Quæstiones Disputatæ super primam epistolam ad Corinthios

Scholastic Disputation from the
2015 Summer Program of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies
23 July 2015
Norcia, Italy
Magisterial Response of fr. Thomas Crean, op.
Transcribed and Edited by Christopher Owens
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Q1. Whether it is expedient to marry in the Age of Unleavened Bread.
Q2. Whether it is fitting that glory should be veiled.
Q3. Whether there will be a hierarchy after the resurrection.

Q1. Whether it is expedient to marry in the Age of Unleavened Bread.

I answer that, absolutely speaking, that is to say, just considering the terms of the question and not the particular circumstances in which the question can arise for a particular person, it is not expedient. This answer is given to us in the first place by St. Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians where he asserts that the unmarried is concerned with the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; the married with the concerns of the spouse.1 And it is also implied by his wish which is formulated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that all should be as he is, i.e., continent.2 This teaching is confirmed by the Council of Trent, defining that it is more blessed to remain in celibacy.3 The theological reasoning of St. Thomas is that our end, our goal, is the perfection of charity, and that the specific cares and pleasures of marriage have a tendency to retard our pursuit of this goal.4 Finally, we have the counsel of Christ in the NT which implies also the promise of the grace to follow the counsel of celibacy.5

Nevertheless, for a given individual, it can be expedient to marry, in particular if he foresees that he will be subject to concupiscence to a degree that would endanger his salvation. St. Paul confirms this in his statement that it is better to marry than to burn.6 There could also be other reasons why it could be expedient for him to marry, for example, if some great good of a spiritual nature would result for a multitude, for example, woman who foresees that she would convert her pagan husband who is a very powerful man, such as a king, or some other man of great power.

Now, turning to the particular arguments that were put forward by the two sides. The argument that it is expedient to marry. First of all, it was stated that there was a precept given to the human race to be fruitful and multiply, therefore it is expedient to marry. I answer that this precept was given to the human race in general, but not to each individual, and that the good of temporal life which is achieved by this precept is less than the good of eternal life, and therefore this precept does not refute the expedience of celibacy, which is adopted for eternal life, especially as we can be confident that, in fact, only a minority would choose celibacy and therefore the temporal good of human procreation will not be impeded by those who follow the way of celibacy.

The second argument was that grace builds on nature and does not destroy it. I concede this point, but add that the natural law of fruitfulness is not destroyed by the counsel of celibacy, especially as we can foresee that only a minority will pursue the latter.

The next argument is that sacraments provide grace and are the ordinary means of salvation, and therefore, as marriage has been raised to a sacrament it is expedient for this way of salvation to be pursued. I answer that the other sacraments provide grace abundantly sufficient for salvation, and that per se they are received more fruitfully by those who have a resolve of celibacy for the kingdom of heaven.

The next argument was that St. Paul says that those who cannot contain themselves should marry, and that is a result of original sin. All are unable to contain themselves, therefore all should marry. I deny the minor premise, since through grace given in the sacraments other than marriage it is possible to be continent.

And the final argument given for the expedience of marrage was that Christ accepted the words of the disciples, saying it is not expedient for a man to marry.7 I answer that he neither acquiesces in or rejects that statement of the disciples, but rather proposes the counsel of celibacy for those who can receive it. Likewise the argument connected with that, was that Christ is one we should imitate and he leaves us the example of spousal fidelity to the Church, therefore we should imitate him by marrying and being faithful to our spouses. I answer that his example is an example of a spiritual union with the Church, one which is therefore more precisely imitated by spiritual union with Christ, consequent on a vow of celibacy.

Now turning to the arguments on the other side, that it is not expedient to marry. The first was that it is better not to be encumbered since time is short, according to St. Paul, the appointed time is growing very short.8 I agree.

The second argument was that it is better to order oneself to permanent things rather than transitory things and this is done more by celibacy than marriage. I agree with the proviso that one should order oneself to permanent things only insofar as this is compatible with ones’ duty to transitory things.

The third argument was that the unmarried is more free to think of spiritual things.9 I concede this argument.

The fourth argument was that the Jews traveling to the Promised Land are a prefigurement of the Christians traveling to the Promised Land of Heaven, and that they were unencumbered and therfore so we should be. I agree that the Jews were a prefigurement of us traveling to the Promised Land of Heaven. I am not aware of Scripture, though, speaking of them particularly as being unencumbered. They were told to take the silver and gold out of Egypt,10 and they also, if I remember correcdy, had flocks and herds in the desert to support them. So I am not sure that the alegorical argument works.

