Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part 4
Man's Vocation: Life in the Spirit
357. How is the Christian moral life bound up with faith and the sacraments?
What the symbol of faith professes, the sacraments communicate. Indeed, through them the faithful receive the grace of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which give them the capability of living a new life as children of God in Christ whom they have received in faith.
“O Christian, recognize your dignity.” (Saint Leo the Great)
MAN THE IMAGE OF GOD
358. What is the root of human dignity?
The dignity of the human person is rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God. Endowed with a spiritual and immortal soul, intelligence and free will, the human person is ordered to God and called in soul and in body to eternal beatitude.
OUR VOCATION TO BEATITUDE
359. How do we attain beatitude?
We attain beatitude by virtue of the grace of Christ which makes us participants in the divine life. Christ in the Gospel points out to his followers the way that leads to eternal happiness: the beatitudes. The grace of Christ also is operative in every person who, following a correct conscience, seeks and loves the true and the good and avoids evil.
360. Why are the beatitudes important for us?
The beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching and they take up and fulfill the promises that God made starting with Abraham. They depict the very countenance of Jesus and they characterize authentic Christian life. They reveal the ultimate goal of human activity, which is eternal happiness.
361. What is the relationship between the beatitudes and our desire for happiness?
The beatitudes respond to the innate desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart in order to draw us to himself. God alone can satisfy this desire.
362. What is eternal happiness?
It is the vision of God in eternal life in which we are fully “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), of the glory of Christ and of the joy of the trinitarian life. This happiness surpasses human capabilities. It is a supernatural and gratuitous gift of God just as is the grace which leads to it. This promised happiness confronts us with decisive moral choices concerning earthly goods and urges us to love God above all things.
363. What is freedom?
Freedom is the power given by God to act or not to act, to do this or to do that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. Freedom characterizes properly human acts. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. Freedom attains its proper perfection when it is directed toward God, the highest good and our beatitude. Freedom implies also the possibility of choosing between good and evil. The choice of evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin.
364. What is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?
Freedom makes people responsible for their actions to the extent that they are voluntary, even if the imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or sometimes cancelled by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, inordinate attachments, or habit.
365. Why does everyone have a right to exercise freedom?
The right to the exercise of freedom belongs to everyone because it is inseparable from his or her dignity as a human person. Therefore this right must always be respected, especially in moral and religious matters, and it must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and a just public order.
366. What place does human freedom have in the plan of salvation?
Our freedom is weakened because of original sin. This weakness is intensified because of successive sins. Christ, however, set us free “so that we should remain free” (Galatians 5:1). With his grace, the Holy Spirit leads us to spiritual freedom to make us free co-workers with him in the Church and in the world.
367. What are the sources of the morality of human acts?
The morality of human acts depends on three sources: the object chosen, either a true or apparent good; the intention of the subject who acts, that is, the purpose for which the subject performs the act; and the circumstances of the act, which include its consequences.
368. When is an act morally good?
An act is morally good when it assumes simultaneously the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances. A chosen object can by itself vitiate an act in its entirety, even if the intention is good. It is not licit to do evil so that good may result from it. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. On the other hand, a good end does not make an act good if the object of that act is evil, since the end does not justify the means. Circumstances can increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves. They never make good an act which is in itself evil.
369. Are there acts which are always illicit?
There are some acts which, in and of themselves, are always illicit by reason of their object (for example, blasphemy, homicide, adultery). Choosing such acts entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil which can never be justified by appealing to the good effects which could possibly result from them.
THE MORALITY OF THE PASSIONS
370. What are the passions?
The passions are the feelings, the emotions or the movements of the sensible appetite - natural components of human psychology - which incline a person to act or not to act in view of what is perceived as good or evil. The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger. The chief passion is love which is drawn by the attraction of the good. One can only love what is good, real or apparent.
371. Are the passions morally good or bad?
The passions insofar as they are movements of the sensible appetite are neither good nor bad in themselves. They are good when they contribute to a good action and they are evil in the opposite case. They can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.
THE MORAL CONSCIENCE
372. What is the moral conscience?
Moral conscience, present in the heart of the person, is a judgment of reason which at the appropriate moment enjoins him to do good and to avoid evil. Thanks to moral conscience, the human person perceives the moral quality of an act to be done or which has already been done, permitting him to assume responsibility for the act. When attentive to moral conscience, the prudent person can hear the voice of God who speaks to him or her.
