Article Title

Aquinas on compassion: Has he something to offer today?


‘Compassion’—an engaging yet troublesome word? Recent studies on Thomas Aquinas prompt a reconsideration of the place of compassion as an emotion and a virtue in his treatment of the Christian moral life. Through an analysis of relevant texts in Thomas and in relation to contemporary authors such as Oliver Davies, it becomes evident that compassion has a more significant role in his spiritual/ moral theology than is often acknowledged. Despite the limits of his psychological model, Aquinas offers a carefully calibrated account of compassion as a defining emotion, of compassion’s development within the model of friendship, of the relationship between cognition, affectivity, and action, of divine compassion and mercy and, finally, of compassion and mercy within divinization through the differing modalities of the virtues and the gifts. After suggesting six ways we can learn from Aquinas, the article closes with a reflection on the impenetrable yet life-giving mystery of compassion.



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