In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas offers concepts about the equality of men and the importance of free choice. Throughout his explanations of justice, obedience, and prudence, Aquinas’s conclusions are still held in the Catholic Church about the gift of oneself to a state in life. By comparing the different types of justice present in relationships, the primacy of obedience to God allows for individuals to freely choose their state of life as a contribution to the common good. Aquinas’s recognition of the equality of men and their need to be wholly obedient to God leads to his discussion about the importance of freedom of choice in the specific areas of disposal of one’s body in marriage or perpetual virginity.
In his explanation of justice, Aquinas states that “it is the object of justice to direct human beings in their relations with another. For justice signifies a certain equality, as the very name indicates, since we commonly speak of equal things being exactly right” (ST II-II Q. 57 A. 1). Aquinas recognizes that the equality of men is based on the nature of their creation, and he declares that this equality is essential to justice. However, Aquinas’s view of equality does not include total self-governance (ST 104 Q.1 A. 5). Different types of justice are required for specific relationships.
Aquinas further details the different forms of justice in relation to wives and their husbands, slaves and their masters, and fathers and their sons.