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I Sent., D. 44, Q. 2, A.

2
Utrum Christiani teneantur obedire
potestatibus saecularibus, et maxime
tyrannis

I Sentences, Distinction 44, Question 2,


Article 2
Whether Christians are bound to obey
secular powers, especially tyrants

Ad secundum sic proceditur. Videtur quod


Christiani non teneantur saecularibus
potestatibus obedire, et praecipue tyrannis.

The procedure in discussing this problem is


this: It seems that they are not bound to obey
secular powers, especially tyrants.

Matth. 17, 25, dicitur: ergo liberi sunt filii. Si


enim in quolibet regno filii illius regis qui
regno illi praefertur, liberi sunt, tunc filii
regis cui omnia regna subduntur, in
quolibet regno liberi esse debent. Sed
Christiani effecti sunt filii Dei; Roman. 8,
16: ipse enim spiritus testimonium reddit
spiritui nostro quod sumus filii Dei. Ergo
ubique sunt liberi; et ita saecularibus
potestatibus obedire non tenentur.

1. Matthew 17:25 says: "Therefore the sons


are free." If then in any kingdom the sons of its
king are free, then the sons of the king to
whom all kingdoms are subject ought to be
free in any kingdom. But Christians have
been made sons of God Romans 8:16:
"The Spirit bears testimony to our spirit that
we are sons of God." Therefore they are free
everywhere, and are not held to obey secular
powers.

Praeterea, servitus pro peccato inducta est,


ut supra, quaest. 1, art. 1, dictum est. Sed
per Baptismum homines a peccato
mundantur. Ergo a servitute liberantur; et
sic idem quod prius.

2. Besides, slavery is the result of sin, as was


shown above, q. 1, a. 1. But by Baptism
people are cleansed from sin. Therefore they
are liberated from slavery, and the same
conclusion folows.

Praeterea, majus vinculum absolvit a


minori, sicut lex nova ab observantia legis
veteris. Sed in Baptismo homo obligatur
Deo, quae obligatio est majus vinculum
quam id quo homo obligatur homini per
servitutem. Ergo per Baptismum a servitute
absolvitur.

3. Besides, a greater bond frees one from a


lesser one, as the new law frees from
observance of the old law. But by baptism a
man comes under obligation to God, which is
a greater bond that that of man to man by
slavery. Therefore by baptism he is freed from
slavery.

Praeterea, quilibet potest licite resumere,


cum facultas adest, quod sibi injuste
ablatum est. Sed multi saeculares
principes tyrannice terrarum dominia
invaserunt. Ergo cum facultas rebellandi
illis conceditur, non tenentur illis obedire.

4. It is legitimate for anyone, who can do so,


to re-take what has been taken away from him
unjustly. Now many secular princes unjustly
usurped the dominion of Christian lands.
Since, therefore, in such cases rebellion is
legitimate, Christians have no obligation to
obey these princes.

Praeterea, nullus tenetur ei obedire quem


licite, immo laudabiliter potest interficere.
Sed Tullius in libro de officiis salvat eos qui
Julium Caesarem interfecerunt, quamvis

5. If it is a legitimate and even a praiseworthy


deed to kill a person, then no obligation of
obedience exists toward that person. Now in
the Book on Duties [De Officiis I, 8, 26] Cicero

amicum et familiarem, qui quasi tyrannus


jura imperii usurpaverat. Ergo talibus
nullus tenetur obedire.

justifies Julius Caesars assassins. Although


Caesar was a close friend of his, yet by
usurping the empire he proved himself to be a
tyrant. Therefore toward such powers there is
no obligation of obedience.

Sed contra, 1 Petri 11, 18: servi subditi


estote dominis vestris.

Sed C. 1. On the other hand, however, there


are the following arguments proving the
contrary position: First, it is said: Servants, be
in subjection to your masters (1 Pet. 2:18.)

Praeterea, Rom. 13, 2: qui potestati resistit,


Dei ordinationi resistit. Sed non est licitum
Dei ordinationi resistere. Ergo nec
saeculari potestati resistere licet.

