Jean GERSON, Oeuvres complétes.
Introduction, textes et notes par
Monseigneur Glorieux, Paris, 1968-1973. Translation (c) Jeay and
Garay. Gerson was a theologian and Chancellor of the University of
Paris. He engaged in a literary dispute with Christine de Pizan
concerning the Romance of the Rose and recognised the legitimacy
of Joan of Arc's visions.
The sacrament of marriage.
T. 10, 312
This sacrament requires and ordains that the husband loves his
wife as he does his own body, and the wife also loves her husband,
because they are but one flesh; they must be but one heart and one
will in every good; it is God's pleasure when they agree to do
Good. They must enjoy one another, be loyal, and not believe
anything said against the other. The wife must gently obey her
husband in what is reasonable, and the husband must honestly
direct his wife according to his status, without pride, and keep
peace and concord. If God gives them children, they must teach
them their the faith and punish them if they curse or swear
The wife must not refuse intercourse with her husband if she has
not a strong and good reason for it. They must abstain from making
love when she has given birth and during her secret illnesses
(which should not be mentioned), because they could get a serious
disease from it, and the children who might be conceived would be
lepers, hunchbacked, lame or deformed. They should also abstain on
days of religious feasts or imposed fasting, when they want to
receive communion or go on a pilgrimage; if their intention is
mere pleasure, they are also better to abstain. They must avoid
using marriage, so much honored by God, in dishonest ways that go
against Nature because they would sin very gravely.
T. 7, 861.
Is it possible for a married woman to make a vow of chastity, to
go to church, or to do mortifications, such as wearing a hair
shirt, without her husband's consent? I say that the wife can make
a vow not to ask her husband for intercourse, even if it is not a
safe request. But she cannot make a vow forcing her not to obey
her husband when he asks for her body. The same applies to the
husband. As far as the mortifications are concerned, if they
seriously harm the woman and make her weak and ugly, and
unpleasant to her husband, then he can forbid them. But if she has
received advice that her soul would be less valuable if she did
not practice asceticism, she should hold to her behavior. Or if
her mortifications are light and ordinary, then she can do them.
About going to convents, I say that on Sundays and feasts, the
husband cannot reasonably forbid his wife to go to church and
attend mass; the other days, he can forbid it according to the
needs of the household.
Is a married person allowed to go to a pilgrimage or to give alms
without the spouse's consent? If the pilgrimage is far away, I
answer no. If it is near, the wife must avoid any suspicion, and
get her husband's consent, and tell him where and with whom she is
going. A wife must avoid any cause of jealousy for her husband,
and the same applies to him. The husband must not be suspicious
groundlessly. About alms: either they may be small, or come from
the proper goods of the spouse. In both cases, they can be given.
Or they may be substantial, and such that if the spouse knew them,
they would not be permitted: then the wife cannot give them.
Wives should patiently conceal their husbands' faults. Some
tolerate abuse from their lovers and nothing from their husbands.
Wives who complain and quarrel make quarreling husbands. Abigail
waited until the morning before admonishing her husband. Wives
should behave like her, and not react when their husband is angry,
giving insult for insult, blow for blow. With their patience, they
win over their husbands. Husbands, on the other hand, must support
their wives' frailty. If they are young, the husband can chastise
them, first with gentle words, then with a rod.
Watching one's wife too vigilantly is not good: if she is good,
she should not be treated strictly; if she is bad, she cannot be
held so tightly that she will not find ways of escaping.
The husband must look after important outside tasks without
involving his wife. The wife must manage the household with
sobriety, fairness, and frugality, without bothering her husband.
A wife who spends too much is a great shame. The wife must be
subject to her husband before people and guests, and a loved
spouse in bed. This means that she should not be treated as a
servant or a chambermaid, but fairly. She should demonstrate her
love to her husband, as she wants to be treated, showing
gentleness to him in front of other people. Quietness, humility,
sobriety, chastity, are the qualities which will make her please
her husband. And also each one should like the other's friends,
welcoming them pleasantly, and without suspicion.
If the wife tells her husband that she is not well, should he
believe her and not ask for sex? I say yes, if it does not seem to
be a trick. If he does not believe her, and he asks for her body,
and she cannot escape, she will not commit a sin in obeying; her
husband will be the sinner. The same if she is pregnant and the
Is a husband allowed to have intercourse with his pregnant wife
without committing a sin? Yes, if the foetus is not harmed. Is it
possible for a spouse to have intercourse with a partner who is
suffering from leprosy? Yes if it can be done without any threat
on one's health.
