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Wisdom, Law, and VirtueEssays in Thomistic Ethics$
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Lawrence Dewan

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823227969

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823227969.001.0001

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ST. Thomas, Lying, and Venial Sin

ST. Thomas, Lying, and Venial Sin

(p.374) Chapter 24 ST. Thomas, Lying, and Venial Sin
Wisdom, Law, and Virtue

Lawrence Dewan

Fordham University Press

Although Thomas Aquinas, following St. Augustine's lead, held that all lying is bad, what he called a “sin [peccatum],” he nevertheless believed that a harmless lie to save a life is only a venial sin, not a mortal sin. Still, some interpreters of Thomas would like to eliminate even this stricture, and to do so, they sometimes attempt to redefine the event of which Thomas is speaking. In so doing, they tend to undermine our identification of species of sin. They cast doubt on the validity of moral taxonomy. This chapter recalls some features of Thomas's doctrine of venial sin and considers how it applies to the discussion of lying.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, lying, venial sin, species of sin, moral taxonomy

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