Morality is not simply following rules, but living fully the new life of grace: “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that your have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” ~ St. Leo the Great (#1691)
It is the following of Jesus Christ Christ Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father and always lived in perfect communion with Him. Likewise Christ’s disciples are invited to live in the sight of the Father “who sees in secret,” in order to become “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (#1693)
Living the New Life of Grace Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord. Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind … which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following his example. (#1694)
The Two ways… (see Psalm 1) The way of Christ “leads to life”; there is also a contrary way that “leads to destruction” Today the Church speaks of a culture of life and a culture of death; the choice is clear! The Gospel parable of the two ways remains ever present in the catechesis of the Church (cf. Deut. 30: 15-20; Psalm 1: 1, 4; Mt. 7: 13). Catechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ.
Catechesis for the newness of life in Christ should be a catechesis of: The Holy Spirit, who is the interior Master of life; Grace, for it is by grace that we are saved; The beatitudes, for the way of Christ is summed up in them, they articulate the path to eternal happiness which we desire and were created for by God; Sin and forgiveness, for unless we acknowledge that we are sinners, we cannot know the truth about ourselves; we must forgive others as God forgives us; The theological virtues of faith, hope and love inspired by the example of the saints & the moral virtues; The twofold commandment of charity; An ecclesial catechesis in the “communion of saints.”
Section I: Man’s Vocation – Life in the Spirit Chapter I – the Dignity of the Human Person Human dignity is rooted in our creation in the image and likeness of God; It is reflected in our vocation to divine beatitude; It is essential for human fulfillment; Allows for free & deliberate human action; Conforms to the true good attested to by moral conscience; Guides the passions toward growth & fulfillment; With the help of grace, it leads to virtue; It teaches us to avoid sin and live in God’s mercy.
Eight Foundational Elements/Articles: I. Man is created in the image of God II. We are created for beatitude / happiness III. We are endowed by God with true freedom IV. Three elements of the morality of human acts V. The role and morality of human passions VI. Moral conscience and its formation VII. The importance of the virtues VIII. The mystery of sin and greatness of God’s mercy
Art. 1: Man, The Image of God It is in Christ that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty & ennobled by grace. (See G.S. 22) The divine image is present in every person and shines forth in the communion of persons. By virtue of his rational soul, man is endowed with freedom which is an “expression of the divine image.” Through reason, man recognizes the voice of God directing our actions through conscience. Man abused his freedom at the beginning of history. We are transformed by filial adoption, to follow Christ.
Art. 2: Our Vocation to Beatitude The desire for happiness (beatitudo) lies in the heart of every human person. The beatitudes take up God’s promises to Abraham and the chosen people by ordering them to fulfillment in the kingdom of heaven. They “depict the countenance of Jesus and portray his charity.” They express the vocation of the faithful associated with his Passion & Resurrection and shed light on actions & attitudes in living the Christian life.
The Beatitudes Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice… Blessed are the merciful… Blessed are the pure of heart … Blessed are the peacemakers … Blessed are those who are persecuted … Blessed are you when men revile you …for your reward is great in heaven.
All human beings seek happiness God has placed the desire for happiness in the heart of every person in order to draw men to Himself – God alone can fulfill it. “All men want to live happily. In the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition.” (St. Augustine) “God alone satisfies” (St. Thomas Aquinas) God calls us to His own beatitude; This call is addressed to each person as well as the whole Church.
Christian Beatitude The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which we are called: the coming of the Kingdom of God; the vision of God; entering the joy of the Lord; entering God’s rest. Beatitude makes us partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life; man enters the joy of Trinitarian life and love – being in communion with God! This beatitude surpasses human powers and understanding. It is supernatural and is accompanied by a special grace to help us receive divine joy! It confronts us with decisive moral choices and invites us to purify our hearts and to seek the love of God! The beatitude of heaven sets a standard for the use of earthly goods in keeping with the will of God.
Art. 3: Human Freedom “God willed that man should be left in the hands of his own counsel so that he might seek the Creator of his own accord.” (Sirach 15:14; GS 17). Freedom is the power rooted in reason and will to perform deliberate actions. It allows us to grow and mature in truth & goodness. It attains its perfection when directed toward God, our Beatitude and final end. We are faced with choices between good and evil and also between lesser goods and the highest good. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. The more one does good, the freer one becomes.
Freedom & Responsibility There is no true freedom except in service to what is good and just. To disobey God’s commandments is to abuse freedom & leads to the “slavery of sin.” Freedom makes us responsible for our actions. Progress in virtue & knowledge of the good requires self-denial (asceticism) to enhance self-mastery. Responsibility can be diminished or nullified by the “enemies of freedom”: ignorance, duress, fear, etc. We are responsible for every deliberately willed act. Some good actions have unintended consequences that are bad. Are these morally permissible? We must use the “Principle of the Double Effect” to judge.
