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Part 4

IV: The principles of morality

With the question of marriage, we have already come in contact a little with the domain of morality. But it is fitting to study this question separately. St. Thomas teaches that what governs morality is the "last end."  Man must orient his life towards heavenly beatitude, and, consequently, use all the means that the good Lord puts at his disposition to attain that end. This is why St. Thomas begins the second part of the Summa Theologica consecrated to morality by the treatise on the last end of man, where he shows that the true end of human life can only be the beatific vision. Consequently, man must regulate his actions in order to arrive at this end. But the Catechism so exalts the human person that it seems to become the end of human life.

Man is the end and the summit of all; he must be loved more than all.

Next, Christ came to reveal man to himself, which seems to make of man the end of divine revelation, the revelation of the Father being only a means of manifesting to man the sublimity of his vocation:

"Christ, in the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully manifests man to himself and reveals to him the sublimity of his vocation."[65] It is in Christ, the "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15),66 that man has been made to "the image and likeness" of the Creator. "It is in Christ, redeemer and savior, that the divine image, altered in man by the first sin, has been restored in its original beauty and ennobled with the grace of God"[67] (§1701).

The law of the Gospel is summed up in love for one’s neighbor:

The law of the Gospel includes the decisive choice between "the two ways,"[68] and the putting into practice of the words of Our Lord69; it is summed up in the golden rule: "Whatsoever you desire that others do for you, do likewise to them; this is the law and the prophets"[70] (Mt. 7:12). The entire law of the Gospel is contained in the "new commandment" of Jesus (Jn. 13:34) of loving one another as he has loved us[71] (§1970).

The Catechism "forgets" the first commandment of the evangelical law, which is, however, the greatest, according to Our Lord, so as to remember only the second which is like to it. And what’s more, it barely explains that the second includes priorities, and that the order of charity demands that we should love first that neighbor who is the closest: God first, then our soul, then our Christian brothers before other men, our family and our fellow citizens before foreigners, etc.

The respect for the dignity of every man and the quality of our relations with others is going to become the primary and fundamental virtue, more important than the faith and the other virtues which bind us to God.

We shall find more or less the vocabulary and even the order of Thomist morality, but all shall be biased by this accent placed on the dignity of man. Read, for example, the lines which introduce the first chapter consecrated to morality in the Catechism, a chapter entitled The Dignity of the Human Person:

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and the likeness of God (Article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (Article 2). It appertains to the human being to achieve this freely (Article 3). By his deliberate acts (Article 4), the human person conforms himself or not to the good promised by God and attested by his moral conscience (Article 5). Human beings build themselves up and grow from the interior; they make of all their sensible and spiritual life a matter of their growth (Article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (Article 7), avoiding sin, and, if they have committed it, returning like the prodigal son[72] to the mercy of our Father in heaven (Article 8). They arrive thus to the perfection of charity (§1700).

Thus the principal reason for which one must fulfill the moral law is not that man is held to obey God, or that he must work to save his soul so to glorify God, but that by this means, he attests to the dignity of the person:

By his reason, man knows the voice of God, which urges him "to accomplish the good and avoid evil."[73] Each one is held to follow this law, which resounds in the conscience, and which is completed in the love of God and of one’s neighbor. The exercise of the moral life witnesses to the dignity of the person (§1706).

Application of this principle: respect for the rights of man, the dignity of man, etc.

We have already spoken, in the first part of our study, of the defense by the Church of the rights of man and of the dignity of man. These same themes are found again, naturally enough, when it is a question of determining what are the moral duties of Christians. Since each man is the end of everything, as we have seen, all the duties of Christians are going to consist in protecting, in one way or another, the rights or dignity of the human person:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, the human being must recognize the rights of the person, among which the inviolable right of every innocent being to life:[74] "Before being fashioned in the maternal womb, I knew you. Before your leaving the womb, I have consecrated you’" (Jer. 1:5). "My bones were not hidden before you when I was made, when I was made in secret, embroidered in the depths of the earth" (Ps. 139:15) (§2270). Whatever might be the motives or the means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the life of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally inadmissible. Thus an action or an omission which, of itself or in the intention, causes death in order to suppress suffering constitutes a crime gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person, and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error in judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this criminal act, which is always proscribed and excluded (§2277).

