Summa - Supplement 242

Whether satisfaction is an act of justice?


Objection 1: It would seem that satisfaction is not an act of justice. Because the purpose of satisfaction is that one may be reconciled to the person offended. But reconciliation, being an act of love, belongs to charity. Therefore satisfaction is an act of charity and not of justice.

Objection 2: Further, the causes of sin in us are the passions of the soul, which incline us to evil. But justice, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 2,3), is not about passions, but about operations. Since therefore satisfaction aims at removing the causes of sin, as stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 15), it seems that it is not an act of justice.

Objection 3: Further, to be careful about the future is not an act of justice but of prudence of which caution is a part. But it belongs to satisfaction, "to give no opening to the suggestions of sin" [*Cf. XP/Question [12]/Article [3]/Objection [1]]. Therefore satisfaction is not an act of justice.

On the contrary, No virtue but justice considers the notion of that which is due. But satisfaction gives due honor to God, as Anselm states (Cur Deus Homo i). Therefore satisfaction is an act of justice.

Further, no virtue save justice establishes equality between external things. But this is done by satisfaction which establishes equality between amendment and the previous offense. Therefore satisfaction is an act of justice.

I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 3,4), the mean of justice is considered with regard to an equation between thing and thing according to a certain proportion. Wherefore, since the very name of satisfaction implies an equation of the kind, because the adverb "satis" [enough] denotes an equality of proportion, it is evident that satisfaction is formally an act of justice. Now the act of justice, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. v, 2,4), is either an act done by one man to another, as when a man pays another what he owes him, or an act done by one man between two others, as when a judge does justice between two men. When it is an act of justice of one man to another, the equality is set up in the agent, while when it is something done between two others, the equality is set up in the subject that has suffered an injustice. And since satisfaction expresses equality in the agent, it denotes, properly speaking, an act of justice of one man to another. Now a man may do justice to another either in actions and passions or in external things; even as one may do an injustice to another, either by taking something away, or by a hurtful action. And since to give is to use an external thing, the act of justice, in so far as it establishes equality between external things, signifies, properly speaking, a giving back: but to make satisfaction clearly points to equality between actions, although sometimes one is put for the other. Now equalization concerns only such things as are unequal, wherefore satisfaction presupposes inequality among actions, which inequality constitutes an offense; so that satisfaction regards a previous offense. But no part of justice regards a previous offense, except vindictive justice, which establishes equality indifferently, whether the patient be the same subject as the agent, as when anyone punishes himself, or whether they be distinct, as when a judge punishes another man, since vindictive justice deals with both cases. The same applies to penance, which implies equality in the agent only, since it is the penitent who holds to the penance [poenam tenet], so that penance is in a way a species of vindictive justice. This proves that satisfaction, which implies equality in the agent with respect to a previous offense, is a work of justice, as to that part which is called penance.

Reply to Objection 1: Satisfaction, as appears from what has been said, is compensation for injury inflicted. Wherefore as the injury inflicted entailed of itself an inequality of justice, and consequently an inequality opposed to friendship, so satisfaction brings back directly equality of justice, and consequently equality of friendship. And since an act is elicited by the habit to whose end it is immediately directed, but is commanded by that habit to whose end it is directed ultimately, hence satisfaction is elicited by justice but is commanded by charity.

Reply to Objection 2: Although justice is chiefly about operations, yet it is consequently about passions, in so far as they are the causes of operations. Wherefore as justice curbs anger, lest it inflict an unjust injury on another, and concupiscence from invading another's marriage right, so satisfaction removes the causes of other sins.

Reply to Objection 3: Each moral virtue shares in the act of prudence, because this virtue completes in it the conditions essential to virtue, since each moral virtue takes its mean according to the ruling of prudence, as is evident from the definition of virtue given in Ethic. ii, 6.

Whether the definition of satisfaction given in the text is suitable?


