully do this. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19): "No man is debarred from striving for the knowledge of truth, since this pertains to a praiseworthy ease." On the other hand, he who enters the episcopal state is raised up in order to watch over others, and no man should seek to be raised thus, according to He 5,4, "Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God": and Chrysostom says: "To desire supremacy in the Church is neither just nor useful. For what wise man seeks of his own accord to submit to such servitude and peril, as to have to render an account of the whole Church? None save him who fears not God's judgment, and makes a secular abuse of his ecclesiastical authority, by turning it to secular uses."
3. The dispensing of spiritual corn is not to be carried on in an arbitrary fashion, but chiefly according to the appointment and disposition of God, and in the second place according to the appointment of the higher prelates, in whose person it is said (1Co 4,1): "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God." Wherefore a man is not deemed to hide spiritual corn if he avoids governing or correcting others, and is not competent to do so, neither in virtue of his office nor of his superior's command; thus alone is he deemed to hide it, when he neglects to dispense it while under obligation to do so in virtue of his office, or obstinately refuses to accept the office when it is imposed on him. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19): "The love of truth seeks a holy leisure, the demands of charity undertake an honest labor. If no one imposes this burden upon us, we must devote ourselves to the research and contemplation of truth, but if it be imposed on us, we must bear it because charity demands it of us."
4. As Gregory says (Pastor. i, 7), "Isaias, who wishing to be sent, knew himself to be already cleansed by the live coal taken from the altar, shows us that no one should dare uncleansed to approach the sacred ministry. Since, then, it is very difficult for anyone to be able to know that he is cleansed, it is safer to decline the office of preacher."

Whether it is lawful for a man to refuse absolutely an appointment to the episcopate?

Objection: 1. It would seem that it is lawful to refuse absolutely an appointment to the episcopate. For as Gregory says (Pastor. i, 7), "Isaias wishing to be of profit to his neighbor by means of the active life, desired the office of preaching, whereas Jeremias who was fain to hold fast to the love of his Creator by contemplation exclaimed against being sent to preach." Now no man sins by being unwilling to forgo better things in order to adhere to things that are not so good. Since then the love of God surpasses the love of our neighbor, and the contemplative life is preferable to the active, as shown above (Question [25], Article [1]; Question [26], Article [2]; Question [182], Article [1]) it would seem that a man sins not if he refuse absolutely the episcopal office.
2. Further, as Gregory says (Pastor. i, 7), "it is very difficult for anyone to be able to know that he is cleansed: nor should anyone uncleansed approach the sacred ministry." Therefore if a man perceives that he is not cleansed, however urgently the episcopal office be enjoined him, he ought not to accept it.
3. Further, Jerome (Prologue, super ) says that "it is related of the Blessed Mark* that after receiving the faith he cut off his thumb that he might be excluded from the priesthood." [*This prologue was falsely ascribed to St. Jerome, and the passage quoted refers, not to St. Mark the Evangelist, but to a hermit of that name. (Cf. Baronius, Anno Christi, 45, num. XLIV)] Likewise some take a vow never to accept a bishopric. Now to place an obstacle to a thing amounts to the same as refusing it altogether. Therefore it would seem that one may, without sin, refuse the episcopal office absolutely.

On the contrary Augustine says (Ep. xlviii ad Eudox.): "If Mother Church requires your service, neither accept with greedy conceit, nor refuse with fawning indolence"; and afterwards he adds: "Nor prefer your ease to the needs of the Church: for if no good men were willing to assist her in her labor, you would seek in vain how we could be born of her."
I answer that Two things have to be considered in the acceptance of the episcopal office: first, what a man may fittingly desire according to his own will; secondly, what it behooves a man to do according to the will of another. As regards his own will it becomes a man to look chiefly to his own spiritual welfare, whereas that he look to the spiritual welfare of others becomes a man according to the appointment of another having authority, as stated above (Article [1], ad 3). Hence just as it is a mark of an inordinate will that a man of his own choice incline to be appointed to the government of others, so too it indicates an inordinate will if a man definitively refuse the aforesaid office of government in direct opposition to the appointment of his superior: and this for two reasons.First, because this is contrary to the love of our neighbor, for whose good a man should offer himself according as place and time demand: hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19) that "the demands of charity undertake an honest labor." Secondly, because this is contrary to humility, whereby a man submits to his superior's commands: hence Gregory says (Pastor. i, 6): "In God's sight humility is genuine when it does not obstinately refuse to submit to what is usefully prescribed."

