Divine Law: is divided into Eternal and Positive.

1.) Eternal: "The Divine Reason or Will of God, commanding the observance and forbidding the disturbance of the natural order of things" (St. Augustine). It is called "the natural law" when perceived through the light of reason as God has written this law in the heart of man. Thus we should worship God, we should control our sensual appetites, and we should not do to others what we would not have them do to us. Total ignorance of these precepts of morality (e.g. "Evil must be avoided and Thou shalt not steal") is impossible.

2.) Positive: precepts known through Revelation. The Positive Divine Law is that revealed in Holy Scripture (Old and New Testaments) or oral Tradition. They fall into three classes: (a) Moral--a more explicit determination of the natural law; (b) Ceremonial--with respect to the Sacraments and the Mass; (c) Juridical--with respect to the constitution and authority of the Church.



The Ten Commandments (Decalogue): According to its etymology the word decalogue means the ten words, because it contains the Ten Commandments which sum up the entire law of God. See more on the Commandments of God.


Deposit of Faith: That body of revelation, containing truths to be believed and principles of conduct, which was given by Christ to the Apostles, to be preserved by them and their successors, with the guarantee of infallibility, for the guidance of the Church. It embraces the truths of both Scripture and Tradition. Some of its articles are explicit in Scripture, e.g., the Word was made flesh; and others are implicit, e.g., the Immaculate Conception. It closed with the death of the last surviving Apostle, St. John. It is entrusted to the infallible magisterium of the Church to preserve, unfold and defend the Deposit. The word is found in 1 Tim. vi, 20, Depositum custodi, "Keep that which is committed to thy trust."

Doctrine: that which is taught by the Church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit from tradition and Holy Scripture. It is universal, or catholic and is the same everywhere. What is taught by the Catholic Church in one country, is also taught in another. Her doctrine in one place is her doctrine in another. There can be in the Roman Church no new doctrine, no local belief, no creed in which the whole Church has not been united--the Church uniting to condemn all variations from this belief. There can be no doctrine which has not existed from the beginning, as it was received from Christ and the apostles. A doctrine, to be truly Catholic, must have been believed in all places, at all times, and by all the faithful. By this test of catholicity, or universality, antiquity and consent, all questions of faith are tried and decided.


Dogma: A dogma is a truth revealed by God, contained in the Word of God, written (Sacred Scripture) or spoken (Oral Tradition), proposed by the magisterium of the Church to the faithful, with the obligation of believing it. Thus understood, a dogma is a divine truth and, therefore, immutable (i.e. unable to be changed over time). Baptized Catholics who deny or doubt any dogma of the faith are heretics.


Infallibility: The doctrinal authority of the Church is not unlimited; it is, on the contrary, clearly limited to the domain of divine revelation. It relates only to the deposit of revealed doctrine and that which is necessary for the preservation of this deposit. These same boundaries limit infallibility.

Its object includes, then:

1st. The teaching of dogma, or the truths of faith which are to be believed.
2d. Moral teaching, or truths to be practised.
3d. Matters relating to general discipline, in as far as they pertain to faith and morals.
4th. Dogmatic facts, that is to say, facts so intimately connected with dogma, that they cannot be questioned without weakening the dogma itself. Such, for example, are the declarations and verifications of errors contained in the writings judged by the Church, since otherwise she could not, as she is bound to do, preserve from the poison of error the flock confided to her care.

Infallibility comes neither from inspiration properly speaking nor from a new revelation, but from a special, divine assistance granted either to the bishops united with the Pope, or to the supreme pastor, to enable them to understand and proclaim the revelation made by Jesus Christ. This assistance by no means dispenses with useful researches and discussions; in a word, with the labor of man. Only after taking every indispensable means to avoid acting precipitately, only after studying with extreme care the two sources of revelation, Scripture and tradition, does the Church or the Pope declare as revealed a belief hitherto implicitly contained in the deposit of revelation.

Infallibility differs essentially from impeccability, which consists in the inability to sin; this signal privilege, which was awarded to the Mother of God, has never been attributed to the sovereign Pontiff.


Ex Cathedra: "We teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra--that is, when in the discharge of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church--is, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining a doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that therefore such definitions are irreformable of themselves and not from the consent of the Church. If any one should have the rashness to contradict our definition, which God forbid, let him be anathema."--Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Session 4, Chap. 4

According to the Council the Pope, to speak ex cathedra, must first act in virtue of his supreme authority and as head of the Church. Second, he must have the intention of defining a doctrine, an intention which must be evident either from the terms he employs (for example, if he uses the words we define, if he pronounces anathema against contrary doctrine) or from the circumstances under which he speaks.

In a word, the Pope speaks ex cathedra when he makes known his intention to oblige the faithful to believe interiorly and to profess exteriorly that which he teaches concerning faith and morals. Hence it follows that this character of infallibility extends in no way to the writings and acts of the Pope as a private man.


Example of Ex Cathedra Pronouncement: "The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the Church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."--Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, "Cantate Domino," 1441





Magisterium: The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you " (Matt, xxviii, 19-20). This teaching is infallible: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.) The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of oecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or oecumenical council.


Council of Trent: The General Council called by Pope Paul III. in 1544, to oppose the heresies of Martin Lurther. This Council drew up a list of the inspired books of the Bible and defined the Church's rule of Faith. It proclaimed the dogma of the Church regarding original sin, justification, the seven Sacraments, Purgatory, and the veneration of the Saints, images and relics, also of indulgences. It gave disciplinary enactments, and, before separating, the Fathers of the Council drew up the Catechism of the Council of Trent which was given to the world during the Pontificate of Pius V.


Theology: The science of God and things belonging to God--the sacred teaching of divine things from those which have been revealed. Positive explains and interprets the Scriptures, Fathers, and the Sacred Canons. Dogmatic proves principles, partly of faith, and partly of natural knowledge. Moral regulates conduct by the principles of revelation, and the laws of the Church. Ascetical and Mystical treat of the progress of the soul in the spiritual life and prayer. Natural theology, so called, has reference to the knowledge of God obtained by purely natural light, and is strictly a branch of philosophy.


Faith and Morals: Between Faith and Morals are three essential links: (a) Every moral obligation has its roots in the will of God as seen in the natural law; but man's reason is so blinded and his will so perverted by passion and prejudice that divine revelation was necessary to give him a correct knowledge of the natural law. (b) Absence of faith involves the absence of the sharpest spurs to duty, sc., love of God, hope of Heaven, fear of Hell, (c) The Christian revelation imposed the moral obligation of believing in its content, receiving the Sacraments, believing and obeying the Church. But Faith is illuminative, not operative; it does not force obedience, though it increases responsibility; it heightens guilt, it does not prevent sin.


The Christian Faith: comprises all the doctrines of the Catholic faith. He who wilfully disbelieves a single doctrine of the Catholic Church has no true faith, for he who receives some of the words of Christ and rejects others, does not really believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He guides the Catholic Church. A faith which does not comprise all the doctrines of the Catholic Church is no faith at all. It is like a house without a foundation.

Although it is necessary to faith that all the teaching of the Catholic Church should be believed, yet it is not necessary to be acquainted with every one of her doctrines. But a Catholic must at the very least know that there is a God, and that God directs the life of men, rewards the good, and punishes the wicked; he must also know that there are three persons in God, and that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has become man, and has redeemed us on the cross.