If a spouse asks the other spouse to behave dishonestly, should
the partner obey? No, even under the threat of death. One can
secretly complain to a priest or to friends, then to a judge if
there is no other remedy.
If a spouse made a vow of chastity, is it a sin to have
intercourse with the other spouse? No, especially if the act is
made at the express or implicit request of the partner. A spouse
cannot make a vow of chastity without the other partner's consent,
and after marriage has been consummated.
T. 7, 820.
Does a spouse have to tell a confessor secrets implicating the
other spouse? Yes, if the sin cannot be mentioned otherwise. But in
that case, it is better to confess, with one's priest's
permission, to a priest who does not know the partner; only if
such a priest cannot be found can confession be made to one's own
Parents should behave gently with their children without leading
them too harshly or too softly. However gentleness is better than
severity. [...] The most important thing is to maintain their good
health, not giving them bad nurses who are drunkards, idiots or
loose women. Or conceiving them in periods of sickness, especially
leprosy, and having intercourse too often. Or giving them too much
to drink and eat, and allowing them bad companions and habits.
T. 10, 314.
Virginity is such a high and worthy status that it is a heavenly,
angelic life. We can read about many saints who refused kingdoms
or great seignories, and suffered diverse harsh martyrdoms in
order to keep their virginity and high status. Those who fall
willingly and totally into the sin of lust lose this noble
treasure of virginity. Nevertheless, if they stop, and repent, and
confess of their wrong will with a good heart, they recover their
virginity. But if this person is willingly corrupted in whatever
fashion, either his or her virginity is lost without any means of
recovering it; if he or she lives in chastity after that, he or
she will not be considered as a virgin but only as continent. If a
virgin looses her virginity against her will, her merit does not
decrease but increases. An example is the story of the virgin
Saint Lucy; she said these words to the evil tyrant who wanted to
take her virginity: "If you corrupt me and take my virginity, the
crown of my virginity will be doubled."
Rape is a great deadly sin, including: intercourse with a woman
against her will; sexual abuse by parents of women who are under
their care; defloration of virgins.
Does a woman who is deflowered against her will, lose God's
grace? Is she allowed to be consecrated? As far as God and her
glory in paradise are concerned, she does not lose anything. But
she should not be consecrated because it would be a scandal if the
case was known. Is a woman allowed to kill a man who wants to rape
her in order to defend her chastity? Yes, if she does not have any
other way. However moderation is better. ... If a woman pretends
to be a virgin, and the rapist believes her, does he sin as much
as if she actually was a virgin? I answer yes.
What must a young girl do if a man wants to touch her for his
amusement? She must refuse, and she will be praised for that. If
she is forced to submit, she must shout unless there is a threat
of death if she screams. She must not kill herself as Lucretia
Ways of overcoming sexual drive. Think about death, wound oneself,
talk to oneself, spit, talk to somebody, throw cold water on
oneself, get up suddenly, think about the pains of hell or the
sufferings of this world; make a sacrifice such as giving up
drinking wine, do without money or nice clothes; say a miserere or
Another remedy is to avoid occasions, letters, sweet talking, and
Contraception T. 7, 199
The fifth commandment is: thou shall not kill. [...] They commit
this sin who succeed, in whatever way, in preventing the fruit
which should come from carnal intercourse between man and woman.
They sin even more if the fruit comes to life, and the death is
caused by stabbing, gluttony, excessive flirtatiousness, or
It is forbidden for two people, married or not, to do any kind of
lustful fondling without respecting the way and the vessel Nature
requires for conceiving children. It is worse when it is outside
of the natural way, either if it is out of wedlock or even worse,
Is it permitted for spouses to prevent the conception of a child?
No: I often say that it is a sin worse than murder. It is a sin
which deserves the fires of hell. Briefly, any way of preventing
conception during intercourse is dishonest and reprehensible.
Abortion T. 7, 865
Having intercourse too often prevents conception; when the child
is conceived, abortion may result from too tight clothes, dancing,
stabbing, some beverages, and other means.
Illicit pleasures. T. 7, 201.
