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Dearest p. Angelo,

I wanted to ask you a clarification on how this passage of the second letter to Timothy should be understood:

“I beg you before God and Christ Jesus who will come to judge the living and the dead, for his manifestation and his kingdom: announce the word, insist on every opportune and not opportune occasion, admonish, reproach, exhort with all magnanimity and doctrine.

However, I read in the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, regarding fraternal correction, that “Fraternal correction is commanded because it is an act of virtue.  An act is such inasmuch as it is proportionate to the end. Therefore, when it should prevent the end, as if the culprit were to become worse, then it no longer belongs to the truth of life, and is not of precept” (Summa theologiae IIª-IIae q. 33 a. 6 ad 2).

Christ himself in the Gospel tells us: “Be as prudent as serpents and as simple as doves” (Mt 10:16).

Since there can be no contradiction in Divine Revelation, I wanted to ask you what is the correct exegesis of the passage in question .

I thank you and greet you cordially.

Answer of the priest


Dearest,

1. The exegesis you find already in the answer that St. Thomas gives in the body of the article.

To understand it, it is necessary to remember that for St. Thomas there are two types of correction: the first is the correction simply said and is proper of prelates or superiors, the second is instead the fraternal correction.

2. Here is the text: “There are two types of correction of culprits.

The first, reserved to prelates, is ordered to the common good, and has coercive force.

This correction should not be overlooked because of the disturbance it may cause in the one who suffers it.

This because, in case he does not want to amend himself spontaneously, he must be forced by punishment to abandon sin.

Also because, in the case of incorrigibility, the common good is provided, defending the order of justice, and intimidating others with the exemplary punishment of an individual.

It is for this reason that a judge does not allow the sentence to be passed against the guilty person for fear of upsetting him or his friends.

The second is a fraternal correction of the guilty party, which is not exercised by coercion, but by simple admonition.

Therefore, when it is judged probable that the sinner will not accept the admonition, but will do worse, one must desist from correcting him: for things that are means ordered to the end must be regulated according to the need of the end” (Theological Summation, II-II, 33, 6).

3. Further, St. Thomas says in that same article: “The doctor uses a certain coercion toward the madman who does not want his care.

His treatment is similar to the correction of prelates which has coercive force: not to fraternal correction” (Ib., ad 1).

4. Now Timothy, to whom St. Paul addresses himself, is a bishop and has the task of proclaiming the word of God and admonishing.

Commenting on this passage St. Thomas says: “In preaching there are two things, namely the proclamation of the truth and the education of morals.

And the preacher must do both”.

On insisting on every opportune and untimely occasion St. Thomas recalls what is read in Scripture: “A maxim is not accepted from the mouth of the fool, because it is not said  in a timely manner” (Sir 20:20) and says that “the preacher of the truth when he speaks to the wicked always speaks for them in an untimely manner, according to what is read in Jn 8:47: “He who is of God listens to the words of God; therefore you do not listen to them, because you are not of God” and Sir 6,21: “How harsh wisdom appears to the ignorant”.

For if one wished to retain this opportunity to speak only to those who would listen to him, it would be advantageous only to the righteous; but sometimes it is necessary for him to preach even to the wicked so that they may convert. And therefore he adds: “not opportune” according to what is read in Is 58:1: “Shout out loud, have no regard…”.

As you see, there is therefore no contradiction because it is a matter of announcing in different contexts.

I bless you, I remember you to the Lord, I wish you all the best.

Father Angelo