And the last argument for non-expediency was that in the Old Testament the mode of propogation of the People of God was carnal by human procreation, and in the New Testament it is spiritual by baptism in water and the Holy Spirit. I agree that the NT is more spiritual than the OT, as evidenced by the comparison of these two means of increasing the People of God, and I agree that celibacy is more spiritual than marriage and in that sense there is a fittingness for celibacy in the NT. Nevertheless, I would add that it was not simply by procreation that the People of God was increased in the OT, but also, it had to be followed by circumcision, and by some other unknown rite for female children, and I would also add, as was said in the objections, that even in the NT the People of God, which is increased by Baptism, the people to be baptized normally come about through procreation, though they can also come about as adult catechumens, by conversion.

Right, now to look at some of the objections that were put forward in the 5 minute periods that have not been covered by what has already been said. One of them was the general counsel of celibacy is presumptuous, it presupposes that we know that the end is near, and that the elect have already been filled up. So there is no need for continuing procreation. I say that this is a frivolous argument, because we can know for a fact that most people will not follow the counsel of celibacy, but this does not prevent it from being, absolutely speaking, expedient, and also the People of God can be increased by conversions of adults.

It was said that St. Paul gives only a counsel and not a command to celibacy. I agree, but, as it was an inspired counsel, it therefore carries expediency with it as a consequence.

It was said that there will be no marriage in heaven, and therefore it is on earth that marriage is expedient. I say that this does not follow, it simply shows on earth that marriage happens, not that it is on earth that marriage is expedient.

And finally, it was said that the more perfect state gives the exemplar for the whole species. It is more perfect for a man to be celibate, and this gives an exemplar for the whole species. It was objected to this that this was pelagian, as implying that nature could be made perfect by ones own efforts. I answer that this does not follow, because there was nothing that was said about it being by ones own efforts.

Q2. Whether it is fitting that glory should be veiled.

Respondeo opus est quod opus est quod multiplicis distinctionis. I answer that this is a question which requires many distinctions to be made. Glory, I say, is the beautiful shining forth of some excellence.11 We can distinguish in the first place glory by which God is glorious in himself, his essential glory. In the second place, there is Gods extrinsic glory, his external radiance by which his essential glory is manifested by the created excellences and beauty of body and spirit that he calls us to be.12 Thirdly, this extrinsic glory of God includes human glory, since this is the beautiful manifestation of some human physical or spiritual excellence.13 I say, secondly, that to veil something is to conceal it from some observer who would otherwise be able to perceive it. I say next that since it is fitting that each thing reach whatever perfection it can, and that an observer who perceives some excelling beauty is thereby perfected. From all of this it follows that it is fitting that per se for glory to be unveiled, as this is the means by which those who perceive it are perfected. I say this is confirmed by revelation, since both angels and men are called to the clear vision of the most excellent glory, the essential glory, of God, and this for all eternity.14 This is confirmed also because the purpose of creation itself is to make known the glory of God insofar as this can be made known without the beatific vision. So the Psalm says, the heavens proclaim the glory of God.15 I say this is confirmed even as regards human glory, per se, as Christ says, no-one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel, but on a lampstand so that it may shine unto all those who are in the house;16 and, let your light so shine before men that they may see it and give glory to your father in heaven.17 So even human excellence, per se, is fittingly unveiled.

Nevertheless, there can be particular reasons why some glory should be veiled from some particular observer. For example, that one may have the dignity of meriting to behold it, as in this life we are meriting to behold the glory of God in the next. Or secondly, it may be fittingly veiled from someone so that he may be punished for some sin. Thirdly, it may be fittingly veiled lest it be an occasion of sin to himself or to others. So when we give alms, we are not to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing, let alone tell other people about it lest it be an occasion of pride. And finally, it would be fitting to veil some glory lest some lesser glory distract an onlooker from some greater good. For example, lest the beauty of women’s hair distract the onlooker from the spiritual goods presented in the divine liturgy.

So to come to the particular arguments on both sides. It was said that it is fitting on earth for glory to be veiled because even those, like Jacob, who are said to have seen God face to face did not actually see him by his essence, but only in imagination. I agree that this is true on earth, and this is so that we may have the dignity of meriting the unveiled vision of Gods glory.

