And now, some wise words from the catechism …

We hear a lot around The Bench about what the catechism teaches.

Lest we forget:


1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own “to the end,”97 he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”98

1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”99

1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.”100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”102

1826 “If I . . . have not charity,” says the Apostle, “I am nothing.” Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, “if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing.”103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”104

1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”;105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.

1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who “first loved us”:106

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.107

1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.108


1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.110For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.111

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”112

It’s a good book to be familiar with, the Catechism.   Read it online.

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12 responses to “And now, some wise words from the catechism …”

  1. Charity comes from the Latin “caritas”, which in turn tranlsates the Greek word “agape”. Both the Latin and Greek words mean love. But agape is the kind of unconditional love that God has for us, it is all giving and doesn’t require anything back.

    Love has many expressions and there are different kinds of it. C.S. Lewis posited four kinds of love: Storge, the affection that comes naturally for your fellow men or even your favorite pet. Then there is Philia, the profound love of friendship and family. Eros is “being in love” while Lewis even subdivides this into “Venus” sexual passion (so in vogue this days. Finally there is Agape, unconditional love.

    I think nowadays we get all this different expressions of love confused and tend to give more value to Storge, to being likable and accepted even if our behavior is not worthy of such affection or acceptance.

  2. I’m not Catholic, but I scored a catechism at a used book sale thing for $1 just last month. I saw it and boy, did I snatch that up right quick! 🙂 …along with an eastern rite liturgy book. Dear boyfriend and I thought it was an odd find. I have the urge to keep it safe.

  3. Not sure this post is really focused on the Catechism so much as the issue of Catholics exhibiting Christian charity toward one another. Curiously, Commonweal‘s Grant Gallicho–not a man to temper his own words–has a post on that magazine’s blog today titled “Why are Catholics so uncharitable online?” One respondent cites the “uncompromising” rhetoric of St. John Chrysostom and then suggests this:

    I hope the pope will denounce all hate speech of the past, especially that by important saints. Perhaps reversing their canonizations would send a signal to Christians of today.

    I draw rather a different lesson from that so-called “hate speech.” I think it illustrates an important point about the real nature of charity, one that we miss when we confuse it with the mealy-mouthed evasions of PC rhetoric. Authentic charity is first of all truthful, and no matter how gently one expresses truths that others find unwelcome, it may sting. Our tradition is full of truth-tellers whose expressions of charity stung their listeners. In fact, it began with one.

  4. ron:

    Grant and the others at Commonweal (and NCReporter and America and Vox Nova) are firmly convinced that they are the models of civility and that it’s only conservatives who are rude.

    they really don’t get how arrogant, dismissive and passive-aggressive they are when dealing with those with whom they disagree – even the Pope.

  5. Joe:


    Point of clarification:
    “they really don’t get how arrogant, dismissive and passive-aggressive”

    I have studied and observed passive-aggressive behavior (via a pastoral counseling degree).

    Arrogance and dismissiveness are not associated with passive-aggressiveness, but with aggressiveness.

    Passive-aggressive persons are not confrontational. They give the appearance of being agreeable with their words but are subversive with their actions which they express by procrastinating, being chronically late and otherwise undermining a task or person.

  6. Or, my favorite, from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) Paragraph #14:

    They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.”

    “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity.”

  7. Joe M:

    Thanks for the reminder of what it means to be a Catholic.

    Your excerpt from Lumen Gentium is quoted in Paragraph 837 of the Catechism, under the heading: “Who belongs to the Catholic Church?”

  8. Now if only John the Baptist had been more charitable in his discussion with Herod and his ‘wife’.

    What did Jesus say about John the Baptist? I would guess he bashed him for his lack of charity toward the sinners. His odd lifestyle certainly calls out for his being some kind of orthodox nutjob.

    “Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist. ”

    Charity without truth is not charity any more than that which feeds an addiction to drugs can be considered love. Jesus did not chase those who said his teaching was too hard and went away. In fact, he gave his apostles a chance to go away as well if the teaching was too hard. When someone is at the cafeteria line with Catholic teaching, it is not charitable to remain silent why they put their soul at risk of eternal damnation. We do not judge or condemn them, but make others aware that what they believe is in grave error. Tough love is seldom delivered in what the receiver would call charitable fashion.