Objection 1: It would seem that the definition of satisfaction given in the text (Sent. iv, D, 15) and quoted from Augustine [*Gennadius Massiliensis, De Eccl. Dogm. liv] is unsuitable---viz. that "satisfaction is to uproot the causes of sins, and to give no opening to the suggestions thereof." For the cause of actual sin is the fomes. [*"Fomes" signifies literally "fuel," and metaphorically, "incentive." As used by the theologian, it denotes the quasi-material element and effect of original sin, and sometimes goes under the name of "concupiscence," Cf.
I-II 82,3.] But we cannot remove the "fomes" in this life. Therefore satisfaction does not consist in removing the causes of sins.

Objection 2: Further, the cause of sin is stronger than sin itself. But man by himself cannot remove sin. Much less therefore can he remove the cause of sin; and so the same conclusion follows.

Objection 3: Further, since satisfaction is a part of Penance, it regards the past and not the future. Now "to give no opening to the suggestions of sin" regards the future. Therefore it should not be put in the definition of satisfaction.

Objection 4: Further, satisfaction regards a past offense. Yet no mention is made of this. Therefore the definition of satisfaction is unsuitable.

Objection 5: Further, Anselm gives another definition (Cur Deus homo i): "Satisfaction consists in giving God due honor," wherein no reference is made to the things mentioned by Augustine [*Gennadius, Objection [1]] in this definition. Therefore one or the other is unsuitable.

Objection 6: Further, an innocent man can give due honor to God: whereas satisfaction is not compatible with innocence. Therefore Anselm's definition is faulty.

I answer that, Justice aims not only at removing inequality already existing, by punishing the past fault, but also at safeguarding equality for the future, because according to the Philosopher (Ethic. ii, 3) "punishments are medicinal." Wherefore satisfaction which is the act of justice inflicting punishment, is a medicine healing past sins and preserving from future sins: so that when one man makes satisfaction to another, he offers compensation for the past, and takes heed for the future. Accordingly satisfaction may be defined in two ways, first with regard to past sin, which it heals by making compensation, and thus it is defined as "compensation for an inflicted injury according to the equality of justice." The definition of Anselm amounts to the same, for he says that "satisfaction consists in giving God due honor"; where duty is considered in respect of the sin committed. Secondly, satisfaction may be defined, considered as preserving us from future sins; and as Augustine (Cf. Objection [1]) defines it. Now preservation from bodily sickness is assured by removing the causes from which the sickness may ensue, for if they be taken away the sickness cannot follow. But it is not thus in spiritual diseases, for the free-will cannot be forced, so that even in the presence of their causes, they can, though with difficulty, be avoided, while they can be incurred even when their causes are removed. Hence he puts two things in the definition of satisfaction, viz. removal of the causes, as to the first, and the free-will's refusal to sin.

Reply to Objection 1: By "causes" we must understand the proximate causes of actual sin, which are twofold: viz. the lust of sin through the habit or act of a sin that has been given up, and those things which are called the remnants of past sin; and external occasions of sin, such as place, bad company and so forth. Such causes are removed by satisfaction in this life, albeit the "fomes," which is the remote cause of actual sin, is not entirely removed by satisfaction in this life though it is weakened.

Reply to Objection 2: Since the cause of evil or of privation (according as it has a cause) is nothing else than a defective good, and since it is easier to destroy good than to set it up, it follows that it is easier to uproot the causes of privation and of evil than to remove the evil itself, which can only be removed by setting up good, as may be seen in the case of blindness and its causes. Yet the aforesaid are not sufficient causes of sin, for sin does not, of necessity, ensue therefrom, but they are occasions of sin. Nor again can satisfaction be made without God's help, since it is not possible without charity, as we shall state further on (Question [14], Article [2]).

Reply to Objection 3: Although Penance was primarily instituted and intended with a view to the past, yet, as a consequence, it regards the future, in so far as it is a safeguarding remedy; and the same applies to satisfaction.

Reply to Objection 4: Augustine [*Gennadius Massiliensis, De Eccl. Dogm. liv] defined satisfaction, as made to God, from Whom, in reality, nothing can be taken, though the sinner, for his own part, takes something away. Consequently in such like satisfaction, amendment for future time is of greater weight than compensation for the past. Hence Augustine defines satisfaction from this point of view. And yet it is possible to gauge the compensation for the past from the heed taken for the future, for the latter regards the same object as the former, but in the opposite way: since when looking at the past we detest the causes of sins on account of the sins themselves, which are the starting-point of the movement of detestation: whereas when taking heed of the future, we begin from the causes, that by their removal we may avoid sins the more easily.

