Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1846-1851, 1870-1872 – Mercy and the Definition of Sin

clock May 21, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss mercy and the definition of sin. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Article 8


I. Mercy and Sin

1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God's mercy to sinners.113 The angel announced to Joseph: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."114 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."115

1847 "God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us."116 To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."117

1848 As St. Paul affirms, "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."118 But to do its work grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts and bestow on us "righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ ourLord."119 Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God, by his Word and by his Spirit, casts a living light on sin:

Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man's inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love: "Receive the Holy Spirit." Thus in this "convincing concerning sin" we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler.120

II. The Definition of Sin

1849 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 has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight."122 Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods,"123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God."124 In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125

1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world,126 The sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.


1870 "God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (⇒ Rom 11:32).

1871 Sin is an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law (St. Augustine, Faust 22: PL 42, 418). It is an offense against God. It rises up against God in a disobedience contrary to the obedience of Christ.

1872 Sin is an act contrary to reason. It wounds man's nature and injures human solidarity.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Prima Secundæ Partis, 71, 6), St. Thomas Aquinas explores the definition of sin proposed by St. Augustine.

Article 6. Whether sin is fittingly defined as a word, deed, or desire contrary to the eternal law?

Objection 1. It would seem that sin is unfittingly defined by saying: "Sin is a word, deed, or desire, contrary to the eternal law." Because "Word," "deed," and "desire" imply an act; whereas not every sin implies an act, as stated above (Article 5). Therefore this definition does not include every sin.

Objection 2. Further, Augustine says (De Duab. Anim. xii): "Sin is the will to retain or obtain what justice forbids." Now will is comprised under desire, in so far as desire denotes any act of the appetite. Therefore it was enough to say: "Sin is a desire contrary to the eternal law," nor was there need to add "word" or "deed."

Objection 3. Further, sin apparently consists properly in aversion from the end: because good and evil are measured chiefly with regard to the end as explained above (1, 3; k1 18, A4,6; 20, A2,3): wherefore Augustine (De Lib. Arb. i) defines sin in reference to the end, by saying that "sin is nothing else than to neglect eternal things, and seek after temporal things": and again he says (Qq. lxxxii, qu. 30) that "all human wickedness consists in using what we should enjoy, and in enjoying what we should use." Now the definition is question contains no mention of aversion from our due end: therefore it is an insufficient definition of sin.

Objection 4. Further, a thing is said to be forbidden, because it is contrary to the law. Now not all sins are evil through being forbidden, but some are forbidden because they are evil. Therefore sin in general should not be defined as being against the law of God.

Objection 5. Further, a sin denotes a bad human act, as was explained above (Article 1). Now man's evil is to be against reason, as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. iv). Therefore it would have been better to say that sin is against reason than to say that it is contrary to the eternal law.

On the contrary, the authority of Augustine suffices (Contra Faust. xxii, 27).

I answer that, As was shown above (Article 1), sin is nothing else than a bad human act. Now that an act is a human act is due to its being voluntary, as stated above (Question 1, Article 1), whether it be voluntary, as being elicited by the will, e.g. to will or to choose, or as being commanded by the will, e.g. the exterior actions of speech or operation. Again, a human act is evil through lacking conformity with its due measure: and conformity of measure in a thing depends on a rule, from which if that thing depart, it is incommensurate. Now there are two rules of the human will: one is proximate and homogeneous, viz. the human reason; the other is the first rule, viz. the eternal law, which is God's reason, so to speak. Accordingly Augustine (Contra Faust. xxii, 27) includes two things in the definition of sin; one, pertaining to the substance of a human act, and which is the matter, so to speak, of sin, when he says "word," "deed," or "desire"; the other, pertaining to the nature of evil, and which is the form, as it were, of sin, when he says, "contrary to the eternal law."

Reply to Objection 1. Affirmation and negation are reduced to one same genus: e.g. in Divine things, begotten and unbegotten are reduced to the genus "relation," as Augustine states (De Trin. v, 6,7): and so "word" and "deed" denote equally what is said and what is not said, what is done and what is not done.

