Saturday, February 23, 2008

Justice, Obedience, and Choosing a State of Life as Seen in St. Thomas Aquinas - Conclusion

Furthermore, freedom of choice in the areas of virginity and marriage is important because of the ordering of these states in life. Aquinas clearly states that virginity in itself is a greater state of life because, “. . . a Divine good takes precedence of a human good, and because the good of the soul is preferable to the good of the body, and again because the good of the contemplative life is better than that of the active life” (ST II-II, Q. 152 A. 4). Because virginity makes one more available for contemplation and the Divine good, it is a higher state in life. However, St. Thomas explains that the virtue with which either virginity or marriage is lived out is dependent upon the person and his or her habits (ST II-II, Q. 152 A. 4). Therefore it is possible for a married person to be more virtuous than a virgin, regardless of the fact that the virgin’s state of life is more conducive to the Divine. The choice of perpetual virginity or marriage must be one that is specific to the person making the decision. One person may habituate virtue more readily in the state of perpetual virginity while another may do so more easily in a state of marriage, despite the fact that virginity is intrinsically more excellent than marriage.

St. Thomas’ recognition of the value of choice is prophetic in the sense that it points toward the common notion today that the freedom to choose a state in life is among the greatest of freedoms rooted in human dignity. The equality of persons predicates this freedom. Aquinas’s discussions of justice and obedience recognize the necessity of a hierarchical ordering of the human race without negating the primacy of choice.

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