Secondly, it was said that it is impossible, in any case, for imperfect human beings to behold Gods glory. That is why we have the sacraments. I answer that it is indeed impossible for us in this life to behold Gods glory as it is in itself, but nevertheless he wishes us to behold it insofar as we can, and that is why the Mass and the other sacraments, where possible, are celebrated with a certain splendour, for example, of vestments and candles and vessels.

The third reason for veiling glory was said to be that according to St. Augustine God veils mysteries in the Scriptures by speaking of them in an obscure way lest the irreverent should mock them.18 I agree that this is so, but I add that it is Gods wish that the irreverent should put aside their irreverence, so that they may behold the mysteries contained in Scripture as far as they can in this life.

Then it was said that the word of St. Paul, that man ought not to cover his head didn’t actually mean that we should not veil God’s glory because man even by his uncovered head is only God’s glory in a veiled fashion, otherwise he would be God himself. I reply that this objection, though in a certain sense ingenious, nevertheless, fails to distinguish the essential and extrinsic glory of God.

Finally, it was objected that Moses covered his face and thereby veiled the glory of God. I answer that this was done to indicate that the meaning of the events in the Old Testament was still obscure, and that this was going to be made known by the coming of Christ, and that is why when St. Paul quotes this episode he adds, but we with unveiled face are contemplating the glory of the Lord.19

I turn to the arguments that were put forward to assert that it is not fitting to veil glory. It was said that at the time of Our Lord’s Passion, the veil of the Temple was rent in two to reveal the ark of the covenant, and the ark of the covenant is called the glory in the Old Testament. I answer that even if this was the veil that was rent in two, because there are two different veils, it did not reveal the ark of the covenant because the ark of the covenant wasn’t there, because Jeremiah had hidden it 500 years earlier.20

Secondly, it was said that it was not fitting to veil glory because Christ at his transfiguration revealed his glory and said that this event should be made known when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. I would agree with this argument, but I think the primary meaning of this text is that his divinity should be preached openly after his resurrection.

Thirdly, it was argued that Christ showed himself in glory after his resurrection and that the veil of death was left behind in the tomb. I answer that from the accounts of the Gospel it does not appear that Christ showed himself in a glorified manner in the 40 days in which he was on earth after the resurrection, and at least in some of the accounts it was clear that he did not because he was taken simply for an ordinary human being, as by the disciples on the way to Emmaus.21 I answer that the veil of death was left behind in the tomb was directly veiling not glory, but Christs dead body, so it does not seem to establish the point.

It was said that sacraments seem to be a veil, but in heaven there will be no sacraments. I agree with that. As a part of the same argument it was said that the more explicitly Christ is revealed the less his glory is veiled, and that this is symbolized by the uncovering of the chalice veil in the Mass. I answer that this seems to smack of the lamentable heresy of continuing revelation. And that also the chalice veil is put back on the chalice at the end of the Mass. According to some,22 this represents the latter times of the anti-Christ in which the truths of the faith and of morality have become more generally obscured.

Now to turn to the objections that were raised in the 5-minute periods. Some saying that it was not fitting for glory to be veiled because on earth this is done because of subjection of woman to her husband and the Galatians says that there is neither male nor female. I answer, this is a misuse of the text of Galatians, which simply says that we are all called to baptism and to heaven.23

It was said that we should veil glory because the transfiguration itself was a veil, as implied by the presence of the cloud. I deny this, the transfiguration itself was not a veil, it was the glory itself made manifest, and that the cloud came a bit later - it was not there at the beginning of the transfiguration.

It was said that unbelievers should not be allowed to look at the sacred host, therefore even the veiled glory of the sacrament should be further veiled. I answer, this does not really establish the point, because it is in anycase unfitting that there should be unbelievers.

Q3. Whether there will be a hierarchy after the resurrection.

I answer that a hierarchy is a stable and mutual order existing between the higher and the lower. And I answer further that it is part of the nature of creation that there is a hierarchy in this life. First of all there is a higher and lower, some creatures are better than others, so Ecclesiastes says that a living dog is better than a dead lion.24 That clearly rational creatures are better than irrational ones. And that not only is there a better or a worse, or a higher or a lower, but there is also a stable order in creation. As St. Paul says, the things that are from God are ordered.25 I say this hierarchy in creation is revealed, also, by the names of some of the angelic orders that have been revealed in the Scriptures. For example, angels and archangels. The very word archangel means a ‘principal angel’, the syllable ‘arch’ in ‘archangel’ is the same as the syllable ‘arch’ in ‘hierarchy. I say that, also, in grace there is a hierarchy, there is a greater and a lesser. So, Our Lord says, for example, to the Canaanite woman, woman great is your faith;26 but to St. Peter he says, Oh man of little faith.27 I say there is also an ordering between the greater and the lesser, because all who have living faith are mutually ordered in one body. I say that after the resurrection, this hierarchy will remain because just as grace does not abolish nature, so glory does not abolish either grace or nature. It will remain as regards nature, as the angelic choirs will still be greater than men as regards their nature, and they will be ordered among themselves; and also, human beings will be better than the material things that remain after the transfiguration of this universe in the new heavens and the new earth.