Reply to Objection 2. The first cause of sin is in the will, which commands all voluntary acts, in which alone is sin to be found: and hence it is that Augustine sometimes defines sin in reference to the will alone. But since external acts also pertain to the substance of sin, through being evil of themselves, as stated, it was necessary in defining sin to include something referring to external action.

Reply to Objection 3. The eternal law first and foremost directs man to his end, and in consequence, makes man to be well disposed in regard to things which are directed to the end: hence when he says, "contrary to the eternal law," he includes aversion from the end and all other forms of inordinateness.

Reply to Objection 4. When it is said that not every sin is evil through being forbidden, this must be understood of prohibition by positive law. If, however, the prohibition be referred to the natural law, which is contained primarily in the eternal law, but secondarily in the natural code of the human reason, then every sin is evil through being prohibited: since it is contrary to natural law, precisely because it is inordinate.

Reply to Objection 5. The theologian considers sin chiefly as an offense against God; and the moral philosopher, as something contrary to reason. Hence Augustine defines sin with reference to its being "contrary to the eternal law," more fittingly than with reference to its being contrary to reason; the more so, as the eternal law directs us in many things that surpass human reason, e.g. in matters of faith.


113 Cf. ⇒ Lk 15.
114 ⇒ Mt 1:21.
115 ⇒ Mt 26:28.
116 St. Augustine, Sermo 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923.
117 1 Jn 8-9.
118 ⇒ Rom 5:20.
119 ⇒ Rom 5:21.
120 John Paul II, DeV 31 # 2.
121 St. Augustine, Contra Faustum 22: PL 42, 418; St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 71, 6.
122 ⇒ Ps 51:4.
123 ⇒ Gen 3:5.
124 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 14, 28: PL 41, 436.
125 Cf. ⇒ Phil 2:6-9.
126 Cf. ⇒ Jn 14:30.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1830-1832, 1845 – The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

clock May 20, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

III. The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.110

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.111

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms 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, chastity."112


1845 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon Christians are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Prima Secundæ Partis, 68, 4), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Article 4. Whether the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are suitably enumerated?

Objection 1. It would seem that seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are unsuitably enumerated. For in that enumeration four are set down corresponding to the intellectual virtues, viz. wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel, which corresponds to prudence; whereas nothing is set down corresponding to art, which is the fifth intellectual virtue. Moreover, something is included corresponding to justice, viz. piety, and something corresponding to fortitude, viz. the gift of fortitude; while there is nothing to correspond to temperance. Therefore the gifts are enumerated insufficiently.

Objection 2. Further, piety is a part of justice. But no part of fortitude is assigned to correspond thereto, but fortitude itself. Therefore justice itself, and not piety, ought to have been set down.

Objection 3. Further, the theological virtues, more than any, direct us to God. Since, then, the gifts perfect man according as he is moved by God, it seems that some gifts, corresponding to the theological virtues, should have been included.

Objection 4. Further, even as God is an object of fear, so is He of love, of hope, and of joy. Now love, hope, and joy are passions condivided with fear. Therefore, as fear is set down as a gift, so ought the other three.

Objection 5. Further, wisdom is added in order to direct understanding; counsel, to direct fortitude; knowledge, to direct piety. Therefore, some gift should have been added for the purpose of directing fear. Therefore the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are unsuitably enumerated.

On the contrary, stands the authority of Holy Writ (Isaiah 11:2-3).

I answer that, As stated above (Article 3), the gifts are habits perfecting man so that he is ready to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, even as the moral virtues perfect the appetitive powers so that they obey the reason. Now just as it is natural for the appetitive powers to be moved by the command of reason, so it is natural for all the forces in man to be moved by the instinct of God, as by a superior power. Therefore whatever powers in man can be the principles of human actions, can also be the subjects of gifts, even as they are virtues; and such powers are the reason and appetite.