As we see in this last text, the Catechism speaks also sometimes of the respect due to God; but it is symptomatic that it places this respect after that of the dignity of the human person.

Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also implies a cultural effort, for there exists an "interdependence between the development of the person and that of society itself."[76]  Chastity supposes the respect of the rights of the person, particularly that of receiving the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life (§2344). Pornography consists in separating sexual acts, real or simulated, from the intimacy of the partners in order to exhibit them in a deliberate manner to third persons. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, which is an intimate gift that the spouses give to one another. It gravely endangers the dignity of those who give themselves up to it (actors, dealers, and the public), since each becomes for the other the object of a rudimentary pleasure and of illicit profit. It plunges both in the illusion of being world-makers. It is a grave fault. The civil authorities must prevent the production and the distribution of pornographic materials (§2354). "In the beginning, God confided the earth and its resources to the common management of humanity for them to take care of it, to master it by their labor and to enjoy its fruits.[77] The goods of creation are destined for all the human race.  However, the earth is divided between men so as to assure the security of their life, exposed as it is to shortage and menaced by violence. The appropriation of goods is legitimate so as to guarantee the liberty and dignity of persons, to aid each one to provide for his fundamental needs and to the needs of those of whom he has charge. It must permit a mutual solidarity to be manifested between men (§2402).

In economic matters, respect for human dignity demands the practice of the virtue of temperance to moderate the attachment to the goods of this world; of the virtue of justice to preserve the rights of one’s neighbor and to accord him what is due him; and of solidarity following the golden rule, and according to the liberality of the Lord who "from being rich made himself poor so as to enrich us by his poverty" (II Cor.8:9) (§2407).

Prostitution endangers the dignity of the person who prostitutes herself, who is reduced to the venereal pleasure that one takes from her. He who pays sins gravely against himself; he breaks the chastity to which he is engaged by baptism, and soils his body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.[78]  Prostitution constitutes a social plague. It habitually concerns women, but also men, children or adolescents (in these latter two cases, the sin is doubled by that of scandal). If it is always gravely sinful to give oneself over to prostitution, misery, blackmail and social pressure can extenuate the imputability of the fault (§2355).

This question of "extenuating the imputability of the fault" of prostitution merits, however, to be treated separately.

The excusing causes of sin

For Pius XII, social conditions can be occasions of sin when they are opposed to the law of God. For the Catechism, social conditions are "structures of sin" when they are opposed to the rights of man.

The first excusing cause of sin consists for the Catechism in the "structures of sin":

Thus sin makes men accessories of each other, makes concupiscence reign among them as well as violence and injustice. Sins provoke social situations and institutions contrary to divine goodness. The "structures of sin" are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to commit evil in their turn. In an analogical sense they constitute a "social sin"[79] (§1869).

These structures of sin are, for example, those societies which do not respect the rights of man:

The consequences of original sin and of all the personal sins of men confer upon the world in its entirety a sinful condition, which can be designated by the expression of St. John: "the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). By this expression is also signified the negative influence that community situations and social structures which are the fruit of the sins of men exercise over persons[80] (§408). Menaces for liberty. The exercise of liberty does not imply the right to say or do everything. It is false to pretend that ‘man, subject of liberty, is sufficient to himself in having for his end the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods.[81] Moreover, the conditions of the economic and social, political and cultural order required for a right exercise of liberty are too often misunderstood and violated. These situations of blindness and injustice burden the moral life and place the strong as well as the weak in temptation against charity. By turning away from the moral law, man endangers his own liberty, he cleaves to himself, breaks the fraternity of his fellow men and rebels against divine liberty (§1740). There also exist iniquitous inequalities which strike millions of men and women. These are in contradiction with the Gospel: "The equal dignity of persons demands that we arrive at conditions of life more just and human."