Stroking oneself or others, people or beasts, for wicked and
shameful pleasure is forbidden, especially with the intention of
provoking and satisfying the dirty delight called molesse or
pollution. Those who are guilty of such sins know what is implied
by these words. One should only mention this vileness and
abominable filth in confession so that chaste ears and innocent
people are not wrongly taught and informed. Some of these cases
are reserved to the bishop, and liable to be sentenced to the
stake according to the law. Those who don't confess these sins
when they can, and do not make the confessor sufficiently aware of
them, must know that they will never be saved, even if they behave
rightly in all the other things and feel ashamed.
Many are deceived into this sin by others' villainy, as are many
innocent young boys and girls, or by excessive idleness, or by
drinking too much too strong wine and eating too much heated meat;
or by foolish words and foolish gazes held for a long time; or by
thinking too much of what spouses do; or by wishing to have
forbidden company; or by the bad advice given by a father, a
mother, servants or masters to the children they raise; or by pure
wickedness. The Deluge occurred because of that sin, and Sodom and
Gomorrah were confounded by the fire of heaven and their
inhabitants thrown alive into Hell. It is because of this sin,
calling for God's vengeance, that famines, wars, mortality,
perdition of kings and kingdoms, and other disasters occur,
according to Scripture.
The best remedy against that sin and other kinds of lust is
leading a sober life, avoiding bad company and idleness and
rejecting dangerous thoughts so that they don't reach the heart;
all that can be done by devoting oneself to prayer to God, Our
Lady, and the saints, or by thinking of something else; or by
physical work and pain, as in the case of one who bit off his
tongue and spat it with these words to his carnal temptation:
"Pooh, pooh, pooh for such filth, and for you, the enemy who
presents it to me."
Several doctors [of Divinity] maintain that willingly fostering
wicked carnal thoughts in order to enjoy oneself is a deadly sin,
even without doing the deed. Be sure, however, that kisses, gazes,
and fondling, mainly caused by such wicked and lustful thoughts,
without anything more, is an even greater sin. Especially if both
people are of the same sex, that is two men or two women; it is
even worse if these kisses do not respect the honesty which is
usually kept in public. If somebody wants to take another person
by force, adult or not, one must defend oneself as if it was a
question of protecting one's life, either by speaking or shouting,
or telling it to those in charge of one's protection. Otherwise
one does not really value one's honor and chastity.
[masturbation][contraception][sex][sodomy][abortion] T. 7, 397.
You have committed the sin of lust: If you have fondled and
stroked yourself on your shameful member until you obtain the
dirty carnal pleasure.
If you initiated such sins with others, by words, kisses,
fondling, or other signs, or immodest paintings.
If you felt this dirty pleasure while sleeping.
If you had carnal intercourse with someone else, either a virgin
or a married woman. Was she a relative, and from which degree of
kinship? Was she a religious woman or a nun? Did she agree or did
If you committed this sin differently from Nature ordered, or
against the honesty that belongs to marriage. [...]
If you have prevented the conception of a child, for yourself or
someone else, by wearing tight clothes, or by dancing or by other
ways which are even worse.
If you wanted to be desired and lusted after for your beauty, your
behaviour, your clothes, makeup, dancing or dissolute gazes.
If you have refused intercourse to your spouse without being sick
or any other reasonable cause.
What a young boy should tell in confession: I sometimes stroked
myself or others, urged by disorderly pleasure; I fondled myself,
in my bed and elsewhere, something I would not have dared to do if
people had been there. Sometimes the priest cannot absolve such
fondling. If they are not confessed and the details given,
whatever the shame, one cannot be absolved, and the confession is
worthless: one is destined to be damned for ever in Hell. The
action and the way it has been done must be told.
Is a priest allowed to celebrate mass the day after he has had
carnal pleasure, even if he has received confession? No, it would
be a new and great sin, unless there is an obvious necessity, for
example on Easter, if the parishioners cannot have mass otherwise.
Same answer about illusions and wet dreams which occur during the
Is it a sin to look at oneself naked or enjoying one's image in
the mirror? I answer that it depends on the intention. Is it a sin
to look at the immodest parts of beasts or paintings? Same answer
as before. However, it is a deadly sin to read books inciting to
lust such as Ovid, Matheolus, parts of the Romance of the Rose, or
poetry and dissolute songs. Those who read them should be forced
to burn or tear them up by their confessor so that themselves or
others will not sin anymore. Imagine the penance which should be
imposed on those who publish them!