373. What does the dignity of the human person imply for the moral conscience?
The dignity of a human person requires the uprightness of a moral conscience (which is to say that it be in accord with what is just and good according to reason and the law of God). Because of this personal dignity, no one may be forced to act contrary to conscience; nor, within the limits of the common good, be prevented from acting according to it, especially in religious matters.
374. How is a moral conscience formed to be upright and truthful?
An upright and true moral conscience is formed by education and by assimilating the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It is supported by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and helped by the advice of wise people. Prayer and an examination of conscience can also greatly assist one’s moral formation.
375. What norms must conscience always follow?
There are three general norms: 1) one may never do evil so that good may result from it; 2) the so-called Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12); 3) charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience, even though this does not mean accepting as good something that is objectively evil.
376. Can a moral conscience make erroneous judgments?
A person must always obey the certain judgment of his own conscience but he could make erroneous judgments for reasons that may not always exempt him from personal guilt. However, an evil act committed through involuntary ignorance is not imputable to the person, even though the act remains objectively evil. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.
377. What is a virtue?
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa). There are human virtues and theological virtues.
378. What are the human virtues?
The human virtues are habitual and stable perfections of the intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They are acquired and strengthened by the repetition of morally good acts and they are purified and elevated by divine grace.
379. What are the principal human virtues?
The principal human virtues are called the cardinal virtues, under which all the other virtues are grouped and which are the hinges of a virtuous life. The cardinal virtues are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
380. What is prudence?
Prudence disposes reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it. Prudence guides the other virtues by pointing out their rule and measure.
381. What is justice?
Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. Justice toward God is called “the virtue of religion.”
382. What is fortitude?
Fortitude assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It reaches even to the ability of possibly sacrificing one’s own life for a just cause.
383. What is temperance?
Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts and provides balance in the use of created goods.
384. What are the theological virtues?
The theological virtues have God himself as their origin, motive and direct object. Infused with sanctifying grace, they bestow on one the capacity to live in a relationship with the Trinity. They are the foundation and the energizing force of the Christian’s moral activity and they give life to the human virtues. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.
385. What are the theological virtues?
The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity.
386. What is the virtue of faith?
Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and all that he has revealed to us and that the Church proposes for our belief because God is Truth itself. By faith the human person freely commits himself to God. Therefore, the believer seeks to know and do the will of God because “faith works through charity” (Galatians 5:6).
387. What is hope?
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire and await from God eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit to merit it and to persevere to the end of our earthly life.
388. What is charity?
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment, the fullness of the law. “It is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14) and the foundation of the other virtues to which it gives life, inspiration, and order. Without charity “I am nothing” and “I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
389. What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent dispositions which make us docile in following divine inspirations. They are seven: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
390. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections formed in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Galatians 5:22-23, Vulgate).
391. What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require from us?
It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness.
392. What is sin?
Sin is “a word, an act, or a desire contrary to the eternal Law” (Saint Augustine). It is an offense against God in disobedience to his love. It wounds human nature and injures human solidarity. Christ in his passion fully revealed the seriousness of sin and overcame it with his mercy.
393. Is there a variety of sins?
There are a great many kinds of sins. They can be distinguished according to their object or according to the virtues or commandments which they violate. They can directly concern God, neighbor, or ourselves. They can also be divided into sins of thought, of word, of deed, or of omission.
394. How are sins distinguished according to their gravity?
A distinction is made between mortal and venial sin.
395. When does one commit a mortal sin?
One commits a mortal sin when there are simultaneously present: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. This sin destroys charity in us, deprives us of sanctifying grace, and, if unrepented, leads us to the eternal death of hell. It can be forgiven in the ordinary way by means of the sacraments of Baptism and of Penance or Reconciliation.
396. When does one commit a venial sin?
One commits a venial sin, which is essentially different from a mortal sin, when the matter involved is less serious or, even if it is grave, when full knowledge or complete consent are absent. Venial sin does not break the covenant with God but it weakens charity and manifests a disordered affection for created goods. It impedes the progress of a soul in the exercise of the virtues and in the practice of moral good. It merits temporal punishment which purifies.
