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Thomas Sanchez

Jesuit, b. at Cordova, 1550; d. in the college of Granada, May 19, 1610

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Sanchez, THOMAS, b. at Cordova, 1550; d. in the college of Granada, May 19, 1610. In 1567 he entered the Society of Jesus. He was at first refused admittance on account of an impediment in his speech; however, after imploring delivery from this impediment before a highly venerated picture of Our Lady at Cordova, his application was granted. He held for a time the office of master of novices at Granada. The remainder of his life was devoted to the composition of his works. His death was due to inflammation of the lungs. His contemporaries bear testimony to the energy and perseverance with which he labored towards self-perfection from his novitiate until his death. His penitential zeal rivaled that of the early anchorites, and, according to his spiritual director, he carried his baptismal innocence to the grave. Luis de la Puente, then rector of the college of Granada and later declared “venerable”, attests the holiness of Sanchez in his letter to Francis Suarez, a translation of which may be found in the Bibliotheque de Bourgogne at Brussels.

Sanchez belongs to those who are much abused on account of their works. The chief work of Sanchez, and the only one which he himself edited, is the “Disputationes de sancti matrimonii sacramento”. The first edition is said to have appeared at Genoa in 1602; but this can have been only the first folio volume, for which permission to print was secured in 1599, as the two succeeding volumes contain both in their preface and the author’s dedication the date 1603. The first complete edition was, according to Sommervogel, that of Madrid, 1605; later followed a series of editions printed at different places both before and after the author’s death. The last edition seems to have been issued at Venice in 1754. The work had an extraordinary fate, inasmuch as some editions of the third volume have been placed on the Index of Prohibited Books, the grounds being not the doctrine of the author, but the perversion of the work and the suppression of what the author taught. Even in the earlier editions of the Index as revised by Leo XIII, till his Constitution “Officiorum ac munerum”, we may still read: “Sanchez, Thom. Disputationum de Sacramento Matrimonii torn. III. ed. Venetiae, sive a liarum, a quibus 1. 8 disp. 7 detractus est integer num. 4. Decr. 4 Febr. 1627”. This number is omitted from the edition of Venice, 1614; it treats of the power of the pope to grant a valid legitimation of the offspring of marriages invalid only through canon law through the so-called sanatio in radice. The author’s mode of expression shows a not always pleasing verbosity. As it deals with every possible point in the subject, it has often, quite unjustifiably, drawn upon Sanchez the charge of immorality.

Soon after the death of Sanchez a second work appeared, “Opus morale in praecepta Decalogi”; the first folio volume was prepared by the author himself, but the second volume, as well as the whole of his third work, “Consilia moralia”, had to be compiled from manuscript notes. These works also went through a series of different editions, and likewise drew upon themselves the accusation of laxity, especially with reference to the question of what is called “mental reservation” (restrictio mentalis). It is true that we find in Sanchez (Op. mor. in pres. decalogi, III, vi, n. 15) the twenty-sixth thesis condemned by Innocent XI: “If anyone, by himself, or before others, whether under examination or of his own accord, whether for amusement or for any other purpose, should swear that he has not done something which he has really done, having in mind something else which he has not done, or some way of doing it other than the way he employed, or anything else that is true: he does not lie nor perjure himself.” The thesis rests on a peculiar definition of a “lie”, which indeed is none too easy to define, and has engaged the ingenuity of scholars from the time of St. Augustine to today. Sanchez did not regard every mental reservation as always permissible, but was simply discussing the sinfulness of the lie (or oath) in itself; that some other sin-even grievous, according to the circumstances—may have been involved in the action, he does not deny.

According to Wernz (Jus decretalium, IV, n. 20), Sanchez’s work “De matrimonio” is even today reckoned by the Roman Curia among the classical works on marriage.


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