Sed C. 2. Second, it is also said: He who


resists the power, withstands the ordinance of
God (Rom. xiii, 2.) Now it is not legitimate to
withstand the ordinance of God. Hence it is
not legitimate either to withstand secular
power.

Respondeo dicendum, quod sicut dictum


est, obedientia respicit in praecepto quod
servat, debitum observandi. Hoc autem
debitum causatur ex ordine praelationis,
quae virtutem coactivam habet, non tantum
temporaliter sed etiam spiritualiter propter
conscientiam, ut apostolus dicit Roman.
13, secundum quod ordo praelationis a
Deo descendit, ut apostolus, ibidem, innuit.
Et ideo secundum hoc quod a Deo est,
obedire talibus Christianus tenetur, non
autem secundum quod a Deo praelatio non
est.

Solution and determination. Obedience, by


keeping a commandment, has for its [formal]
object the obligation, involved in the
commandment, that it be kept. Now this
obligation originates in that the commanding
authority has the power to impose an
obligation binding not only to external but
also to internal and spiritual obediencefor
conscience sake, as the Apostle says (Rom.
xiii, 5.) For power (authority) comes from God,
as the Apostle implies in the same place.
Hence, Christians are bound to obey the
authorities inasmuch as they are from God;
and they are not bound to obey inasmuch as
the authority is not from God.

Dictum est autem, quod praelatio potest a


Deo non esse dupliciter: vel quantum ad
modum acquirendi praelationem, vel
quantum ad usum praelationis.

Now, this not being from God may be the


case, first, as to the mode in which authority is
acquired, and, second, as to the use which is
made of authority.

Quantum ad primum contingit dupliciter:


aut propter defectum personae, quia
indignus est; aut propter defectum in ipso
modo acquirendi, quia scilicet per
violentiam vel per simoniam, vel aliquo
illicito modo acquirit.

Concerning the first case we must again


distinguish two defects: There may be a
defect of the person acquiring authority
inasmuch as this person is unworthy of it.
There may also be a defect in the mode of
acquiring authority, namely, if it is obtained by
violence, or simony, or other illegitimate
means.

Ex primo defectu non impeditur quin jus


praelationis ei acquiratur; et quoniam
praelatio secundum suam formam semper
a Deo est (quod debitum obedientiae
causat); ideo talibus praelatis, quamvis
indignis, obedire tenentur subditi.

As to the first of these defects, we say that it


does not constitute an obstacle against
acquiring lawful authority. Since, then, as
such, authority is always from God (and this is
what causes the obligation of obedience), the
subjects are bound to render obedience to
these authorities, unworthy as they may be.

Sed secundus defectus impedit jus


praelationis: qui enim per violentiam
dominium surripit non efficitur vere
praelatus vel dominus; et ideo cum facultas
adest, potest aliquis tale dominium
repellere: nisi forte postmodum dominus
verus effectus sit vel per consensum
subditorum, vel per auctoritatem superioris.

As to the second of those defects, we say that


in such a case there is no lawful authority at
all. He who seizes power by violence does
not become a true holder of power. Hence,
when it is possible to do so, anybody may
repel this domination, unless, of course, the
usurper should later on have become a true
ruler by the consent of the subjects or by a
recognition being extended to him by a higher
authority.

Abusus autem praelationis potest esse


dupliciter: vel ex eo quod est praeceptum a
praelato, contrarium ejus ad quod praelatio
ordinata est, ut si praecipiat actum peccati
contrarium virtuti ad quam inducendam et
conservandam praelatio ordinatur; et tunc
aliquis praelato non solum non tenetur
obedire, sed etiam tenetur non obedire,
sicut et sancti martyres mortem passi sunt,
ne impiis jussis tyrannorum obedirent:

The abuse of power might take on two forms.


First, a commandment emanating from the
authority might be contrary to the very end in
view of which authority is instituted, i.e., to be
an educator to, and a preserver of, virtue.
Should therefore the authority command an
act of sin contrary to virtue, we not only are
not obliged to obey but we are also obliged
not to obey, according to the example of the
holy martyrs who preferred death to obeying
those ungodly tyrants.

vel quia cogunt ad hoc ad quod ordo


praelationis non se extendit; ut si dominus
exigat tributa quae servus non tenetur dare,
vel aliquid hujusmodi; et tunc subditus non
tenetur obedire, nec etiam tenetur non
obedire.