Is it a sin to expose oneself to one's children in public baths? I
answer that it should not be done when the children are older than
two, because even if they don't understand the evil when they are
five or six, later, when they come of age, the memory of what they
saw could tempt them. Also, I say that people, married or not
should not tell or do immodest things before small children.
Is it a sin to look at dances? I answer that if the person is
moved to evil, during the dance or after it, and if by one's gaze
or behavior, there is incitement to dissolution, it is danger and
Is it a sin to listen to profane songs, dancing and minstrels?
Same answer as before. Same also, as far as listening to the
private secrets of spouses and other people.
Besides the danger of lust, this is also a nasty curiosity, when
people do to others what they would not have done to them, that is
listening to their secrets. Is it a sin to kiss? I answer that
kisses between spouses who maintain the same modesty as the kiss
of peace at church, or who do them openly, are without sin. If
they do them so immodestly that I cannot be more precise, it is an
abominable deadly sin. If kisses are made between strangers and
publicly, as a sign of peace, by friendship or kinship, without
wicked thought, there is no sin. They could be dangerous between
clerics, or people of the same sex or lineage, or in a secret
place, and in a prolonged way.
Is it a sin to smell sweet scents or other pleasant things? I
answer that the intention, honest or dishonest, should be
Is it a sin to write love letters from a man to a women or a woman
to a man? Same answer as before. Also, I don't know if it is
better that a woman knows how to write and read or not, because of
the good and evil that could follow either way.
Is it always a sin to dance? I maintain that it is not, most of
the time. But human weakness is such that it is rarely done
without some kind of sin. It is the case when people neglect their
work for dancing; or when dances are immodestly done and without
reasonable measure; and when pregnant women loose their fruit, as
Is it a sin to touch children on their faces and elsewhere? I
answer that it is better to abstain. And because children also
touch one another, it would be a better custom in France to have
them, brothers or sisters, sleeping alone in small beds, as they
do in Flanders.
Is a woman allowed to adorn and display her hair? I answer that
modesty in clothing and ornaments is better and safer. However, we
should look at the intention. I don't condemn a woman who attires
herself and wears rich clothes according to the status of her
husband and the custom of her country, and for taking consolation
in them. The Romans used to give fine attire to women in order to
honour them and console them for the pains they suffer in
Is it necessary to confess illusions and dreams occurring during
one's sleep? I advise that it should be done, because it is
impossible to know the origin of this weakness and pollution,
either gluttony, or wicked thoughts, diabolic temptation,
disorderly conduct, too much fasting and great feebleness. If
after the fact, you feel the pleasure experienced in the dream,
you begin to sin.
I maintain that one should not kiss or hold anybody in a secret
place, male children as well as women, married or not; and that a
child must refuse to be held and kissed. [...] If you ask what a
honest kiss is, I answer that it is such as if it was given
publicly or in a convent.
Are wild women [prostitutes] in a position to be saved? No, they
cannot receive the sacraments. Is the Church allowed to receive
their offerings? Yes, if they are not the product of theft or
If a man goes with common women who, without his knowledge, are
married, nuns, or from his lineage, or who had intercourse with
someone from his lineage, does he sin as seriously as if he had
known it? My advice to him would be to confess as if it was as
Concubinage T. 7, 818.
What is worse: going with many women or maintaining a concubine? I
say that in Evil there cannot be any Good. Concubinage is
dangerous because it rarely leads to repentance, and because it is
scandalous for those who witness it.
Is it legitimate to attend mass celebrated by a priest who has a
concubine? I say, without entering in all the details of the
matter, that if I knew such a priest, I would prefer not attending
his mass, if I could find another one, or if I knew that by
avoiding him, he would repent and change his behavior.
[illegitimacy] Adultery. T. 7, 819.
Does a husband who cheats on his wife sin as much as a woman who
commits adultery? I say that he is more guilty, in many respects,
because he must be more virtuous in resisting. But on the other
hand, a wife commits a greater sin because the woman's fault leads
to worse consequences for the lineage.
If one spouse is unfaithful to the other one, should this partner
ask for a separation, or is it better to hide the fact with
patience and dissimulation? Before answering we should consider
the diversity of cases, and the hope of repentance; also how the
opportunity occurred, and if the partner is also guilty. I think
that most of the time, it is better to hide everything and to try
to obtain the guilty party's repentance, as far as it is possible,
than to publicize the case.