The Principle of the Double Effect “An effect can be tolerated without being willed by its agent; for instance, a mother's exhaustion from tending her sick child. A bad effect is not imputable if it was not willed either as an end or as a means of an action, e.g., a death a person incurs in aiding someone in danger. For a bad effect to be imputable it must be foreseeable and the agent must have the possibility of avoiding it, as in the case of manslaughter caused by a drunken driver.” (CCC #1737)
The Principle of the Double Effect If an action has two or more consequences, both good and bad, the act is morally good if the following conditions are met: 1. The act itself is good or at least neutral; 2. The good effect does not come from the evil effect or consequence; 3. The evil effect is not intended, merely permitted and cannot be avoided; 4. There is a proportionate for allowing the evil effect. A classic example of this Principle is an ectopic pregnancy and the removal of the ovum and/or Fallopian tube. This saves the life of the mother but also results in the termination of the pregnancy which is unintended. All four conditions are met.
Human Freedom in the Economy of Salvation Human freedom is limited and fallible. Why? The misery of sin and the abuse of human freedom is attested to everywhere in the world. Liberation & salvation: By his glorious Cross, Christ has set us free for true freedom; “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 17) The grace of Christ does not in the slightest way diminish our freedom, but rather actualizes it. The more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom & confidence. Every temptation involves a denial of God’s love for us, calling into doubt His goodness and providence.
True Freedom is a Gift from God! By the working of grace, the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in the Church and in the world: “Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your holy will!” (Roman Missal)
Art. 4: Morality of Human Acts Freedom makes persons moral subjects so that they are the “parents of their actions.” Human actions, chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated as either good or bad. The morality of human acts depends upon: - The object chosen (also called “the means”) - The end in view or the intention (“telos”) - The circumstances surrounding the action
Sources of Morality The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself and morally specifies the act of the will. Reason judges whether it is in conformity with the true good. A good will leads to a good act! Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good & evil, attested to by conscience. The intention or end resides in the acting subject. The end is the first goal of the action, its purpose. A good intention does not make a disordered action to be good. “The end does not justify the means!” The circumstances include the consequences and are secondary considerations. By themselves they cannot change the moral quality of human acts.
Good and Evil Actions A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end & of the circumstances. An evil end corrupts an action even if its object is good (eg. prayer & fasting to be seen by others, etc.) The object of the will can by itself vitiate the act, or cancel out its goodness, making it bad in its entirety. There are some acts that are always wrong to chose because doing do entails a disorder of the will, which is a moral evil. (i.e. fornication, calumny, etc.) One may not do evil so that good may result! (Romans 3:8)
Art. 5: The Morality of the Passions Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil. The passions are natural components of the human psyche. They form a passageway to connect the life of the senses to the life of the mind. They spring from the heart. Love is the most fundamental passion, aroused by the attraction for the good. This movement finds pleasure and joy once the good is possessed. Therefore love begins with a desire. Other passions include hatred (aversion to evil) and fear (aver- sion to an impending evil). These can lead to sadness & anger. Passions are evil if the love or desire behind them is evil; they are good if the desire behind them is good (St. Augustine) True love is understood as “willing the good of the other.”
Passions & the Moral Life In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They become morally specified to the extent that they engage reason & free will. They must be guided by reason toward a proper end and fulfillment. Passions are voluntary because they are either commanded or permitted by the will. Strong feelings are “the inexhaustible reservoir of images & affections” in and through which the moral life of human beings is expressed. In Christ human feelings are seen to reach their consummation in charity & blessedness. We strive to imitate the Lord in this and every other way. Moral perfection consists in being moved to the good not by the will alone, also by the sensitive appetite. This means that we desire what is good and right because we desire it with our hearts. That is to say, we find the good to be appealing and attractive, not something repugnant that must be endured!
Art. 6: Moral Conscience “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God… The conscience is man’s most secret core and sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (Vat. II, Gaudium et Spes 16) Moral conscience is at the heart of the human person and enjoins him to do good and avoid evil. It also judges particular choices and convicts of the wrongness of some choices. Conscience functions before we act, while we act and after we act by examining the goodness or lack thereof, in the things we do and desire.
The Judgment of Conscience Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act - that he is going to perform, - is in the process of performing, - or has already completed. In everything we do, we are obliged to follow what we know to be just and right. It is important for every person to be present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of conscience. This requires interiority & examination. This requires prayer, discernment and counsel.
Judgment of Conscience, cont. The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes perception of the principles of morality (synderesis) and their application in given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons & goods. The truth about the moral good is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for all of the actions that one carries out. The judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope in man’s desire to do what is good, and also of the mercy of God who forgives us when we err in our judgment. Man has a fundamental right to act in accord with his conscience and in true freedom; He must not be prevented from doing so, especially in religious matters. (See Vatican II Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae #1-2.)
The Formation of Conscience Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments in conformity to reason, to the true good willed by the Creator. The education of conscience is a lifelong task. The Word of God is the light for our paths. We assimilate God’s word in faith and & in prayer (meditation). We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.
Choosing in Accord with Conscience Conscience can either make a correct judgment in accordance with reason and the divine and natural law, or an erroneous judgment opposed to this law. In making moral judgments, we must always seek to discern the will of God expressed in divine law. The virtue of prudence assists us in this task. Charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and for his conscience: “Never do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Romans 14:13).
