Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part Three: Life in Christ
Section One: Man's Vocation in the Spirit
Chapter Three: God's Salvation: Law and Grace
1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by Sin, man stands in need of
salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law
that guides him and the Grace that sustains him:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in
you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Article 1: The Moral Law
1950 The Moral Law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can
be defined as fatherly instruction, God's pedagogy. It prescribes for man
the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it
proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love. It
is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love.
1951 Law is a rule of conduct enacted by competent Authority for the sake
of The Common Good. The Moral Law presupposes the rational order,
established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end,
by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator. All law finds its first
and ultimate truth in the eternal law. Law is declared and established by
reason as a participation in the providence of the living God, Creator and
Redeemer of all. "Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law."
Alone among all animate beings, man can boast of having been counted
worthy to receive a law from God: as an animal endowed with reason,
capable of understanding and discernment, he is to govern his conduct by
uSing his freedom and reason, in obedience to the One who has entrusted
everything to him.
1952 There are different expressions of The Moral Law, all of them
interrelated: eternal law - the source, in God, of all law; natural law;
revealed law, compriSing The Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the
Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws.
1953 The Moral Law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ. Jesus
Christ is in person the way of perfection. He is the end of the law, for
only he teaches and bestows the justice of God: "For Christ is the end of
the law, that every one who has faith may be justified."
I. THE NATURAL MORAL LAW
1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives
him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to
the true and the good. The Natural Law expresses the original moral sense
which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth
and the lie:
The Natural Law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man,
because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to
Sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law
if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our
spirit and our freedom must be submitted.
1955 The "divine and natural" law shows man the way to follow so as to
practice the good and attain his end. The Natural Law states the first and
essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire
for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is
good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its
principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called
"natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but
because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we
call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes
into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it,
but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes
onto wax, without leaving the ring.
The Natural Law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in
us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God
has given this light or law at the creation.
1956 The Natural Law, present in the heart of each man and established by
reason, is universal in its precepts and its Authority extends to all men.
It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his
fundamental rights and duties:
For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is
diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to
duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense .... To replace it with a
contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions
is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.
1957 Application of The Natural Law varies greatly; it can demand
reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to
places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of
cultures, The Natural Law remains as a rule that binds men among
themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common
1958 The Natural Law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations
of history; it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and
supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially
valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be
destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the
life of individuals and societies:
Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is
written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not
1959 The Natural Law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid
foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide
his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for
building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis
for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that
draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and
1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and
immediately. In the present situation Sinful man needs Grace and
revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with
facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error." The
natural law provides revealed law and Grace with a foundation prepared by
God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.
II. The Old Law
1961 God, our Creator and Redeemer, chose Israel for himself to be his
people and revealed his Law to them, thus preparing for the coming of
Christ. The Law of Moses expresses many truths naturally accessible to
reason. These are stated and authenticated within the covenant of
1962 The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral
prescriptions are summed up in The Ten Commandments. The precepts of the
Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the
image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and
neighbor and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light
offered to the conscience of every man to make God's call and ways known
to him and to protect him against evil:
God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their
1963 According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and
good, yet still imperfect. Like a tutor it shows what must be
done, but does not of itself give the strength, the Grace of the Spirit,
to fulfill it. Because of Sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of
bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and
disclose Sin, which constitutes a "law of concupiscence" in the human
heart. However, the Law remains the first stage on the way to the
kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for
conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides a teaching which
endures for ever, like the Word of God.
1964 The Old Law is a preparation for the Gospel. "The Law is a pedagogy
and a prophecy of things to come." It prophesies and presages the work
of liberation from Sin which will be fulfilled in Christ: it provides the
New Testament with images, "types," and symbols for expresSing the life
according to the Spirit. Finally, the Law is completed by the teaching of
the sapiential books and the prophets which set its course toward the New
Covenant and the Kingdom of heaven.