The excessive economic and social inequalities between members or the peoples of the one human family are the cause of scandal. They place an obstacle to social justice, to equity, to the dignity of the human person, as well as to social and international peace[82] (§1938).

Certainly, it is true that social conditions can be occasions of sin. Christians experience this each day in this laicized and materialistic society in which we live. But it is an inversion to pretend that those societies which do not respect the rights of man are the "structures of sin." Rather, it is much more the societies which take as their fundamental law the rights of man that urge men to sin by inciting them to forgetfulness of God and to revolt.

The inversion of means and of ends83 which ends up giving an ultimate value to what is only a means, or to consider persons as simply means in view of an end, engenders unjust structures which "make any Christian conduct arduous and practically impossible that is conformed to the commandments of the divine Legislator"[84] (§1887).

It is interesting to see in this citation how the Catechism pretends that it is continuing the former doctrine of the Church when it contradicts it. The phrase cited from Pius XII does not speak of societies which observe or do not observe the rights of man, the dignity of man, equality among men, etc. Pius XII said several lines further back, "From the form given to society, in harmony or not with divine laws, depends the infiltration of good or evil into souls..." For Pius XII, social conditions can be occasions of sin when they are opposed to the law of God. For the Catechism, social conditions are "structures of sin" when they are opposed to the rights of man. To see between these two positions an "homogeneous evolution of dogma," one would have to establish that the Declaration of the Rights of Man is another formulation of the Decalogue.

The Catechism also finds an excusing cause for sin in ignorance and physical and social factors:

The imputability and responsibility of an action can be diminished, even taken away altogether, by ignorance, inadvertence, violence, fear, habits, immoderate affections, and other psychic and social factors (§1735). The human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he acted deliberately against the latter, he would condemn himself. But it happens that the moral conscience may be in ignorance, and makes erroneous judgments upon future acts or those already accomplished (§1790).

Certainly, the Catechism recalls that ignorance can be culpable, and that in this case, it does not excuse from sin:

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. It is so "when man tries little to seek the true and the good, and when the habitude of sin little by little makes the conscience blind."[85]  In these cases, the person is culpable for the evil that he commits (§1791).

However, in practice, the Catechism greatly extends the domain of invincible (that is, non-culpable) ignorance and the other excusing causes for sin:

In so far as it rejects or refuses the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion.86  The imputability of this fault can be largely diminished by virtue of one’s intentions and circumstances. In the genesis and the diffusion of atheism, "the believers can have no small part, in the measure where, by their negligence in the education of the faith, by false representations of doctrine, and also by failures in their religious, moral and social life, one can say that they violate the authentic face of God and of religion more than they reveal it"[87] (§2125).

Agnosticism can sometimes contain a certain search for God, but it can equally represent an indifferentism, a flight before the ultimate question of His existence, and a laziness of the moral conscience. Agnosticism is too often equivalent to practical atheism (§2128).

If it is committed with the intention of giving an example, especially for the young, suicide has the added gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Serious psychological troubles, anguish, grave fear of trial, suffering or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one who commits suicide (§2282).

By masturbation is to be understood the voluntary excitation of the genital organs in order to have venereal pleasure.

In the constant line of tradition, the Magisterium of the Church as well as the moral sense of the faithful have affirmed without hesitation that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered act.

Whatever might be the motive, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside of normal conjugal relations contradicts the finality of that act.

Sexual enjoyment is sought outside of "the sexual relation required by the moral order, that which realizes in the context of true love the integral sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation." [88]

In order to form an equitable judgment on the moral responsibility of subjects, and to orient pastoral action, one should take account of emotional immaturity, of the strength of habits already formed, of the state of anguish or other psychological or social factors which lessen or extenuate moral culpability (§2352).