Reply to Objection: 1. Although simply and absolutely speaking the contemplative life is more excellent than the active, and the love of God better than the love of our neighbor, yet, on the other hand, the good of the many should be preferred to the good of the individual. Wherefore Augustine says in the passage quoted above: "Nor prefer your own ease to the needs of the Church," and all the more since it belongs to the love of God that a man undertake the pastoral care of Christ's sheep. Hence Augustine, commenting on Jn 21,17, "Feed My sheep," says (Tract. cxxiii in Joan.): "Be it the task of love to feed the Lord's flock, even as it was the mark of fear to deny the Shepherd."Moreover prelates are not transferred to the active life, so as to forsake the contemplative; wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix, 19) that "if the burden of the pastoral office be imposed, we must not abandon the delights of truth," which are derived from contemplation.
2. No one is bound to obey his superior by doing what is unlawful, as appears from what was said above concerning obedience (Question [104], Article [5]). Accordingly it may happen that he who is appointed to the office of prelate perceive something in himself on account of which it is unlawful for him to accept a prelacy. But this obstacle may sometimes be removed by the very person who is appointed to the pastoral cure---for instance, if he have a purpose to sin, he may abandon it---and for this reason he is not excused from being bound to obey definitely the superior who has appointed him. Sometimes, however, he is unable himself to remove the impediment that makes the pastoral office unlawful to him, yet the prelate who appoints him can do so---for instance, if he be irregular or excommunicate. In such a case he ought to make known his defect to the prelate who has appointed him; and if the latter be willing to remove the impediment, he is bound humbly to obey. Hence when Moses had said (Ex 4,10): "I beseech thee, Lord, I am not eloquent from yesterday, and the day before," the Lord answered (Ex 4,12): "I will be in thy mouth, and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak." At other times the impediment cannot be removed, neither by the person appointing nor by the one appointed---for instance, if an archbishop be unable to dispense from an irregularity; wherefore a subject, if irregular, would not be bound to obey him by accepting the episcopate or even sacred orders.
3. It is not in itself necessary for salvation to accept the episcopal office, but it becomes necessary by reason of the superior's command. Now one may lawfully place an obstacle to things thus necessary for salvation, before the command is given; else it would not be lawful to marry a second time, lest one should thus incur an impediment to the episcopate or holy orders. But this would not be lawful in things necessary for salvation. Hence the Blessed Mark did not act against a precept by cutting off his finger, although it is credible that he did this by the instigation of the Holy Ghost, without which it would be unlawful for anyone to lay hands on himself. If a man take a vow not to accept the bishop's office, and by this intend to bind himself not even to accept it in obedience to his superior prelate, his vow is unlawful; but if he intend to bind himself, so far as it lies with him, not to seek the episcopal office, nor to accept it except under urgent necessity, his vow is lawful, because he vows to do what it becomes a man to do.

Whether he that is appointed to the episcopate ought to be better than others?

Objection: 1. It would seem that one who is appointed to the episcopate ought to be better than others. For our Lord, when about to commit the pastoral office to Peter, asked him if he loved Him more than the others. Now a man is the better through loving God the more. Therefore it would seem that one ought not to be appointed to the episcopal office except he be better than others.
2. Further, Pope Symmachus says (can. Vilissimus I, qu. 1): "A man is of very little worth who though excelling in dignity, excels not in knowledge and holiness." Now he who excels in knowledge and holiness is better. Therefore a man ought not to be appointed to the episcopate unless he be better than others.
3. Further, in every genus the lesser are governed by the greater, as corporeal things are governed by things spiritual, and the lower bodies by the higher, as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 3). Now a bishop is appointed to govern others. Therefore he should be better than others.

On the contrary The Decretal [*Can. Cum dilectus, de Electione] says that "it suffices to choose a good man, nor is it necessary to choose the better man."
I answer that In designating a man for the episcopal office, something has to be considered on the part of the person designate, and something on the part of the designator. For on the part of the designator, whether by election or by appointment, it is required that he choose such a one as will dispense the divine mysteries faithfully. These should be dispensed for the good of the Church, according to 1Co 14,12, "Seek to abound unto the edifying of the Church"; and the divine mysteries are not committed to men for their own meed, which they should await in the life to come. Consequently he who has to choose or appoint one for a bishop is not bound to take one who is best simply, i.e. according to charity, but one who is best for governing the Church, one namely who is able to instruct, defend, and govern the Church peacefully. Hence Jerome, commenting on Titus 1:5, says against certain persons that "some seek to erect as pillars of the Church, not those whom they know to be more useful to the Church, but those whom they love more, or those by whose obsequiousness they have been cajoled or undone, or for whom some person in authority has spoken, and, not to say worse than this, have succeeded by means of gifts in being made clerics."Now this pertains to the respect of persons, which in such matters is a grave sin. Wherefore a gloss of Augustine [*Ep. clxvii ad Hieron.] on Jc 2,1, "Brethren, have not . . . with respect of persons," says: "If this distinction of sitting and standing be referred to ecclesiastical honors, we must not deem it a slight sin to 'have the faith of the Lord of glory with respect of persons.' For who would suffer a rich man to be chosen for the Church's seat of honor, in despite of a poor man who is better instructed and holier?"On the part of the person appointed, it is not required that he esteem himself better than others, for this would be proud and presumptuous; but it suffices that he perceive nothing in himself which would make it unlawful for him to take up the office of prelate. Hence although Peter was asked by our Lord if he loved Him more than the others, he did not, in his reply, set himself before the others, but answered simply that he loved Christ.

Reply to Objection: 1. Our Lord knew that, by His own bestowal, Peter was in other respects fitted to govern the Church: wherefore He questioned him about his greater love, to show that when we find a man otherwise fitted for the government of the Church, we must look chiefly to his pre-eminence in the love of God.
2. This statement refers to the pursuits of the man who is placed in authority. For he should aim at showing himself to be more excellent than others in both knowledge and holiness. Wherefore Gregory says (Pastor. ii, 1) "the occupations of a prelate ought to excel those of the people, as much as the shepherd's life excels that of his flock." But he is not to be blamed and looked upon as worthless if he excelled not before being raised to the prelacy.
3. According to 1Co 12,4 seqq., "there are diversities of graces . . . and . . . of ministries . . . and . . . of operations." Hence nothing hinders one from being more fitted for the office of governing, who does not excel in the grace of holiness. It is otherwise in the government of the natural order, where that which is higher in the natural order is for that very reason more fitted to dispose of those that are lower.

Summa Th. II-II EN Qu.184 a.8