Listers, the following is taken in full from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica II-II.148.1 On Gluttony. The Summa Theologica is widely considered the magnum opus of the Angelic Doctor’s short life. The work is broken down into a question and answer format and its importance is best summed up by the fact it was laid on the altar at the Council of Trent. Aquinas writes under the true belief that theology – more specifically the Sacred Doctrine of the Catholic Church – is the Divine Science and the Queen of the Sciences. In that proper understanding of theology the Angelic Doctor writes with a scientific accuracy marked by defined terms and an unwavering attention to detail. The fruits of understanding his writings are worth the labors.
“He (Thomas Aquinas) enlightened the Church more than all the other Doctors together; a man can derive more profit from his books in one year than from a lifetime spent in pondering the philosophy of others.”
Pope John XXII, Consistorial address of 1318
Pope Benedict XVI has recently highlighted the importance of Aquinas’ writings in his three part catechesis on the Common Doctor: Eucharistic Soul: 9 Statements by Pope Benedict XVI on St. Thomas Aquinas, Our Guide Through Modernism: 12 Teachings from Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas, and Pope Benedict XVI’s 11 Introductory Steps to Understanding the Writings of Aquinas.
Whether gluttony is a sin?
How to Read the Summa Theologica
Aquinas’ structure of the Summa Theologica is unique to our modern customs. The Common Doctor proposes a question and in this case it is Whether gluttony is a sin? He then provides a few – in this case three – arguments that he believes to be false answers. He will then present a sed contra or a “On the contrary” statement which is a summary or the principal point of answering the question correctly. Immediately following the sed contra, the saint will give the main body of his answer and then handle each of the following incorrect answers individually.
Below the entirety of St. Thomas’ first article on gluttony is presented.
SPL has added the titles and their numbers.
1. Food cannot defile a man
Objection 1. It would seem that gluttony is not a sin. For our Lord said (Matthew 15:11): “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man.” Now gluttony regards food which goes into a man. Therefore, since every sin defiles a man, it seems that gluttony is not a sin.
2. Pleasure and necessity cannot be distinguished
Objection 2. Further, “No man sins in what he cannot avoid” [Ep. lxxi, ad Lucin.]. Now gluttony is immoderation in food; and man cannot avoid this, for Gregory says (Moral. xxx, 18): “Since in eating pleasure and necessity go together, we fail to discern between the call of necessity and the seduction of pleasure.” And Augustine says (Confess. x, 31): “Who is it, Lord, that does not eat a little more than necessary?” Therefore gluttony is not a sin.
3. The first movement of sin
Objection 3. Further, in every kind of sin the first movement is a sin. But the first movement in taking food is not a sin, else hunger and thirst would be sinful. Therefore gluttony is not a sin.
St. Thomas responds
4. Sed Contra: The inward enemy
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxx, 18) that “unless we first tame the enemy dwelling within us, namely our gluttonous appetite, we have not even stood up to engage in the spiritual combat.” But man’s inward enemy is sin. Therefore gluttony is a sin.
5. An irrational inordinate desire
I answer that, Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire. Now desire is said to be inordinate through leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists: and a thing is said to be a sin through being contrary to virtue. Wherefore it is evident that gluttony is a sin.
6. The desire defiles, not the food
Reply to Objection 1. That which goes into man by way of food, by reason of its substance and nature, does not defile a man spiritually. But the Jews, against whom our Lord is speaking, and the Manichees deemed certain foods to make a man unclean, not on account of their signification, but by reason of their nature [Cf. I-II, 102, 6, ad 1]. It is the inordinate desire of food that defiles a man spiritually.
7. Knowledge of the excess
Reply to Objection 2. As stated above, the vice of gluttony does not regard the substance of food, but in the desire thereof not being regulated by reason. Wherefore if a man exceed in quantity of food, not from desire of food, but through deeming it necessary to him, this pertains, not to gluttony, but to some kind of inexperience. It is a case of gluttony only when a man knowingly exceeds the measure in eating, from a desire for the pleasures of the palate.
8. Sin rests in the sensation, not the necessity
Reply to Objection 3. The appetite is twofold. There is the natural appetite, which belongs to the powers of the vegetal soul.1 On these powers virtue and vice are impossible, since they cannot be subject to reason; wherefore the appetitive power is differentiated from the powers of secretion, digestion, and excretion, and to it hunger and thirst are to be referred. Besides this there is another, the sensitive appetite, and it is in the concupiscence of this appetite that the vice of gluttony consists. Hence the first movement of gluttony denotes inordinateness in the sensitive appetite, and this is not without sin.