There were . . . under the regimen of the Old Covenant, people who
possessed the charity and Grace of the Holy Spirit and longed above all
for the spiritual and eternal promises by which they were associated with
the New Law. Conversely, there exist carnal men under the New Covenant
still distanced from the perfection of the New Law: the fear of punishment
and certain temporal promises have been necessary, even under the New
Covenant, to incite them to virtuous works. In any case, even though the
Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through whom
"God's charity has been poured into our hearts."
III. THE NEW LAW OR THE LAW OF THE GOSPEL
1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth
of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is
expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of
the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: "I
will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel.... I will put my
laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their
God, and they shall be my people."
1966 The New Law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful
through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on
the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to
give us the Grace to do it:
If anyone should meditate with devotion and perspicacity on the sermon our
Lord gave on the mount, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, he will
doubtless find there . . . the perfect way of the Christian life.... This
sermon contains ... all the precepts needed to shape one's life.
1967 The Law of the Gospel "fulfills," refines, surpasses, and leads the
Old Law to its perfection. In The Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the
divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the "kingdom of
heaven." It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with
faith - the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those
persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surpriSing ways of
1968 The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The
Lord's Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral
prescriptions of The Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new
demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth.
It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart,
the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the
impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the
other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through
imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of
enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine
1969 The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and
fasting, directing them to the "Father who sees in secret," in contrast
with the desire to "be seen by men." Its prayer is the Our Father.
1970 The Law of the Gospel requires us to make the decisive choice between
"the two ways" and to put into practice the words of the Lord. It is
summed up in the Golden Rule, "Whatever you wish that men would do to you,
do so to them; this is the law and the prophets."
The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the "new commandment" of
Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.
1971 To the Lord's Sermon on the Mount it is fitting to add the moral
catechesis of the apostolic teachings, such as Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians
12-13, Colossians 3-4, Ephesians 4-5, etc. This doctrine hands on the
Lord's teaching with the Authority of the apostles, particularly in the
presentation of The Virtues that flow from faith in Christ and are
animated by charity, the principal gift of the Holy Spirit. "Let charity
be genuine.... Love one another with brotherly affection.... Rejoice in
your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to
the needs of the saints, practice hospitality." This catechesis also
teaches us to deal with cases of conscience in the light of our
relationship to Christ and to the Church.
1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of
the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of
Grace, because it confers the strength of Grace to act, by means of faith
and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the
ritual and juridical observances of The Old Law, inclines us to act
spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from
the condition of a servant who "does not know what his master is doing" to
that of a friend of Christ - "For all that I have heard from my Father I
have made known to you" - or even to the status of son and heir.
1973 Besides its precepts, the New Law also includes the evangelical
counsels. The traditional distinction between God's commandments and the
evangelical counsels is drawn in relation to charity, the perfection of
Christian life. The precepts are intended to remove whatever is
incompatible with charity. The aim of the counsels is to remove whatever
might hinder the development of charity, even if it is not contrary to
1974 The evangelical counsels manifest the living fullness of charity,
which is never satisfied with not giving more. They attest its vitality
and call forth our spiritual readiness. The perfection of the New Law
consists essentially in the precepts of love of God and neighbor. The
counsels point out the more direct ways, the readier means, and are to be
practiced in keeping with the vocation of each:
[God] does not want each person to keep all the counsels, but only those
appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and
strengths, as charity requires; for it is charity, as queen of all
virtues, all commandments, all counsels, and, in short, of all laws and
all Christian actions that gives to all of them their rank, order, time,
1975 According to Scripture the Law is a fatherly instruction by God which
prescribes for man the ways that lead to the promised beatitude, and
proscribes the ways of evil.
1976 "Law is an ordinance of reason for The Common Good, promulgated by
the one who is in charge of the community" (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,
1977 Christ is the end of the law (cf. Rom 10:4); only he teaches and
bestows the justice of God.
1978 The Natural Law is a participation in God's wisdom and goodness by
man formed in the image of his Creator. It expresses the dignity of the
human person and forms the basis of his fundamental rights and duties.
1979 The Natural Law is immutable, permanent throughout history. The rules
that express it remain substantially valid. It is a necessary foundation
for the erection of moral rules and civil law.
