130 – “The Church’s moral teaching is – I think – uncertain about whether it has to do with the fifth or the sixth commandment. I don’t like to descend to this kind of casuistry while people are dying from lack of water, food or housing…”

In this earthly life, everything is subject to time and passes away. All created things of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom, inevitably come to an end. However, when man – whose material dimension also passes, to later be restored – crosses the threshold of the end of time, he will not cease to exist; he will either live eternal bliss or eternal perdition. In the Gospel we see Jesus affirm that, to receive the reward of everlasting happiness, it is not enough to call him ‘Lord’; one must also do the will of the Father: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven’ (Mt 7:21). And to do the will of God it is necessary to put Jesus’ perennial teachings into practice: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’ (Mt 24:35).

Now, every one of Jesus’ teachings is based on doing good, never evil; that is, in fulfillment of the commandments, as He himself replied to the rich young man: ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments’ (Mt. 19:17).

Therefore, his teaching may be taken as a code of Christian ethics, founded on eternal morality. This morality is engraved in men’s hearts, as the Apostle said to the Romans: They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts’ (Rom 2:15), and it may not change with time or with changing circumstances.

Seeking adaptation is the exact hypocrisy Jesus recriminated in the Pharisees’ behavior: they did not fulfill the law of Moses, but rather adapted its letter to their own interests and situations, creating a false personal morality. Christ made it very clear that the law of God has not changed at all: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill’ (Mt 5:17). Therefore, whoever does not fulfill the true law is the pharisee, not the one who fulfills it. This is Church teaching across centuries: whatever breaks the law of God is a sin, independent of the times!

Consequently, human societies are just or unjust depending on the just or unjust conduct of their human members. We cannot speak of a ‘social injustice’ in disregard to personal sins, for the latter are a consequence of the former, and not a mere casuistry. Morality is permanent and there is no such thing as “situation ethics”, as we will examine in this study.

Francis

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Quote A

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study

ContentsPreliminary explanation: on the Sabbath and a certain type of pharisaismPerennial Catholic morality: some doctrinal clarifications
I – Preliminary explanation: on the Sabbath and a certain type of pharisaism
A – Our Lord objected to the doctrine of the Pharisees because they did not fulfill the Law, but rather erected human precepts in the place of God’s commandments
B – The rest on the Sabbath: instituted to abstain from servile works and to praise God better, but distorted by the Pharisees according to their human criteria
C – Jesus did not abolish the Sabbatical precept, rather He substituted the Sabbath for true rest: Sunday, the Day of the Lord. No one is dispensed from the obligation of honoring God and avoiding sin
D – What pharisaism really is: establishing other laws – even socio-economic, political or ideological ones – in the place of God’s salvific law
II – Perennial Catholic morality: some doctrinal clarifications
A – Catholic morality is the same as always, independent of the circumstances; and those who defend a situation ethics, err greatly
B – The gravity of sin is measured more by its personal implication than its social implication
C – To resolve social questions, which are in reality moral questions, it is necessary to make people observe the moral demands at a personal level


I – Preliminary explanation: on the Sabbath and a certain type of pharisaism


A – Our Lord objected to the doctrine of the Pharisees because they did not fulfill the Law, but rather erected human precepts in the place of God’s commandments


Sacred Scripture

‘None of you keeps the law’
‘You received the law but you did not observe it’
‘You sit in judgment upon Me according to the law and yet in violation of the law’
‘You break the commandment of God for the sake of tradition’
‘You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition’ – ‘your doctrine is human precepts’
On the outside the Pharisees appear righteous, but inside are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing
What is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God

B – The rest on the Sabbath: instituted to abstain from servile works and to praise God better, but distorted by the Pharisees according to their human criteria


Sacred Scripture

Observance of the Sabbath is keeping it holy
The Sabbath was consecrated to God; one could not labor in order to keep it holy
Jesus corrects the falsification of the Pharisees: it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath for it gives glory to God
‘Have you not read in the law?’