Now the reason is speculative and practical: and in both we find the apprehension of truth (which pertains to the discovery of truth), and judgment concerning the truth. Accordingly, for the apprehension of truth, the speculative reason is perfected by "understanding"; the practical reason, by "counsel." In order to judge aright, the speculative reason is perfected by "wisdom"; the practical reason by "knowledge." The appetitive power, in matters touching a man's relations to another, is perfected by "piety"; in matters touching himself, it is perfected by "fortitude" against the fear of dangers; and against inordinate lust for pleasures, by "fear," according to Proverbs 15:27: "By the fear of the Lord every one declineth from evil," and Psalm 118:120: "Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear: for I am afraid of Thy judgments." Hence it is clear that these gifts extend to all those things to which the virtues, both intellectual and moral, extend.

Reply to Objection 1. The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect man in matters concerning a good life: whereas art is not directed to such matters, but to external things that can be made, since art is the right reason, not about things to be done, but about things to be made (Ethic. vi, 4). However, we may say that, as regards the infusion of the gifts, the art is on the part of the Holy Ghost, Who is the principal mover, and not on the part of men, who are His organs when He moves them. The gift of fear corresponds, in a manner, to temperance: for just as it belongs to temperance, properly speaking, to restrain man from evil pleasures for the sake of the good appointed by reason, so does it belong to the gift of fear, to withdraw man from evil pleasures through fear of God.

Reply to Objection 2. Justice is so called from the rectitude of the reason, and so it is more suitably called a virtue than a gift. But the name of piety denotes the reverence which we give to our father and to our country. And since God is the Father of all, the worship of God is also called piety, as Augustine states (De Civ. Dei x, 1). Therefore the gift whereby a man, through reverence for God, works good to all, is fittingly called piety.

Reply to Objection 3. The mind of man is not moved by the Holy Ghost, unless in some way it be united to Him: even as the instrument is not moved by the craftsman, unless there by contact or some other kind of union between them. Now the primal union of man with God is by faith, hope and charity: and, consequently, these virtues are presupposed to the gifts, as being their roots. Therefore all the gifts correspond to these three virtues, as being derived therefrom.

Reply to Objection 4. Love, hope and joy have good for their object. Now God is the Sovereign Good: wherefore the names of these passions are transferred to the theological virtues which unite man to God. On the other hand, the object of fear is evil, which can nowise apply to God: hence fear does not denote union with God, but withdrawal from certain things through reverence for God. Hence it does not give its name to a theological virtue, but to a gift, which withdraws us from evil, for higher motives than moral virtue does.

Reply to Objection 5. Wisdom directs both the intellect and the affections of man. Hence two gifts are set down as corresponding to wisdom as their directing principle; on the part of the intellect, the gift of understanding; on the part of the affections, the gift of fear. Because the principal reason for fearing God is taken from a consideration of the Divine excellence, which wisdom considers.


109 Cf. ⇒ Isa 11:1-2.
110 ⇒ PS 143:10.
111 ⇒ Rom 8:14 ⇒ 17.
112 Gal 5:22-23 (Vulg.).

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1822-1829, 1844 – The Theological Virtue of Charity

clock May 19, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of charity. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.


1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own "to the end,"97 he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love." and again: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."98

1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: "Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love."99

1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies."100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."102

1826 "If I . . . have not charity," says the Apostle, "I am nothing." Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, "if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing."103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity."104

1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony";105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.

1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":106

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.107

1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion:
Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.108


1844 By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, "binds everything together in perfect harmony" (⇒ Col 3:14).

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 23, 3), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the virtue of charity.

Article 3. Whether charity is a virtue?

Objection 1. It would seem that charity is not a virtue. For charity is a kind of friendship. Now philosophers do not reckon friendship a virtue, as may be gathered from Ethic. viii, 1; nor is it numbered among the virtues whether moral or intellectual. Neither, therefore, is charity a virtue.

Objection 2. Further, "virtue is the ultimate limit of power" (De Coelo et Mundo i, 11). But charity is not something ultimate, this applies rather to joy and peace. Therefore it seems that charity is not a virtue, and that this should be said rather of joy and peace.

