II Sentences, Distinction 43, Question 1
Concerning the Sin against the Holy Spirit

a. 4: utrum peccatum in spiritum sanctum sit irremissibile.Article 4: Whether the sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
ad quartum sic proceditur. videtur quod peccatum in spiritum sanctum non sit irremissibile.It would seem that the sin against the Holy Spirit is not unforgivable.
remissio enim peccati fit per gratiam. sed ubi abundavit delictum, superabundavit et gratia, rom. 5, 20. cum ergo peccatum in spiritum sanctum sit gravissimum, videtur quod maxime sit remissibile.Objection 1: For the forgiveness of sin is brought about through grace. But where sin abounds, grace abounds even more, as it is said at Romans 5:20. Therefore, since the sin against the Holy Spirit is most grave, it would seem that it is most forgivable.
praeterea, caritas est perfectior spe, et fides prior ea. sed peccatum oppositum fidei, scilicet infidelitas, et oppositum caritati, scilicet odium, sunt remissibilia. ergo et desperatio, quae opponitur spei, est remissibilis, et eadem ratione aliae species peccati in spiritum sanctum. Objection 2: Furthermore, love (caritas) is more perfect that hope, and faith is prior to them both. But the sin opposed to faith, namely infidelity, and to love, namely hatred, are forgivable. Therefore, despair, which is opposed to hope, is forgivable, and, for the same reason, the other species of the sin against the Holy Spirit (as well).
praeterea, quatuor dicuntur in nobis sicut poenalitates ex peccato primi hominis provenisse, scilicet ignorantia, infirmitas, concupiscentia et malitia. sed infirmitas et ignorantia excusando peccatum, remissibile ipsum reddunt. ergo et eadem ratione, malitia; et ita peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quod est ex certa malitia, remissibile erit. Objection 3: Furthermore, four things are said to be in us as punishments procured by reason of the first sin of man, namely ignorance, infirmity, concupiscence, and malice. But infirmity and ignorance, by excusing one from sin, make (the first sin of man) appear to be forgivable. Therefore, and for the same reason, (is this to be said with respect to) malice. And in this way the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is by reason of a definite malice, will be forgivable.
praeterea, in hoc dicitur homo ab angelo differre quod homo habet vertibilitatem electionis mutabilem, angelus vero immutabilem, quia ab eo quod semel eligit, nunquam removetur. sed peccatum in spiritum sanctum est peccatum hominis. ergo si homo per electionem in ipsum consentiat, iterum potest hanc electionem mutare, et ab eo discedere. sed peccatum remittitur per hoc quod ab eo receditur. ergo peccatum in spiritum sanctum est remissibile. Objection 4: Furthermore, man differs from the angels in that man's choice is vertible and mutable, whereas an angel's choice is immutable (and invertible). For once an angel chooses, it is never drawn back (from what it has chosen). But the sin against the Holy Spirit is a sin of man. Therefore if man consents through choice itself, he is able to alter his choice again, and to depart from (what had been previously chosen). But sin is remitted in so far as one draws back from it. Therefore, the sin against the Holy Spirit is forgivable.
praeterea, irremissibile tollit potentiam remissionis. cum ergo dicitur peccatum in spiritum sanctum irremissibile, aut negatur potentia remissionis ex parte remittentis, aut ex parte ejus cui fit remissio. non primo modo: quia potentia ipsius dei, qui solus peccata dimittit, est infinita, ad omnium peccatorum remissionem se extendens. similiter nec secundo modo: quia potentia ad remissionem ex parte ejus cui fit remissio, est liberum arbitrium in statu viae existens, quod etiam post peccatum in spiritum sanctum manet. ergo peccatum in spiritum sanctum nullo modo est irremissibile. Objection 5: Furthermore, the unforgivable destroys the capacity for forgiveness. When, therefore, it is said that the sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, the capacity for forgiveness is negated either on the part of the one forgiving, or on the part of him to whom forgiveness is given. It cannot be in the first way for the power of God Himself, who alone forgives sins, is infinite, extending itself to the forgiveness of all sins. Similarly, it cannot be in the second way, because the capacity for forgiveness on the part of the one to whom forgiveness is given is the free choice of the will existing in this earthly condition, which remains even after the sin against the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the sin against the Holy Spirit is in no way unforgivable
in contrarium sunt auctoritates quae in littera inducuntur.1st. on the contrary: There are the authorities cited in the (Lombard's) text.