Tradition: (From the Greek for transmission, precept, oral doctrine). In the theological sense, it is the word of God concerning faith and morals, not written but transmitted orally from Christ to the Apostles and from them to their successors down to us. Tradition is said to be not written; not in the sense that it cannot be contained in any writing, but in that it was not written under divine inspiration. For example, that infants are validly baptized is Tradition, namely: word of God, non-written revelation, because it is not contained in any inspired written work, although it is recorded in the works of nearly all ancient ecclesiastical writers.

Tradition is called divine if it was taught directly by Jesus Christ; it is called divine-apostolic if the Apostles did not learn it from the lips of the Lord, but received it through inspiration of the Holy Spirit according to the promise of Christ: "The Paraclete, the Holy Ghost . . . will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you" (John 14: 26).

Having established, as their fundamental principle, that the Holy Scripture contains all divine revelation, the Protestants logically denied the existence of Tradition and restricted themselves to the Bible as the sole rule of faith. The Council of Trent, on the contrary, defined that doctrine regarding faith and morals "is contained both in the written books and in non-written tradition" (sess. 4), and at the same time declared that one must accept pari pietatis affectu et reverentia ("with like pious affection and reverence") the two sources of revelation.

The economy established by Jesus Christ for the propagation of the Gospel shows efficaciously the existence of Tradition. Indeed, after having preached and not written His doctrine, Jesus entrusted to His Apostles the mission not of writing, but of propagating orally (Matt. 28: 18; Mark 16: 15; Acts 1: 8) all that they had heard from His lips or would learn from the inspirations of the Holy Spirit (John 14: 36). The principal instruments by means of which divine Tradition has been conserved are the professions of faith, the sacred liturgy, the writings of the Fathers, the practice of the Church, the acts of the martyrs, and archaeological monuments.


Canon Law: The body of laws formulated by the Church for the discipline of her members, now contained in the "Codex Juris Canonici." Canon law binds all baptized persons over seven years of age, unless specially exempted.


Freedom of Will: says St. Thomas, consists essentially in the power of choice. We are said to be endowed with free will because we are able to accept one object, rejecting another; which acceptance we call "choice." Man was created free, and free also he remains under the dispensation of divine grace and the ministration of the Spirit. Whilst the union of the Holy Ghost with the mystical body of Christ is indissoluble, the mystical union of the Holy Spirit with the individual soul is liable to be broken as long as man has not yet consummated his pilgrimage on earth.

Man in virtue of his free will, even under the dispensation of divine grace, can resist God. He can slight and neglect the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and hereby "grieve the Spirit." He can go farther and by mortal sin he can "extinguish the Spirit," destroy the temple of the Holy Ghost, reduce his soul to the state of darkness and death, from which by regeneration and justification it was redeemed. He can go farther yet and by direct rebellion against the Spirit commit the sin which the Lord emphatically styles "the sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" and which is the consummation of man's infidelity to the merciful condescensions of infinite love.


Sin: "Any thought, word or deed against the law of God" (St. Augustine). Sin is essentially a deliberate rebellion against the authority of God; by it man prefers to choose some self-gratification in opposition to and in defiance of the law of God. Hence serious sin deprives man of God's friendship, and the sinner will receive due punishment either here on earth or in the future life. In the sacrament of Penance God has mercifully provided means by which man can be restored to his friendship and favour. Sin is mortal or venial; it may be actual, habitual, formal or material (see below); it is called of ignorance if the lack of knowledge is culpable, of infirmity if the result of sudden passion or a bad habit, and of malice if it is deliberate and calculated wickedness.

Actual Sin: Any act or omission against the law of God. It is personal sin, arising from the sinner's own free will, as separate from original sin.

Vice:  is proficiency in the practice of evil, and the confirmed tendency of the will towards evil which is acquired by habitual sin. The habit of vice is easily formed, but it requires a great struggle to give it up, and the longer a man has indulged in vice, the more difficult that struggle becomes. If mortal sin be repeated many times the habit of sin is formed; that is to say the sinner acquires a certain proficiency in wickedness, and the will is permanently inclined to evil.

The Fathers point to the three instances in which Christ raised the dead as exemplifying mortal sin in its three stages: interior sin, exterior sin, and the habit of vice. Who so only sins in his heart, is like the daughter of Jairus, who lay dead within the house; he who commits sin outwardly, is like the young man at Naim, who was carried out of the city gates; while he who is given up to vice is like Lazarus, who had lain several days in the grave. In the first two instances Our Lord merely bade the dead arise, in the last He was troubled in spirit, He wept, He caused the stone to be removed and called loudly into the interior of the sepulchre. This He did to signify the great difficulty of reawakening one who is sunk in vice to the life of the Spirit.

Every outward sin and every vice brings, as its own punishment, other sins and vices of a different nature in its train. The grace of God departs from every man who has fallen into mortal sin. Not so temptation. In fact the evil enemy bestirs himself the more to bind his captive more tightly. Now since temptation cannot be overcome without God's grace, the sinner falls lower and lower, from one sin to another. The sins which follow upon a sin may therefore be called the chastisement of sin. Holy Scripture expresses the withdrawal of grace in words such as these: "God blinded the eyes, or hardened the heart of the sinner" (e.g., Pharaoh), "God delivered him up to a reprobate sense" (Rom. i. 28).

If any vice is firmly rooted in the soul, it oftentimes brings after it sins of the worst type, and those that are said to cry to Heaven for vengeance; finally it produces complete obduracy in the sinner. He who has for a lengthened period been given over to a life of sin, does not shrink from the greatest excesses. And just as perfection in virtue procures for mortal man upon earth happiness which is almost that of heaven, and exalts him to union with God, so there are different grades in vice, by which the soul descends to the condition of the reprobate and her complete separation from God is consummated. Finally he who is the slave of vice is often inspired by a bitter hatred against God, and wilfully and of set purpose resists the influence and action of the Holy Spirit; and at last by final impenitence commits the sin against the Holy Ghost which cannot be forgiven.


Sin, Material: A transgression of the divine law committed without knowledge of its sinfulness or without free consent; it is no true sin, since the act is not a wilful transgression, e.g., taking the property of another in the belief that it is one's own.

Sin, Original: The primary and essential element of original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace from, the lack of supernatural life in, the soul of every human creature born into the world since the Fall (but of., Immaculate Conception); it is not an actual sin but a state of sin in which each individual is involved by virtue of the solidarity of the human race: the will of all humankind rebelled in Adam, the head fountain and representative of the race, when he rejected God's gift of a supernatural life by disobedience (the Fall, q.v.). His sin was the sin of human nature (Rom. v. 12-21) and inheres as habitual sin in all who share in that nature by bodily generation. The effects of original sin are, firstly, its own essence, the loss of sanctifying grace; then the loss of integrity, resulting in concupiscence, i.e., a general propensity towards an uncontrolled love of oneself and of creatures; and the loss of immortality and impassibility. It must be noted that the Church repudiates and abhors the doctrine that concupiscence is itself original sin or that man is wicked by the very condition of his nature as such or that original sin is an essential corruption of the soul. Original sin is entirely remitted, not simply covered up by external imputation of the righteousness of Christ, by Baptism, but concupiscence, the tendency to sin, and the physical disabilities of death and suffering remain.