T. 7, 863.
If the wife commits adultery, what should her husband do? I hold
that if he hopes she will amend, he should keep her. If not, he
should part with her by law, and only if he can prove the fact. In
most cases, it is safer to conceal it. According to some civil
laws, the husband could be allowed to kill his wife if her
unfaithfulness is proven; but God and reason forbid it.
How should a woman proceed with an illegitimate child? If the
mother reveals it to the child, she might not be believed. If she
tells it to her husband, she puts herself in danger of being
killed. If she lets the child inherit, the other children will be
defrauded. If the child is advised to be a cleric or a religious,
he or she might not follow the advice. The case is perilous. I
think that in general, the mother can tell the truth secretly to
the child, ... and compensate the other children with donations.
The three states of a woman: virgin, wife, widow. T. 7,
Let us talk now about the characteristics of each state, according
to the behaviour proper to each: penance usually pertains to
virginity, but above all there is discipline, so that the virgin
is protected and watched over; to marriage, loving faithfulness;
to widowhood, gracious honesty without excessive curiosity.
Virginity is meant chiefly for loving God and pleasing only Him. A
virgin must not have any other thought: this is contemplative
life. A married woman must think of pleasing her husband, and the
husband his wife, according to the common good of marriage: this
is active life. A widow must rule her children if she has any; she
belongs to both states, that is contemplative and active life.
Is it possible to make a vow of virginity without making the two
other vows, that is chastity and obedience? I answer yes, and say
that vows of chastity and obedience are not safe for a woman who
is in the world.
Is it better for a virgin to live as a recluse or in a community
and earn her living? I think that there are several answers to
this, according to the various conditions. However, I maintain
that it is perilous to be a recluse, and that the other choice is
Should a virgin, recluse or not, work to be able to give alms? I
advise her to work for her living, and above all to avoid
idleness. Then she should spend her time thinking of God and
praying, reading and doing spiritual exercises, and not have too
much anxiety and concern to earn money for alms.
Which one of these three states is the harder to keep? I say that
a general rule cannot be given because of the diversity of
situations. It can be said that virginity is more difficult at the
beginning as far as carnal temptation is concerned; but after it
is easier for four reasons: spiritual consolation; good habit;
modesty which helps her; healing which occurs in the end. Marriage
is more difficult because of avarice, quarreling and jealousy.
Widows belong to both states: for some it is harder to refrain
from past pleasures, for others, the desire to know them again is
Gluttony T. 7, 802
Medicine forbids that children drink wine, nor should their wet
nurses, because it corrupts their milk. According to Valerius,
drinking wine was forbidden to women at Rome for fear of being
sentenced to death. Men used to kiss the women of their lineage
when they met them, in order to test if they had drunk wine. It
seems to me that women nowadays, at least some of them, don't
follow that rule.
Gluttony, which is positively forbidden by God and the Holy Church,
is a deadly sin if it is not excused by any reason of weakness or
sickness, or such necessity. Examples: if a healthy man eats meat
on Good Friday and during Lent; if one does not respect mandatory
fasting days without having a cause excusing it.
Gluttony as a disorderly pleasure taken in drinking and eating,
except in the cases mentioned above, is only a venial sin if a bad
intention is not added, such as using it to be more prone to
intercourse out of wedlock. These rules apply to those who provoke
other people's gluttony, such as making them drunk willingly and
with a bad intention, in order to cheat them, know their secrets,
rape or steal from them.
Is it always a sin to get drunk? I say that if the person knows
the evils provoked by intoxication, and he or she gets drunk
willingly, it is a mortal sin, in the same way that the person
will offend, for example in stabbing someone, or in not going to
work or to mass on Sunday. But if a person gets drunk
unintentionally, by accident, it is not a mortal sin, like Noah
who has been forgiven.
Is it a mortal sin to eat and drink in order to carnally arouse
oneself? Yes, if it is out of wedlock, and even with one's spouse,
if it is to enjoy a pleasure which is not required in marriage.
Spices, garlic and strong wines should be forbidden because they
are dangerous for the chastity of those who are not married.
Is it a deadly sin to eat meat on Friday without knowing it? I say
that it depends on the nature of the ignorance. Is it disobeying
the Church's commandments to swallow meat on Friday which has been
left between the teeth from the supper on Thursday night? My
answer is no. Same answer for eating meat on fasting days in order
to feed infants, or to test it before your lord's son.