praeterea, peccatum virtuti opponitur. sed de virtute perfectissima, scilicet caritate, dicitur, 1 corinth. 13, quod nunquam excidit, quamvis multi eam amittant. ergo et peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quod est gravissimum peccatorum, debet dici irremissibile, etsi quandoque remittatur. 2nd. on the contrary: Furthermore, sin is opposed to virtue. But concerning the most perfect of virtues, namely love, 1 Corinthians 13 says that nothing escapes it, although many lose it. Therefore, the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the most grave of sins, ought to be called unforgivable, even if it is at times forgiven.
respondeo dicendum, quod de peccato in spiritum sanctum duplex est opinio, ut ex littera colligi potest. quidam enim accipientes impoenitentiam prout est circumstantia peccati, ut dictum est, assignant quinque species peccati in spiritum sanctum, quae scilicet supra impoenitentiae connumeratae sunt; et dicunt, quod nulla illarum specierum habet complete rationem peccati in spiritum sanctum nisi secundum quod adjungitur ei haec circumstantia, ut scilicet usque ad mortem in desperatione vel obstinatione perdurent; et secundum hoc dicitur peccatum in spiritum sanctum irremissibile, quia nunquam remittitur vel remitti potest: quia post mortem homo confirmatur in gratia vel in peccato, secundum quod fuit in statu mortis suae, ut dicitur ecclesiastici 11, 3: lignum in quocumque loco ceciderit, ibi erit. sed istud non videtur esse conveniens: quia secundum hoc omne peccatum quod usque ad mortem perdurat, irremissibile est, sive sit in patrem, sive in filium; et ita peccatum in spiritum sanctum non esset alio modo irremissibile quam peccatum in patrem vel filium, quod est contra textum evangelii. nisi forte diceretur, quod omne peccatum in patrem vel in filium, est peccatum veniale; quia gregorius dicit in 4 dialog. peccata venialia etiam post hanc vitam remitti. sed hoc est expresse falsum: quia ignorantia non sic semper excusat peccatum ut non sit damnabile, sed ut sit minus damnabile. et ideo alii dicunt, quod impoenitentia, quae dicit continuam durationem peccati usque ad mortem, non est necessaria ad hoc quod sit peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quia etiam uno solo motu voluntatis potest homo in spiritum sanctum peccare, sicut et in ceteris peccatis contingit;Response: There are two opinions concerning the sin against the Holy Spirit, as can be gathered from the (Lombard's) text. Some, taking impenitence as a circumstance of sin (as was said previously), designate five species of the sin against the Holy Spirit which were numbered previously of impenitence. They say that not any of those species have the complete aspect of the sin against the Holy Spirit except in so far as this circumstance is added to it, namely that they endure in despair and obstinacy right up until death. In this, the sin against the Holy Spirit is said to be unforgivable because in no way is it forgiven or can be forgiven, since after death man is established in grace or in sin, according to what he was in the moment of his death, as Ecclesiastes 11:3 states "In what place soever a tree shall fall, there shall it be." But this position does not appear to be fitting. For every sin, either against the Father or the Son, which endures right up until death is unforgivable. Thus the sin against the Holy Spirit would not be unforgivable in a way different from (the sins against) the Father and the Son, a position which is contrary to the text of the Evangelist. Unless, perhaps, it be said that every sin against the Father or the Son is a venial sin. For Gregory says in his 4th. Dialogue that even venial sins are forgiven after this life. However, this is expressly false since ignorance does not thus always excuse from sin so that it is not damnable, but rather so that it might be less damnable. For this reason, others state that impenitence, which designates the continuous duration in sin right up until death, need not be (a necessary condition for a sin being) a sin against the Holy Spirit. For even in one sole movement of the will, a man can sin against the Holy Spirit, as occurs with certain sins.
et secundum hos assignantur species peccati in spiritum sanctum sex, sicut dictum est; secundum hos autem oportet dicere, quod peccatum in spiritum sanctum non dicitur irremissibile quia nunquam remittatur, sed quia non habet de se aptitudinem ad hoc quod remissibile sit; et hoc praecipue propter tres causas. According to these considerations, such people assign six species of the sin against the Holy Spirit, as was said previously. With respect to these, however, one should say that the sin against the Holy Spirit is not designated unforgivable because it is at no time forgiven, but rather because it does not have a suitability in itself for it to be forgivable. This especially has three causes.