Objection 3. Further, every virtue is an accidental habit. But charity is not an accidental habit, since it is a more excellent thing than the soul itself: whereas no accident is more excellent than its subject. Therefore charity is not a virtue.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Moribus Eccl. xi): "Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love Him."

I answer that, Human acts are good according as they are regulated by their due rule and measure. Wherefore human virtue which is the principle of all man's good acts consists in following the rule of human acts, which is twofold, as stated above (Question 17, Article 1), viz. human reason and God.

Consequently just as moral virtue is defined as being "in accord with right reason," as stated in Ethic. ii, 6, so too, the nature of virtue consists in attaining God, as also stated above with regard to faith, (4, 5) and hope (17, 1). Wherefore, it follows that charity is a virtue, for, since charity attains God, it unites us to God, as evidenced by the authority of Augustine quoted above.

Reply to Objection 1. The Philosopher (Ethic. viii) does not deny that friendship is a virtue, but affirms that it is "either a virtue or with a virtue." For we might say that it is a moral virtue about works done in respect of another person, but under a different aspect from justice. For justice is about works done in respect of another person, under the aspect of the legal due, whereas friendship considers the aspect of a friendly and moral duty, or rather that of a gratuitous favor, as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. viii, 13). Nevertheless it may be admitted that it is not a virtue distinct of itself from the other virtues. For its praiseworthiness and virtuousness are derived merely from its object, in so far, to wit, as it is based on the moral goodness of the virtues. This is evident from the fact that not every friendship is praiseworthy and virtuous, as in the case of friendship based on pleasure or utility. Wherefore friendship for the virtuous is something consequent to virtue rather than a virtue. Moreover there is no comparison with charity since it is not founded principally on the virtue of a man, but on the goodness of God.

Reply to Objection 2. It belongs to the same virtue to love a man and to rejoice about him, since joy results from love, as stated above (I-II, 25, 2) in the treatise on the passions: wherefore love is reckoned a virtue, rather than joy, which is an effect of love. And when virtue is described as being something ultimate, we mean that it is last, not in the order of effect, but in the order of excess, just as one hundred pounds exceed sixty.

Reply to Objection 3. Every accident is inferior to substance if we consider its being, since substance has being in itself, while an accident has its being in another: but considered as to its species, an accident which results from the principles of its subject is inferior to its subject, even as an effect is inferior to its cause; whereas an accident that results from a participation of some higher nature is superior to its subject, in so far as it is a likeness of that higher nature, even as light is superior to the diaphanous body. On this way charity is superior to the soul, in as much as it is a participation of the Holy Ghost.


96 Cf. ⇒ Jn 13:34.
97 ⇒ Jn 13:1.
98 ⇒ Jn 15:9, ⇒ 12.
99 ⇒ Jn 15:9-10; cf. ⇒ Mt 22:40; ⇒ Rom 13:8-10.
100 ⇒ Rom 5:10.
101 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:44; ⇒ Lk 10:27-37; ⇒ Mk 9:37; ⇒ Mt 25:40, ⇒ 45.
102 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:4-7.
103 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:1-4.
104 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:13.
105 ⇒ Col 3:14.
106 Cf. 1 ⇒ Jn 4:19.
107 St. Basil, Reg. fus. tract., prol. 3 PG 31, 896 B.
108 St. Augustine, In ep. Jo. 10, 4: PL 35, 2057.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1817-1821, 1843 – The Theological Virtue of Hope

clock May 18, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of hope. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.


1817 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. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."84 "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."85

1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.

1819 Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice.86 "Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations."87

1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint."88 Hope is the "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf."89 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."90 It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation."91 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.92 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end"93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved."94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.95


1843 By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 17, 5) St. Thomas Aquinas discusses hope as a theological virtue.

Article 5. Whether hope is a theological virtue?

Objection 1. It would seem that hope is not a theological virtue. For a theological virtue is one that has God for its object. Now hope has for its object not only God but also other goods which we hope to obtain from God. Therefore hope is not a theological virtue.

