Catechism of the Catholic Church / Part Three: Life In Christ
Section One - Man’s Vocation Life In The Spirit
Chapter Three - God’s Salvation: Law And Grace
Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from
God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the
grace that sustains him:
Work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work
for his good pleasure.1
THE MORAL LAW
The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can be defined
as fatherly instruction, God's pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways, the
rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of
evil which turn him away from God and his love. It is at once firm in its
precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.
Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the
common good. the moral law presupposes the rational order, established among
creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom,
and goodness of the Creator. All law finds its first and ultimate truth in the
eternal law. Law is declared and established by reason as a participation in
the providence of the living God, Creator and Redeemer of all. "Such an
ordinance of reason is what one calls law."2
Alone among all animate
beings, man can boast of having been counted worthy to receive a law from God:
as an animal endowed with reason, capable of understanding and discernment, he
is to govern his conduct by using his freedom and reason, in obedience to the
One who has entrusted everything to him.3
There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated:
eternal law - the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law,
comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil
and ecclesiastical laws.
The moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ. Jesus Christ is in
person the way of perfection. He is the end of the law, for only he teaches and
bestows the justice of God: "For Christ is the end of the law, that every
one who has faith may be justified."4
I. The Natural Moral Law
Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him
mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true
and the good.
law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason
the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:
The natural law is written and
engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason
ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of
human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and
interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be
The "divine and natural" law6 shows man the way to follow so
as to practice the good and attain his end. the natural law states the first
and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire
for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good,
as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts
are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural," not in
reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees
it properly belongs to human nature:
Where then are these rules
written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written
every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does
justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it,
like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.7
The natural law is nothing
other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know
what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the
The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is
universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses
the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights
For there is a true law: right
reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is
immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from
offense .... To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply
even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it
Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that
takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and
circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law
remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond
the inevitable differences, common principles.
The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of
history;10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports
their progress. the rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when
it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from
the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and
Theft is surely punished by
your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law
that iniquity itself does not efface.11
The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on
which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also
provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community.
Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is
connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles,
or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.
The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and
immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so
moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with
firm certainty and with no admixture of error."12 The natural law
provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in
accordance with the work of the Spirit.
II. The Old Law
God, our Creator and Redeemer, chose Israel for himself to be his people and
revealed his Law to them, thus preparing for the coming of Christ. the Law of
Moses expresses many truths naturally accessible to reason. These are stated
and authenticated within the covenant of salvation.
The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are
summed up in the Ten Commandments. the precepts of the Decalogue lay the
foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of God; they
prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor and prescribe what is
essential to it. the Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every
man to make God's call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil:
God wrote on the tables of the
Law what men did not read in their hearts.13
According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and
good,14 yet still imperfect. Like a tutor15 it shows what must
be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to
fulfill it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of
bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and
disclose sin, which constitutes a "law of concupiscence" in the human
heart.16 However, the Law remains the first stage on the way to the
kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for
conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides a teaching which endures
for ever, like the Word of God.
The Old Law is a preparation for the Gospel. "The Law is a pedagogy and a
prophecy of things to come."17 It prophesies and presages the work
of liberation from sin which will be fulfilled in Christ: it provides the New
Testament with images, "types," and symbols for expressing the life
according to the Spirit. Finally, the Law is completed by the teaching of the
sapiential books and the prophets which set its course toward the New Covenant
and the Kingdom of heaven.
