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Dear Father Angelo,

Thank you for your commitment to clearing up people’s doubts about faith. You are always comprehensive, one can see that what you do, you do out of love, because of the time you devote.

Mine is truly a simple question, but I have not had the opportunity to discuss it in depth with a priest. I refer to the commandment of love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In what way can we govern the relationship of love towards ourselves and others in this selfish world? How can we think of ourselves without forgetting others and think of others without forgetting ourselves?

In this month of May, I will remember you in the prayer of the Rosary, which is one that is especially dear to me.

Thank you for your reply,


Answer from the priest

Dear Sara,

1. The Sacred Scripture commands to love your neighbor as yourself: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (Lv 19:18).

Jesus too reiterated this precept: “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39).

From this commandment, theologians draw the conclusion that love for oneself must precede that of neighbor, being its supreme analogue or exemplary.

St. Augustine writes: “First of all, learn to love yourself… In fact, if you don’t know how to love yourself, how can you truly love your neighbor?” (Sermon 368, 5).

And St. Thomas: “The love with which a man loves himself is the form and root of friendship. For if we have friendship with others it is because we do unto them as we do unto ourselves” (Summa theologica, II-II, 25, 4).

2. Some conclusions arise from this principle:

the first: it is never lawful to commit a sin under the pretext of going to the spiritual rescue of one’s neighbor.

St. Thomas says that “a man ought not to give way to any evil of sin, which counteracts his share of happiness, not even that he may free his neighbor from sin” (Summa theologica, II-II, 26, 4).

This does not mean that one should not go to the rescue of one’s neighbor, for goodness’ sake!

But that what is valid always and in every case is what Saint Paul said, and that is that one must not do evil that good may come of it (Rom 3:8).

3. The second conclusion: it is necessary to love the spiritual good of one’s neighbor more than our bodily good.

This means in practice that when the eternal salvation of our neighbor requires it, we are obliged to go to their rescue even by putting our life at risk.

This principle, valid for everyone, affects in particular those who care for souls because “a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11).

4. Theologians then, bearing in mind that conflicts can occur, say that love of neighbor must be ordered.

They therefore speak of an order of charity and ask themselves who should be given priority.

Well, we must not forget what the Sacred Scripture says: “And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tm 5:8).

From these words, St. Thomas concludes: “Therefore charity regards those who are nearer to us before those who are better” (Summa theologica, II-II, 26, 7, sed contra).

5. The reason why parents should be loved first is that, after God, they are the first to give us existence.

However, those who are married, because they have become one flesh with their spouse and children, must give them precedence.

Then come the parents, siblings, and other relatives according to need and the degree of affinity.

So here are some criteria that can shed light on the questions you have asked me.

I wish you well, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.

Father Angelo