Reply to Objection 5: There is no reason why the same thing should not be described in different ways according to the various things found in it: and such is the case here, as explained above.

Reply to Objection 6: By debt is meant the debt we owe to God by reason of the sins we have committed, because Penance regards a debt, as stated above (Article [2]).



We must now consider the possibility of satisfaction, under which head there are two points of inquiry:

(1) Whether man can make satisfaction to God?

(2) Whether one man can make satisfaction for another?

Whether man can make satisfaction to God?


Objection 1: It would seem that man cannot make satisfaction to God. For satisfaction should balance the offense, as shown above (Question [12], Articles [2],3). But an offense against God is infinite, since it is measured by the person against whom it is committed, for it is a greater offense to strike a prince than anyone else. Therefore, as no action of man can be infinite, it seems that he cannot make satisfaction to God.

Objection 2: Further, a slave cannot make compensation for a debt, since all that he has is his master's. But we are the slaves of God, and whatever good we have, we owe to Him. Therefore, as satisfaction is compensation for a past offense, it seems that we cannot offer it to God.

Objection 3: Further, if all that a man has suffices not to pay one debt, he cannot pay another debt. Now all that man is, all that he can do, and all that he has, does not suffice to pay what he owes for the blessing of creation, wherefore it is written (
Is 40,16) that "the wood of Libanus shall not be enough for a burnt offering [*Vulg.: 'Libanus shall not be enough to burn, nor the beasts thereof for a burnt offering']." Therefore by no means can he make satisfaction for the debt resulting from the offense committed.

Objection 4: Further, man is bound to spend all his time in the service of God. Now time once lost cannot be recovered, wherefore, as Seneca observes (Lib. i, Ep. i, ad Lucilium) loss of time is a very grievous matter. Therefore man cannot make compensation to God, and the same conclusion follows as before.

Objection 5: Further, mortal actual sin is more grievous than original sin. But none could satisfy for original sin unless he were both God and man. Neither, therefore, can he satisfy for actual sin.

On the contrary, Jerome [*Pelagius, Expos. Fidei ad Damasum] says: "Whoever maintains that God has commanded anything impossible to man, let him be anathema." But satisfaction is commanded (Lc 3,8): "Bring forth . . . fruits worthy of penance." Therefore it is possible to make satisfaction to God.

Further, God is more merciful than any man. But it is possible to make satisfaction to a man. Therefore it is possible to make satisfaction to God.

Further, there is due satisfaction when the punishment balances the fault, since "justice is the same as counterpassion," as the Pythagoreans said [*Aristotle, Ethic. v, 5; Cf. II-II 61,4]. Now punishment may equal the pleasure contained in a sin committed. Therefore satisfaction can be made to God.

I answer that, Man becomes God's debtor in two ways; first, by reason of favors received, secondly, by reason of sin committed: and just as thanksgiving or worship or the like regard the debt for favors received, so satisfaction regards the debt for sin committed. Now in giving honor to one's parents or to the gods, as indeed the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 14), it is impossible to repay them measure for measure, but it suffices that man repay as much as he can, for friendship does not demand measure for measure, but what is possible. Yet even this is equal somewhat, viz. according to proportion, for as the debt due to God is, in comparison with God, so is what man can do, in comparison with himself, so that in another way the form of justice is preserved. It is the same as regards satisfaction. Consequently man cannot make satisfaction to God if "satis" [enough] denotes quantitative equality; but he can, if it denote proportionate equality, as explained above, and as this suffices for justice, so does it suffice for satisfaction.

Reply to Objection 1: Just as the offense derived a certain infinity from the infinity of the Divine majesty, so does satisfaction derive a certain infinity from the infinity of Divine mercy, in so far as it is quickened by grace, whereby whatever man is able to repay becomes acceptable. Others, however, say that the offense is infinite as regards the aversion, and in this respect it is pardoned gratuitously, but that it is finite as turning to a mutable good, in which respect it is possible to make satisfaction for it. But this is not to the point, since satisfaction does not answer to sin, except as this is an offense against God, which is a matter, not of turning to a creature but of turning away from God. Others again say that even as regards the aversion it is possible to make satisfaction for sin in virtue of Christ's merit, which was, in a way, infinite. And this comes to the same as what we said before, since grace is given to believers through faith in the Mediator. If, however, He were to give grace otherwise, satisfaction would suffice in the way explained above.