397. How does sin proliferate?
Sin creates a proclivity to sin ; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts.
398. What are vices?
Vices are the opposite of virtues. They are perverse habits which darken the conscience and incline one to evil. The vices can be linked to the seven, so-called, capital sins which are: pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.
399. Do we have any responsibility for sins committed by others?
We do have such a responsibility when we culpably cooperate with them.
400. What are structures of sin?
Structures of sin are social situations or institutions that are contrary to the divine law. They are the expression and effect of personal sins.
THE PERSON AND SOCIETY
401. In what does the social dimension of man consist?
Together with the personal call to beatitude, the human person has a communal dimension as an essential component of his nature and vocation. Indeed, all are called to the same end, God himself. There is a certain resemblance between the communion of the divine Persons and the fraternity that people are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God.
402. What is the relationship between the person and society?
The human person is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions. Certain societies, such as the family and the civic community, are necessary for the human person. Also helpful are other associations on the national and international levels with due respect for the principle of subsidiarity.
403. What is the principle of subsidiarity?
The principle of subsidiarity states that a community of a higher order should not assume the task belonging to a community of a lower order and deprive it of its authority. It should rather support it in case of need.
404. What else is required for an authentic human society?
Authentic human society requires respect for justice, a just hierarchy of values, and the subordination of material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones. In particular, where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and for the grace of God to obtain social changes that may really serve each person and the whole person. Charity, which requires and makes possible the practice of justice, is the greatest social commandment.
PARTICIPATION IN SOCIAL LIFE
405. What is the foundation of the authority of society?
Every human community needs a legitimate authority that preserves order and contributes to the realization of the common good. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature because it corresponds to the order established by God.
406. When is authority exercised in a legitimate way?
Authority is exercised legitimately when it acts for the common good and employs morally licit means to attain it. Therefore, political regimes must be determined by the free decision of their citizens. They should respect the principle of the “rule of law” in which the law, and not the arbitrary will of some, is sovereign. Unjust laws and measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience.
407. What is the common good?
By the common good is meant the sum total of those conditions of social life which allow people as groups and as individuals to reach their proper fulfillment.
408. What is involved in the common good?
The common good involves: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person, the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of persons and society, and the peace and security of all.
409. Where can one find the most complete realization of the common good?
The most complete realization of the common good is found in those political communities which defend and promote the good of their citizens and of intermediate groups without forgetting the universal good of the entire human family.
410. How does one participate in bringing about the common good?
All men and women according to the place and role that they occupy participate in promoting the common good by respecting just laws and taking charge of the areas for which they have personal responsibility such as the care of their own family and the commitment to their own work. Citizens also should take an active part in public life as far as possible.
411. How does society ensure social justice?
Society ensures social justice when it respects the dignity and the rights of the person as the proper end of society itself. Furthermore, society pursues social justice, which is linked to the common good and to the exercise of authority, when it provides the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain what is their due.
412. On what is human equality based?
All persons enjoy equal dignity and fundamental rights insofar as they are created in the image of the one God, are endowed with the same rational soul, have the same nature and origin, and are called in Christ, the one and only Savior, to the same divine beatitude.
413. How are we to view social inequalities?
There are sinful social and economic inequalities which affect millions of human beings. These inequalities are in open contradiction to the Gospel and are contrary to justice, to the dignity of persons, and to peace. There are , however, differences among people caused by various factors which enter into the plan of God. Indeed, God wills that each might receive what he or she needs from others and that those endowed with particular talents should share them with others. Such differences encourage and often oblige people to the practice of generosity, kindness and the sharing of goods. They also foster the mutual enrichment of cultures.
414. How is human solidarity manifested?
Solidarity, which springs from human and Christian brotherhood, is manifested in the first place by the just distribution of goods, by a fair remuneration for work and by zeal for a more just social order. The virtue of solidarity also practices the sharing of the spiritual goods of faith which is even more important than sharing material goods.
THE MORAL LAW
415. What is the moral law?
The moral law is a work of divine Wisdom. It prescribes the ways and the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude and it forbids the ways that turn away from God.
416. In what does the natural moral law consist?
The natural law which is inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every person consists in a participation in the wisdom and the goodness of God. It expresses that original moral sense which enables one to discern by reason the good and the bad. It is universal and immutable and determines the basis of the duties and fundamental rights of the person as well as those of the human community and civil law.