Objection 2. Further, a theological virtue is not a mean between two vices, as stated above (I-II, 64, 4). But hope is a mean between presumption and despair. Therefore hope is not a theological virtue.

Objection 3. Further, expectation belongs to longanimity which is a species of fortitude. Since, then, hope is a kind of expectation, it seems that hope is not a theological, but a moral virtue.

Objection 4. Further, the object of hope is something arduous. But it belongs to magnanimity, which is a moral virtue, to tend to the arduous. Therefore hope is amoral, and not a theological virtue.

On the contrary, Hope is enumerated (1 Corinthians 13) together with faith and charity, which are theological virtues.

I answer that, Since specific differences, by their very nature, divide a genus, in order to decide under what division we must place hope, we must observe whence it derives its character of virtue.

Now it has been stated above (Article 1) that hope has the character of virtue from the fact that it attains the supreme rule of human actions: and this it attains both as its first efficient cause, in as much as it leans on its assistance, and as its last final cause, in as much as it expects happiness in the enjoyment thereof. Hence it is evident that God is the principal object of hope, considered as a virtue. Since, then, the very idea of a theological virtue is one that has God for its object, as stated above (I-II, 62, 1), it is evident that hope is a theological virtue.

Reply to Objection 1. Whatever else hope expects to obtain, it hopes for it in reference to God as the last end, or as the first efficient cause, as stated above (Article 4).

Reply to Objection 2. In things measured and ruled the mean consists in the measure or rule being attained; if we go beyond the rule, there is excess, if we fall short of the rule, there is deficiency. But in the rule or measure itself there is no such thing as a mean or extremes. Now a moral virtue is concerned with things ruled by reason, and these things are its proper object; wherefore it is proper to it to follow the mean as regards its proper object. On the other hand, a theological virtue is concerned with the First Rule not ruled by another rule, and that Rule is its proper object. Wherefore it is not proper for a theological virtue, with regard to its proper object, to follow the mean, although this may happen to it accidentally with regard to something that is referred to its principal object. Thus faith can have no mean or extremes in the point of trusting to the First Truth, in which it is impossible to trust too much; whereas on the part of the things believed, it may have a mean and extremes; for instance one truth is a mean between two falsehoods. So too, hope has no mean or extremes, as regards its principal object, since it is impossible to trust too much in the Divine assistance; yet it may have a mean and extremes, as regards those things a man trusts to obtain, in so far as he either presumes above his capability, or despairs of things of which he is capable.

Reply to Objection 3. The expectation which is mentioned in the definition of hope does not imply delay, as does the expectation which belongs to longanimity. It implies a reference to the Divine assistance, whether that which we hope for be delayed or not.

Reply to Objection 4. Magnanimity tends to something arduous in the hope of obtaining something that is within one's power, wherefore its proper object is the doing of great things. On the other hand hope, as a theological virtue, regards something arduous, to be obtained by another's help, as stated above (Article 1).


84 ⇒ Heb 10:23.
85 ⇒ Titus 3:6-7.
86 Cf. ⇒ Gen 17:4-8; ⇒ 22:1-18.
87 ⇒ Rom 4:18.
88 ⇒ Rom 5:5.
89 ⇒ Heb 6:19-20.
90 ⇒ 1 Thess 5:8.
91 ⇒ Rom 12:12.
92 Cf. ⇒ Rom 8:28-30; ⇒ Mt 7:21.
93 ⇒ Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent DS 1541.
94 ⇒ 1 Tim 2:4.
95 St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1812-1816, 1840-1842 – The Theological Virtue of Faith

clock May 17, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of faith. Supporting material comes from “Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen” by St. Augustine.

II. The Theological Virtues

1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature:76 for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.

1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.77


1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God."78 For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work(s) through charity."79

1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it.80 But "faith apart from works is dead":81 when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks."82 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."83


1840 The theological virtues dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have God for their origin, their motive, and their object - God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake.

1841 There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. They inform all the moral virtues and give life to them.