1980 The Old Law is the first stage of revealed law. Its moral
prescriptions are summed up in The Ten Commandments.
1981 The Law of Moses contains many truths naturally accessible to reason.
God has revealed them because men did not read them in their hearts.
1982 The Old Law is a preparation for the Gospel.
1983 The New Law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit received by faith in
Christ, operating through charity. It finds expression above all in the
Lord's Sermon on the Mount and uses the sacraments to communicate Grace to
1984 The Law of the Gospel fulfills and surpasses The Old Law and brings
it to perfection: its promises, through The Beatitudes of the Kingdom of
heaven; its commandments, by reforming the heart, the root of human acts.
1985 The New Law is a law of love, a law of Grace, a law of freedom.
1986 Besides its precepts the New Law includes the evangelical counsels.
"The Church's holiness is fostered in a special way by the manifold
counsels which the Lord proposes to his disciples in the Gospel" (LG 42 #
Article 2: Grace and Justification
1987 The Grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to
cleanse us from our Sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of
God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:
But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with
him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die
again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to
Sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must
consider yourselves as dead to Sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion
by dying to Sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we
are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the
vine which is himself:
[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the
Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature.... For this reason,
those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.
1989 The first work of the Grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion,
effecting Justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the
beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand." Moved by Grace, man turns toward God and away from Sin, thus
accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is
not only the remission of Sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of
the interior man.
1990 Justification detaches man from Sin which contradicts the love of
God, and purifies his heart of Sin. Justification follows upon God's
merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God.
It frees from the enslavement to Sin, and it heals.
1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's
righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice")
here means the rectitude of divine love. With Justification, faith, hope,
and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will
is granted us.
1992 Justification has been Merited for us by the Passion of Christ who
offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleaSing to God,
and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the Sins of all
men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It
conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the
power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the
gift of eternal life:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law,
although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of
God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no
distinction: Since all have Sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
they are justified by his Grace as a gift, through the redemption which is
in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be
received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his
divine forbearance he had passed over former Sins; it was to prove at the
present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who
has faith in Jesus.
1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's Grace and man's
freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word
of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity
with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his
When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit,
man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, Since he
could reject it; and yet, without God's Grace, he cannot by his own free
will move himself toward justice in God's sight.
1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest
in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St.
Augustine that "the Justification of the wicked is a greater work than the
creation of heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away
but the salvation and Justification of the elect . . . will not pass
away." He holds also that the Justification of Sinners surpasses the
creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater
1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth
to the "inner man," Justification entails the sanctification of his
Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and
greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for
sanctification.... But now that you have been set free from Sin and have
become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end,
1996 Our Justification comes from the Grace of God. Grace is favor, the
free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to
become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and
of eternal life.
1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into
the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in
the Grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can
henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the
life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.
1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on
God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It
surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other
1999 The Grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of
his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of Sin
and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying Grace received in
Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:
Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has
passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through
Christ reconciled us to himself.
2000 Sanctifying Grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural
disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God,
to act by his love. Habitual Grace, the permanent disposition to live and
act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual Graces which
refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in
the course of the work of sanctification.
2001 The preparation of man for the reception of Grace is already a work
of Grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration
in Justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God
brings to completion in us what he has begun, "Since he who completes his
work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will
Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for
his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be
healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes
before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be
glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us
so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do
2002 God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has
created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the
power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the
communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of
man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he
can satisfy. The promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to
If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh
day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our
works, which are indeed "very good" Since you have given them to us, we
shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.
2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and
sanctifies us. But Grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants
us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the
salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.
There are sacramental Graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments.
There are furthermore special Graces, also called charisms after the Greek
term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift,"
"benefit." Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary,
such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward
sanctifying Grace and are intended for The Common Good of the Church. They
are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.
