Culpability is an important aspect for having limitations on obedience to superiors. In Aquinas’s discussion on culpability for actions, he says that “. . . the goodness of the will depends on reason, in the same way it depends on the object” (ST I-II, Q. 19 A. 3). Therefore, the ultimate value of an action does not depend on a superior. Man is culpable for his actions on a personal level, and therefore must seek to follow the will of God, whether it be through obedience to an earthly authority or a heavenly one.
Beyond the reasons of human fallibility and personal accountability, Aquinas indicates that there are certain states in life that are never to be imposed upon another. This also limits the type of obedience a person can have to a human superior. On the basis of equality of men, Aquinas says that “. . . servants are not bound to obey their masters, nor children their parents, in the question of contracting marriage or of remaining in the state of virginity or the like” (ST II-II, Q 104 A. 5). This specific declaration about marriage and virginity must be seen through the eyes of proper prudence as it pertains to justice.