Reply to Objection 2: Man, who was made to God's image, has a certain share of liberty, in so far as he is master of his actions through his free-will; so that, through acting by his free-will, he can make satisfaction to God, for though it belongs to God, in so far as it was bestowed on him by God, yet it was freely bestowed on him, that he might be his own master, which cannot be said of a slave.

Reply to Objection 3: This argument proves that it is impossible to make equivalent satisfaction to God, but not that it is impossible to make sufficient satisfaction to Him. For though man owes God all that he is able to give Him, yet it is not necessary for his salvation that he should actually do the whole of what he is able to do, for it is impossible for him, according to his present state of life, to put forth his whole power into any one single thing, since he has to be heedful about many things. And so his conduct is subject to a certain measure, viz. the fulfillment of God's commandments, over and above which he can offer something by way of satisfaction.

Reply to Objection 4: Though man cannot recover the time that is past, he can in the time that follows make compensation for what he should have done in the past, since the commandment did not exact from him the fulfillment of his whole power, as stated above (ad 3).

Reply to Objection 5: Though original sin has less of the nature of sin than actual sin has, yet it is a more grievous evil, because it is an infection of human nature itself, so that, unlike actual sin, it could not be expiated by the satisfaction of a mere man.

Whether one man can fulfill satisfactory punishment for another?


Objection 1: It would seem that one man cannot fulfill satisfactory punishment for another. Because merit is requisite for satisfaction. Now one man cannot merit or demerit for another, since it is written (
Ps 61,12): "Thou wilt render to every man according to his works." Therefore one man cannot make satisfaction for another.

Objection 2: Further, satisfaction is condivided with contrition and confession. But one man cannot be contrite or confess for another. Neither therefore can one make satisfaction for another.

Objection 3: Further, by praying for another one merits also for oneself. If therefore a man can make satisfaction for another, he satisfies for himself by satisfying for another, so that if a man satisfy for another he need not make satisfaction for his own sins.

Objection 4: Further, if one can satisfy for another, as soon as he takes the debt of punishment on himself, this other is freed from his debt. Therefore the latter will go straight to heaven, if he die after the whole of his debt of punishment has been taken up by another; else, if he be punished all the same, a double punishment will be paid for the same sin, viz. by him who has begun to make satisfaction, and by him who is punished in Purgatory.

On the contrary, It is written (Ga 6,2): "Bear ye one another's burdens." Therefore it seems that one can bear the burden of punishment laid upon another.

Further, charity avails more before God than before man. Now before man, one can pay another's debt for love of him. Much more, therefore, can this be done before the judgment seat of God.

I answer that, Satisfactory punishment has a twofold purpose, viz. to pay the debt, and to serve as a remedy for the avoidance of sin. Accordingly, as a remedy against future sin, the satisfaction of one does not profit another, for the flesh of one man is not tamed by another's fast; nor does one man acquire the habit of well-doing, through the actions of another, except accidentally, in so far as a man, by his good actions, may merit an increase of grace for another, since grace is the most efficacious remedy for the avoidance of sin. But this is by way of merit rather than of satisfaction. on the other hand, as regards the payment of the debt, one man can satisfy for another, provided he be in a state of charity, so that his works may avail for satisfaction. Nor is it necessary that he who satisfies for another should undergo a greater punishment than the principal would have to undergo (as some maintain, who argue that a man profits more by his own punishment than by another's), because punishment derives its power of satisfaction chiefly from charity whereby man bears it. And since greater charity is evidenced by a man satisfying for another than for himself, less punishment is required of him who satisfies for another, than of the principal: wherefore we read in the Lives of the Fathers (v, 5) of one who for love of his brother did penance for a sin which his brother had not committed, and that on account of his charity his brother was released from a sin which he had committed. Nor is it necessary that the one for whom satisfaction is made should be unable to make satisfaction himself, for even if he were able, he would be released from his debt when the other satisfied in his stead. But this is necessary in so far as the satisfactory punishment is medicinal: so that a man is not to be allowed to do penance for another, unless there be evidence of some defect in the penitent, either bodily, so that he is unable to bear it, or spiritual, so that he is not ready to undergo it.