Mortal Sin: A transgression of the moral law in a serious matter, committed with clear advertence to the grievous nature of the act and with full deliberation and consent on the part of the will. It is called mortal since it deprives the soul of its supernatural life of sanctifying grace. It deserves eternal punishment, since the offence is a deliberate act of rebellion against the infinite Majesty of God.

Sin, Venial: An offence against the law of God less grievous than mortal sin, not depriving the soul of sanctifying grace. A sin is venial either when the matter is not grave, or when, given grave matter, either full advertence to its gravity on the part of the intellect or full consent on the part of the will is wanting. Venial sins can be remitted by prayer or other good works.

Sin Against the Holy Ghost: The six sins of despair, presumption, envy, obstinacy in sin, final impenitence (qq.v.) and in particular, deliberate resistance to the know truth, may be regarded as specially directed against the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul; generally, they so harden the soul to the inspirations of grace that repentance is unlikely.

Seven Capital Sins:  The most ordinary sins are the seven capital sins:

Pride: the inordinate desire for honor and distinction, is a mortal sin intrinsically, when it is of such a nature that one will not even be subordinate to God. It is a venial sin intrinsically, if, with becoming subjection to authority, one longs inordinately for honor and distinction. The contrary virtue is Humility.

Avarice: the inordinate desire for temporal goods, is a venial sin intrinsically. Avarice or covetousness becomes mortally sinful if, because of his cupidity, one violates the law of charity or any other commandment in a grave manner. The contrary virtue is Liberality.

Lust: The inordinate seeking of the pleasures of the flesh. Lust defiles a man as no other sin does. It degrades man to the level of the beast. Lust is a grave sin intrinsically if it is directly willed. The contrary virtue is Chastity.

Envy: sadness because of the goods of our fellowman, which one looks upon as a lessening of one's own possessions, is, like the sin against charity, a grave sin intrinsically. Envy is a mortal sin in him who begrudges his neighbor some valuable possession (natural or supernatural) and seriously wishes he did not have it so that the envious person himself might not suffer his imaginary disadvantage. Merely to grieve that one does not have something that another has is not envy; neither is he envious who is depressed because another by reason of his possession, e.g., an office, is in a position to harm him; nor is it envy if there is sadness because a neighbor has something he does not deserve. Finally, it is not envy but hatred to begrudge our neighbor his possessions, not because these are looked upon as a diminution of our own good, but simply because we do not want him to prosper. The contrary virtue is Meekness.

Gluttony: inordinate longing for food or drink. The contrary virtue is Temperance.

Anger: disorderly outburst of emotion connected with the inordinate desire for revenge. As an inordinate outburst of emotion, anger is only a venial sin, but might be a mortal sin if, for example, one would deliberately fly into such a rage that one could be thought to have lost one's reason. As an inordinate desire for revenge anger is opposed to charity or justice, and is, therefore, a grave sin. It is a venial sin, however, if it concerns an insignificant evil. Just anger is lawful, i.e., anger that is a righteous indignation over sin and which creates an orderly desire for punishment. The contrary virtue is Brotherly Love.

Sloth: may be of a twofold nature, a) It may consist in a sluggishness of the soul regarding the exertion necessary for the performance of a good work. The good work may be a corporal task or a spiritual exercise of devotion. Thus conceived sloth is not a sin specifically distinct from the transgression of a law because of indolence, e.g., the omission of the Sunday Mass because of laziness; b) it may also consist in a tedium over the friendship of God because of the efforts necessary to maintain that friendship. This kind of sloth is directly opposed to the love of God and is, therefore, gravely sinful intrinsically. The contrary virtue is Diligence.



Sin of Omission: A deliberate failure to fulfil an obligation imposed by the divine (ex. failure to provide for the care of a parent in their time of need) or ecclesiastical law (ex. failure to fast and abstain on the days appointed).

Sin of Others: Share in the guilt of another's sin may be incurred in various ways, e.g., by command, by counsel, by provocation, by vote of consent (as a juryman, councils etc.), by praise of the evil about to be done, by being a partner in the sin, by receiving stolen goods, by giving the offender refuge from justice, by silence.

Sin of Scandal: the occasioning the sin of another by any word or deed having at least the appearance of evil. If any help or encouragement is given in any way to cause another to do wrong, scandal is committed or given. Bad example and scandal are sins against the soul included in the Fifth Commandment. They injure our neighbor's soul, and so are worse evils than injuring his body. They do the devil's work and draw souls into hell. If by deliberate scandal and bad example we cause another to commit a grave sin, we are worse than murderers. One who hurts or destroys the spiritual life of his neighbor commits the sin of murder. St. Augustine said, "If thou persuade thy neighbor to sin, thou art his murderer."

Our Lord condemned scandal in no uncertain terms, saying: "Woe to the man through whom scandal does come! And if thy hand or thy foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee! It is better for thee to enter life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:7-8). Grievous indeed must scandal be, to make our gentle Lord use such strong words of condemnation. "The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all scandals and those who work iniquity, and cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:41-42).

If we have been the occasion of scandal or bad example, we are bound to repair the mischief done. A public scandal must be repaired in a public manner. Even then we usually cannot begin to repair the greater part of the evil we have caused. We must try our best to save those we have scandalized from the effects of our example. We must perform the contrary virtue, incite them by good example, and pray for them. We ought to be more careful about giving scandal, because of the difficulty, nay, almost the impossibility, of repairing the effects of scandal.


Sin by Silence: Share in the guilt of another's sin, especially if it be a case of damage to property or of other injustice, may be incurred by not warning others of the sinner's evil intention or otherwise preventing its fulfilment, or by not denouncing the sinner to legitimate authority once the harm is done.

Sins Crying to Heaven: Sins Crying to Heaven for vengeance are 1.) wilful murder (Gen. iv, 10); 2.) the sin of Sodom (Gen. xviii, 20-21); 3.) oppression of the poor (Exod. ii, 23); and 4.) defrauding labourers of their wages (Jas. v, 4).


Morality: That quality of an act which characterized it as good or bad, i.e., as keeping or breaking the law of God as taught by the conscience. The morality of an act depends not only on the nature of the act itself but also on the end desired and the accompanying circumstances.


Conscience: The judgement of reason concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an act about to be or already performed or omitted. The dictates of a true or right conscience are in real conformity with the law of God; those of a false or erroneous conscience represent an action as good which is really bad, or vice versa. The conscience is doubtful when the judgement remains suspended concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of contemplated action; to act with a doubtful conscience is sinful. A lax conscience habitually, and for the lightest of motives, judges to be right what is wrong and to be venial sin what is mortal sin. The clear voice of conscience, be it true or false, must always be obeyed; but for one, after his false conscience has been enlightened by authority or otherwise, to persist in his error and attempt to justify it by an appeal to his "conscience" is affectation, sinful, and a misuse of the word conscience.

The Factors of Morality: To determine whether an individual act is conformable to the norm of morality or opposed to it--in other words, whether it is good or bad--three factors (known technically as the fonts of morality) must be considered. These are called respectively the object, the circumstances, and the end.