una est ex causa movente ad peccandum: quandoque enim infirmitas, vel ignorantia ejus qui peccat, peccatum causant, quae nata sunt peccatum excusare in parte vel in toto, propter hoc quod involuntarium causant, vel simpliciter vel secundum quid: et tunc peccatum remissibile dicitur quod habet in se unde facile remittatur propter hoc quod ex causa excusante procedit. peccatum autem quod ex industria fit, nullam rationem excusationis habet; et ideo dicitur irremissibile, quia non habet in se unde excusetur, et propter hoc ad remittendum sit facile. The first is by reason of the cause moving one to sin. Sometimes the infirmity or ignorance of him who sins cause the sin. (Both infirmity and ignorance) are understood to excuse sin either in part or whole, as they bring about the involuntary (in one's actions), either in itself or according to something else. Sin, then, is said to be forgivable which has in itself that by reason of which it is easily forgiven, namely that it proceed from a cause which excuses the sin. However, a sin which arises by reason of intention does not have the aspect of the excusable, for which reason it is called unforgivable, namely because it does not have in itself that by reason of which it is excused and account of which it would be easy to forgive.
secunda est ratio sumpta ex modo inclinationis voluntatis in peccatum: quia ut philosophus dicit in 7 ethic., finis in operabilibus est sicut principium indemonstrabile in speculativis. error autem in speculativis, qui est circa principia indemonstrabilia, difficile removeri potest, eo quod non possunt accipi aliqua magis nota, per quae error improbetur. ita etiam in practicis, quando aliquis alicui peccato ut fini adhaeret, quasi in eo suam beatitudinem constituens, non potest tali peccato de facili remedium adhiberi: quia nihil est aliud magis a peccante dilectum, propter cujus consecutionem hoc in quo ultimum finem ponit, dimittat. quicumque autem ex electione peccat, vel ex industria, adhaeret peccato quod eligit, quasi per se bono, et sic fini; et ideo tale peccatum non de facili medicinam recipit; unde philosophusin 7 ethic. per hoc ostendit quod incontinens, quia ex passione peccat, sive infirmitate, facilius curatur quam intemperatus, qui peccat ex electione, sive ex industria. et hae duae praedictae causae ostendunt causam irremissibilitatis non solum in peccato quod proprie dicitur in spiritum sanctum, sed etiam in quolibet peccato quod est ex electione.The second cause is the reasoning undertaken because of the mode of the will's inclination in sin. For, as the Philosopher says in Book VII of the Nichomachean Ethics, the end in practical matters is like an indemonstrable principle in speculative matters. An error in speculative matters, which is about indemonstrable principles, can, with difficulty, be removed, in that something better known cannot be grasped by which the error is disproved. In this way, even in practical matters, when someone adheres to a sin as to an end, as if his very beatitude were to be found in it, he cannot easily apply a remedy to this sort of sin; for there is nothing else desired more by the sinner, that he dismisses (such remedies) for the sake of the attainment of that in which he finds (his) ultimate end. Anyone who sins by reason of choice, or by intention, adheres to the sin which he chooses, as if it were good itself, and thus (his) end. For this reason this sort of sin does not easily admit of medicine. Whence, the Philosopher shows in Book VII of his Nichomachean Ethics that the incontinent, because he sins by reason of his passion, or infirmity, is more easily cured than the intemperate, who sin by reason of choice, or intention. These two causes just discussed display the cause of that for which there is no forgiveness not only in sin which is properly said to be against the Holy Spirit, but also in any sin which is by reason of choice.
tertia autem causa quae proprie peccatum in spiritum sanctum respicit, sumitur ex ejus objecto: quia peccatum in spiritum sanctum est ex hoc quod voluntas a se repellit id per quod remissio peccatorum fit. unde sicut aegritudo diceretur incurabilis quae fastidium medicinae faceret; ita et peccatum irremissibile dicitur per cujus actum spiritualis medicina directe repellitur: et tamen sicut ille morbus corporalis virtute divina miraculose curari potest; ita et hujusmodi peccatum per misericordiam divinam quasi miraculose remitti potest. The third cause which properly regards the sin against the Holy Spirit is taken from its object. For the sin against the Holy Spirit arises in so far as the will pushes away from itself that through which the forgiveness of sins comes about. Hence, just as a sickness is said to be incurable which brings about a loathing of medicine, so too a sin is called unforgivable through whose act spiritual medicine is directly pushed away. Nevertheless, just as that sickness of the body can be miraculously cured by the divine power, so too sins of this kind can be forgiven through the divine mercy, miraculously, as it were.
