St. Alphonsus’ Moral Theology steers the course between rigor and laxity to lead the way to Christ’s mercy. In dealing with the first Commandment, St. Alphonsus deals with sins such as apostasy, idolatry, and superstition; then in the second he takes up sins of blasphemy, violation of oaths, etc.; in the third, he takes up all the considerations involved in the precept to attend Mass on Sundays and Feast days.
In the fourth commandment, obedience in general; in the fifth, murder and all its species, including questions on abortion, the death penalty, and just war; in the 6th adultery, rape and lust.
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157.—III. The penitent, being asked by the confessor about a sin already confessed, does not need to mention it by understanding in addition, “that which he has not confessed.” (Cardenas diss. 19, n. 48, Salm. tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 8 § 3 n. 118, Sanchez, lib. 3 cap. 6 n. 14; Sporer de 2. praec. cap. 1 n. 105). But this must be understood as unless the confessor would justly ask to know the state of the penitent, from number 58 of the propositions condemned by Innocent XI.
158.—IV. A needy man can respond to a judge about goods hidden for his subsistence that he has nothing (Salm. ibid. § n. 140). Equally, an heir who, without discovery hides goods, if he is not held to make satisfaction to creditors from them, he may respond to a judge that he has hidden nothing, understanding in addition “from the goods which he would be held to make satisfaction”. (Salm. loc. cit. and Roncaglia, c. 4, reg. 2 in praxi.
159.—V. Someone that takes out a loan, but later satisfies it, can deny he has taken up a loan, understanding in addition: “such that he ought to pay.” (Salm. cit. n. 140, and Sporer de 2. praec. c. 1 n. 122, with Suarez, Navarre, Azor, Laymann, Cov. and others). So equally, if anyone were coerced to matrimony, they can assert to the judge even with an oath that they did not contract it, viz. freely, as is just. (Toletus, lib. 4 c. 21; Laymann, c. 14 n. 8; Navarre, in c. Humanae aures, caus. 22 q. 5; Sporer loc. cit.). Sporer says the same thing about someone who entered into an invalid betrothal. Equally, one who promised matrimony, but then would not be held to it, can deny the promise, viz. that he was held by it, as the Salamancans say (ibid.). Someone is not held to a duty can respond that he does nothing viz. from which he owes a duty. (Cardenas n. 77, Salm. ibid.; Sporer loc. cit. n. 121 with Ledesma). One who comes from a place falsely thought to be infected by plague can deny he came from it, viz. a pestilential one, because this is the mind of the guards. (Salm. ibid. n. 141; Lessius, c. 42 n. 47, Sanchez Dec. l. 3 cap. 6 n. 35; Sporer loc. cit. n. 140, with Toletus, Navarre, Suarez, Henriquez, Rodriguez, etc.). Nay more, Toletus and Lessius admit this as well as many others cited by Sporer, even if he quickly passed through an infected place, provided it were certain he did not contract the plague, because it could be understood he did not come so that danger would not be feared from him; but I do not altogether acquiesce to this. The Salamancans (n. 141) admit this, with Busembaum, because if someone were forcefully obliged by a thief to promise money with an oath, he could understand in addition: “I will give, if I owe you without an oath”; because they say that promise from circumstances can admit such an ambiguity. Equally a wife, for whom it is certain the marriage is null, can promise with an oath to the judge or confessor, who would not otherwise wish to absolve her, that she will cohabitate with her husband, even if she does not intend, understanding from that licit cohabitation. (Salm. loc. cit.).
160.—VI. Someone asked by a judge whether he spoke with a guilty man can deny it, understanding he did not speak so as to cooperate with him. A canon lawyer, obligated to a secret, can swear he manifested nothing, if he manifested none of those things which he is held to conceal sub gravi. The Salamancans agree (ibid. n. 142) who assert that all these are obvious to all authors. Equally Lessius, c. 52 n. 48, with Alex, Bart. etc. One who is going to be chosen for an office, being asked whether he had some impediment can deny it if it is really not such a thing that would impede him in the exercise of office.
Equally, if anyone were summoned and asked whether the food is good, which really is insipid, he can respond it is good, viz. for mortification. (Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 74). So also Cardenas (n. 76) and la Croix (lib. 3 p. 1 n. 302) say ceremonies can licitly be advanced, “I kiss my hand,” etc. “I offer myself as a servant,” etc. because from common use they are received as material words advanced only for honor. It is also licit to conceal the truth with cause, e.g. if someone asked you for money, you can respond: “Would that I had it!” or “I would be glad to have some”, etc. (Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 53).
161.—Quaeritur 1: Could a creditor assert from an instrument with an oath that nothing was paid to him, if really a part has been paid but he had a credit from another person, which he could not prove? It is answered that he can, provided he did not swear the quantity due to him by that instrument, lest it be inferred he suffered loss from other previous creditors. Salm. tr. 17, cap. 2 punct. 8 § 6 n. 143, with Sanchez, Palaus, Leander, etc.