417. Is such a law perceived by everyone?
Because of sin the natural law is not always perceived nor is it recognized by everyone with equal clarity and immediacy.
For this reason God “wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.” (Saint Augustine)
418. What is the relationship between the natural law and the Old Law?
The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. It expresses many truths naturally accessible to reason and which are thus affirmed and authenticated in the covenant of salvation. Its moral prescriptions, which are summed up in the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue, lay the foundations of the human vocation, prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor, and prescribe what is essential to it.
419. What place does the Old Law have in the plan of salvation?
The Old Law permitted one to know many truths which are accessible to reason, showed what must or must not be done and, above all, like a wise tutor, prepared and disposed one for conversion and for the acceptance of the Gospel. However, while being holy, spiritual, and good, the Old Law was still imperfect because in itself it did not give the strength and the grace of the Spirit for its observance.
420. What is the New Law or the Law of the Gospel?
The New Law or the Law of the Gospel, proclaimed and fulfilled by Christ, is the fullness and completion of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is summed up in the commandment to love God and neighbor and to love one another as Christ loved us. It is also an interior reality: the grace of the Holy Spirit which makes possible such love. It is “the law of freedom” (Galatians 1:25) because it inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity.
“The New Law is mainly the same grace of the Holy Spirit which is given to believers in Christ.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas)
421. Where does one find the New Law?
The New Law is found in the entire life and preaching of Christ and in the moral catechesis of the apostles. The Sermon on the Mount is its principal expression.
GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION
422. What is justification?
Justification is the most excellent work of God's love. It is the merciful and freely-given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being. It is brought about by means of the grace of the Holy Spirit which has been merited for us by the passion of Christ and is given to us in Baptism. Justification is the beginning of the free response of man, that is, faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
423. What is the grace that justifies?
That grace is the gratuitous gift that God gives us to make us participants in his trinitarian life and able to act by his love. It is calledhabitual, sanctifying or deifying grace because it sanctifies and divinizes us. It is supernatural because it depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative and surpasses the abilities of the intellect and the powers of human beings. It therefore escapes our experience.
424. What other kinds of grace are there?
Besides habitual grace, there are actual graces (gifts for specific circumstances), sacramental graces (gifts proper to each sacrament), special graces or charisms (gifts that are intended for the common good of the Church) among which are the graces of state that accompany the exercise of ecclesial ministries and the responsibilities of life.
425. What is the relationship between grace and human freedom?
Grace precedes, prepares and elicits our free response. It responds to the deep yearnings of human freedom, calls for its cooperation and leads freedom toward its perfection.
426. What is merit?
In general merit refers to the right to recompense for a good deed. With regard to God, we of ourselves are not able to merit anything, having received everything freely from him. However, God gives us the possibility of acquiring merit through union with the love of Christ, who is the source of our merits before God. The merits for good works, therefore must be attributed in the first place to the grace of God and then to the free will of man.
427. What are the goods that we can merit?
Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods, suitable for us, can be merited in accordance with the plan of God. No one, however, can merit theinitial grace which is at the origin of conversion and justification.
428. Are all called to Christian holiness?
All the faithful are called to Christian holiness. This is the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity and it is brought about by intimate union with Christ and, in him, with the most Holy Trinity. The path to holiness for a Christian goes by way of the cross and will come to its fulfillment in the final resurrection of the just, in which God will be all in all.
THE CHURCH MOTHER AND TEACHER
429. How does the Church nourish the moral life of a Christian?
The Church is the community in which the Christian receives the Word of God, the teachings of the “Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), and the grace of the sacraments. Christians are united to the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ in such a way that their moral life is an act of spiritual worship; and they learn the example of holiness from the Virgin Mary and the lives of the Saints.
430. Why does the Magisterium of the Church act in the field of morality?
It is the duty of the Magisterium of the Church to preach the faith that is to be believed and put into practice in life. This duty extends even to the specific precepts of the natural law because their observance is necessary for salvation.
431. What purpose do the precepts of the Church have?
The five precepts of the Church are meant to guarantee for the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer, the sacramental life, moral commitment and growth in love of God and neighbor.