By the object of an act we mean its primary moral aspect; by its circumstances we mean those moral aspects which are present as accessories or additions to the primary aspect; by the end we mean the purpose of the person performing the act (finis operantis). Actually, the end is one of the circumstances; but it is given a separate classification because it has a very important bearing on human actions. For example: A man steals money belonging to the Church, his purpose being to buy liquor in order to get drunk. The object of the act is a sin of injustice; an essential circumstance is the fact that the money belongs to the Church; the end is a sin of intemperance. Again, a man is extraordinarily generous in taking care of his sick father, because in this way he hopes to atone for the sins of his past life. The object of his actions is charity; a circumstance is filial piety; the end is penance. Just as an evil act is made worse by additional bad circumstances or ends if they are foreseen, so a good act is rendered better by additional good circumstances or ends, if they are foreseen and intended.

To be truly good, an action must be good in object, circumstances, and end. The theological axiom expressing this is Bonum ex Integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu ("Good is from the entire cause, evil is from any defect"). The reason is that moral goodness consists in conformity to a certain measure or norm, and conformity demands that a thing meet the standards of the norm in all respects. E.g., a beam to be used in constructing a house is no good for the purpose if even one measurement is defective, even though the other measurements are correct. So, too, all the factors of a human act must be good if the act is to be accounted as morally good. This is the reason why a good end does not justify a bad means. Thus, a person would not be permitted to tell a lie, even though by means of it he could bring about many conversions to the faith. A man would not be allowed to deny his Catholic faith even though he could thereby gain a very desirable job in which he could affect much good for religion. Under circumstances are included chiefly place (e.g., the commission of a sin in church); time (e.g., working three hours unnecessarily on Sunday); person's state (e.g., a sin against chastity by a religious); and manner (e.g., theft by violence).

There are two classes of circumstances--those which change the species of the act, and those which merely increase or diminish the moral goodness or evil of the act within the same species. When a circumstance of the first type is present, the act is endowed with two species of virtue or of sin. Thus, the religious who overcomes a temptation against chastity practices both chastity and (because of the vow) religion. When a sinful act is accompanied by a gravely evil circumstance changing the species of the sin, this circumstance must be told in confession. Thus, a boy who has seriously injured his father by giving him a beating must confess not only that he gravely injured another (fifth commandment) but also that this other was his father (fourth commandment).

The other type of circumstances does not change the specific nature of the sin, but makes it more or less grave within the same species. Thus, if a person steals money from a blind beggar it is a more despicable act than if he stole from one in good health; but it would not add a new species of sin. Similarly, a person who assists at Mass with great fervor performs a better act than one who assists with very little devotion, but there is no new species of goodness added.


Censures: Censures are ecclesiastical punishments inflicted on Catholics for obstinate faults. They consist in the privation of certain spiritual rights until the guilty persons repent and are absolved (2241). They are inflicted only for grave, external, contumacious sins (2242), either by the law of the Church or by some person in authority, and may be reserved either to the Ordinary or to the Pope (2245). Those who have incurred censures can be absolved only by such persons as are authorized by law or by competent authority (2247). There are three censures: excommunication, interdict, and suspension (2255).


Types of Penalties: Penalties are either "latae sententia" or "ferendae sententiae", according as they are incurred ipso facto (automatically) by the commission of an offense, or must be inflicted by the judge (2217).


Public Sinner: A public sinner must always be refused the Sacraments, whether he wishes to receive them publicly or secretly. Exception is always made for the Sacrament of Penance if the sinner is rightly disposed. That one be no longer considered a public sinner, it is generally sufficient that he be known to have gone to Confession. If he is living in a proximate, voluntary occasion of sin (e.g., in concubinage) he must, as a rule, first give this up. In the example given he must likewise first repair public scandal (e.g., by disapproving of a wayward life).


Administration of the Sacraments: The Sacraments should be administered and received with great care and reverence (731, 1). It is forbidden to administer them to heretics and schismatics, unless they have first renounced their errors and been reconciled to the Church (731, 1) .

Reception of Sacrament is invalid: if administered to one who is incapable of receiving it or who does not wish to receive it. Examples: and unbaptized person is confirmed, a woman is ordained. A Sacrament invalidly administered never revives. Such a Sacrament can be administered absolutely when the obstacle has been removed. To administer or received a Sacrament invalidly is a much greater sin than to administer or receive it unfruitfully.


Sacraments to be Refused to Protestants: Even though they are in good faith and ask for them, the Sacraments cannot be administered to Protestants until they have renounced their errors and been reconciled to the Church (731). The children of apostates, heretics, schismatics, and infidels may be baptized in imminent danger of death without the consent of the parents. Without that danger they may be baptized if at least one parent or the guardian consents and guarantees to bring the child up a Catholic (750, 751).


Communicatio in Sacris (Canon 1258): It is unlawful for Catholics to assist actively in any way at, or to take part in, the religious services of non-Catholics. The reason why the Church has always forbidden such participation in the religious services of non-Catholics is the intimate conviction that she herself is the only true Church of Christ. Secondary reasons for this prohibition are: the quasi-approbation of non-Catholic worship which lies in a Catholic’s participation therein and which at the same time is an external profession of faith. The other reason is scandal, which may be given to Catholics who see the mixture of worship and the deference paid to non-Catholic ministers and functions. Finally there is the danger of perversion, or of gradually increasing religious indifference when the faithful freely and indiscriminately participate in heretical religious services. Even the simulation of false religion is incompatible with the purity of the Catholic faith."


Religious Instruction by Pastors: Catechetical Instruction is one of the gravest duties especially of pastors is to instruct the Christian people (1329). It is the duty of the pastor animally to prepare the children for Confession and Confirmation by instructing them several days in succession, and to prepare them during Lent, if possible, for a worthy reception of their first Holy Communion (1330). Moreover, the pastor should instruct those children more fully in their Christian doctrine who have already received their first Communion (1331). On Sundays and Holy Days he should explain the doctrine in a popular way to the people (1332). Pastors may use the help of others in instructing the children in their religion (1333).




Cremation: Cremation is to be reprobated (1203, 1). To wish it is unlawful, and to stipulate it in one's will must be considered as not binding, when Catholic funeral services are to be held (1203, 2). Whoever while living commands his body to be cremated shall be denied ecclesiastical burial (1240, 1, 5). Any one who would force a priest to give such a one ecclesiastical burial is thereby excommunicated (2339).


Anathema / Excommunication: Excommunication is a censure which excludes a person from communion with the faithful (2257). An excommunicated person may not administer the Sacraments or sacramentals (C. 2261). Neither may he receive any Sacrament nor (after a judicial sentence) a sacramental. He is likewise excluded from ecclesiastical burial if he dies without having manifested signs of repentance (if a declaratory or condemnatory sentence has been passed) (C. 2260). Furthermore he does not share in any indulgences, suffrages or general prayers of the Church. But the faithful may pray for him, and a priest may celebrate Mass for him privately (Cf. 526 and C. 2262). An excommunicated person may not exercise any act of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, etc. (C. 2264). Cf. also 417 and 454.


