139 – “Christian morality is not a catalogue of sins and faults. The Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, it would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, the message will cease to have ‘the fragrance of the Gospel’”

Negative precepts play an important role in moral formation. They remind us that we are limited, dependent and sinful beings, made to lovingly obey an absolute Being who created us and governs us according to his most wise designs. The humble recognition of this reality forestalls any negative reaction when a religious authority or superior, in the name of God, sets rules to be followed, which is only natural for anyone who understands this truth, and feels the need to be guided to avoid falling into error. To close our eyes to this law of the human condition is to view our existence in an erroneous manner: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 407).

‘No!’ – This simple word that is so simply accepted by the humble, is hard for the proud to swallow, even if it be said for a just cause. In our days, the idea has been intently promoted and is now widely accepted, that happiness is made impossible by exacting norms of morality, such as those upheld by the Church. In fact, just recently, such directives were labeled as “a form of stoicism” and a “catalogue of sins and faults”, among other pejorative epithets that evidence a terrible lack of consonance with Catholic teaching on human behavior.

Nonetheless, Pope John Paul II was very clear in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 13: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness’ are moral rules formulated in terms of prohibitions. These negative precepts express with particular force the ever urgent need to protect human life, the communion of persons in marriage, private property, truthfulness and people’s good name. The commandments thus represent the basic condition for love of neighbor; at the same time they are the proof of that love. They are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting-point.

It is important to understand that the immutable teachings of the Church do not amount to “certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options”. In reality, they are much more; they are laws based on Jesus’ teachings: “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jn 8:34), and on the profound understanding of the necessity of grace to save man from his own miseries.

So if seeking the “fragrance of the Gospel” is coming into style, then nothing could be more timely than to recall what its perfume consists of: without a doubt, the fulfillment of the Law, whether positive or negative, out of love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches in his magnificent commentary on the Ten Commandments:The divine commandments are twofold: Some are affirmative, and charity fulfils these, because the fulfillment of the law of commandments is love, by which the commandments are observed. Other commandments are prohibitive; charity also fulfils these, because it does not act perversely, as the Apostle says (cf. 1Cor 13)”.

Francis

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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study

ContentsAuthorsDoctrinal note on the virtue of charity
I – Doctrinal and moral points are also part of evangelization. To omit them is what truly makes the Gospel lose its ‘freshness’ and its ‘fragrance
II – What role do negative precepts have in the proclamation of the Gospel?
III – Jesus Christ is the corner-stone rejected by all: the debauched consider Him stoical, while the stoical regard Him as a glutton and a friend of sinners. History always repeats itself: Pharisees and Sadducees come together against the Son of God
IV – Of what does the ‘fragrance of the Gospel’ really consist? Let us understand the virtue of charity…


I – Doctrinal and moral points are also part of evangelization. To omit them is what truly makes the Gospel lose its ‘freshness’ and its ‘fragrance’


Saint Thomas Aquinas

The divine commandments are twofold: some are affirmative, and others are prohibitive
Complete avoidance of sin, to fulfill the commandment of love perfectly
It is necessary that all external acts that are incompatible with righteousness be forbidden in the Gospel of the kingdom

Saint John Chrysostom

Neither are the first commandments cruel, nor the second hard and grievous, but all of one and the same providential care
These injunctions have their pleasure and profit in themselves: have it in thy mind that thou art doing it for Christ’s sake, and the pain will be pleasant

Pius XI

The conscientious observation of the ten commandments of God is an unrivaled school of personal discipline, moral education and formation of character

Benedict XVI

Although they might seem to be a list of prohibitions, the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan

Sacred Scripture

The Lord says “Keep the commandments to enter into life”
Curses come upon those who do not hearken to the voice of the Lord, nor keep the commandments and statutes he gave

Pius X

The first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God

II – What role do negative precepts have in the proclamation of the Gospel?


John Paul II

The commandments are moral rules formulated in terms of prohibitions, but they are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom

Paul VI

There are moral systems based on the erroneous conviction that it is only by faith and only by grace that we are saved, without a positive and systematic moral discipline

Pius XII

There are those who wantonly break the Tables of God’s Commandments to substitute them with other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai, in which the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Cross has no place

Pius X

Those who teach in the Church should earnestly exhort all to dread and avoid vice and to practice virtue

Congregation for the Clergy

The greatest obstacle for man to apply himself to the work of salvation is sin
By sin, man knowingly and deliberately violates the moral law
The reality of sin is one of the principal points of the Christian faith, and it is not right to pass over it in silence
The docility with which the Holy Spirit must be obeyed entails a faithful observance of the commandments of God

Sacred Scripture

The will of the Lord is that immorality, impurity, obscenity and suggestive talk be far from you

III – Jesus Christ is the corner-stone rejected by all: the debauched consider Him stoical, while the stoical regard Him as a glutton and a friend of sinners. History always repeats itself: Pharisees and Sadducees come together against the Son of God


Sacred Scripture

The Pharisees and masters of the law reject the plan of God
Those who live according to Christ Jesus do not please the world
Like sheep in the midst of wolves
The world does not love Christians because it does not love Christ

John Paul II

The heredity of God grows amidst rejection, incomprehension and struggles

Saint John Chrysostom

It cannot be that someone virtuous should not have many enemies
It is not the time for crowns or prizes; but for struggles

IV – Of what does the ‘fragrance of the Gospel’ really consist? Let us understand the virtue of charity…


John Paul II

Constancy in obeying the divine commandments is the source of serenity

Benedict XVI

Christianity is not the easy road, it is, rather, a difficult climb, but one illuminated by the light of Christ

Congregation for the Clergy

By meeting Jesus Christ and by adhering to Him, the human being sees all of his deepest aspirations completely fulfilled

Saint Augustine of Hippo

If you are seeking bliss, be undefiled
Doctrinal note on the virtue of charity: Is it possible to love God without obeying the Commandments? Is charity lost by mortal sin?
 If it is true that ‘the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us’, then one must be extremely careful to never offend Him lest ‘the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards.’

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Charity can be lost entirely by sin
It is therefore essential to charity that one should so love God as to wish to submit to Him in all things, and always to follow the rule of His commandments
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  1. Could the “fragrance of the Gospel” be merely a euphemism for the “smell of the sheep,” that foul reek of sin in which Francis is so proud to wallow? A true “fragrance of Gospel,” I think, might be better called “the odor of sanctity.” I wonder if Francis has a clue as to what that is….

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