In cauda venenum says the Latin proverb; that is, the venom is in the tail. Notice how in the last two examples, after having recalled the law, the Catechism completely waters down its strength. Certainly, the law exists; that is the thesis. In practice, in the hypothesis, it excuses so as to escape the consequences. This is a typically liberal approach.

Conclusion: a non-Catholic Catechism

Questioning, Indignation, Admiration

On the word of such favorable reports made by Catholic writers, amongst them friends of tradition, I opened with hope the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I read it ...I closed it again ...and this question which haunted the young Thomas Aquinas came to my mind:

Who is God? What is God? Would I dare add that the cry of indignation which shook the heavens when Lucifer revolted failed to shake my soul: Quis ut Deus? Who is like God?

And I was further tempted to take up again for myself the admiration of Jesus Christ for the dishonest steward: Et laudavit dominus villicum iniquitatis quia prudenter fecisset, "and the master praised the dishonest steward for the prudence of his conduct." Questioning, indignation, and admiration; such are the sentiments between which my mind oscillates at the end of this reading that I wished to be made with good will.

Questioning, for I didn’t find clear answers to the great questions that one can ask the Church: What is God?  What is the Church?  What is grace?  What is a sacrament?  What is the priest?  I found many descriptions, qualifications, and sometimes very beautiful and true considerations on these things, but hardly one of those good, precise definitions without ambiguity by which the Church has always loved to protect Her Faith. Not one time will you find, in order to define God, the words of St. John, "God is spirit," even though the Old Testament is abundantly cited. Of course, the other words of St. John, "God is love" are quoted. The Faith itself is presented to us firstly as "the response of man to God who reveals Himself" (§26). We must wait until paragraph 153 and following to see a more exact description, and until paragraph 1814 to have the definition of it.

Indignation, not only because of the manner in which God is treated, but because of the lot reserved to His Church. There is the mortal sin of this Catechism, which makes its own and puts into a structured form the sins of the Second Vatican Council:

  • doctrinal ecumenism,

  • religious liberalism,

  • collegiality,

  • and promotion of the common priesthood of the faithful to the detriment of the ministerial priesthood of priests (§§874-933),

  • the disappearing of the propitiatory finality of the Mass (§§1356-1381),

  • the judaizing of the Church (among other things, compare the subtle slide from the Jewish Passover to the Sacrifice of the Cross [§§1363-64]; the memorial seems to be the same).

  • We are beginning to ask ourselves what separates us from the Jews (§839) since we both await the same thing (§840), and since nearly all that is Catholic comes from the Jews (even the Our Father. §1096).

  • We must even place ourselves in their school to be good Catholics (ibid.).

  • We are more culpable than they for the death of Our Lord (§598: the Church does not hesitate to impute to the Christians the gravest responsibility for the suffering of Jesus), and above all, do not seek to know if our first martyrs were massacred by the Jews.

  • The Protestant and like sects are ordinary means of salvation (§819).

  • As far as the Orthodox are concerned, one could ask oneself truly if there is any problem (§839).

  • The Moslems believe in God the Creator (and therefore the Trinity?) and even, without doubt, in Jesus Christ since they have the faith of Abraham (§841).

With all of that, what above all constitutes the unity of the Church? You might think perhaps that it is the Faith? Certainly not!  It is charity! It is also faith, but in second place (§815). The Faith, even if it is affirmed as necessary for salvation (§161), is no longer considered as the beginning of salvation. It is no longer the point of departure for justification, and thus the fundamental bond of the Church. What a contrast with the magnificent decree of the Council of Trent concerning justification, so clear and precise! The Catechism teaches that the Church of Christ "subsists" in the Catholic Church, which is not the sole church of Christ, but only one of its manifestations (§816). Thus it can affirm that "outside the Church (understood as the church of Christ, and not the Catholic Church) there is no salvation".