162.—Quaeritur 2: Could an adulteress deny the adultery with a man, understanding that will reveal him otherwise? She can equivocally assert she did not break a marriage which truly persists. And if she had sacramentally confessed the adultery, she can respond: “I am innocent of this crime,” because by confession it has been taken away. So thinks Cardenas, diss. 19 n. 54, who still adverts that she could not affirm it with an oath, because probability of the fact suffices to assert something, but to swear an oath certitude is required. But the response is made that moral certitude would suffice to swear an oath, as we said above in dubium 3, n. 148, with the Salamancans (tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 5 § 1 n. 42), Lessius, Sanchez, Suarez, Palaus and the common opinion. Such moral certitude of the remission of the sin can indeed be held when someone morally disposed receives the sacrament of penance.
But in regard to the question, the Salamancans (ibid. punct. 8 § 6 n. 144) with de Soto say a woman cannot deny the adultery because it would be a pure mental reservation. Still, Cardenas (n. 60) admits that in danger of death it is permitted to use a metaphor which is common in scripture where adultery is taken for idolatry, as in Ezechiel 23:37: “Because they committed adultery … and fornicated with idols.” Nay more, if the crime is truly secret, according to the probable opinion of the authors a woman can deny it with an oath and say: “I did not commit it”; in the same mode in which a guilty man can say to a judge that does not legitimately ask him, “I did not commit the crime,” by understanding he did not commit to the extent he is held to manifest it. (Busembaum, below, and Lessius, Trull, ibid. and Sanchez, lib. 3 dec. c. 2 n. 42, with de Soto, Sayre and Arag., as Tamburinus holds ex comm. c. 4 § 3 n. 1 and 2, as well as Viva q. 7, art 4 n. 2).
163.—Quaeritur 3: Could someone requested to make a loan swear that he did not have any money when he really has some, by understanding that he has no money to furnish a loan? The Salamancans (loc. cit. n. 145, with de Soto, Henriquez) deny this. The reason is because that reservation cannot be perceived from the circumstances. But this must be understood, if the truth can in no way be perceived; for if it could be thrown out there from some circumstance, namely of poverty or neediness of the lender, one could rightly understand “I have nothing superfluous that I could lend”. So think Roncaglia (de 2 praec. c. 4 reg. 2 in praxi), Viva (q. 7 a. 4 n. 2) with Sanchez, Bonacina, Sylvius, etc. Cardenas (diss. 19 n. 48) with Suarez and de Lugo, who so teaches: “One that has one loaf necessary for himself truly responds that he has nothing for one that asks for bread to be loaned to him, because he has nothing which he could loan which is the only thing the other man asks.” (de poenit. disp. 23, sess. 4 n. 74). And Cardenas says the same thing (n. 73) on money that is sought, if it is necessary to the owner.
164.—Quaeritur 4: Could merchants swear their merchandise costs more than others, by combining the reckoning with other merchandise? Some affirm this, but the Salamancans (dict. n. 145) rightly deny it. Still, Croix, with Gobat. says that it is probable he can when they do not understand such things about the price of the thing, but compute it in expenses for taxes, for the storehouse, etc. (Croix l. 3 p. 1 n. 301).
165.—Quaeritur 5: Could a servant at his master’s command deny he is at home? Cardenas (diss. 19 n. 75) admits that he can fasten a stone to his foot and answer “he is not here,” because it is not a mental reservation; but I do not assent to this unless the other man could by no means notice it. I would rather more concede he could say “he is not here,” viz. not here at the door, or at the window, or (as the Continuator of Tournely says, de relig. part. 2 cap. 3 art. 5, in fine): “he is not here,” insofar as he can be seen. Cardenas says likewise, that he can respond, “he has left the house,” by understanding in the past; for we are not held, as he says above with Lessius, to respond to the mind of the one asking the question if a just cause is present. It would be otherwise if he were asked, did the Lord go out this morning, as Croix says (lib. 3 p. 1 n. 284). So even Cardenas says (n. 72) about a nobleman who is in bed, the servant can respond that he is outside, viz. he is not to be seen, as it is usually understood from the common manner of speech.
166.—Quaeritur 6: Could those that are going to take up a doctoral degree swear with an equivocation the requisite condition that is not true, viz. to have freed himself up for that science for so many years, etc., if they were equally suitable as other doctors? See Tamburinus, Dec. lib. 3, cap. 2, who affirms it and says then there is a just cause for so swearing, lest they be rejected who are worthy. But whatever about this, it seems to me more probable that those who are going to get their doctorates at Naples, who by the usual custom write in their own hand on taking up their registrations: “Dico con giuramento essere il primo anno institutista, etc., when it is really not so. The reason is because that verb “giuro” or “dico con giuramento,” as we said above (dub. 1 n. 136) with Salm. (tr. 17 c. 2 punct. 3 n. 24), Bonacina, Sanchez, Suarez, is not of itself an oath, unless questioning would precede about an oath; but this questioning at Naples is either altogether not done or is not done from a true oath, but only on that written material which seems from the common use not to take up a true oath.