FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: A question for our Canonists and Moral theologians
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Can a man bind his descendants by an oath or a vow? If you've got citations, I would appreciate them.

Thanks.
(12-21-2017, 08:12 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]Can a man bind his descendants by an oath or a vow? If you've got citations, I would appreciate them.

Thanks.

Nope; vows are personal.

Code of Canon Law - 1983 rev Wrote:Can. 1192
§3. A vow is personal if the person making the vow promises an action; real if the person making the vow promises some thing; mixed if it shares the nature of a personal and a real vow.

Can. 1193 By its nature a vow obliges only the person who makes it.
Thank you. Now I need to know what the manualists have to say about oaths.
Interesting. Admittedly I'm less than an amateur but I shall attempt something reasonably coherent.

Well first we must define "vow". St. Thomas in question 88 of the second part of the second part of his Summa Theologica states that "A vow denotes a binding to do or omit some thing". He goes on to explain that one binds oneself by means of a promise which is an act of the will thus there are three things essential to a vow; deliberation of the mind, purpose of will, and a promise. Without any of these elements, the object in a question cannot properly be called a "vow".

 Now thus as a vow requires ones consent of will in order to properly be a vow it in a sense derives its obligation from ones will and intent. The ten commandments states that "Thou shalt not bear false witness". This applies not only to our witness towards one another (eg. lying) but our witness towards God who knows our thoughts and intentions as well. Thus it can be concluded that it is sinful to break a vow in a manner which contradicts ones intent in making the vow. If someone were to make a vow to do something which is impossible for him to accomplish then he would be bound to fulfill it to the best of his ability and perhaps do penance for what is lacking. Thus it would be foolish to vow something not in ones power to fulfill as it risks incurring sin as a result of not fulfilling it.

A man cannot guarantee that his descendants will follow through on his vow but he can guarantee that he himself fulfills it. Thus his vow is not binding on his descendants but only on himself unless the descendants have given consent of will.
Thanks. You make a very valid point with, 'Thus his vow is not binding on his descendants but only on himself unless the descendants have given consent of will', however, my concern for the article I'm writing is whether remote descendants, in this specific case, 170 years down the road, can be bound. Descendants at that far a remove obviously could not grant consent of will.
(12-22-2017, 02:02 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]Thanks. You make a very valid point with, 'Thus his vow is not binding on his descendants but only on himself unless the descendants have given consent of will', however, my concern for the article I'm writing is whether remote descendants, in this specific case, 170 years down the road, can be bound. Descendants at that far a remove obviously could not grant consent of will.

Now don't quote me on this, these are just my ideas.

If they cannot grant consent of will then they obviously could not be held culpable for breaking the oath. Therefore it may be said that the oath is not binding on them. 

Now if the oath were to be passed on in some concrete form and all descendants were instructed in its meaning and importance then I suppose it must fall in the category of honoring parents. If the parents wished for the descendants to carry on the oath and made it known to them then perhaps the children would be bound to obey but not because of the original vow but only because of the parent's request. It would only take the character of an oath if the descendants themselves gave their consent and promised to keep it.

If the parents neglected to inform the descents of the vow then the descendants would not be bound to obey it nor would they be held guilty as they themselves were ignorant of its existence.
(12-22-2017, 04:34 AM)Dominicus Wrote: [ -> ]If someone were to make a vow to do something which is impossible for him to accomplish then he would be bound to fulfill it to the best of his ability and perhaps do penance for what is lacking. Thus it would be foolish to vow something not in ones power to fulfill as it risks incurring sin as a result of not fulfilling it.

Most moral theologians would deny this. Prümmer, for instance (Manuale Theologiæ Moralis, II, n.399) says that vows must concern what is possible. A vow made to to something which is not possible is not a valid vow.

He gives the example of a vow to avoid all sin, even indeliberate venial sin. This is impossible, so it would not be a valid vow.

But the possibility also concerns the person. If a poor man vowed to give a large sum of money to the Church this would be invalid as well.

The question is, however, what happens if part of the vow can be done? This is your case here. Is a man obliged to do the best he can, or is the vow simply invalid? Prümmer answers that it depends on if the object of the vow is separable or not. If separable, he is bound to the part. If not, he is not bound to anything.

The example given is a vow to pilgrimage to Lourdes. The pilgrimage is not separable from the destination. If it is impossible to get to Lourdes, a man would not be held to go as far as he could. Were he to make a vow to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes and fast during the week of his pilgrimage, if the pilgrimage become impossible, he would still be held to the fast, because these are separable objects.
(12-22-2017, 02:02 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]... however, my concern for the article I'm writing is whether remote descendants, in this specific case, 170 years down the road, can be bound.

Short answer, no.

The reason being is that a vow is an act of worship, which is why it can be made to God alone. A normal action is turned into an act of worship by a vow.

Once a man dies, however, he does not act any longer (at least corporeally), so the worship being gone, the vow ceases.

The continuance of the act by an heir is no longer under vow, but could be required not by vow but by some kind of contract or gift, for instance if the vow caused a man to make a contract.

Say a man vows to give $1,000 per year to a parish, and when he is dying puts in his will that his heirs are to continue his vow by paying out from his estate the same amount each year to the parish. The heirs would be bound to do this out of the funds that remain from his estate, at least morally, though legally in most places this could not be enforced. Once the money from the estate runs out, however, the payments could cease.
Thank you both. You've been very helpful.
(12-22-2017, 09:38 PM)jovan66102 Wrote: [ -> ]Thank you both. You've been very helpful.

If it means you get to keep the inheritance, I know a good man who would be happy to be the recipient of the matter of someone's vow ...

Big Grin