Reply to Objection 1: The essential reward is bestowed on a man according to his disposition, because the fulness of the sight of God will be according to the capacity of those who see Him. Wherefore just as one man is not disposed thereto by another's act, so one man does not merit the essential reward for another, unless his merit has infinite efficacy, as the merit of Christ, whereby children come to eternal life through Baptism. On the other hand, the temporal punishment due to sin after the guilt has been forgiven is not measured according to the disposition of the man to whom it is due, since sometimes the better man owes a greater debt of punishment. Consequently one man can merit for another as regards release from punishment, and one man's act becomes another's, by means of charity whereby we are "all one in Christ" (Ga 3,28).

Reply to Objection 2: Contrition is ordained against the guilt which affects a man's disposition to goodness or malice, so that one man is not freed from guilt by another's contrition. In like manner by confession a man submits to the sacraments of the Church: nor can one man receive a sacrament instead of another, since in a sacrament grace is given to the recipient, not to another. Consequently there is no comparison between satisfaction and contrition and confession.

Reply to Objection 3: In the payment of the debt we consider the measure of the punishment, whereas in merit we regard the root which is charity: wherefore he that, through charity, merits for another, at least congruously, merits more for himself; yet he that satisfies for another does not also satisfy for himself, because the measure of the punishment does not suffice for the sins of both, although by satisfying for another he merits something greater than the release from punishment, viz. eternal life.

Reply to Objection 4: If this man bound himself to undergo a certain punishment, he would not be released from the debt before paying it: wherefore he himself will suffer the punishment, as long as the other makes satisfaction for him: and if he do not this, then both are debtors in respect of fulfilling this punishment, one for the sin committed, the other for his omission, so that it does not follow that one sin is twice punished.



We must now consider the quality of satisfaction, under which head there are five points of inquiry:

(1) Whether a man can satisfy for one sin without satisfying for another?

(2) Whether if a man fall into sin after being contrite for all his sins, he can, now that he has lost charity, satisfy for his other sins which were pardoned him through his contrition?

(3) Whether a man's previous satisfaction begins to avail when he recovers charity?

(4) Whether works done without charity merit any good?

(5) Whether such works avail for the mitigation of the pains of hell?

Whether a man can satisfy for one sin without satisfying for another?


Objection 1: It would seem that a man can satisfy for one sin without satisfying for another. Because when several things are not connected together one can be taken away without another. Now sins are not connected together, else whoever had one would have them all. Therefore one sin can be expiated by satisfaction, without another.

Objection 2: Further, God is more merciful than man. But man accepts the payment of one debt without the payment of another. Therefore God accepts satisfaction for one sin without the other.

Objection 3: Further, as stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 15), "satisfaction is to uproot the causes of sin, and give no opening to the suggestions thereof." Now this can be done with regard to one sin and not another, as when a mall curbs his lust and perseveres in covetousness. Therefore we can make satisfaction for one sin without satisfying for another.

On the contrary, The fast of those who fasted "for debates and strifes" (
Is 58,4-5) was not acceptable to God, though fasting be a work of satisfaction. Now satisfaction cannot be made save by works that are acceptable to God. Therefore he that has a sin on his conscience cannot make satisfaction to God.

Further, satisfaction is a remedy for the healing of past sins, and for preserving from future sins, as stated above (Question [12], Article [3]). But without grace it is impossible to avoid sins. Therefore, since each sin excludes grace, it is not possible to make satisfaction for one sin and not for another.

I answer that, Some have held that it is possible to make satisfaction for one sin and not for another, as the Master states (Sent. iv, D, 15). But this cannot be. For since the previous offense has to be removed by satisfaction, the mode of satisfaction must needs be consistent with the removal of the offense. Now removal of offense is renewal of friendship: wherefore if there be anything to hinder the renewal of friendship there can be no satisfaction. Since, therefore, every sin is a hindrance to the friendship of charity, which is the friendship of man for God, it is impossible for man to make satisfaction for one sin while holding to another: even as neither would a man make satisfaction to another for a blow, if while throwing himself at his feet he were to give him another.