Judgment: Correct vs. Erroneous Always obey the certain judgment of conscience! Ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility – failure to form conscience well. At the source of errors of judgment may be found ignorance of Christ & his Gospel, bad example given by others, a mistaken notion of autonomy or freedom, rejection of the Church’s authoritative teaching, and lack of conversion or lack of charity. If ignorance is invincible, the evil committed cannot be imputed to the moral subject for his erroneous judgment. However it remains an objectively evil act.
More on Conscience – Principles: Always follow a certain conscience. Strive for a correctly formed conscience. Never act on a doubtful conscience. Conscience can remain in ignorance and make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not automatically free of guilt. The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayerfully put it into practice. The more a correct conscience prevails, the more will people and groups be guided by objective standards for moral conduct and find happiness, harmony & peace in their lives. A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith; charity proceeds “from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith” (I Tim. 5).
Art. 7: The Virtues A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good through a prudent judgment of reason. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to offer the best of oneself through self-mastery. The virtuous person uses all the sensory and spiritual powers in order to pursue the good and to choose it in all of his concrete actions and decisions. The four cardinal virtues play a pivotal role: Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. Moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit of morally good acts and dispose all the powers of the person for communion with God.
Theological Virtues Human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues which adapt human faculties to participate in the divine nature. The virtues are the foundation for Christian moral activity; they animate it with grace. They are infused by God at baptism and make us capable of acting as His children to merit eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence & action of the Holy Spirit in the human faculties.
Faith Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God, all that He has revealed to us, and all that the Church proposes for our belief. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God to do His will. “The righteous person shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. When deprived of hope and love, faith does not unite the believer to Christ or His Body. The true disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith but also live it and confidently bear witness to it.
Hope Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. The virtue of hope responds to the desire for happiness which God has placed in the heart of every person. It takes up and purifies our individual hopes to order them to the Kingdom of heaven. It keeps us from discouragement and sustains us in difficult times of abandonment. Christian hope unfolds in Jesus’ proclamation of the Beatitudes which raise our hope toward heaven.
Charity Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Jesus makes charity the New Commandment. He manifests the Father’s love which He receives. By loving each other, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which we receive. The Lord asks us to love even our enemies. The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity. Therefore charity is called the form or “soul” of all of the virtues.
Fruits & Gifts of the Holy Spirit The moral life of all Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are permanent dispositions which make us docile in following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They belong in their fullness to Christ who gives them to us through the Holy Spirit. The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit are special perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the ‘first fruits’ of eternal glory.
Art. 8: Sin & God’s Mercy The Gospel is the revelation of God’s mercy in Christ to sinners. “You shall name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21) God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us. (St. Augustine) God, by his Word and by his Spirit, casts a living light on sin. Conversion requires the convicting of sin and includes the interior judgment of conscience so that we can repent and amend our lives from sin.
The Definition of Sin Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It is an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law. In the Passion of Christ we see sin most clearly manifested in its violence, unbelief, murderous hatred, mocking, cowardice and cruelty to others.
Different Kinds of Sin Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, according to the virtues they oppose or according the commandments they violate. Sins are also evaluated according to their gravity. Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart and turns man away from God, by preferring an inferior good to Him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist even though it wounds it. Mortal sin requires a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart in order to be forgiven.
Conditions for mortal sin For sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent (voluntary or free choice). Grave matter – specified by the Ten Commandments Full knowledge of the sinful character of the act and its opposition to God’s law, but willful disobedience. Sufficiently deliberate consent is presupposed. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish but increase its voluntary nature.
Unintentional sin and culpability If ignorance is unintentional, it can diminish or even remove culpability for a grave offense. No one is deemed to be ignorant of the princi- ples of the moral law which are written in the conscience. We have access to the truth. Passions can diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice by deliberate choice, is the gravest kind of sin & moral evil.
More on sin Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, just as love itself is also possible. Mortal sin is especially destructive because it results in the loss of charity and a privation of the sanctifying grace that justifies us with God. If it is not redeemed by repentance and forgiveness it causes exclusion from Christ’s Kingdom and the eternal death of hell. We must always however entrust the judgment of persons to the justice & mercy of God, and not seek to make our own judgments about others.
Venial sin One commits venial sin when one does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law or disobeys the law in a grave matter but without full knowledge or complete consent. Venial sin weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the soul’s progress in the virtues and merits temporal punishment. Unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin.
Proliferation of sin Sin creates a proclivity to sin and engenders vice. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the judgment of good and evil. It makes men accomplices with one another in doing evil and opposing the good. We each have our share of responsibility for the sins of others when we cooperate in them by: Participating directly or voluntarily in the sin; Ordering, advising or approving of the sin; Not disclosing or not hindering others from committing the sin when we have an obligation to do so; By protecting evil-doers and not opposing them.
Structures of sin; Social sin Sin gives rise to social situations and even institutions which are the expression and effect of personal sins within society. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense they constitute a “social sin” for which all are responsible. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins which take on a “life of their own” when they are condoned in secular society. They gravely damage human community and contribute to the deionization of culture and civilization.
We must never forget His mercy… “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ.” (Titus 3:5-6)