2004 Among the special Graces ought to be mentioned the Graces of state
that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life
and of the ministries within the Church:
Having gifts that differ according to the Grace given to us, let us use
them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving;
he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he
who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does
acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, Grace escapes our
experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely
on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and
saved. However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them
by their fruits" - reflection on God's blesSings in our life and in
the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that Grace is at work in us
and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful
A pleaSing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan
of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked
if she knew that she was in God's Grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it
please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me
You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their
Merits you are crowning your own gifts.
2006 The term "Merit" refers in general to the recompense owed by a
community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced
either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is
relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of
equality which governs it.
2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any Merit on the part
of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we
have received everything from him, our Creator.
2008 The Merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the
fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his
Grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then
follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the Merit of
good works is to be attributed in the first place to the Grace of God,
then to the faithful. Man's Merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his
good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance
given by the Holy Spirit.
2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by Grace in the divine
nature, can bestow true Merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous
justice. This is our right by Grace, the full right of love, making us
"co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance
of eternal life." The Merits of our good works are gifts of the divine
goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due....
Our Merits are God's gifts."
2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of Grace, no one can
Merit the initial Grace of forgiveness and Justification, at the beginning
of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then Merit
for ourselves and for others the Graces needed for our sanctification, for
the increase of Grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.
Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be Merited in
accordance with God's wisdom. These Graces and goods are the object of
Christian Prayer. Prayer attends to the Grace we need for Meritorious
2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our Merits before
God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the
supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their Merit before God
and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their
Merits were pure Grace.
After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I
do not want to lay up Merits for heaven. I want to work for your love
alone.... In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with
empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our
justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own
justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of
IV. Christian Holiness
2012 "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love
him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed
to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among
many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those
whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also
2013 "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the
fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity." All are
called to holiness: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength
dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that . . . doing the will of the
Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the
glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of
the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in
the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.
2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ.
This union is called "mystical" because it participates in the mystery of
Christ through the sacraments - "the holy mysteries" - and, in him, in the
mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with
him, even if the special Graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical
life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous
gift given to all.
2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no
holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress
entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the
peace and joy of The Beatitudes:
He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through
beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already
2016 The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the Grace
of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good
works accomplished with his Grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the
same rule of life, believers share the "blessed hope" of those whom the
divine mercy gathers into the "holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
2017 The Grace of the Holy Spirit confers upon us the righteousness of
God. Uniting us by faith and Baptism to the Passion and Resurrection of
Christ, the Spirit makes us sharers in his life.
2018 Like conversion, Justification has two aspects. Moved by Grace, man
turns toward God and away from Sin, and so accepts forgiveness and
righteousness from on high.
2019 Justification includes the remission of Sins, sanctification, and the
renewal of the inner man.
2020 Justification has been Merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is
granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God,
who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and
the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy.
2021 Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming
his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian
2022 The divine initiative in the work of Grace precedes, prepares, and
elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings
of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects
2023 Sanctifying Grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes
to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of Sin
and to sanctify it.
2024 Sanctifying Grace makes us "pleaSing to God." Charisms, special
Graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying Grace and are
intended for The Common Good of the Church. God also acts through many
actual Graces, to be distinguished from habitual Grace which is permanent
2025 We can have Merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to
associate man with the work of his Grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the
first place to the Grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration.
Man's Merit is due to God.
2026 The Grace of the Holy Spirit can confer true Merit on us, by virtue
of our adoptive filiation, and in accordance with God's gratuitous
justice. Charity is the principal source of Merit in us before God.
2027 No one can Merit the initial Grace which is at the origin of
conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can Merit for ourselves and for
others all the Graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary
2028 "All Christians . . . are called to the fullness of Christian life
and to the perfection of charity" (LG 40 # 2). "Christian perfection has
but one limit, that of having none" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De vita Mos.:
PG 44, 300D).
2029 "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his
cross and follow me" (Mt 16:24).
2030 It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the
Christian fulfills his vocation. From the Church he receives the Word of
God containing the teachings of "the law of Christ." From the Church
he receives the Grace of the sacraments that sustains him on the "way."