Saint Bede

The Lord reproves those who wrongly interpreted the Sabbath rest: the law commands to abstain from servile works, i.e. from evil, on the Sabbath.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

The Pharisees wished to ignore the Sacred Scripture to conspire against Jesus and his followers

C – Jesus did not abolish the Sabbatical precept, rather He substituted the Sabbath for true rest: Sunday, the Day of the Lord. No one is dispensed from the obligation of honoring God and avoiding sin


 Saint Ambrose of Milan

Jesus proves that the Pharisees, who apparently defended the law, were ignorant of the law

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The reason why the Sabbath is mentioned in the precepts of the Decalogue
The precept of the Sabbath observance is moral in so far as it commands man to give some time to the things of God; as to the fixing of the time, it is a ceremonial precept
As to the Sabbath, its place is taken by the “Lord’s Day,” since the shadow gives way to the what was prefigured
How should a Christian keep the Sabbath?
What should we avoid on the Sabbath?
What should one do on the Sabbath?

D – What pharisaism really is: establishing other laws – even socio-economic, political or ideological ones – in the place of God’s salvific law


Saint Thomas Aquinas

The precepts of the Decalogue admit of no dispensation whatever
Does Scripture offer an instance of dispensation from a precept ordained by the Decalogue?

Pius XII

The bases of an existing social order should be in accordance with the immutable order of God

John XXIII

Where the same law of justice is not adhered to by all, men cannot hope to come to open and full agreement on vital issues

Catechism of the Catholic Church

When does the Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters?

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

The Church’s social doctrine is of a theological and not an ideological nature – it is aimed at guiding people’s behaviour

II – Perennial Catholic morality: some doctrinal clarifications


A – Catholic morality is the same as always, independent of the circumstances; and those who defend a situation ethics, err greatly


Saint Thomas Aquinas

Human acts, in their external and internal dimension, have a moral significance since they are voluntary
Every human action that proceeds from deliberate reason, if it be considered in the individual, must be either good or bad

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Human acts can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil
The circumstances contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts, but they make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil

Saint John Chrysostom

Christ punishes and rewards according to the intention of the one who acts
Reward is the result of following the injunctions of Christ

Pius XII

The Church applies perennial Christian morality to the present economic and social circumstances
A new morality: situation ethics that is not based on universal moral laws like the Ten Commandments, but rather on concrete circumstances according to which the individual conscience chooses
Situation ethics removes God as the ultimate end of human acts - it does not outright deny the concepts and general moral principles, but moves them from the center to the last position
The fundamental obligations of the moral law are based, in essence, upon the nature of man and upon his essential relations, and consequently hold true in every place where man is
The Christian should assume the grave and great commitment to assert the truth, the spirit, and the law of Christ in his personal, professional, social and public life. This is Catholic morality
It is erroneous to establish norms for real life that deviate from natural and Christian morality

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Official condemnation of “situation ethics” by the Magisterium

B – The gravity of sin is measured more by its personal implication than its social implication


Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sin arises from doing what one ought not, or by not doing what one ought to do
Sin is nothing else than a bad human act – it means voluntarily going against the rule of the human will, namely human reason, which is created in accord with God’s eternal reason

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

The sinner, when he breaks the command, says to God: I do not acknowledge thee for my Lord

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience, and is contrary to the eternal law
The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will
“Structures of sin” are the expression and the effects of personal sins

John Paul II

In each individual there is nothing so personal and untransferable as merit for virtue or responsibility for sin
To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that each individual’s sin in some way affects others - every personal sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family
To speak even analogically of social sins must not cause us to underestimate the responsibility of the individuals involved – one cannot contrast social sin and personal sin in a way that leads to the watering down and almost the abolition of personal sin
Whenever the church condemns social sins, she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins

C – To resolve social questions, which are in reality moral questions, it is necessary to make people observe the moral demands at a personal level


Sacred Scriptures

Those who seek sanctity receive all other things as a consequence

Pius XI

If we faithfully observe God’s law, then it will follow that the particular purposes, both individual and social, shall attain the final end of all things

Pius XII

The use of material goods in society should be based on the fulfillment of moral duties

John XXIII

Social relationships must adhere to principles within the framework of the moral order, as the indispensable prerequisite for the fulfillment of the rights and obligations of social life
The root cause of problems today: many deny the existence of a moral order which is transcendent, absolute, universal and equally binding upon all
The human being demands a moral and religious order as the greatest validity in the solution of individual and social problems

John Paul II

There can be no genuine solution of the “social question” apart from the Gospel
The Church has proposed a moral teaching regarding the many different spheres of human life, including social, economic and political life
A new situation has come about within the Christian community that calls into question the Church’s moral teaching
The commandments represent the basic condition for love of neighbor: without observing them one can neither love God nor neighbor