And, as regards the consummation of grace by glory there will still be a hierarchy, as St. Paul says talking of the resurrection, star differs from star in glory.28 Christ as king and Mary as queen will be more glorious than the other members of the mystical body. This is shown as regards Our Lady by the twelve stars around her head symbolizing the twelve apostles. Christ also applies hierarchy in glory when he speaks of places at his right hand and at his left, the right hand being in Scripture a better side than the left, and yet both sides will be glorious and mutually ordered in the mystical body.29 Finally, it was defined at the Council of Florence that although all the blessed will see God directly, face to face, nevertheless, they will see him more or less clearly in proportion to the merits they obtained here on earth.30 And this would also be true of the accidental glory, the joy that the elect have in thinking of the good deeds they did here on earth, insofar as some will have more and some will have less to delight in. However, as regards the principle acts of hierarchy which exist here on earth, which is the art of command and obedience, by which the ruler has authority over his subject, as the king over his citizens, husband over wife, parents over their children, I answer that these acts will not remain after the resurrection, as all will be illuminated as to what they should do directly by God in the beatific vision, as the prophet says, all shall be taught by God.31

To turn, finally, to the arguments put forward and against. First, the arguments in favor of hierarchy. One was that God infinitely exceeds all beings, therefore there will always be a hierarchy between God and creatures. I say that this is not a hierarchy because even though we are ordered to God, God is not ordered to us. So the notion of hierarchy is not properly realized here.

Secondly, it said there will be a hierarchy between the reprobate and the elect. I say again, the notion of hierarchy is not properly realized here, as there will be no mutual dealings between these two groups, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed.

Thirdly, it was said that there will be a hierarchy because there will be varying degrees of charity, and I agree with this.

Fourthly, it was said that the ordering of woman to man was compared to the ordering of man to Christ, and the ordering of man to Christ remains after Christs resurrection, therefore, the order of woman to man will remain after their mutual resurrection. I deny that this is true as far as acts of authority and subjection are concerned, because man is ordered to Christ as to a person who is God, and therefore he will be still so ordered toward Christ as God after the resurrection. The same does not apply between a woman and a man.

Then, the arguments were put forward against hierarchy. The first one was put forward by our Doctor Sophisticus that the sun and stars would be the only possible analogy, and that the sun hides the stars, and so even if there was a distinction between the different levels of glory, that these would be invisible in the presence of Christ, and it would be poindess to have something that was invisible, for there is nothing pointless in heaven, so there will be no difference of the stars in heaven. I answer that all the heavenly bodies, namely the sun and the stars, are seen by the same kind of active knowledge, namely vision in this life. The same does not apply to our knowledge of God and of the Saints in heaven because we will see God through the immediate vision of divinity informing our intellect, whereas we will see the Saints in their bodily and spiritually different degrees of glory through created species. And so, the knowledge of God no more impedes the knowledge of the different degrees of glory of the Saints than seeing the sun impedes thinking about the moon or the stars, because these are essentially different kinds of acts of knowledge.

It was secondly said that St. Paul says that after the resurrection all dominion and rule will be destroyed when Christ hands the kingdom over to the Father. I say that this in St. Paul refers directly to acts of power that are opposed to Christ’s kingdom, to what St. John refers to as the world,32 and that such acts and such power will be taken away after the resurrection; though I agree that he refers in a secondary way to the angelic hierarchy in general, and I say here that this hierarchy will be brought to nought, not as regards its nature, but as regards to acts of authority and command.

Thirdly, it was suggested that if a hierarchy remained in heaven, there would be a potential schism in heaven, which is unfitting. I say that this is not so because all those in heaven will be confirmed in grace by their vision of God, and therefore incapable of sinning.