From the Church he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model
and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary; he discerns it in the authentic
witness of those who live it; he discovers it in the spiritual tradition
and long history of the saints who have gone before him and whom the
liturgy celebrates in the rhythms of the sanctoral cycle.
2031 The moral life is spiritual worship. We "present [our] bodies as a
living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God," within the Body of
Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist.
In the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching
are conjoined with the Grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian
activity. As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds
its source and summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
I. Moral Life and the Magisterium of the Church
2032 The Church, the "pillar and bulwark of the truth," "has received this
solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving
truth." "To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to
announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order,
and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are
required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of
2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is
ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the
works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to
generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors, the "deposit" of
Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a
characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from
faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our
Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue
which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.
2034 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are "authentic teachers, that is,
teachers endowed with the Authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the
people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into
practice." The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the
bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the
charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.
2035 The supreme degree of participation in the Authority of Christ is
ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far
as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those
elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of
the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.
2036 The Authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific
precepts of The Natural Law, because their observance, demanded by the
Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the
natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of
its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and
reminding them of what they should be before God.
2037 The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as
the way of life and truth. The faithful therefore have the right to be
instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with
Grace, heal wounded human reason. They have the duty of observing the
constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate Authority of the
Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations
call for docility in charity.
2038 In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church
needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the
contribution of all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the
practice of the Gospel provide each person with an experience of life "in
Christ," who enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and
human realities according to the Spirit of God. Thus the Holy Spirit
can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest
2039 Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and
dedication to the Church, in the name of the Lord. At the same time
the conscience of each person should avoid confining itself to
individualistic considerations in its moral judgments of the person's own
acts. As far as possible conscience should take account of the good of
all, as expressed in The Moral Law, natural and revealed, and consequently
in the law of the Church and in the authoritative teaching of the
Magisterium on moral questions. Personal conscience and reason should not
be set in opposition to The Moral Law or the Magisterium of the Church.
2040 Thus a true filial spirit toward the Church can develop among
Christians. It is the normal flowering of the baptismal Grace which has
begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of
Christ. In her motherly care, the Church grants us the mercy of God which
prevails over all our Sins and is especially at work in the sacrament of
reconciliation. With a mother's foresight, she also lavishes on us day
after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the
II. The Precepts of the Church
2041 The Precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life
bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of
these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to
guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of
prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:
2042 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of
obligation.") requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic
celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day
commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.
The second precept ("You shall confess your Sins at least once a year.")
ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of
reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and
The third precept ("You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy
Communion at least during the Easter season.") guarantees as a minimum the
reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal
feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.
2043 The fourth precept ("You shall keep holy the holy days of
obligation.") completes the Sunday observance by participation in the
principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the
Virgin Mary, and the saints.
The fifth precept ("You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and
abstinence.") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us
for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts
and freedom of heart.
The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the
Church, each according to his abilities.
III. Moral Life and Missionary Witness
2044 The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the
proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church's mission in the world. In
order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and
radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life
of Christians. "The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a
supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to
2045 Because they are members of the Body whose Head is Christ,
Christians contribute to building up the Church by the constancy of their
convictions and their moral lives. The Church increases, grows, and
develops through the holiness of her faithful, until "we all attain to the
unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature
manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
2046 By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of
the Reign of God, "a kingdom of justice, love, and peace." They do
not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master,
they fulfill them with uprightness, patience, and love.
2047 The moral life is a spiritual worship. Christian activity finds its
nourishment in the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments.
2048 The Precepts of the Church concern the moral and Christian life
united with the liturgy and nourished by it.
2049 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is
ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, on the basis of the
Decalogue which states the principles of moral life valid for every man.
2050 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, as authentic teachers, preach to
the People of God the faith which is to be believed and applied in moral
life. It is also encumbent on them to pronounce on moral questions that
fall within The Natural Law and reason.
2051 The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all
the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the
saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.
The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20 2-17
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of
the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a
graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that
is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you
shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a
jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the
third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing
steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD
will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Remember The Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and
do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God;
in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your
manservant or your maidservant or your cattle, or the sojourner who is
within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the
sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the
Lord blessed The Sabbath Day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land
which the LORD your God gives you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your
neighbor's wife, or his manservant or his maidservant or his ox, or his
ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of
the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before me . . .