1842 By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief.

St. Augustine discusses the necessity of faith in his letter, “Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen”.

11. But you, beloved, who possess this faith, or who have begun now newly to have it, let it be nourished and increase in you. For as things temporal have come, so long before foretold, so will things eternal also come, which are promised. Nor let them deceive you, either the vain heathen, or the false Jews, or the deceitful heretics, or also within the Catholic (Church) itself evil Christians, enemies by so much the more hurtful, as they are the more within us. For, lest on this subject also the weak should be troubled, divine prophecy has not been silent, where in the Song of Songs the Bridegroom speaking unto the Bride, that is, Christ the Lord unto the Church, says, As a lily in the midst of thorns, so is my best Beloved in the midst of the daughters. He said not, in the midst of them that are without; but, in the midst of daughters. Whoso has ears to hear, let him hear: and while the net which is cast into the sea, and gathers together all kinds of fishes, as says the holy Gospel, is being drawn unto the shore, that is, unto the end of the world, let him separate himself from the evil fishes, in heart, not in body; by changing evil habits, not by breaking sacred nets; lest they who now seem being approved to be mingled with the reprobate, find, not life, but punishment everlasting, when they shall begin on the shore to be separated.


76 Cf. ⇒ 2 Pet 1:4.
77 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 13:13.
78 DV 5.
79 ⇒ Rom 1:17; ⇒ Gal 5:6.
80 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545.
81 ⇒ Jas 2:26.
82 LG 42; cf. DH 14.
83 ⇒ Mt 10:32-33.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1803-1811, 1833-1839 – The Human Virtues

clock May 16, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections begin the discussion on the virtues. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Of the Morals of the Catholic Church”.

Article 7


1803 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."62
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.63

I. The Human Virtues

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

The cardinal virtues

1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. "If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."68 "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven."69

1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song."70 "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."71

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only (God) (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75

The virtues and grace

1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.

1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.


1833 Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good.

1834 The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

1835 Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern, in every circumstance, our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it.

1836 Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due.

1837 Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.

1838 Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods.

1839 The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them.

St. Augustine discusses the virtues in “Of the Morals of the Catholic Church” (1, 25, 46).

46. I need say no more about right conduct. For if God is man's chief good, which you cannot deny, it clearly follows, since to seek the chief good is to live well, that to live well is nothing else but to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind; and, as arising from this, that this love must be preserved entire and incorrupt, which is the part of temperance; that it give way before no troubles, which is the part of fortitude; that it serve no other, which is the part of justice; that it be watchful in its inspection of things lest craft or fraud steal in, which is the part of prudence. This is the one perfection of man, by which alone he can succeed in attaining to the purity of truth.


62 ⇒ Phil 4:8.
63 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: PG 44, 1200D.
64 ⇒ Wis 8:7.
65 ⇒ Prov 14:15.
66 ⇒ 1 Pet 4:7.
67 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 47, 2.
68 ⇒ Lev 19:15.
69 ⇒ Col 4:1.
70 ⇒ Ps 118:14.
71 ⇒ Jn 16:33.
72 ⇒ Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
73 ⇒ Sir 18:30.
74 ⇒ Titus 2:12.
75 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1790-1794, 1801-1802 – Erroneous Judgment

clock May 15, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the improper formation of the conscience. Supporting material comes from the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes”.

IV. Erroneous Judgment

1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith."60

The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.61


1801 Conscience can remain in ignorance or make erroneous judgments. Such ignorance and errors are not always free of guilt.

1802 The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed.

The Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes” discusses the formation of the conscience.

16. In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.(9) Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths.(10) In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor.(11) In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.


59 GS 16.
60 ⇒ 1 Tim 5; cf. 8:9; ⇒ 2 Tim 3; ⇒ 1 Pet 3:21; ⇒ Acts 24:16.
61 GS 16.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1783-1789, 1798-1800 Formation of Conscience

clock May 14, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss formation of the conscience. Supporting material comes from the Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae”.

II. The Formation of Conscience

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. 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.55

III. To Choose in Accord With Conscience

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.