List of Sins which Incur "Latae Sententia"
automatic Excommunication:


  • Persons who procure abortion, the mother not excepted, automatically incur excommunication reserved to the Ordinary at the moment the crime takes effect; if they are clerics, they shall also be deposed (Canon 2350)

  • Accomplices in Abortion: incur the same penalty as the principal agent even though they are not expressly mentioned in the law, provided they in anyway conspire and physically concur in the execution of the offense, or provided the offense is of such nature that it requires an accomplice, or if without their co-operation the offense would not have been committed (C.2231)

  • Freemasonry: Catholics who join the Masons incur excommunication reserved to the Holy See (2335).

  • Those who contract marriage before a non-Catholic minister without permission (2319 § 1 n. 1);

  • Those who contract marriage with an implicit or explicit agreement of educating the offspring outside of the Catholic Church (ibid. n. 2);

  • Those who knowingly bring children to be baptized by non-Catholic ministers (ibid. n. 3);

  • Those who contract marriage after taking the non-solemn but perpetual vow of chastity (ibid., § 2);

  • Parents or God-parents who allow their children be educated in a non-Catholic religion (ibid. n. 4);

  • Priests who give sacraments to excommunicated persons or those suspended a divinis (ibid. n. 2);

  • All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic incur the following: (1) the penalty of excommunication ipso facto (can. 2155); (2) if they have been admonished and do not repent, they shall be deprived of any benefice, dignity, pension, office or other position which they may hold in the Church; they shall be declared infamous, and, if they are clerics, they shall after renewed admonition be deposed; (3) if they have joined a non-Catholic sect or have publicly adhered to it, they incur infamy ipso facto, and, if they are clerics and the admonition to repent has been fruitless, they shall be degraded. Canon 188, n. 4, provides, moreover, that the cleric who publicly abandons the Catholic faith loses every ecclesiastical office ipso facto and without any declaration (Canon 2314, §1).

  • Those who give Church burial to infidels, apostates, heretics or schismatics (can. 2339);

  • Those who enroll their names in Masonic sects or other such associations that plot against the Church and the legitimate civil authorities (can. 2335).



  • Canon 2340, § 1: If a person with obstinate mind remains under the censure of excommunication for one year, he is suspected of heresy.







    It is quite natural that the One Church instituted by Christ, should direct its first penalty against crimes that subvert its very foundation, i. e., divine and Catholic faith. Belief in the divine mission and the dogmas of the Church is attacked and shattered by apostasy, heresy, and schism, to which must be added every suspicion uttered publicly and the denial of propositions which, though not formally dogmas, are closely connected with the deposit of faith. Special danger to the faith arises from the perusal of writings that attack the Church and her teachings. Finally, the practice of faith is relaxed, and faith itself jeopardized, by too free intercourse with non-Catholics, either in sacred things or socially.

    The terms of Apostate, Heretic and Schismatic all presuppose valid baptism.


    Atheism: (from the Greek--without God). The error of those who deny the existence of God. Practical atheism consists in living as if God were not. Speculative or theoretical atheism consists in the assertion that there is no God. No one can in fact be a speculative atheist. The negation of God is rather in the heart than in the mind: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God " (Ps. xiii, i).

    Those who persist in denying the existence of God in spite of external and internal testimony are atheists who are eaten up by pride, or live vicious lives, or both. Of them Our Lord said: "Seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear, neither do they understand . . . For the heart of this people has been hardened, and with their ears they have been hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest at any time they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their mind, And be converted, and I heal them" (Matt. 13: 13-15).


    Agnostic: (from the Greek--unknowable) one of a class of thinkers who disclaim any knowledge of God or of the ultimate nature of things. Agnostics, generally, profess to know nothing about God; some maintain that there is no convincing evidence of His existence; others go so far as to aver that no such evidence is possible and that God, if there is a God, is forever unknowable.

    Agnosticism takes shape in individual minds according to their several habits and dispositions. One form of agnosticism assumes lightly and after little or no reflection that it is impossible to get at a knowledge of God or of man's final destiny. It is generally one of the fruits of indifferentism, which makes it a matter of small concern whether a man has any religious belief or not, so long as he does nothing to compromise his honor or his reputation.


    Apostate: An apostate is one who totally renounces the Christian faith after having been baptized (1325, 2). Catholics are forbidden to marry apostates (1065, 11). Unless they give some sign of repentance before death apostates are to be deprived of Christian burial (1240), and those who dare to give Christian burial to impenitent apostates incur excommunication (2339).


    Heretics: A heretic is a person who has been baptized and claims to be a Christian, but who pertinaciously denies or doubts a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith (1325, 2).


    Indifferentism: is the error of those who hold that one religion is as good as another and that all religions are equally true and pleasing to God, or that one is free to accept or reject any or all religions. Many a Catholic does not want to trouble himself about studying his religion, and gradually loses his faith.


    Infidelity: is (a) the unbelief of one to whom the truths of faith have been sufficiently proposed, but who nevertheless deliberately refuses to accept them; (b) the ignorance of the Faith by one who has had no chance to learn it, or who does not realize the importance of learning.

    But is it not utterly reasonable to have faith in an almighty God, Who can do things beyond our understanding? It is necessary that we serve God in the way He requires, not in the way it pleases us to do so. For this reason we must practice the religion revealed by God, and avoid making up our own religions according to our whims and innumerable fancies. Buddhists, Mohammedans, Hindus, Jews and pagans, are infidels.


    Schism: The refusal to submit to the authority of a valid pope or to hold communion with members of the Church subject to him. It differs from Apostasy and Heresy, but to which schism very often leads. Anyone guilty of an external act of schism is ipso facto excommunicated; the conditions for absolution are the same as for heresy. The sacraments may not be administered to schismatics.

    Abjuration of Heresy: The act of renouncing heresy, unbelief or schism, obligatory on all apostates, heretics, and schismatics before they can be validly absolved from excommunication. Abjuration must be made before the local ordinary or his delegate and two witnesses, and is a necessary preliminary to the reception of a baptized adult convert. Unbaptized persons, and children under 14, have no abjuration to make when received into the Church.

    Link: Abjuration of Heresy and Profession of Faith of the Council of Trent, Pius IV., 1565






    The Catholic Sacrament of Marriage
    As found in 1917 Code of Canon Law and other Pre-Vatican II. Sources

    Marriage: The contract between a man and a woman, by which they are associated and united with one another as a common principle for the generation of children and for their education. Its basis is the mutual consent of the parties, and its essential properties are unity and indissolubility. The matrimonial contract between baptized persons is a sacrament of which the contracting parties are the ministers. Matrimony comes from the Latin: matris munus, and means office of mother. The marriages of the unbaptized are not sacramental; but in either case the essential properties, rights and duties are the same.

    The state of marriage must be a union of opposite sexes; it is therefore opposed to all forms of unnatural, homosexual behavior. (See definition of the Sin of Sodomy)


    Civil Marriage: The act of the State declaring a man and woman husband and wife, and claiming thereby to make them such. The State has no juridical right to do this in the case of baptized persons. Its only authority is to register such marriages when validly contracted. Catholics are bound to have their marriages civilly registered. One contracted only according to the laws of the State is invalid if one or both of the parties are Catholics. Baptized non-Catholics using the civil form are validly married, not because the State has any power to marry baptized persons, but because non-Catholics are exempt from the Church's form of celebration. In England the civil act takes place immediately after the religious celebration. Where civil marriage is obligatory before the religious ceremony, Catholics are permitted to fulfil the civil requirements on the understanding that by such act no marriage is intended.