Reply to Objection 1: As sins are not connected together in some single one, a man can incur one without incurring another; whereas all sins are remitted by reason of one same thing, so that the remissions of various sins are connected together. Consequently satisfaction cannot be made for one and not for another.

Reply to Objection 2: When a man is under obligation to another by reason of a debt, the only inequality between them is that which is opposed to justice, so that for restitution nothing further is required than that the equality of justice should be reinstated, and this can be done in respect of one debt without another. But when the obligation is based on an offense, there is inequality not only of justice but also of friendship, so that for the offense to be removed by satisfaction, not only must the equality of justice be restored by the payment of a punishment equal to the offense, but also the equality of friendship must be reinstated, which is impossible so long as an obstacle to friendship remains.

Reply to Objection 3: By its weight, one sin drags us down to another, as Gregory says (Moral. xxv): so that when a man holds to one sin, he does not sufficiently cut himself off from the causes of further sin.

Whether, when deprived of charity, a man can make satisfaction for sins for which he was previously contrite?


Objection 1: It would seem that if a man fall into sin after being contrite for all his sins, he can, now that he has lost charity, satisfy for his other sins which were already pardoned him through his contrition. For Daniel said to Nabuchodonosor (
Da 4,24): "Redeem thou thy sins with alms." Yet he was still a sinner, as is shown by his subsequent punishment. Therefore a man can make satisfaction while in a state of sin.

Objection 2: Further, "Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred" (Qo 9,1). If therefore one cannot make satisfaction unless one be in a state of charity, it would be impossible to know whether one had made satisfaction, which would be unseemly.

Objection 3: Further, a man's entire action takes its form from the intention which he had at the beginning. But a penitent is in a state of charity when he begins to repent. Therefore his whole subsequent satisfaction will derive its efficacy from the charity which quickens his intention.

Objection 4: Further, satisfaction consists in a certain equalization of guilt to punishment. But these things can be equalized even in one who is devoid of charity. Therefore, etc.

On the contrary, "Charity covereth all sins" (Pr 10,12). But satisfaction has the power of blotting out sins. Therefore it is powerless without charity.

Further, the chief work of satisfaction is almsdeeds. But alms given by one who is devoid of charity avail nothing, as is clearly stated 1Co 13,3, "If I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor . . . and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Therefore there can be no satisfaction with mortal sin.

I answer that, Some have said that if, when all a man's sins have been pardoned through contrition, and before he has made satisfaction for them, he falls into sin, and then makes satisfaction, such satisfaction will be valid, so that if he die in that sin, he will not be punished in hell for the other sins.

But this cannot be, because satisfaction requires the reinstatement of friendship and the restoration of the equality of justice, the contrary of which destroys friendship, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. ix, 1,3). Now in satisfaction made to God, the equality is based, not on equivalence but rather on God's acceptation: so that, although the offense be already removed by previous contrition, the works of satisfaction must be acceptable to God, and for this they are dependent on charity. Consequently works done without charity are not satisfactory.

Reply to Objection 1: Daniel's advice meant that he should give up sin and repent, and so make satisfaction by giving alms.

Reply to Objection 2: Even as man knows not for certain whether he had charity when making satisfaction, or whether he has it now, so too he knows not for certain whether he made full satisfaction: wherefore it is written (Si 5,5): "Be not without fear about sin forgiven." And yet man need not, on account of that fear, repeat the satisfaction made, if he is not conscious of a mortal sin. For although he may not have expiated his punishment by that satisfaction, he does not incur the guilt of omission through neglecting to make satisfaction; even as he who receives the Eucharist without being conscious of a mortal sin of which he is guilty, does not incur the guilt of receiving unworthily.

Reply to Objection 3: His intention was interrupted by his subsequent sin, so that it gives no virtue to the works done after that sin.

Reply to Objection 4: Sufficient equalization is impossible both as to the Divine acceptation and as to equivalence: so that the argument proves nothing.

Summa - Supplement 242