ad primum ergo dicendum, quod peccatum in spiritum sanctum praecludit viam gratiae: et ideo peccato in spiritum sanctum manente, ex parte ipsius peccantis non remanet facultas ad gratiam; sed remoto isto peccato per immensitatem divinae misericordiae, potest postmodum esse gratiae abundantia, si homo maxime humilietur propter gravitatem praecedentis peccati. Response to Objection 1: The sin against the Holy Spirit precludes the path to grace. For this reason, with the sin against the Holy Spirit remaining, the capacity for grace does not remain on the part of the one who sins. But when this very sin has been removed through the immensity of the divine mercy, the abundance of grace can be present afterwards, if the person is most humbled on account of the gravity of the aforesaid sin.
ad secundum dicendum, quod spes directe est eorum in quae sicut in ultimum finem tendimus: et ideo remotio spei tollit finem; et ideo desperatio est irremissibile peccatum, sicut et error principiorum est insanabilis. caritas autem non tantum est finis, sed et eorum quae sunt ad finem; scilicet proximorum: et ideo si peccatur contra caritatem proximi, non tamen propter hoc directe peccatur contra caritatem dei; unde ex parte illa manet via ad curationem. si autem directe contra caritatem dei peccatur, prout est directio finis, sic irremissibile peccatum erit in spiritum sanctum;et hoc est quando quis invidet gratiae, qua etiam reconciliatus est. similiter etiam dicendum de fide, quia infidelitas potest procedere vel ex ignorantia et sic habet pallium excusationis et facile remittitur; vel est ex certa malitia, et sic est peccatum in spiritum sanctum, quod est impugnatio veritatis agnitae. Response to Objection 2: Hope directly is of those things to which we tend as to an ultimate end. For this reason withdrawal of hope destroys the end, and thus despair is an unforgivable sin, just as an error of principles is incurable. Love, however, is not only of the end, but it is also of those things which lead to the end, namely of proximate things. Thus, if one sins against one's love of proximate things, nevertheless one does not sin on account of this directly against the love of God. Hence on the part of that (sin), the way to cure remains. If, however, one directly sins against the love of God, as He is the direction of the end, it will thus be an unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit, and this when one envies grace to which he has been reconciled. The same is to be said concerning faith because infidelity can proceed either from ignorance, and thus have the "dress" (so to speak) of the excusable and the easily forgiven, or from definite malice, and thus be a sin against the Holy Spirit, which is the resisting of the known truth.
ad tertium dicendum, quod malitia non causat involuntarium sicut infirmitas et ignorantia: et ideo non oportet quod peccatum excuset vel alleviet, sicut illa faciunt. vel dicendum, quod malitia ex qua peccatum quod in spiritum sanctum dicitur, procedit, nominat quemdam actum peccati, ut actum desperationis vel obstinationis, et hujusmodi, et non sumitur secundum quod est poena, prout dicit defectum quemdam rationalis animae, secundum quem in malum facile inclinabilis est. Response to Objection 3: Malice is not the cause of the involuntary, or of infirmity and ignorance. Thus, it is not fitting that it (malice) excuses or alleviates, as those do (namely infirmity and ignorance). Or, it should be said that malice from which proceeds that sin which is said to be against the Holy Spirit, designates a certain act of sin, for example, the act of despair, obstinacy, or other such acts, and is not to be understood in so far as it is a penalty, for example, as it designates a defect of the rational soul, according to which it is easily inclinable to evil.
ad quartum dicendum, quod peccatum aliquod potest esse irremissibile dupliciter: vel ex genere peccati, et sic peccatum in spiritum sanctum irremissibile dicitur; vel ex statu peccantis; et sic omne peccatum in quo via finitur, est irremissibile, sive sit hominis sive angeli; et secundum hoc accipitur differentia hominis et angeli: quia status viae in angelis finitur statim post primam electionem; non autem sic est in hominibus.Response to Objection 4: A sin can be unforgivable in two ways, either by reason of the kind of sin, and thus the sin against the Holy Spirit is called unforgivable, or by reason of the condition of the sinner, and thus every sin in which (the condition or state of one's) life (or journey) is completed is unforgivable, either of man or of the angels. And according to this, a difference between man and the angels is understood, for the condition of life (or of the journey) in the angels is completed immediately after their first choice, not, however, is this so among men.
ad quintum dicendum, quod cum dicitur peccatum irremissibile, non privatur potentia absolute ad remissionem, sed magis aptitudo vel facilitas quaedam. Response to Objection 5: When a sin is called unforgivable, one does not lack that absolute power to forgive, but rather the aptitude or the facility.

© Stephen Loughlin
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The Aquinas Translation Project
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