As for the State, in these conditions, it is clear that it must not favor any religion whatever (§§2107, 2244 ff.), especially our own, which should not pretend to be the only true one, mistress of truth.

We can keep all our dogmas —and the essential is preserved except where the Church is concerned - but on condition that we admit and respect all the "elements of sanctification and of truth" contained in the other religions.

Some other questions merit a mention:

  • the ends of marriage are inverted (§1601 and §2201),

  • the regulation of births seems conformed to this inversion, since it suffices for "just reasons" (which?) to legitimize it;

  • the human conscience is the first of all the vicars of Christ (§1178);

  • charity is always expressed by respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience (§1789);

  • the human person is the principle, the subject and the end of all the social order (§§1881, 1907, 1929, and 1930);

  • respect for his dignity and his rights is the fundamental norm which rules the entire social order, and is expressed in the ten commandments (see for example abortion, §§2270-2273).

Finally, admiration before the cleverness of the editors, specialists of the modernist method. This work is very well done, and the method is skillful and cunning. Such is the great dishonesty of this work; there are indeed very beautiful reminders that one is happy to read, but the intellectual method is false and perverts all that the Catechism contains of good.

St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici gregis, September 8, 1907: understand them, to read them, one would be tempted to believe that they fall into contradiction with themselves...far from that; all is weighed, all is willed. One page of their work might have been written by a Catholic; turn the page, you think that you are reading a rationalist.

What is the point of departure of these reflections? Man, still more man, and always man. There where one awaits God one finds man. For example: the title of the first chapter consecrated to the faith (Man is Capable of God); the title of the first chapter consecrated to morality (The Dignity of the Human Person).

Equally, there is this other specialty of modernist thought:

to understand them, to read them, one would be tempted to believe that they fall into contradiction with themselves...far from that; all is weighed, all is willed. One page of their work might have been written by a Catholic; turn the page, you think that you are reading a rationalist.[89]

For example, there is paragraph 1698: the first and last reference of this catechesis shall be Jesus Christ. On the following page, the first question is: the dignity of the human person. Another example is paragraph 2105: the Church manifests thus the royalty of Christ over all creation and particularly over human societies. Turn the page and there is paragraph 2108: the natural right to civil liberty in religious matters.

Ultimum in executione, primum in intentione

This Catechism illustrates the justice of this adage of St. Thomas: Ultimum in executione, primum in intentione - That which is first in the order of intention is last in the order of execution. It comes at the last, but it reveals to us the intention of the reformers who have been at work in the Church for the past thirty years (an intention laid bare and denounced since the Council by Archbishop Lefebvre): to make, beyond a conciliar Church which no one can define, a new Catholic Church where the word universal signifies collegial, world-wide and cosmic, a Church for man, for all humanity justified by the incarnation of the divine Word. To this Church of the New Age of man, all men belong, whatever their religion, if they are faithful to their conscience and respectful of the conscience of others. The role of religion, in this liberal and cosmic Church, is not to transmit a truth of which it is the depository, but to give to men, in agreement with the other religions, a minimum ethic which permits each one to live happily and peacefully with his neighbor. What is this minimum? Recognition and respect for the dignity and rights of the human person.

This Catechism is the conclusion, the achievement, and the synthesis of thirty years of conciliar upheaval. It’s hour has come, as for Napoleon, to put an end to excesses - which strengthen its conservative side - and to structure in a coherent and ordered fashion the work of the Revolution.

Thus, it puts within the reach of all, as a summa theologica, all that remained inaccessible to the ordinary layman, all that was diffused, confused, and dispersed in a multitude of texts, discourses, and actions. It gives to all these errors legal and obligatory force. No one can not know any longer the conciliar law.

A remark: scrutinize the list of references. Amongst all the popes cited by the Catechism, for the twentieth century, only three are lacking: John Paul I (that is easily explained), Benedict XV (that is still plausible), and finally St. Pius X. This last, along with St. Pius V (who is mentioned once by Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Constitution), is never cited. Without doubt, he had nothing to teach us concerning the catechism, doctrine, the Mass, the Eucharist, or the priesthood?  Unless he had too much to teach us concerning modernism?