T. 7, 806.
If a woman gets drunk and looses her virginity while she is drunk,
does she commit a deadly sin? I say that several things should be
considered: her intention in getting drunk; her absence of
consent; and if she could have guessed or anticipated this
misfortune; in this case she is guilty.
Is it a deadly sin to boast because of eating and drinking more
than other people? Yes, especially in case of reckless bragging.
Is it a sin if a pregnant woman or a sick person eats things that
are not appropriate to the human body, such as coal? Not always,
but sometimes, because one's reason should triumph over bad
inclination if possible; especially if it is too harmful, as
when someone who has high a temperature drinks too much cold
water. ... However, if the embryo might be harmed by the excessive
imagination of the pregnant woman, she should follow her desire.
Are parents and wet nurses who give plenty of wine to children
committing sin? Yes, and especially the wet nurses if they drink
too much, because their milk takes on the nature of wine.
T. 7, 807.
Is it a sin to stimulate one's appetite and hunger with salt and
sauces in order to eat and drink more? Yes, if there is
overindulging. But sometimes it is necessary to take pleasure
in eating for keeping oneself in good health. Normally waiting to
be hungry is better because there is no better sauce than hunger.
Questions could be raised: if cooks sin when they prepare dishes
which are too delicious or too elaborate? If Jesus used sauces?
T. 7, 808.
Is it permitted to eat pork or chicken which have been killed
without draining their blood? It seems that it was forbidden at
the beginning of Christianity. I answer that this prohibition was
for the pagans who were converted to Judaism, because Jews
abominate such a thing. Is it cruel to kill chicken or lambs in
order to fill our bellies? No: it is a silly form of compassion to
believe that, because God gave them to us. I hold, however, that
the killing should be left to those who have to do it because it
is their profession, like butchers, cooks and servants. Done by
children, it could become a wicked addiction for them.
What is worse in religious communities: too much or too little
food? I maintain that excess harms more, and more often, than
temperance. Nevertheless fasting could be so harsh that it could
harm and empty the brain. Unreasonable fasting, by whim and not
listening to advice, is more dangerous than eating too much.
Is it a sin to eat and drink just after having received Our Lord's
body? Yes, in many cases, especially the priests - "goliards" -
who go to the tavern just after having communicated, even if it is
early in the morning. I should also mention the excess of gluttony
which occurs more during the feasts than in other times. Some
servants spend in one day what they have earned during a whole
Purgatory T. 10, 317
You must endeavor to do penance for your sins in this world either
for your own satisfaction, or in repentance, and with a sorrowful
heart; also in doing charitable works or in suffering with
patience the sorrows, sufferings, and tribulations of this world.
What you have not done in this world, you will have to do through
the fire of Purgatory, a fire which burns so intensely that all
the pains, torments and fires of this world are just dew and water
by comparison to it.
Hell T. 10, 317
Those who are damned because of deadly sin are in Hell in the
company of devils whose looks are so terrible that Saint Augustine
says that there is not a man who would not prefer being burnt
alive than to look upon the hideous face of a devil. The devils
grasp the damned and throw them with great delight in the vast,
immeasurably deep abysses which are full of waters so cold that
all the coldness of snow and frost cannot be compared to theirs.
If a mountain of fire would fall into it, it would become ice at
once, like someone who has one hand frozen and, putting it into
the fire, feels a greater pain. In this manner, to inflict a
greater anguish in these cold abysses, the devils throw them with
contempt in a large and immeasurably deep pond, full of a fire so
fierce that the fire of this world is not hot by comparison, no
more than a fire painted on a wall. Even all the water contained
in the sea, falling in this pond, would not temper its heat. In
these abysses, the fury is such that no mortal could feel nor
endure it without dying. The damned face fears and horrors,
palpable darkness, great burning snakes living in the fire like
fishes in water, horrible dragons which tear them to pieces and
devour them; lightnings and storms falling, people with hammers
beating them unceasingly, as if they were iron on the anvil, and
other ones with spears and javelins piercing and cutting them; big
scorpions, asps and toads climbing on them, pulling out their
entrails, and gnawing them. The poor damned endure many other
pains impossible to be told or related by any mortal. But what
torments them beyond everything is to have lost the glory of
paradise by their sin and the knowledge that they can never expect
Swearing T. 7, 196-197
The second commandment is: thou shall not take God's name in vain.