1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."56
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ."57 Therefore "it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble."58


1798 A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. Everyone must avail himself of the means to form his conscience.

1799 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

The Declaration on Religious Freedom, “Dignitatis Hamanae” (14) discusses the proper formation of the conscience in the light of Truth.

14. In order to be faithful to the divine command, "teach all nations" (Matt. 28:19-20), the Catholic Church must work with all urgency and concern "that the word of God be spread abroad and glorified" (2 Thess. 3:1). Hence the Church earnestly begs of its children that, "first of all, supplications, prayers, petitions, acts of thanksgiving be made for all men.... For this is good and agreeable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4). In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church.(35) For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself. Furthermore, let Christians walk in wisdom in the face of those outside, "in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth" (2 Cor. 6:6-7), and let them be about their task of spreading the light of life with all confidence(36) and apostolic courage, even to the shedding of their blood.


54 Cf. ⇒ Ps 119:105.
55 Cf. DH 14.
56 ⇒ Mt 7:12; cf. ⇒ Lk 6:31; ⇒ Tob 4:15.
57 ⇒ 1 Cor 8:12.
58 ⇒ Rom 14:21.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1776-1782 – Moral Conscience

clock May 13, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss man’s conscience. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Article 6


1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.... For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God.... His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."47

I. The Judgment of Conscience

1777 Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

1778 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 all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:

Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise.... [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.50

1779 It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

Return to your conscience, question it.... Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.51

1780 The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

1781 Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God:

We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.52

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."53

In the “Summa Theologica” (1, 79, 13), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the conscience.

Article 13. Whether conscience be a power?

Objection 1. It would seem that conscience is a power; for Origen says [Commentary on Romans 2:15] that "conscience is a correcting and guiding spirit accompanying the soul, by which it is led away from evil and made to cling to good." But in the soul, spirit designates a power--either the mind itself, according to the text (Ephesians 4:13), "Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind"--or the imagination, whence imaginary vision is called spiritual, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 7,24). Therefore conscience is a power.

Objection 2. Further, nothing is a subject of sin, except a power of the soul. But conscience is a subject of sin; for it is said of some that "their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). Therefore it seems that conscience is a power.

Objection 3. Further, conscience must of necessity be either an act, a habit, or a power. But it is not an act; for thus it would not always exist in man. Nor is it a habit; for conscience is not one thing but many, since we are directed in our actions by many habits of knowledge. Therefore conscience is a power.

On the contrary, Conscience can be laid aside. But a power cannot be laid aside. Therefore conscience is not a power.

I answer that, Properly speaking, conscience is not a power, but an act. This is evident both from the very name and from those things which in the common way of speaking are attributed to conscience. For conscience, according to the very nature of the word, implies the relation of knowledge to something: for conscience may be resolved into "cum alio scientia," i.e. knowledge applied to an individual case. But the application of knowledge to something is done by some act. Wherefore from this explanation of the name it is clear that conscience is an act.

The same is manifest from those things which are attributed to conscience. For conscience is said to witness, to bind, or incite, and also to accuse, torment, or rebuke. And all these follow the application of knowledge or science to what we do: which application is made in three ways. One way in so far as we recognize that we have done or not done something; "Thy conscience knoweth that thou hast often spoken evil of others" (Ecclesiastes 7:23), and according to this, conscience is said to witness. In another way, so far as through the conscience we judge that something should be done or not done; and in this sense, conscience is said to incite or to bind. In the third way, so far as by conscience we judge that something done is well done or ill done, and in this sense conscience is said to excuse, accuse, or torment. Now, it is clear that all these things follow the actual application of knowledge to what we do. Wherefore, properly speaking, conscience denominates an act. But since habit is a principle of act, sometimes the name conscience is given to the first natural habit--namely, "synderesis": thus Jerome calls "synderesis" conscience (Gloss. Ezekiel 1:6); Basil [Hom. in princ. Proverb.], the "natural power of judgment," and Damascene [De Fide Orth. iv. 22 says that it is the "law of our intellect." For it is customary for causes and effects to be called after one another.