432. What are the precepts of the Church?
They are: 1) to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation and to refrain from work and activities which could impede the sanctification of those days; 2) to confess one's sins, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once each year; 3) to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season; 4) to abstain from eating meat and to observe the days of fasting established by the Church; and 5) to help to provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
433. Why is the Christian moral life indispensable for the proclamation of the Gospel?
Because their lives are conformed to the Lord Jesus, Christians draw others to faith in the true God, build up the Church, inform the world with the spirit of the Gospel, and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The Ten Commandments
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out
of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before
me. You shall not make for yourself
a graven image, or any likeness of
anything that is in heaven above,
or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth;
you shall not bow down to them
or serve them; for I the LORD your
God am a jealous God, visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the
children to the third and the fourth
generation of those who hate me,
but showing steadfast love to
thousands of those who love me
and keep my commandments.
You shall not take
the name of the LORD
your God in vain;
for the LORD will not hold him
guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it
holy. Six days you shall labor, and
do all your work; but the seventh day
is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in
it you shall not do any work, you, or
your son, or your daughter, your
manservant, or your maidservant, or
your cattle, or the sojourner who is
within your gates; for in six days the
LORD made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them, and rested the
seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed
the sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your
mother, that your days may
be long in the land which
the LORD your God
You shall not kill.
You shall not
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false
witness against your
You shall not covet your
neighbor’s house; you shall not
covet your neighbor’s wife, or his
manservant, or his maidservant,
or his ox, or his ass, or anything
that is your neighbor’s.
I am the LORD
your God, who
brought you out of
the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other
gods before me...
You shall not take
the name of the
LORD your God in
Observe the sabbath
day, to keep it holy...
Honor your father
and your mother...
You shall not kill.
Neither shall you
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear
false witness against
Neither shall you covet
your neighbor’s wife...
You shall not desire...
anything that is your
A Traditional Catechetical Formula
1. I am the LORD
your God: you
shall not have
strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not
take the name of
the LORD your
God in vain.
3. Remember to
keep holy the
4. Honor your father
and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear
false witness against
9. You shall not covet
your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet
your neighbor’s goods.
434. “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).
To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answered, “If you would enter into life, keep the commandments”, and then he added, “Come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:16-21). To follow Jesus involves keeping the commandments. The law has not been abolished but man is invited to rediscover it in the Person of the divine Master who realized it perfectly in himself, revealed its full meaning and attested to its permanent validity.
435. How did Jesus interpret the Law?
Jesus interpreted the Law in the light of the twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
436. What does “Decalogue” mean?
Decalogue means “ten words” (Exodus 34:28). These words sum up the Law given by God to the people of Israel in the context of the Covenant mediated by Moses. This Decalogue, in presenting the commandments of the love of God (the first three) and of one's neighbor (the other seven), traces for the chosen people and for every person in particular the path to a life freed from the slavery of sin.
437. What is the bond between the Decalogue and the Covenant?
The Decalogue must be understood in the light of the Covenant in which God revealed himself and made known his will. In observing the commandments, the people manifested their belonging to God and they answered his initiative of love with thanksgiving.
438. What importance does the Church give to the Decalogue?
The Church, in fidelity to Scripture and to the example of Christ, acknowledges the primordial importance and significance of the Decalogue. Christians are obliged to keep it.
439. Why does the Decalogue constitute an organic unity?
The Ten Commandments form an organic and indivisible whole because each commandment refers to the other commandments and to the entire Decalogue. To break one commandment, therefore, is to violate the entire law.
440. Why does the Decalogue enjoin serious obligations?
It does so because the Decalogue expresses the fundamental duties of man towards God and towards his neighbor.
441. Is it possible to keep the Decalogue?
Yes, because Christ without whom we can do nothing enables us to keep it with the gift of his Spirit and his grace.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT: I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD,
YOU SHALL NOT HAVE OTHER GODS BEFORE ME
442. What is implied in the affirmation of God: “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2)?
This means that the faithful must guard and activate the three theological virtues and must avoid sins which are opposed to them.Faith believes in God and rejects everything that is opposed to it, such as, deliberate doubt, unbelief, heresy, apostasy, and schism.Hope trustingly awaits the blessed vision of God and his help, while avoiding despair and presumption. Charity loves God above all things and therefore repudiates indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness, sloth or spiritual indolence, and that hatred of God which is born of pride.