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain . . .
Observe The Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. . .
Honor your father and your mother . . .
You shall not kill.
Neither shall you commit adultery.
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife .
You shall not desire . . . anything that is your neighbor's.
A Traditional Catechetical Formula
1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy The Lord's Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum: AAS 20 (1887/88), 597; cf. St.
Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 90, 1.
Cf. Tertullian, Adv. Marc, 2, 4: PL 2, 288-289.
Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, 597.
GS 89 # 1.
St. Augustine, De Trin. 14, 15, 21: PL 42,1052.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. I.
Cicero, Rep. III, 22, 33.
Cf. GS 10.
St. Augustine, Conf. 2, 4, 9: PL 32, 678.
Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2: DS 3005.
St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 57, 1: PL 36, 673.
Cf. Rom 7:12, 14, 16.
Cf. Gal 3:24.
Cf. Rom 7.
St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 15, 1: PG 7/1, 1012.
St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 107, 1 ad 2; cf. Rom 5:5.
Heb 8:8, 10; cf. Jer 31:31-34.
St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. 1, 1: PL 34,1229-1230.
Cf. Mt 5:17-19.
Cf. Mt 15:18-19.
Cf. Mt 5:44,48.
Cf. Mt 6:1-6; 16-18.
Cf. Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4.
Cf. Mt 7:13-14,21-27.
Mt 7:12; cf. Lk 6:31.
Cf. Jn 15:12; 13:34.
Cf. Rom 14; 1 Cor 5-10.
Jn 15:15; cf. Jas 1:25; 2:12; Gal 4:1-7.21-31; Rom 8:15.
Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 184, 3.
St. Francis de Sales, Love of God 8, 6.
Rom 3:22; cf. 6:3-4.
Cf. 1 Cor 12; Jn 15:1 4.
St. Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24: PG 26, 585 and 588.
Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.
Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1529.
Council of Trent (1547): DS 1525.
St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 72, 3: PL 35, 1823.
Cf. Rom 7:22; Eph 3:16.
Rom 6:19, 22.
Cf. Jn 1:12-18; 17:3; Rom 8:14-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4.
Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9.
Cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39.
2 Cor 5:17-18.
St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17: PL 44, 901.
St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31: PL 44, 264.
St. Augustine, Conf. 13, 36, 51: PL 32, 868; cf. Gen 1:31.
Cf. LG 12.
Cf. 1 Cor 12.
Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1533-1534.
Acts of the trial of St. Joan of Arc.
Roman Missal, Prefatio I de sanctis; Qui in Sanctorum concilio
celebraris, et eorum coronando Merita tua dona coronas, citing the "Doctor
of Grace," St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 102, 7: PL 37, 1321-1322.
Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
St. Augustine, Sermo 298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.
St. Therese of Lisieux, "Act of Offering" in Story of a Soul, tr. John
Clarke (Washington Dc: ICS, 1981), 277.
LG 40 # 2.
LG 40 # 2.
Cf. 2 Tim 4.
St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8: PG 44, 941C.
Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1576.
1 Tim 3:15; LG 17.
CIC, can. 747 # 2.
Cf. LG 25; CDF, declaration, Mysterium Ecclesiae 3.
Cf. DH 14.
Cf. CIC, can. 213.
Cf. 1 Cor 2:10-15.
Cf. Rom 12:8, 11.
Cf. CIC, cann. 1246-1248; CCEO, can. 881 # 1, # 2, # 4.
Cf. CIC, can. 989; CCEO, can. 719.
Cf. CIC, can. 920; CCEO, cann. 708; 881 # 3.
Cf. CIC, can. 1246; CCEO, cann. 881 # 1, # 4; 880 # 3.
Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO, can. 882.
Cf. CIC, can. 222.
AA 6 # 2.
Cf. Eph 1:22.
Eph 4:13; cf. LG 39.
Roman Missal, Preface of Christ the King.