The second form of abusing power is for the


authority to go beyond the bounds of its legal
rights, for instance, when a master exacts
duties which the servant is not bound to pay,
or the like. In this case the subject is not
obliged to obey, but neither is he obliged not
to obey.

Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod illa


praelatio quae ad utilitatem subditorum
ordinatur, libertatem subditorum non tollit;
et ideo non est inconveniens quod tali
praelationi subjaceant qui per spiritum
sanctum filii Dei effecti sunt. Vel dicendum,
quod Christus loquitur de se et suis

Ad 1. In answer to the first, authority which is


instituted for the utility of the subjects does not
take away their liberty. Therefore there is no
problem in being subject to such authority for
those who have become sons of God by the
Holy Spirit. Or another answer could be:
Christ is speaking about himself and his

discipulis, qui nec servilis conditionis erant,


nec res temporales habebant, quibus suis
dominis obligarentur ad tributa solvenda; et
ideo non sequitur quod omnis Christianus
hujusmodi libertatis sit particeps, sed
solum illi qui sequuntur apostolicam vitam,
nihil in hoc mundo possidentes, et a
conditione servili immunes.

disciples, who were not of servile condition,


nor did they have temporal property by which
they would be obliged to pay tax to their lords.
Therefore it does not follow that every
Christian shares in this liberty, but only those
who follow the apostolic life, owning nothing
in this world, and unaffected by servile state.

Ad secundum dicendum, quod Baptismus


non delet statim omnes poenalitates ex
peccato primi parentis consequentes, sicut
necessitatem moriendi et caecitatem, vel
aliquid hujusmodi; sed regenerat in spem
vivam illius vitae in qua omnia ista
tollentur; et sic non oportet ut aliquis statim
baptizatus a servili conditione liberetur,
quamvis illa sit poena peccati.

Ad 2. In answer to the second, baptism does


not delete all the penalties arising from the sin
of the first parent, such as the necessity to die,
or blindness, or the like, but it gives rebirth
into a living hope of that life in which all those
things are taken away. So someone just
baptized need not be immediately liberated
from a servile state, even though that is a
penalty of sin.

Ad tertium dicendum, quod majus vinculum


non absolvit a minori, nisi quando non
compatitur se cum illo; sicut umbra et
veritas simul esse non possunt: propter
quod veniente veritate Evangelii, umbra
veteris legis cessavit. Sed vinculum quo in
Baptismo quis ligatur, compatitur vinculum
servitutis; et ideo non absolvit ab illo.

Ad 3. In answer to the third, the greater bond


does not free from the lesser unelss it is
incompatible with it; thus shadow and truth
cannot coexist, because when the truth of the
Gospel came, the shadow of the old law
ceased. But th bond taken on by baptism is
compatible with servitude, and therefore it
does not dissolve it.

Ad quartum dicendum, quod qui per


violentiam praelationem accipiunt, non
sunt veri praelati; unde nec eis obedire
tenentur subditi nisi sicut dictum est.

Ad 4. To the fourth argument the answer is


this: An authority acquired by violence is not a
true authority, and there is no obligation of
obedience, as we said above.

Ad quintum dicendum, quod Tullius


loquitur in casu illo quando aliquis
dominium sibi per violentiam surripit,
nolentibus subditis, vel
etiam ad
consensum coactis, et quando non est
recursus ad superiorem, per quem judicium
de invasore possit fieri: tunc enim qui ad
liberationem patriae tyrannum occidit,
laudatur, et praemium accipit.

Ad 5. To the fifth argument the answer is that


Cicero speaks of domination obtained by
violence and ruse, the subjects being
unwilling or even forced to accept it and there
being no recourse open to a superior who
might pronounce judgment upon the usurper.
In this case he that kills the tyrant for the
liberation of the country, is praised and
rewarded.