    " . . . . . we may add a word concerning the civil ceremony which in some countries is prescribed by law. How are Catholics to regard it? In itself the ceremony is not forbidden. But the Church can not accept the declaration made before a civil magistrate as the matrimonioal consent which effects the marriage tie. Therefore a distiction must necessarily be made. If the matrimonial consent was lawfully given before the civil ceremony took place, the marriage is complete and the contracting parties are entitled to exercise the matrimonial rights. When they go before the civil magistrate to declare their consent, this declaration is merely a civil ceremony and adds nothing to the validity of the marriage already contracted. But if the civil ceremony precedes the matrimonial consent to be lawfully given, Catholics are not allowed to have the intention of contracting marriage by the civil ceremony, nor can they validly give consent, no matter what the form prescribed. Consequently they are not married nore entitled to the exercise of conjugal rights until they are married before the Chruch. --Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, 1920


    Primary end of Marriage: As stated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law: (Can. 1013) § 1 The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children; the secondary [end] is mutual support and a remedy for concupiscence."


    Conjugal Rites: The exercise of these is a right common to both husband and wife. Except by mutual consent neither may withhold him or herself from the other unless (a) from coition there is danger of death or serious sickness, (b) the requirement is unreasonable on account of the partner's madness or drunkenness, (c) the requirement is inordinate, e.g., several times in one night, or (d) the partner has committed adultery.


    Birth Control: A misnomer for the practice of carrying out sexual relations within or without marriage in such a way as to prevent conception. Birth control is immoral and contrary to both natural and divine law. Both Artificial birth control and Natural Family Planning contravene the primary purpose of marriage and prostitute it for other ends. God severely punishes even in this life those who practice "birth control." It results in sterility, vice, promiscuity, weakness of the will, etc., besides physical diseases. One who tries to circumvent God cannot escape punishment, both in this life and the next. Canon 1013, which says: "The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of offspring."


    Sterilization: An operation rendering one incapable of producing offspring. As a form of birth control, (examples include vasectomy and tubal ligation), sterilization is always forbidden and mortally sinful. It is only licit when the purpose of the operation is to save the life or health of the patient (such as a hysterectomy to stop endometrial cancer).


    Responsibilities of Parent for their Children: Parents must give their children an education, and provide for them temporally (1113). Parents, and guardians must instruct those in their charge in the faith (1335). They should not baptize their own children, excepting in case of necessity (742, 2) nor act as sponsors for them (765, 3; 795, 3). They shall judge of their disposition for first Holy Communion (854, 4) and answer for them in court (1648). They cannot go to the convent if the children need their support (542, 2). They may choose the church from which those children are to be buried who have not arrived at the age of puberty.


    Duties of God-parents (Canon 769): It is the duty of God-parents, arising from sponsorship, to regard their spiritual children as their perpetual charges and to instruct them carefully in the obligations of the Christian life, in order that they may prove themselves such as they solemnly promised by their baptismal vows to be. The obligation exists even if the sponsors think they are not bound by it. It binds chiefly when the parents neglect their duty.

    God-parents are called on, first, to answer, in the name of the baptized, to all the interrogations of Baptism; secondly, to be guardians of their spiritual life for the future. They used to be called "guarantors." As in the case of prudent men of business who, when appointing to responsible positions demand security, so the Church in the case of the baptismal obligations requires "guarantors" who will answer for the discharge of the obligations of the children to God in case the parents neglect their solemn duty. When the parents are practical Catholics, the sponsors may presume that due Christian education will be provided by the father and mother, who, of course, are primarily responsible; but be it well understood that when the parents fail in these religious duties, the office of the god-parent calls for action.




    Regarding the Baptism of Premature Births and Miscarriages: Every foetus born prematurely should be baptized. If life is doubtful it should be baptized conditionally. If a mother dies in pregnancy the baby when extracted should be baptized in like manner. Unusual forms of foetus should be baptized at least conditionally. If a foetus was baptized in the mother's womb, the child when born shall be baptized again conditionally.


    Education for Children: It is a most grave obligation of parents to give their children a religious, moral, physical, and civil education according to their means, and to provide for their temporal welfare (1113). If one parent seeks to give the children a non-Catholic education the other thereby has grounds for permanent separation according to the judgment of the Ordinary (1131-1132). Parents who bring up their children in a non-Catholic denomination incur excommunication (2319, 1, 4).


    Separation of Married People: (Can. 1131 § 1): If one spouse gives his name to a non-Catholic sect; if he raises the children non-Catholic; if he leads a criminal or disgraceful life; or if one creates grave danger to the soul or body of the other; if by cruelty, one renders common life too difficult; these reasons and others of their sort are for the other spouse completely legitimate reasons for leaving, with the authority of the local Ordinary, or even on [the spouse's] own authority if these things appear certain and there is danger in delay. § 2 In all such cases, the cause of the separation ceasing, life together is to be restored; but if the separation was decided by the Ordinary for a certain or uncertain time, the innocent spouse is not bound [to return] except by decree of the Ordinary or upon the completion of the same." (1917 Code of Canon Law) [Note: Of course, the above refers to a physical separation of the spouses. Remarriage of either spouse is not allowed prior to the death of the other spouse.]


    Canon 1012: The Lord Christ himself has raised the marriage contract between baptized persons to the dignity of a Sacrament, and hence there can be no valid marriage contract between baptized persons which is not at the same time a sacrament.

    This canon enunciates two truths which no Catholic is at liberty to deny, viz.: (1) that matrimony is a Sacrament, and (2) that the marriage contract is the sacrament. To which must be added (3) that both statements apply only to baptized persons. Canon 1013: 1. As stated in the preliminary remarks, the primary end of Marriage is the procreation and education of offspring, while its secondary purposes are mutual help and allaying concupiscence. The latter are entirely subordinate to the former. The consequences of this proposition will be seen more palpably under can. 1068, can. 1086, § 2, and can. 1092.

    2. The essential properties of Marriage are unity and indissolubility, which obtain a special firmness or stability in Christian Marriage by reason of its being a sacrament. This firmness must be traced to the typical union between Christ and His Church and also to the sacramental grace attached to Christian Marriage. The Code therefore distinguishes between marriage as a natural contract and Christian Marriage. But this distinction, as stated in the preceding canon, does not touch the consent or its properties essentially, but merely in degree. A Marriage between non-baptized persons is as essentially one and indissoluble as between baptized persons, but there are degrees of stability in so far as a non-consummated Marriage can be more easily dissolved and Christian Marriage represents the typical union between Christ and His Church and through its sacramental character possesses greater firmness, although it is not completely indissoluble.


    Canon 1014: The law always favors Marriage, and hence if a doubt arises as to the validity of any particular Marriage, the presumption is in its favor until the contrary is proved.


    Declaration of Nullity: If a marriage is invalid owing to a diriment impediment or lack of consent or defect of form, it is for the Church alone to declare such nullity. The State has no right to decree the invalidity of marriage in the case of baptized persons.


    Canon 1036: § 1. A prohibitive impediment implies a grave prohibition of contracting marriage, but does not render it invalid if contracted.

