Saturday, September 03, 2011
1. As a young seminarian I used to study moral theology. And I remember a small outline I had that gave a summary of moral theology. And I found nothing wrong with it because it was based on the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. Then as a young priest I remember attending sessions called "casus conscientiae" where we discussed certain acts to find out if they are moral or immoral. The basis of the discussion is again the 10 commandments of the Old Testament.
When I gave retreats and help prepare the retreatants for confession I tell them to read the examination of conscience in the Missal. They were descriptions of sins against the 10 commandments of the Old Testament.
And when they came for confession they confess: I told lies, I committed adultery, etc. which are violations of the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. And so the impression given me is that to go to heaven we must simply obey the 10 commandments of the Old Testament.
2. But these days things had gone worst. The 10 commandments were simply thrown away. Young couples lived together without marriage and man marry man, babies are aborted and woman practice family planning. Morality became confusing. If two pagans consent to live together as man and wife, moral theology states that they are married and the Church recognizes such marriages. Why is it immoral when two Catholics agree together with out the benefit of the Sacrament. Is there a natural law that governs the pagans and another that governs Catholics? And man marrying another man, there is no such prohibition in the 10 commandments. Aborting babies might be obviously sinful because it is against the command "Thou shalt not kill." But family planning if we do not use abortifacient methods, is it immoral?
3. Then one thing became obvious. The commands in the Old Testament are commands in the natural level so even pagans can obey them. And these commands are guides to fulfilling the natural law. But the New Testament is the era of grace and belongs to the supernatural level so those outside the Church cannot even know them and much less obey them.
And while the commands in the Old Testament are commanded, the commands of the New Testament are counselled because those with Faith do not need to be commanded. They are made to be attracted to what is good like the Beatitudes. The spirituality of the New Testament is based on the Beatitudes. We cannot begin even with the first Beatitudes unless we have finished our repentance, obeyed the 10 Commandments and have the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. And the way God encourages us to grow in the virtues is not by commands but by counsels like the counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
4. In the New Testament confession must sound like this: I was not poor in spirit. Or I am rich in spirit. Now wait a minute. In the New Testament Catholics should not confess that way because they do not commit such sins. Their sins would largely be venial sins because they have entered into the life of grace and have received the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. So their confession should be something like this: I was drowsy during rosary. Or I lost my attention briefly during Mass.
When Catholics are against abortion because they are pro-life that is good and right. But that is Old Testament spirituality in obedience to the command Thou shalt not kill. And this is the same when Catholics are against family planning because it is often abortifacient. If Catholics would be acting according to New Testament spirituality they would say: they are against abortion because the guilty mother does not love herself properly, does not love her husband and children, does not love her neighbor and other children and does not love God .....and this will make her unhappy in this world and eternally unhappy in the next world. The same reasoning goes why we are against family planning.
5 In the New Testament morality is seen not in the physical acts of men but from his inner spiritual activities.
6. New Testament morality comes from the interior of man's soul, from the virtues dwelling in his mind and free will and not merely from his actions. Today's morality is focused on externals and not in internals.
7. Internal morality is the way St. Paul analyzes the morality of those he was correcting. Let us take an illustration. In 1Cor. St. Paul writes: If I speak in human an angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Then St. Paul describes the virtue of Charity.
8. A New Testament confession should sound like this: I have been proud and pride had made all the things I did sinful. Or, I have no Charity and because of this everything I did was useless.
The basis of morality in the New Testament are the virtues and not the commandments. The virtues more specifically Faith, Hope and Charity.
9. If I am a great preacher, even if I can teach all the commandments of Christ in the New Testament and expound all the teachings of the Catholic Church, even if I have great Faith and walk over waters, even if I go home sell all I own like the young rich man and give everything away, even if I offer my body to martyrdom........St. Paul did not say I would be canonized. He said I am nothing. . . if I do not have the virtue of Charity. So what made all those activities moral and deserving of heaven is if it is done with Charity. The deeds themselves are of no consequence. What counts is how it was done.
10. It is not the preaching that is the moral act that will save me but the virtue of Charity that moves me to preach. Charity is what makes our preaching a moral act.
11. The principle of Catholic morality is this: acts that are products of supernatural virtues are moral acts. Acts that are products of vices are immoral acts. So St. Paul, that great moralist writes in Colosians: Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly, immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry....put them all away, anger, fury, malice, slander. Then St. Paul shows the internal source of the vices then shows the external manifestations of the vices: stop lying.
12. Then St. Paul tells us to put on the virtues that dictates the morality of our actions: put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Then he gives external manifestations of these internal forces; wives, be subject to your husbands, slaves, obey your human masters, masters treat your slaves justly and fairly.
13. St. Paul in Ephesians enumerates two sources of immorality: impurity and greed, two vices that makes most of our actions immoral.
14. So what makes abortion, family planning and most economic practice immoral? The lack or complete absence of the virtue of Charity.
15. Grace, Faith, Hope and Charity are what makes a person good and what makes his acts good, St. Augustine states. With grace a person and his acts are moral. With the absence of these that makes the person and his acts good, the person and his acts are immoral or evil. Thus evil had been described as the absence of what makes it good.