There were . . . under the
regimen of the Old Covenant, people who possessed the charity and grace of the
Holy Spirit and longed above all for the spiritual and eternal promises by
which they were associated with the New Law. Conversely, there exist carnal men
under the New Covenant still distanced from the perfection of the New Law: the
fear of punishment and certain temporal promises have been necessary, even
under the New Covenant, to incite them to virtuous works. In any case, even
though the Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through
whom "God's charity has been poured into our hearts."18
III. The New Law or the Law of the Gospel
1965 The New Law or the
Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural
and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the
Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it
becomes the interior law of charity: "I will establish a New Covenant with
the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and
write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."19
The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith
in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach
us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do
If anyone should meditate with
devotion and perspicacity on the sermon our Lord gave on the mount, as we read
in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, he will doubtless find there . . . the perfect
way of the Christian life.... This sermon contains ... all the precepts needed
to shape one's life.20
The Law of the Gospel "fulfills," refines, surpasses, and leads the
Old Law to its perfection.21 In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills
the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the "kingdom of
heaven." It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with
faith - the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those
persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the
The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. the Lord's Sermon
on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the
Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them:
it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external
precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man
chooses between the pure and the impure,22 where faith, hope, and
charity are formed and with them the other virtues. the Gospel thus brings the
Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father,
through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the
The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting,
directing them to the "Father who sees in secret," in contrast with
the desire to "be seen by men."24 Its prayer is the Our
The Law of the Gospel requires us to make the decisive choice between "the
two ways" and to put into practice the words of the Lord.26 It is
summed up in the Golden Rule, "Whatever you wish that men would do to you,
do so to them; this is the law and the prophets."27
The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the "new commandment" of
Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.28
To the Lord's Sermon on the Mount it is fitting to add the moral catechesis of
the apostolic teachings, such as Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Colossians
3-4, Ephesians 4-5, etc. This doctrine hands on the Lord's teaching with the
authority of the apostles, particularly in the presentation of the virtues that
flow from faith in Christ and are animated by charity, the principal gift of
the Holy Spirit. "Let charity be genuine.... Love one another with
brotherly affection.... Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be
constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice
hospitality."29 This catechesis also teaches us to deal with cases
of conscience in the light of our relationship to Christ and to the
The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love
infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it
confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a
law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical
observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting
of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who
"does not know what his master is doing" to that of a friend of
Christ - "For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to
you" - or even to the status of son and heir.31
Besides its precepts, the New Law also includes the evangelical counsels. the
traditional distinction between God's commandments and the evangelical counsels
is drawn in relation to charity, the perfection of Christian life. the precepts
are intended to remove whatever is incompatible with charity. the aim of the
counsels is to remove whatever might hinder the development of charity, even if
it is not contrary to it.32
The evangelical counsels manifest the living fullness of charity, which is
never satisfied with not giving more. They attest its vitality and call forth
our spiritual readiness. the perfection of the New Law consists essentially in
the precepts of love of God and neighbor. the counsels point out the more
direct ways, the readier means, and are to be practiced in keeping with the
vocation of each:
(God) does not want each
person to keep all the counsels, but only those appropriate to the diversity of
persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as charity requires; for it is
charity, as queen of all virtues, all commandments, all counsels, and, in
short, of all laws and all Christian actions that gives to all of them their
rank, order, time, and value.33
1975 According to Scripture
the Law is a fatherly instruction by God which prescribes for man the ways that
lead to the promised beatitude, and proscribes the ways of evil.
1976 "Law is an
ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the one who is in
charge of the community" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 90, 4).
1977 Christ is the end of the
law (cf ⇒ Rom 10:4); only he teaches and bestows the
justice of God.
1978 The natural law is a
participation in God's wisdom and goodness by man formed in the image of his
Creator. It expresses the dignity of the human person and forms the basis of
his fundamental rights and duties.
1979 The natural law is
immutable, permanent throughout history. the rules that express it remain
substantially valid. It is a necessary foundation for the erection of moral
rules and civil law.
1980 The Old Law is the first
stage of revealed law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten
1981 The Law of Moses
contains many truths naturally accessible to reason. God has revealed them
because men did not read them in their hearts.
1982 The Old Law is a
preparation for the Gospel.
1983 The New Law is the grace
of the Holy Spirit received by faith in Christ, operating through charity. It
finds expression above all in the Lord's Sermon on the Mount and uses the
sacraments to communicate grace to us.
1984 The Law of the Gospel
fulfills and surpasses the Old Law and brings it to perfection: its promises,
through the Beatitudes of the Kingdom of heaven; its commandments, by reforming
the heart, the root of human acts.
1985 The New Law is a law of
love, a law of grace, a law of freedom.
1986 Besides its precepts the
New Law includes the evangelical counsels. "The Church's holiness is
fostered in a special way by the manifold counsels which the Lord proposes to
his disciples in the Gospel" (LG 42 # 2).
GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION
The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse
us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God
through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:34
But if we have died with
Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ
being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion
over him. the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives
he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive
to God in Christ Jesus.35
Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying
to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of
his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is
(God) gave himself to us
through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants
in the divine nature.... For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are
The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting
justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the
Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38
Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting
forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the
remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior
Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and
purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative
of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the
enslavement to sin, and it heals.
Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through
faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the
rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are
poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.
Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered
himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose
blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men.
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us
to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his
mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal
But now the righteousness of
God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear
witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all
who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short
of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the
redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by
his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness,
because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to
prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies
him who has faith in Jesus.41
Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On
man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which
invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting
of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:
When God touches man's heart
through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving
that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he
cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's
Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ
Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that
"the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of
heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away but the
salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass
away."43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses
the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater
The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the
"inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of
his whole being:
Just as you once yielded your
members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your
members to righteousness for sanctification.... But now that you have been set
free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is
sanctification and its end, eternal life.45
Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and
undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of
God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal
Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy
of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of
Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth
call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life
of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.
This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's
gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses
the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other
The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own
life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify
it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us
the source of the work of sanctification:48
Therefore if any one is in
Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has
come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to
Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition
that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his
love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with
God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's
interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the
work of sanctification.
The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace.
This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification
through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion
in us what he has begun, "since he who completes his work by cooperating
with our will began by working so that we might will it:"50
Indeed we also work, but we
are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It
has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once
healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and
follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live
devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him
we can do nothing.51
God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has created man in
his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and
love him. the soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God
immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a
longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. the promises of
"eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:
If at the end of your very
good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the
voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed "very
good" since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the
sabbath of eternal life.52
Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies
us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us
with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in
the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces,
gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces,
also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning
"favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit."53
Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of
miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are
intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity
which builds up the Church.54
Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that
accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the
ministries within the Church:
Having gifts that differ
according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion
to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he
who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who
gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.55
Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and
cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or
our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.56 However,
according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their
fruits"57 - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the
lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs
us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.
A pleasing illustration of
this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a
trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in
God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I
am, may it please God to keep me there.'"58
You are glorified in the
assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your
The term "merit" refers in general to the recompense owed by a
community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either
as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to
the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which
With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man.
Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received
everything from him, our Creator.
The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God
has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly
action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free
acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be
attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's
merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ,
from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow
true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by
grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and
worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal
life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine
goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is
due.... Our merits are God's gifts."62
Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the
initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion.
Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and
for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace
and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like
health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These
graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the
grace we need for meritorious actions.
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace,
by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our
acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. the saints have
always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.
After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you
in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to
work for your love alone.... In the evening of this life, I shall appear before
you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our
justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own
justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of
IV. Christian Holiness
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . .
. For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image
of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. and
those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also
justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."64
"All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of
Christian life and to the perfection of charity."65 All are called
to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
In order to reach this
perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's
gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may
wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of
their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful
abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives
of so many saints.67
Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This
union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of
Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him,
in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union
with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical
life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift
given to all.
The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without
renunciation and spiritual battle.68 Spiritual progress entails the
ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of
He who climbs never stops
going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He
never stops desiring what he already knows.69
The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final
perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works
accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.70 Keeping the same
rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the
divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her
2017 The grace of the Holy
Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of God. Uniting us by faith and
Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers
in his life.
2018 Like conversion,
justification has two aspects. Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away
from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.
2019 Justification includes
the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.
2020 Justification has been
merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It
conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal
the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most
excellent work of God's mercy.
2021 Grace is the help God
gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces
us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.
2022 The divine initiative in
the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man.
Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to
cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.
2023 Sanctifying grace is the
gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy
Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.
2024 Sanctifying grace makes
us "pleasing to God." Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit,
are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the
Church. God also acts through many actual graces, to be distinguished from
habitual grace which is permanent in us.
2025 We can have merit in
God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of
his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and
secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God.
2026 The grace of the Holy
Spirit can confer true merit on us, by virtue of our adoptive filiation, and in
accordance with God's gratuitous justice. Charity is the principal source of
merit in us before God.
2027 No one can merit the
initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit,
we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain
eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.
2028 "All Christians . .
. are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of
charity" (LG 40 # 2). "Christian perfection has but one limit, that
of having none" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Mos.: PG 44, 300D).
2029 "If any man would
come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"
(⇒ Mt 16:24).
THE CHURCH, MOTHER AND TEACHER
It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills
his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of God containing the
teachings of "the law of Christ."72 From the Church he
receives the grace of the sacraments that sustains him on the "way."
