Skip to main content

Finis Operantis


The traditional Latin expression signifying the purpose or intention of the agent in acting, prescinding from the consideration of the finis operis of the act in its substance (inner construction). In created acts, the finis operantis may or may not coincide with, though it can never alter, the finis operis of the act itself. There may be an indefinite number of interior motives on the part of the agent relative to the one act; an act of theft may be motivated by avarice, or revenge, or jealousy, etc.; the marital act may be motivated by charity, justice, or carnality. An evil motive cannot change the species of an act whose finis operis is good; nor can a good motive change the species of an act whose finis operis is evil.

The concept of finis operantis is used not only in regard to human acts but by analogy to understand more fully divine acts. In the consideration of the divine act of creation, theology distinguishes its finis operantis from its finis operis. God's end in creating (finis operantis ) is His own absolute goodness, the love of which moves Him to communicate to creatures a participation in His own infinite perfection H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 3002). God's necessary subsistence and His infinite beatitude, which it connotes (Ibid. 3001), preclude, in His extradivine acts, any end other than Himself. As He is the first efficient, exemplary cause, He must be the ultimate final cause of every created being.

See Also: finis operis; end; final causality.

Bibliography: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., (Paris 190350) 1:152226. w. kern, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 4:139140. p. j. donnelly, "St. Thomas and the Ultimate Purpose of Creation," Theological Studies 2 5383; "The Vatican Council and the End of Creation," ibid. 4 (1943) 333.

[m. r. e. masterman]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Finis Operantis." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 22 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Finis Operantis." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (March 22, 2019).

"Finis Operantis." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.