Fourthly, it was said that all human beings have the same nature, and therefore our perfection is the same, so there is no room for hierarchy. I say this could be true if our perfection was a merely natural perfection. But our perfection is supernatural, and supernatural perfection as such has no necessary term, there is no limit - at least on earth - to the increase in charity which we can obtain. In any case, there would be no natural hierarchy between angels and men in heaven.

And then the last argument in favor of no hierarchy is that everything in heaven would have to be based on justice. But God gives everything, and therefore he would not give one more than another. I answer that he gives one the power justly to receive more than another as a reward, and the denarius which is common to each refers to the essential object of beatitude, namely the essence of God seen face to face, and not the different manners in which this one object is seen.

And now the remaining objections that are not already covered. It was said that in heaven everybody is equally under God, therefore there is no room for hierarchy. Insofar as being under God means there is no rebellion against God, and since privations admit of no degree, I would accept that; but insofar as being under God means subjecting oneself to him even further, I would say there is still a difference of degree of further by which the different Saints subject themselves to his rule.

It was said that charity is simply the presence of God in us, and therefore God cannot be more or less present. I deny the major premise. Charity is a created perfection, not simply God himself, as St. Paul says, charity is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,33 therefore it is distinct from the Holy Spirit.

It was said that the person who thinks that charity can be different in one Saint than another is imagining that charity is something matieral that could be greater or less. I answer that this is only so for one who has not learned to transcend his imagination.

It was said that charity loves his neighbor as himself, therefore the same degree of glory for his neighbor as for himself. I say that charity loves his neighbor as himself precisely for the sake of God,34 who wills to reward us unequally for unequal merits.35

It was said that there must be a hierarchy because there are many members in the body. I agree, though I would add this analogy refers precisely to the acts of the Church on earth.

It was said that the priestly character remains in heaven forever. I agree with this, but I would add that this does not imply that there is going to be any acts of priesthood as such that are exercised in heaven.

It was said that the kingdom of heaven in its very notion implies a kingdom, and a court, and peasants. I would ask where he gets the peasants from, but I would agree that it does imply a kingdom and a court.

And finally, it was said that the denarius does not imply anything about equality of reward in heaven, but just is meant to make us think of Gods astonishing mercy. I would say that, according to the interpretation of many holy men,36 it is meant to imply both. Thank you.


1 Cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34.

2 Cf. 1 Cor. 7:8.

3 Cf. Session XXIV of the Council of Trent, Nov. 11, 1563 (DS 1810).

4 Cf. ST Ila-IIae q. 186, a. 4.

5 Cf Mt. 19:11, 12.

6 Cf. 1 Cor. 7:9.

7 Cf. Mt. 19:10-12.

8 Cf. 1 Cor. 7:29.

9 Cf. 1 Cor. 7:34.

10 Cf Ex. 3:22; 12:35.

11 Cf. ST Ila-IIae q. 132, a. 1.

12 Cf. Aquinas’ Commentary on 1 Cor. 10:7.

13 Ibid.

14 Cf. ST la q. 12, a. 1.

15 Cf. Ps. 18(19):1.

16 Cf. Mt. 5:15; Mk. 4:21; Lk. 11:33.

17 Cf. Mt. 5:16.

18 Cf. Augustine, de Doctrina Christiana II.6.

19 Cf. 2 Cor. 3:18.

20 Cf. 2 Macc. 2:4-8.

21 Cf. Lk. 24:13-32.

22 Cf. Gabriel Biel, Exposition of the Canon of the Mass, quoted in T. Crean, The Mass and the Saints.

23 Cf. Gal. 3:27-29.

24 Cf. Eccl. 9:4.

25 Cf. Rom. 13:1; 1 Cor. 14:40.

26 Cf. Mt. 15:28.

27 Cf. Mt. 14:31.

28 Cf. 1 Cor. 15:41.

29 Cf. Mt. 20:23; Mk. 10:39; Lk. 12:50.

30 Cf. Laetentur Caeli, July 6, 1439, The Ecumenical Council of Florence (DS 1305).

31 Cf. Is. 54:13; Jn. 6:45.

32 Cf. Jn. 15:18-21.

33 Cf. Rm. 5:5.

34 Cf. ST Ila-IIae q. 26, a. 2.

35 Cf. ST Ila-IIae q. 26, a. 13.

36 Augustine On Holy Virginity 26; Gregory the Great Homilies on the Gospels 29; St. Prosper of Aquitains On the calling of the Gentiles, Bk 2, cap. 5; Cornelius a Lapide, the Great Commentary, on Mt. 20:15.