Bonum ex integra causa....

Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu - Good only exists if the thing is entirely good, evil where there is one sole fault, the scholastic adage rightly teaches us. This is even more true, one might say, in matters of faith. See what St. Thomas says: faith no longer remains in a man after he refuses one sole article of faith (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 5, A. 3); he who refuses with pertinacity to believe one of the points contained in the faith does not have the habitus of faith, while he possesses it who does not believe all explicitly, but is disposed to believe all (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 5, A. 4, ad 1); an infused habitus is lost by one sole contrary act (de Veritate, Q. 14, A. 10, ad 10).

Just as the Virgin Mary would not be immaculate if she had the lightest blemish, so the Catechism is not Catholic if the faith that it teaches is not whole, total, and clearly explained. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is therefore not Catholic.  It expresses the conciliar ecstasy before the splendor of man, and can only seduce the poor Christians severed for the past thirty years from all serious doctrinal formation. It is a symphony too discordant not to grate on the Catholic faith; it is the symphony of the new world, for the New Age of man in the third millennium.

The ancient or recent heresies have all been subtly danced around with such ambiguity so as to teach a new, more subtle one, and which one day shall be formally condemned as heresy; this new error bears upon the relations between the natural and supernatural order, which are theoretically distinguished but practically confused. It places in man a need for happiness in place of recognizing in him a natural desire for happiness. It confuses, moreover, this desire-need for happiness with the search for God or Jesus Christ. Its argument can be reduced to the following line of reasoning: God wants all men to be saved; now, God is good and powerful enough to save all men; therefore, he has placed in each one the need for happiness.

This passage taken from the Catechism is, in some way, its self-portrait, at the same time that it depicts perfectly the baleful and mortal imposture which has invaded the Church since Vatican II:

Before the coming of Christ, the Church must pass through a final trial which will shake the faith of numerous believers.[90] The persecution which accompanies its pilgrimage upon earth[91] will unveil the "mystery of iniquity," under the form of a religious imposture offering to men an apparent solution to their problems, at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious imposture is that of the Antichrist, that is to say, that of a pseudo-messianism where man glorifies himself in the place of God, and of His Messiah come in the flesh[92] (§675).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a non-Catholic Catechism, that of

a religion more universal than the Catholic Church, reuniting all men finally become brethren and comrades in ‘the Kingdom of God.’ One does not work for the Church, one works for humanity.[93]

< part 3

63. GS, 25, par 1

64. SRS, 47

65. GS, 22 par 1

66. Cf. II Cor. 4:4

67. Cf. GS, 22 par 2 

68. Cf. Mt. 7:13-14

69. Cf. Mt. 7:21-27

70. Cf. Lk. 6:31

71. Cf. Jn 15:12

72. Cf. Lk. 15:11-31

73. GS, 16.

74. Cf. CDF, Instruction Donum vitae 1,1

75. Cf. Luke 23:40-43

76. GS, 25, par 1

77. Cf. Gen.1:26-29

78. Cf. I Cor. 6:15-20

79. Cf. RP, 16

80. Cf. RP, 16

81. CDF, instruction Libertatis conscientia, 13

82. GS, 29, par 3

83. Cf. CA, 41

84. Pius XII, discourse of June 1, 1941

85. GS, 16

86. Cf. Rom.1:18

87. GS, 19 par 3

88. CDF, declaration Persona humana, 9

89. St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici gregis, Sept. 8 1907

90. Cf. Lk. 18:8, Mt. 24:12

91. Cf. Lk.21:12, Jn.15:19-20

92. Cf. II Thess. 2:4-12, I Thess. 5:2-3, II J. 2: 18-22

93. St. Pius X, Notre charge apostolique, Aug. 25, 191 © 2013                    home                    contact