January 2016 Print

The Last Word

by Fr. Daniel Couture, SSPX

Dear Readers,

Curiosity killed the cat…

And unfortunately today it kills many…Cat...holics! 

This issue of The Angelus has analyzed various harmful consequences of social media. Let me add a last word on what is the vice instrumental to most of these consequences: the vice of curiosity, which St. Thomas (Summa Theologica, 2a2ae, q.166) assigns against the virtue of studiousness, a part of the virtue of modesty, which itself is a part of the great virtue of temperance.

“It belongs to temperance to moderate the movement of the appetite, lest it tend excessively to that which is desired naturally. Now just as in respect of his corporeal nature man naturally desires the pleasures of food and of the flesh, so, in respect of his soul, he naturally desires to know something. ‘All men have a natural desire for knowledge.’ The moderation of this desire pertains to the virtue of studiousness.”

When we hear “temperance”, we often think first of moderation in bodily matters. Let us not forget that there must be temperance, or moderation in matters pertaining to the soul as well. Humility, for instance moderates the movements of the mind towards some excellence. Studiousness, as said above, moderates the desire to know. To this virtue is opposed the vice of curiosity, which is an immoderate desire to know. “The knowledge of truth, strictly speaking, is good, but it may be evil by accident” teaches St. Thomas, and he gives a lists of how this can happen:

– by taking pride in knowing the truth, according to I Cor. 8:1, “Knowledge puffeth up”;

– if we use the knowledge of truth in order to sin, such as for lust or detraction (e.g., malicious blogs…);

– if the pursuit of knowledge distracts us from or harms our duty of state (e.g., business, housework, studies, prayers);

– if there is superstition mixed with it (e.g., fortune tellers);

– if the knowledge turns us away from our last end, “by empty and perishable curiosity”;

– if it is something above the capacity of our intelligence.

Another part of this virtue of moderation is called eutrapelia, that is the moderation of pleasures in games (cf. Summa Theologica, 2a2ae, q.160, a.2). Obviously here too the cyberworld with its games causes incredible damage.

I would dare suggest that just as we need a driver’s license to drive a car safely on public roads, so there should be a ‘cyber-licence’ for those using the internet, issued only to those who have proven excellence in the practice of virtue, especially that of prudence and temperance!

Go and do likewise!

Fr. Daniel Couture