This lesson is based on the text, Life in Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, by Rev. Gerard Weber and Rev. James Killgallon (Acta Publications, 1995). The question in bold type is followed by a short answer taken from the text. The text in italics is another answer from the RCIA teacher, Jim Collins. Hyperlinks in red will direct you to documents or websites related to the topic. The entire sequence of lessons forms a comprehensive approach to basic RCIA instruction.
Questions and answers: Section 31: Foundations of the Moral Life
Where do Christians get the strength to live a moral life? By being united with Christ in baptism and becoming temples of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and penance
What is the basis of human dignity? We are made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27). The basis is that we are all created by God
Why, then, do we sin? Because of the human misuse of free will at the beginning of history. It can be overcome by God’s gift of divine life, grace. We have inherited an inclination to sin from Adam and Eve (original sin).
How can we determine the morality of our actions? Three ways: object, matter, action. We have an innate sense of sin from the natural law. When confused we can seek guidance from the Catholic Church which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
When is an action morally good? The act, the purpose, and the circumstances all must be good. Some actions such as adultery and perjury are always morally wrong. An action is morally good when it conforms with the will of God and his directives.
How does a person come to know, in a personal way, moral truth? Our consciences tell us what is good or evil. We are responsible to form our consciences correctly. Seeking guidance from the Catholic Church will help.
How does a person form a good conscience? By reading the scriptures and seeking the guidance of the Church. Also by seeking the wisdom of holy priests whose advice will not contradict the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
What is sin? Saying no to God and to His plan for us, a willful disobedience of God: action, thought, desire, intention, word, omission, failure to love; also, sins against ourselves or our neighbor. Any offense against God.
How can an internal act be sinful? The essence of sin lies in the thought, desire, or intention. As soon as we deliberately desire or intend to perform a sinful act we have already offended God. (Mt 5:28) Every action has an effect on others even if it is done in private. When we become weak because of our sinfulness, we weaken the Body of Christ.
What are the different kinds of sins? Original sin, actual or personal sin (mortal or venial). Mortal and Venial Sin
What is mortal sin? Serious matter, full knowledge, full consent. A very serious sin which breaks our relationship with God and will prevent us from entering Heaven.
What are the effects of mortal sin? (a) destroys our divine life; (b) breaks our relationship with God; (c) alienates us from God, perhaps forever. Mortal sin breaks our relationship with God, prevents us from entering Heaven, and weakens us so that we may become blind to other sin or become easily inclined to sin more often and more seriously.
What is venial sin? A less serious offense against God. It is an act which offends God but does not jeopardize our eternal salvation.
Can a sin be fully deliberate and yet be only venial? Deliberate venial sin lessens the intimacy between us and God. Habitual venial sin brings about a sate of spiritual lukewarmness. The gravity of sin is determined my matter, knowledge, and consent. If we are deliberate (full consent) in our sin, but if the matter is not serious or the knowledge complete, then we have committed a venial, not mortal sin.
How do we know whether an action is sinful? Our conscience tells us. We have an innate sense (natural law) of doing something which offends God or we have learned what offends God by studying the moral teaching of the Church.
Can mortal sin be forgiven? God not only forgives the sin but he also restores the divine life and the gifts of faith, hope and love. Jesus died on the Cross to forgive all sin, so even mortal sin may be forgiven.
What happens to one who dies in the state of mortal sin? That person will continue to reject god for all eternity and will, therefore, spend eternity in hell. The person who dies in the state of mortal sin without repentance will go to Hell.
What is hell? It is a state of eternal damnation, deprived of God and of all happiness. Hell is the place where Satan and all the bad angels are and where those who reject God through mortal sin will be.
Does the all-merciful God send anyone to hell? Sinners send themselves to hell. Each person decides by their actions if they will go to hell. If a person commits mortal sin, he has broken his relationship with God and has chosen Hell instead of Heaven. God will not force us to do what have chosen not to do. People go to Hell of their own free will. God honors their free will.
What is purgatory? A state of purification after death for those who die without repenting of their venial sins. Purgatory is a temporary process of purification whereby those who have died with venial (not mortal) sin may be purified to enter Heaven.
What is temptation? An inducement or attraction to sin. An inclination or prompting to sin
What are the sources of temptation? The world, the devil, and our own inclinations to sin (the flesh). Some sources are bad companions, bad media, bad surroundings.
What are the capital sins? Pride, avarice (insatiable desire for wealth or gain) , lust, envy, gluttony, anger, sloth. Sins that have been identified as the principal ways of seriously offending God.
Section 32: Foundations of the Moral Life (Continued)
What is the social foundation of the moral life? We cannot separate love of God and Neighbor. We are to be committed to the good of the individual and to society. We are affected by others behavior and we affect others by our behavior.
What is the common good? The sum total of social conditions enabling groups and individuals to achieve perfection more readily and completely. Three essential elements: (1) respect for each other; (2) the social well-being and development of the group itself; (3) the promotion of peace between individuals and groups. Whatever we do that inclines others to be good. Building up the Body of Christ.
What is the responsibility of individuals to promote the common good? We are responsible to promote the common good at home, work, in public life (local, national, international.). Each individual is responsible to help others to be good not evil.
What is social justice? The effort to help individuals and groups realize those conditions under which they can obtain that which they are due. Justice for all society.
What is the moral law? A way of living and acting that allows us to experience the true happiness that God has promised us. The law which deals with our behavior, determining what is right and wrong.
What is the “natural” moral law? Our inborn ability to know right from wrong. Our internal sense of right and wrong.
What are the “Old Law” and the “New Law?” The Old Law is the law given to Moses. The New Law is the extension of that law with the Beatitudes. The Old Law is imperfect because it does not offer the grace to live the law of love fully. The New Law calls for a true reform of the human heart.
How do we come to know moral truth? From the authentic teaching of the Church (Magisterium) 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. Through the natural law and educating ourselves with the wisdom of the moral teaching of the Church.
Why does the Church create its own laws? The Church does not create its own laws. It discerns (discovers) the will of God about our moral behavior through the Holy Spirit present in the Church which Jesus Christ founded. The Church emphasizes that changing our hearts and loving our neighbor is much more important than fulfilling the minimum requirements of the law.
What are the laws or precepts of the Church? These are the basic guidelines for living a good Christian life in the Catholic Church. They provide the minimal basis for a prayerful moral life: (1) attend Mass on Sundays; (2) confess your sins at least once a year; (3) receive Holy Communion at least during the Easter Season; (4) Keep holy the holy days of obligation:
January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God;
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension;
August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary;
November 1, the solemnity of All Saints;
December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;
December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
(5) Observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence (see notes at end of chapter); also provide for the support of the material needs of the Church.
Saint Dominic, you spent your short life totally for love of Jesus and His
Mother. Help youth today to realize the importance of God in their lives. You
became a saint through fervent participation in the sacraments. Enlighten
parents and children to the importance of frequent confession and Holy
Communion. At a young age you meditated on the sorrowful Passion of Our Lord.
Obtain for us the grace of a fervent desire to suffer for love of Him.
We desperately need your intercession to protect today's children from the snares of the world. Watch over them and lead them on the narrow road to Heaven. Ask God to give us the grace to sanctify our daily duties by performing them perfectly out of love for Him. Remind us of the necessity of practicing virtue especially in times of trial.
Saint Dominic Savio, you who preserved your Baptismal innocence of heart, pray for us.