Those who sin against this commandment are those who swear while
knowing that they lie or who believe that they lie: they are
faithless, because God cannot be taken as witness for falsehood.
It is acceptable to conceal the truth but not to tell a lie and be
faithless. All those who do that are very despicable sinners.
Strong laws and statutes are decreed by princes and prelates
against such people, and the judges are very guilty when they
don't apply them. Merchants, men as well as women, and those who
are quick-tempered and become heated when they play dice or other
games, and are drunk, as well as generally all those who are
accustomed to swear easily, should be extremely careful not to
fall into this sin. They would be worse than Jews or Saracens, and
honoring God less than these people do.
The sixth commandment is: thou shalt not steal. Stealing is
taking and keeping the property of others without their knowledge,
or against their will. It forbids all kind of tricks with goods,
shoddy workmanship and cheating on measurement, selling bad
commodities for good ones, whether the salesman has been deceived
himself or not. Someone who has been deceived must not deceive in
his turn. Usury is also a theft, as well as untrue defence,
mischievous prosecution or unjust sentencing, and generally all
overt or covert cheating by which someone provokes the loss of
another's goods, something he would not wish to be done to him.
[...] It forbids all kinds of simony and plurality of undue
benefices, the minting and circulation of forged currency, and
selling with excessive credit loans. It also forbids slander and
disparaging others so that they unjustly lose their good name
which is often worth more than riches. In that case restitution
must be done publicly so that the good name is restored as much as
Those also sin against this commandment who take by force from
their subjects more than right and the necessity of the public
good requires, who lead unjust wars, who decree laws or orders
against God and the Church for which they are lawfully
excommunicated. Also women who have their bastards inherit as if
they were legitimate children, who spend their husband's goods
excessively without their consent, or children who do the same
with their parents' possessions, and servants or stewards who
unfaithfully manage their masters and lords' property. Also those
who outrageously spend the goods of the Holy Church on pomp,
luxury and treasures, and all those who steal tithes or remove the
boundary stones in the fields to increase their property, those
who don't pay their taxes or the bequests and the alms they have
pledged, all of which is very harmful for their souls.
Is it a sin to buy corn on the blade or wine before the harvest at
low prices because of the other's poverty? If it is done in order
to help the other selling his goods and for supporting him, or for
one's own household, it could be justified: but the evaluation of
this kind of usury depends on the intention. [...] For example,
buying a new crop of corn in order to sell it when the price will
be higher, is a sin in the intention.
Usury is also any kind of fraud in goods or trade. It can be found
with these three signs: the first one is when the item sold is
other than what is said or what is shown, for example brass sold
for gold, lead for pewter; leather shoes or a book sold for
another one, a plant for another one. The second sign is quality:
you will sell bad and hard gold artificially fabricated for good
pure gold; you will show me a beautiful letter for a manuscript,
then you mess it up; or good fish, or wine, then you will give a
bad one; you will sell me a broken-winded horse for a good healthy
one. About that, it should be said that it is not necessary to
mention some visible defects, the price being decreased
accordingly in that case, but you must reveal the hidden ones,
according to God, one's conscience, and civil law. Moreover,
deceit should not be used, like hiding in the dark or showing that
things are different than they really are. In general terms, if
you sell higher than the fair price required, you sin and you must
refund the buyer.
T. 7, 880.
The third sign is quantity, for example the number of measures of
wheat or wine; or cheating when you wrongly make something heavier
than it is, like in wetting wool; or when a tailor steals fabric,
or a cook takes meat or cheese, or a furrier steals fur; also any
kind of fraud on the work done, whatever the trade.
Work. Begging. T. 7, 893.
Is it an obligation to keep working for a bourgeois who is well
off? I answer in making distinctions. Either he or she abandons
working and earning money for God's service, or for enjoying the
pleasures of the world more freely, or because of bad health, or
by ignorance of another trade. The first case is legitimate, but
not the second; the third and fourth are also possible provided
idleness does not incite to sin, as it is often the case with
Is it permitted for a healthy person who is able to earn his
living to beg? I answer that it is a sin when done by a bourgeois
and without any good intention. Someone who pretends to be poor
and helpless in order to receive alms for this pretence is a
thief. It is a fraud to steal goods and alms which should be given
to the needy. However, the intention can be an excuse, as when a
lay person wants to beg like the mendicants in order to
demonstrate his humility and serve God.