    Also, if two people are Catholic, it would seem to me that they would want to help the other person out even more. Thus, it would seem the discussion from one catholic to another on non negotiable Catholic teaching both must believe and accept to be Catholic has to be straightforward.

    I would love to see an exchange between people who are completely on the opposite side of hot button issues like gay marriage or abortion carry on a charitable exchange where true church teaching is discussed… If they do, I suspect they will try to ignore true church teaching and banter around the edges which to me is a waste of time. Some believe that it is the two that are working to convert the other. I think it is those who are ill informed or at a tipping point that gain from those exchanges because information is exchanged. One will contain true Church teaching and the other will be evading this settled truth and fighting to sideline religion.

    [Interesting points, Greta. But John the Baptist was a sinner like the rest of us. He was the forerunner, not the Messiah. Also, we don’t know what Christ did about the people who thought his teaching was hard and went away; we do know that the shepherd in the parable who tended 100 sheep sought the one sheep who had wandered away, and rejoiced when he found it. I would suggest that the Church is striving to do something similar in our own age with the SSPX. Dcn. G.]

  9. deacon greg

    So how do you get the Cathlolic teaching across to someone who is adamantly pro abortion or pro gay marriage with charity while holding firm to truth? I keep seeing posts at various blogs declaring we have lost the ability to have a discussion with charity and I am very interested to see someone take on those who are solidly wrong on Church teaching. Many see the best way is the path of just not talking about those issues which in a way is giving in to evil. The layity are supposed to take church teaching out into the world and evangelize and if you do not start with the issue that has killed 54 million babies adding 4000 more a day, it would be like living in Germany and not doing everything possible to stop the death camps. Yes, this is not charitable to compare the two holocausts or to bring up the nazi’s, but what else is comparable to today’s holocaust? Many have given in on the issue of special rights for gays and the frog is slowly being cooked to death by our unwillingness to state actual church teaching boldly as John the Baptist did with herod and his “wife”.

    Also, the gospel leaves us at the point where those who said the teaching was too hard walking away. I suspect if they were brought back in that the gospel would have told us about it. Jesus lets us walk away every day even if we are chosing to walk away from heaven. Knowing the truth and being to timid and thus allowing someone to be led astray seems to be a horrible sin of the “things we have failed to say or the things we have failed to do”.

    [Truth be told, Greta, I don’t know anyone who has been converted that way. Conversion, from my experience, begins in the heart, and the spark that very often lights the flame is the warm light of charity. The pagans marveled, “See how these Christians love one another,” not “See how these Christians score rhetorical points and win arguments.” Similarly, on the issue of abortion, laws will not change until hearts are changed. The head always follows the heart. Dcn. G.]

  10. Hearts are changed by truth. What impressed the pagans seeing the martyrs was the fact that their faith was so strong they were willing to give their lives for it.

    Again, this post was about charity. I work several times a month with women who have had abortions in Project Rachel. What I hear from a lot of women is the fact that they believe they were misled or outright lied to. One of the suggestions for pro life cause out of this project was to push for laws that forced ultrasound before every abortion and for the women to have to see this procedure. Since that time we have set up ultrasound systems at many of our life centers and offer free ultrasound to the women considering abortion and recently have been able to get a law passed making this mandatory. Also we have suggestions on pushing for laws in every state to make all abortion safe with requiements for the abortion mills to provide all the same care as a hospital deliverying surgery procdures. These women who have suffered as much as anyone and who it could be argued have the scars of first hand experience are the most vocal about gettting the message out in every way possible. The do not want to see any holding back on langauge out of some kind of false charity when the lives of the child and the sanity of the mother are at stake.

    I note that when slavery was legal, the abolitionist used every language possible as well as pictures of beaten black slaves or anything else they could find to change hearts. However, if someone shows an aborted baby, it is said to be uncharitable and intolerant.

    When the Nazi were killing Jews in the death camps, I think there were many charitable Germans who did not want to speak about it because they might upset someone. We do not need less rhetoric, but a clammer for if we are silent, the stones themselves will cry out. I am still waiting to hear an argument against abortion that is charitable.

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