    § 2. A diriment impediment both gravely forbids marriage and prevents it from being contracted validly.

    § 3. Even when the impediment exists only on one side, it renders marriage illicit or invalid.

    Impediments to Marriage: obstacles which render a marriage either unlawful or invalid. They are divided into (a) diriment and prohibiting impediments and (b) impediments of the divine or natural law and those of ecclesiastical law. Impediments of the natural law (e.g., that one of the parties is already married) never change and can never be dispensed.


    Canon 1079: The only spiritual relationship that annuls marriage is that mentioned in can. 768. It arises only from Baptism and exists between the baptizing minister and the baptized person and the baptized person and the sponsor.

    Therefore no valid marriage can be contracted:

    1. Between the baptizing minister and the baptized person;

    2. Between the sponsor and the baptized person. But the parents do not enter into spiritual relationship. Neither the father nor the mother nor the consort of the baptized person contract any spiritual relationship with him, because they cannot be sponsors at all.

    The conditions required for the impediment are the following:
    1. The Baptism must be valid, because otherwise there would be no foundation for a spiritual relationship.

    2. If Baptism is conferred conditionally, the sponsor contracts spiritual relationship only in case he was sponsor also at the former Baptism; but if he is sponsor only at the conditional Baptism, he does not incur the impediment."

    It matters not whether Baptism is administered solemnly or privately, if the sponsor or minister perform their parts properly. However, if Baptism was conferred privately without sponsors, and a sponsor was employed only when the solemnities were supplied, the sponsor does not by his assistance at the latter contract the impediment.


    Canon 1080: Those who are by the civil law considered as incapable of contracting marriage with each other on account of the legal relationship arising from adoption, are, by canon law, incapable of contracting marriage validly.


    Canon 1081: Marriage is effected by the legitimate manifestation of the consent of the parties who are qualified thereto by law; and this consent cannot be supplied by any human power. The matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which the parties deliver and accept the exclusive and perpetual right to each other's body for the purpose of performing acts apt for the procreation of children.


    Canon 1083: § 1. Error concerning the person renders a marriage invalid.

    § 2. Error concerning the quality of the person, even if it is the cause of the contract, renders the marriage invalid only:

    1. When the error about the quality amounts to an error about the person;

    2. If a free person marries one whom he supposes to be free, but who in fact is a slave in the true sense of the word.

    This canon contains what were formerly called the two impediments of error and servile condition. Error is here considered as exclusively concerning the contracting parties, not the sacrament of matrimony as such.

    A mistake about an accidental quality (wealth, intelligence, domestic habits, peaceful disposition, health, even concealed pregnancy caused by another man, etc.) does not alter the substance of the marriage-object, which is the person itself.


    Canon 1086: § I. The internal consent of the will is always presumed to correspond to the words or signs used in the celebration of marriage. Why? Because no one is supposed to joke or to simulate consent in such a serious and important matter.


    Canon 1015: § 1. A valid marriage, contracted between baptized persons, is called ratified (ratum) as long as it has not been consummated by conjugal intercourse; ratified and consummated, if perfected by the conjugal act to which matrimony is by nature directed and by which the partners become one flesh.

    § 2. If the parties have lived together after the celebration of marriage, consummation is presumed, until the contrary is proved.

    § 3. A marriage validly contracted between unbaptized persons (e.g., Mohammedans, Jews, Gentiles) is legitimate but not sacramental.

    §4. An invalid marriage is called feigned (putativum) if contracted in good faith by at least one party, until both become aware of its invalidity.


    Canon 1016: The Marriage of baptized persons is governed not only by the divine law, but also by canon law, with due regard to the competency of the civil power concerning the merely civil effects of Matrimony.


    What the Church requires in the celebration of marriage.

    1. In order that a marriage may be valid it is necessary, (a) that it be contracted in the presence of the parish priest of the place, or of another authorized priest, and of two witnesses; (b) that there exist no substantial error, force, or grave fear to nullify the consent given by the parties.

    2. The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should contract marriage not at night, but at a nuptial Mass, and that they receive Holy Communion and the nuptial blessing. If the nuptial blessing is not received at the time of marriage, it should be received later.

    3. Marriage can be celebrated at any time during the year, but the nuptial Mass and blessing are not allowed during Lent and Advent, without the special permission of the Bishop. Marriage, solemnly celebrated, is forbidden in these times because they should be devoted to penance or else to a joy purly spiritual.


    Canon 1018: Public instructions (given, for instance, on the second Sunday after Epiphany) should be couched in general terms and deal with the nature and dignity of the Sacrament, the duties of the married towards each other and their children, and their respective rights. Leo XIII, addressing chiefly the bishops, says: "Let special care be taken that the people be well instructed in the precepts of Christian wisdom, so that they may always remember that marriage was not instituted by the will of man, but, from the very beginning, by the authority and command of God; that it does not admit of a plurality of wives or husbands; that Christ, the author of the New Covenant, raised marriage from a rite of nature to a Sacrament, and gave to His Church legislative and judicial power with regard to the bond of union." The evil of divorce, illustrated by statistics, may also form a topic of public instruction.

    (b) Private instructions should be given to those who are about to enter the married state by the pastor, along the lines laid down in Pastoral Theology and in the canons which immediately follow the present one. The confessor, too, may, if he is asked or finds that the parties are ignorant, instruct them on the lawfulness and the obligations of marriage. He may tell them that everything is permitted that is conducive to the end and purpose of Matrimony, and that, generally speaking, sins against chastity among married people are not grievous, unless illicit means are employed.


    Canon 1019: Before a marriage may be celebrated, certainty must be had as to whether there exists an obstacle to its validity or liceity, for, as will be explained further on, a Marriage may be contracted validly, yet unlawfully, because prohibited by the Church. From this the distinction between prohibitive and invalidating impediments appears.


    Canon 1020: § 1. The pastor who is entitled to assist at a marriage shall, at a convenient time, carefully investigate whether there is an obstacle to the marriage to be contracted. He may delegate another, for instance, his assistant, to make this investigation. But the personal obligation remains, insofar as negligence on the part of the delegate would recoil on the pastor.


    Canon 1022: The pastor must publicly announce between whom a marriage is to be contracted. Stress is laid on publicly. A public announcement means one that can be understood by the hearers. Therefore it should be made with an audible voice, distinctly, and in the vernacular language. Inter quos signifies the parties between whom the marriage is to take place. The baptismal (and also any colloquial) name, the family name, the condition of the parties, whether married before or not and the number of publications must be stated. The age or social condition of the parties need not be stated, and injurious or ludicrous remarks must be omitted.


    Canon 1023: § 1. The publication of the banns is to be made by the parties' own pastor (parochus proprius), i. e., the pastor in whose parish the parties have their domicile or quasi-domicile.


    Canon 1024: The banns are to be proclaimed in church on three successive Sundays or holydays of obligation during the solemnity of the Mass or at other services which are frequented by the people.


    Canon 1027: All the faithful are bound in conscience to reveal, either to the pastor or to the bishop, any impediment they may have knowledge of, before the celebration of the marriage. As the parish priest could not be absolved from grievous guilt were he to omit the publication of the banns, so the faithful are under a grave obligation to manifest impediments known to them. This obligation is based, if not on positive law, at least on the nature and scope of the publication, and consequently on the public welfare, and therefore obliges all Catholics.