From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and
source in the all-holy Virgin Mary; he discerns it in the authentic witness of
those who live it; he discovers it in the spiritual tradition and long history
of the saints who have gone before him and whom the liturgy celebrates in the
rhythms of the sanctoral cycle.
The moral life is spiritual worship. We "present (our) bodies as a living
sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,"73 within the Body of
Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist. In the
liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching are
conjoined with the grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian activity.
As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds its source and
summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
I. Moral Life and the Magisterium of the Church
The Church, the "pillar and bulwark of the truth," "has received
this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving
truth."74 "To the Church belongs the right always and
everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the
social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that
they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the
salvation of souls."75
The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily
exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians
and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and
vigilance of the pastors, the "deposit" of Christian moral teaching
has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules,
commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by
charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis
has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral
life valid for all men.
The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are "authentic teachers, that is,
teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the
people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into
practice."76 The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope
and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe,
the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.
The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by
the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the
deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of
doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot
be preserved, explained, or observed.77
The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the
natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary
for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the
Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office
of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they
should be before God.78
The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of
life and truth. the faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the
divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human
reason.79 They have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees
conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern
disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity.
In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the
dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of
all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the practice of the Gospel
provide each person with an experience of life "in Christ," who
enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and human realities
according to the Spirit of God.80 Thus the Holy Spirit can use the
humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions.
Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication
to the Church, in the name of the Lord.81 At the same time the
conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to individualistic
considerations in its moral judgments of the person's own acts. As far as possible
conscience should take account of the good of all, as expressed in the moral
law, natural and revealed, and consequently in the law of the Church and in the
authoritative teaching of the Magisterium on moral questions. Personal
conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the
Magisterium of the Church.
Thus a true filial spirit toward the Church can develop among Christians. It is
the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb
of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ. In her motherly care,
the Church grants us the mercy of God which prevails over all our sins and is
especially at work in the sacrament of reconciliation. With a mother's
foresight, she also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment
of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord.
II. The Precepts of the Church
The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and
nourished by liturgical life. the obligatory character of these positive laws
decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the
indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth
in love of God and neighbor:
The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of
obligation.") requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic
celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day
commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.82
The second precept (“You shall
confess your sins at least once a year.") ensures preparation for the
Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues
Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.83
The third precept (“You shall
humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter
season.") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and
Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the
fourth precept (“You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.")
completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical
feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the
The fifth precept (“You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and
abstinence.") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us
for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and
freedom of heart.86
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of
the Church, each according to his abilities.87
III. Moral Life and Missionary Witness
The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the proclamation of
the Gospel and for the Church's mission in the world. In order that the message
of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must
be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. "The witness of
a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power
to draw men to the faith and to God."88
Because they are members of the Body whose Head is Christ,89 Christians
contribute to building up the Church by the constancy of their convictions and
their moral lives. the Church increases, grows, and develops through the
holiness of her faithful, until "we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of
the stature of the fullness of Christ."90
By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of
God, "a kingdom of justice, love, and peace."91 They do not,
for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they
fulfill them with uprightness, patience, and love.
2047 The moral life is a
spiritual worship. Christian activity finds its nourishment in the liturgy and
the celebration of the sacraments.
2048 The precepts of the
Church concern the moral and Christian life united with the liturgy and
nourished by it.
2049 The Magisterium of the
Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis
and preaching, on the basis of the Decalogue which states the principles of
moral life valid for every man.
2050 The Roman Pontiff and
the bishops, as authentic teachers, preach to the People of God the faith which
is to be believed and applied in moral life. It is also encumbent on them to
pronounce on moral questions that fall within the natural law and reason.
2051 The infallibility of the
Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including
moral doctrine, without which the saving truths
of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.
The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20 2-17
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
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 commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false
witness against your neighbor.
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 vain . . .
Observe the sabbath day, to
keep it holy. . .
Honor your father and your
mother . . .
You shall not kill.
Neither shall you commit adultery.
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear false
witness against your neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your
neighbor's wife .
You shall not desire . . .
anything that is your neighbor's.
A Traditional Catechetical
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.
to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
your father and your mother.
5. You shall
6. You shall
not commit adultery.
7. You shall
8. You shall
not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall
not covet your neighbor's wife.
shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
1 ⇒ Phil 2:12-13.
Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum: AAS 20 (1887/88), 597; cf. St. Thomas
Aquinas, STh I-II, 90, 1.
3 Cf. Tertullian, Adv. Marc, 2, 4: PL 2, 288-289.
4 ⇒ Rom 10:4.
5 Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, 597.
6 GS 89 # 1.
7 St. Augustine, De Trin. 14, 15, 21: PL 42,1052.
8 St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. I.
9 Cicero, Rep. III, 22, 33.
10 Cf. GS 10.
11 St. Augustine, Conf. 2, 4, 9: PL 32, 678.
12 Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2: DS 3005.
13 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 57, 1: PL 36, 673.
14 Cf. ⇒ Rom 7:12,
15 Cf. ⇒ Gal 3:24.
16 Cf. ⇒ Rom
17 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 15, 1: PG 7/1, 1012.
18 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 107, 1 ad 2; cf. ⇒ Rom
8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.
20 St. Augustine,
De serm. Dom. 1, 1: PL 34,1229-1230.
21 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:17-19.
22 Cf. ⇒ Mt 15:18-19.
23 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:44,48.
24 Cf. ⇒ Mt 6:1-6;
25 Cf. ⇒ Mt 6:9-13;
⇒ Lk 11:2-4.
26 Cf. ⇒ Mt
27 ⇒ Lk
28 Cf. ⇒ Jn 15:12;
⇒ Rom 12:9-13.
30 Cf. ⇒ Rom 14;
⇒ 1 Cor 5-10.
31 ⇒ Jn 15:15; cf.
⇒ Jas 1:25;
4:1-7. ⇒ Rom
32 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 184, 3.
33 St. Francis
de Sales, Love of God 8, 6.
⇒ Rom 6:8-11.
36 Cf. ⇒ Jn
Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24: PG 26, 585 and 588.
⇒ Mt 4:17.
39 Council of
Trent (1547): DS 1528.
40 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
41 ⇒ Rom 3:21-26.
42 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.
43 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 72, 3: PL 35, 1823.
44 Cf. ⇒ Eph
⇒ Rom 6:19, 22.
46 Cf. ⇒ Jn 1:12-18;
8:14-17; ⇒ 2 Pet 1:3-4.
47 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 2:7-9.
48 Cf. ⇒ Jn 4:14;
49 ⇒ 2 Cor 5:17-18.
50 St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17: PL 44, 901.
51 St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31: PL 44, 264.
52 St. Augustine, Conf. 13, 36, 51: PL 32, 868; cf.
⇒ Gen 1:31.
53 Cf. LG 12.
54 Cf. ⇒ 1
55 ⇒ Rom 12:6-8.
56 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
⇒ Mt 7:20.
58 Acts of
the trial of St. Joan of Arc.
Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; Qui in Sanctorum concilio celebraris,
et eorum coronando merita tua dona coronas, citing the "Doctor
of grace," St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 102, 7: PL 37, 1321-1322.
60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
62 St. Augustine, Sermo 298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.
St. Therese of Lisieux, "Act of Offering" in Story of a Soul,
tr. John Clarke (Washington Dc: ICS, 1981), 277.
⇒ Rom 8:28-30.
65 LG 40 # 2.
⇒ Mt 5:48.
67 LG 40 # 2.
68 Cf. 2 Tim 4.
Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8: PG 44, 941C.
70 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1576.
⇒ Rev 21:2.
73 ⇒ Rom 12:1.
74 1 Tim 3:15; LG 17.
75 ⇒ CIC, can. 747 # 2.
76 LG 25.
77 Cf. LG 25; CDF, declaration, Mysterium Ecclesiae 3.
78 Cf. DH 14.
79 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 213.
80 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 2:10-15.
81 Cf. ⇒ Rom
82 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 1246-1248; CCEO,
can. 881 # 1, # 2, # 4.
83 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 989; CCEO, can. 719.
84 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 920; CCEO, cann. 708;
881 # 3.
85 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 1246; CCEO, cann. 881
# 1, # 4; 880 # 3.
86 Cf. ⇒ CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO,
87 Cf. ⇒ CIC, can. 222.
88 AA 6 # 2.
89 Cf. ⇒ Eph 1:22.
90 ⇒ Eph 4:13; cf. LG 39.
91 Roman Missal, Preface of Christ the King.
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