Reply to Objection 1. Conscience is called a spirit, so far as spirit is the same as mind; because conscience is a certain pronouncement of the mind.

Reply to Objection 2. The conscience is said to be defiled, not as a subject, but as the thing known is in knowledge; so far as someone knows he is defiled.

Reply to Objection 3. Although an act does not always remain in itself, yet it always remains in its cause, which is power and habit. Now all the habits by which conscience is formed, although many, nevertheless have their efficacy from one first habit, the habit of first principles, which is called "synderesis". And for this special reason, this habit is sometimes called conscience, as we have said above.


47 GS 16.
48 Cf. ⇒ Rom 2:14-16.
49 Cf. ⇒ Rom 1:32.
50 John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk," V, in Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching II (London: Longmans Green, 1885), 248.
51 St. Augustine, In ep Jo. 8, 9: PL 35, 2041.
52 1 ⇒ Jn 3:19-20.
53 DH 3 # 2.

Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1767-1770, 1773-1775 – Passions and Moral Life

clock May 12, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the passions and the moral life. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

II. Passions and Moral Life

1767 In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, "either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way."44 It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason.45

1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1769 In the Christian life, the Holy Spirit himself accomplishes his work by mobilizing the whole being, with all its sorrows, fears and sadness, as is visible in the Lord's agony and passion. In Christ human feelings are able to reach their consummation in charity and divine beatitude.

1770 Moral perfection consists in man's being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: "My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God."46


1773 In the passions, as movements of the sensitive appetite, there is neither moral good nor evil. But insofar as they engage reason and will, there is moral good or evil in them.

1774 Emotions and feelings can be taken up in the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1775 The perfection of the moral good consists in man's being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his "heart."

In the “Summa Theologica”, (Prima Secundae Partis, 24, 1), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the morality of the passions.

Article 1. Whether moral good and evil can be found in the passions of the soul?

Objection 1. It would seem that no passion of the soul is morally good or evil. For moral good and evil are proper to man: since "morals are properly predicated of man," as Ambrose says (Super Luc. Prolog.). But passions are not proper to man, for he has them in common with other animals. Therefore no passion of the soul is morally good or evil.

Objection 2. Further, the good or evil of man consists in "being in accord, or in disaccord with reason," as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv). Now the passions of the soul are not in the reason, but in the sensitive appetite, as stated above (Question 22, Article 3). Therefore they have no connection with human, i.e. moral, good or evil.

Objection 3. Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 5) that "we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions." But we are praised and blamed for moral good and evil. Therefore the passions are not morally good or evil.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv, 7) while speaking of the passions of the soul: "They are evil if our love is evil; good if our love is good."

I answer that, We may consider the passions of the soul in two ways: first, in themselves; secondly, as being subject to the command of the reason and will. If then the passions be considered in themselves, to wit, as movements of the irrational appetite, thus there is no moral good or evil in them, since this depends on the reason, as stated above (18, 05). If, however, they be considered as subject to the command of the reason and will, then moral good and evil are in them. Because the sensitive appetite is nearer than the outward members to the reason and will; and yet the movements and actions of the outward members are morally good or evil, inasmuch as they are voluntary. Much more, therefore, may the passions, in so far as they are voluntary, be called morally good or evil. And they are said to be voluntary, either from being commanded by the will, or from not being checked by the will.

Reply to Objection 1. These passions, considered in themselves, are common to man and other animals: but, as commanded by the reason, they are proper to man.

Reply to Objection 2. Even the lower appetitive powers are called rational, in so far as "they partake of reason in some sort" (Ethic. i, 13).

Reply to Objection 3. The Philosopher says that we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions considered absolutely; but he does not exclude their becoming worthy of praise or blame, in so far as they are subordinate to reason. Hence he continues: "For the man who fears or is angry, is not praised . . . or blamed, but the man who is angry in a certain way, i.e. according to, or against reason."


44 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 24, 1 corp. art.
45 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 24, 3.
46 ⇒ Ps 84:2.