443. What is the meaning of the words of our Lord, “Adore the Lord your God and worship Him alone” (Matthew 4:10)?
These words mean to adore God as the Lord of everything that exists; to render to him the individual and community worship which is his due; to pray to him with sentiments of praise, of thanks, and of supplication; to offer him sacrifices, above all the spiritual sacrifice of one’s own life, united with the perfect sacrifice of Christ; and to keep the promises and vows made to him.
444. In what way does a person exercise his or her proper right to worship God in truth and in freedom?
Every person has the right and the moral duty to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church. Once the truth is known, each person he has the right and moral duty to embrace it, to guard it faithfully and to render God authentic worship. At the same time, the dignity of the human person requires that in religious matters no one may be forced to act against conscience nor be restrained, within the just limits of public order, from acting in conformity with conscience, privately or publicly, alone or in association with others.
445. What does God prohibit by his command, “You shall not have other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2)?
This commandment forbids:
- Polytheism and idolatry, which divinizes creatures, power, money, or even demons.
- Superstition which is a departure from the worship due to the true God and which also expresses itself in various forms of divination, magic, sorcery and spiritism.
- Irreligion which is evidenced: in tempting God by word or deed; in sacrilege, which profanes sacred persons or sacred things, above all the Eucharist; and in simony, which involves the buying or selling of spiritual things.
- Atheism which rejects the existence of God, founded often on a false conception of human autonomy.
- Agnosticism which affirms that nothing can be known about God, and involves indifferentism and practical atheism.
446. Does the commandment of God, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image” (Exodus 20:3), forbid the cult of images?
In the Old Testament this commandment forbade any representation of God who is absolutely transcendent. The Christian veneration of sacred images, however, is justified by the incarnation of the Son of God (as taught by the Second Council of Nicea in 787AD) because such veneration is founded on the mystery of the Son of God made man, in whom the transcendent God is made visible. This does not mean the adoration of an image, but rather the veneration of the one who is represented in it: for example, Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and the Saints.
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT:
YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN
447. How does one respect the holiness of the Name of God?
One shows respect for the holy Name of God by blessing it, praising it and glorifying it. It is forbidden, therefore, to call on the Name of God to justify a crime. It is also wrong to use the holy Name of God in any improper way as in blasphemy (which by its nature is a grave sin), curses, and unfaithfulness to promises made in the Name of God.
448. Why is a false oath forbidden?
It is forbidden because one calls upon God who is truth itself to be the witness to a lie.
“Do not swear, whether by the Creator or by any creature, except truthfully, of necessity and with reverence.” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
449. What is perjury?
Perjury is to make a promise under oath with the intention of not keeping it or to violate a promise made under oath. It is a grave sin against God who is always faithful to his promises.
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT:
REMEMBER TO KEEP HOLY THE LORD'S DAY
450. Why did God “bless the Sabbath day and declare it sacred” (Exodus 20:11)?
God did so because on the Sabbath day one remembers God’s rest on the seventh day of creation, and also the liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and the Covenant which God sealed with his people.
451. How did Jesus act in regard to the Sabbath?
Jesus recognized the holiness of the Sabbath day and with divine authority he gave this law its authentic interpretation: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
452. For what reason has the Sabbath been changed to Sunday for Christians?
The reason is because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection of Christ. As “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2) it recalls the first creation; and as the “eighth day”, which follows the sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by the Resurrection of Christ. Thus, it has become for Christians the first of all days and of all feasts. It is the day of the Lord in which he with his Passover fulfilled the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and proclaimed man’s eternal rest in God.
453. How does one keep Sunday holy?
Christians keep Sunday and other days of obligation holy by participating in the Eucharist of the Lord and by refraining from those activities which impede the worship of God and disturb the joy proper to the day of the Lord or the necessary relaxation of mind and body. Activities are allowed on the Sabbath which are bound up with family needs or with important social service, provided that they do not lead to habits prejudicial to the holiness of Sunday, to family life and to health.
454. Why is the civil recognition of Sunday as a feast day important?
It is important so that all might be given the real possibility of enjoying sufficient rest and leisure to take care of their religious, familial, cultural and social lives. It is important also to have an opportune time for meditation, for reflection, for silence, for study, and a time to dedicate to good works, particularly for the sick and for the elderly.