    Canon 1033: The pastor shall instruct the parties, with due regard to their condition, on the sanctity of the Sacrament of Matrimony, on the mutual obligations of married people, and on the duties of parents towards their children; and he shall earnestly exhort them to make a good confession and worthily receive the Holy Eucharist before celebrating the marriage.

    This admonition is repeated from the decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Ritual. It has been often insisted upon for the reason that Matrimony, being a Sacrament of the living, should be received in the state of grace. As long as the obstacle of mortal sin is not removed, the sacramental grace, bonum sacramenti, bonum prolis, and bonum fidei cannot take full effect.


    Additional Commentary: A general confession necessary when one changes his state of life; especially those who enter into matrimony. Most young people do not comply with the duties of this state as they ought; they live heedlessly, yield to many excesses, and confess often invalidly for the want of contrition or resolution or sincerity. How ill would it be with them if they should enter into matrimony without a general confession! They would begin that state with a triple sacrilege, therefore not with God, but with the devil. What can be expected from such a matrimony? How can it be expected of such married people to live contentedly and happily together, fulfil their duties and endeavor with their children to increase the number of the elect? It is therefore necessary for all those who enter into the nuptial state, to make a general confession before they receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.


    Canon 1034: The Pastor shall earnestly warn children who are still minors not to contract marriage without the knowledge of their parents or against their reasonable objections. If these young people reject his advice, he shall not assist at their marriage before he has consulted the local Ordinary.


    Canon 1035: All can contract marriage who are not forbidden to do so by law. Marriage being based upon the natural distinction of sex, and intended by the Creator for the preservation and propagation of the human race as well as for the increase of His true worshippers, is permitted to all. This does not mean that all men must marry. There is no general command that compels each and every individual to contract marriage. Nature itself prevents some from getting married; others are called by God to a state of life which compels them to devote themselves to His exclusive service. This is the doctrine preached by the Apostle of the Gentiles, and it has been followed by the Church and dogmatically defined at Trent. The Tridentine Council condemns those "who say that the conjugal state is to be preferred to the state of virginity or celibacy." Therefore the Code says, "All can contract marriage."


    Canon 1037: An impediment is considered public when it can be proved in the external forum; otherwise it is occult.


    Canon 1038: § 1. It belongs to the supreme authority of the Church to declare authentically when the divine law forbids or invalidates a marriage.

    § 2. To the same supreme authority belongs the exclusive right to establish, for persons baptized, other impediments, prohibitive or invalidating, by way of universal or particular law.


    Canon 1082: In order that matrimonial consent be possible, it is necessary that the contracting parties at least be not ignorant that marriage is a permanent union between man and woman for the purpose of begetting children. Such ignorance is not presumed in those who have reached puberty.


    Canon 1118: A ratified and consummated valid marriage can be dissolved by no human power and for no cause, outside of death." (1917 Code of Canon Law)


    Canon 1063: § 1. Even when a dispensation from the impediment of mixed religion has been given by the Church, the parties can not, either before or after their marriage before the Church, go, whether in person or by proxy, to a non-Catholic minister in the exercise of his office, for the purpose of giving or renewing the matrimonial consent.

    § 2. If the pastor knows for certain that the parties are about to violate this law, or have violated it, he shall not assist at their marriage, except for very weighty reasons, all danger of scandal being removed and the Ordinary having been consulted.

    § 3. It is not, however, forbidden for the parties to present themselves before a non-Catholic minister acting as a civil magistrate, when the civil law requires it, solely to comply with a civil formality and for the sake of civil effects.


    Canon 1110: Valid marriage unites the contracting parties by a bond which is of its very nature perpetual and exclusive; Christian matrimony moreover imparts sacramental grace to husband and wife if they place no obstacle in its way.

    The marital contract, or matrimonium in fieri, is the consent duly given according to the form prescribed by the Church. This contract produces certain natural effects, viz.: indissolubility and unity. These two innate qualities, if we may so call them, are attached to every valid marriage, not only to a union between Christians, though they receive additional dignity and firmness from the fact that Christian matrimony has been raised to the dignity of a sacrament.

    Therefore also Christian marriage has a special grace attached to it, which attends every Christian marriage, provided the contracting parties are in the state of sanctifying grace. If they are not in the state of grace at the moment they give the marital consent, the sacramental grace is conferred as soon as the obstacle is removed, because the bond is lasting (vinculum perdurans). It is, therefore, advisable and greatly to be recommended that the parties make a good confession before marriage, although there is neither a divine nor an ecclesiastical law that enforces this pious practice.


    Canon 2319: Those who contract marriage before a non-Catholic minister, against can. 1063, §1, incur the aforesaid excommunication, but do not become suspected of heresy. It is, of course, immaterial whether one or both parties belong to the Catholic faith. For the rest, we refer to can. 1063 and its explanation.

    2. Those who contract marriage with the implied or express agreement that all or some of the children shall be educated outside the Catholic Church, incur the aforesaid excommunication and, besides, are suspected of heresy. This crime is against can. 1061, §1, n. 2, which requires a promise that all the offspring shall be educated in the Catholic Church in case of a mixed marriage. Of course, if two Catholics should marry under the same condition, they, too, would incur the penalty.

    3. Those who knowingly dare to offer their children to non-Catholic ministers for baptism incur excommunication reserved to the Ordinary and, besides, are suspected of heresy.

    4. Parents or those who hold their place, if they knowingly offer children to be educated or brought up in a non-Catholic denomination, incur the aforesaid penalty of excommunication and are suspected of heresy.

    a) Here not only parents, but also guardians or tutors, are included. It is irrelevant whether the guardians are legally appointed, or have assumed authority over the children of their own accord, or with the connivance and approval of the parents.

    b) The act which is here declared punishable, is that of educating or bringing up the child in a non-Catholic religion. This may be done either in sectarian schools, properly so-called, or by means of private tutors and teachers, either systematically or without method.

    c) The adverb scienter presupposes that the anti-Catholic tendency of the school or teacher was known to the parent or guardian.





    Passages from Sacred Scripture on Marriage


    Genesis 1 : 27 - 28: [27] And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.


    Genesis 2 : 21 - 25: [21] Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. [22] And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. [23] And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. [24] Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. [25]


    Hebrews 13 : 4 [4] Marriage honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. For fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

    Commentary: [4] Marriage honourable in all: Let marriage be honourable in all-- That is, in all things belonging to the marriage state. This is a warning to married people, not to abuse the sanctity of their state, by any liberties or irregularities contrary thereunto. Now it does not follow from this text that all persons are obliged to marry, even if the word omnibus were rendered, in all persons, instead of in all things: for if it was a precept, St. Paul himself would have transgressed it, as he never married. Moreover, those who have already made a vow to God to lead a single life, should they attempt to marry, they would incur their own damnation. 1 Tim. 5. 12.


    Matthew 5 : 32 [32] But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.


    1 Corinthians 7 : 1 - 17: [1] Now concerning the thing whereof you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. [2] But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. [3] Let the husband render the debt to his wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband. [4] The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband. And in like manner the husband also hath not power of his own body, but the wife. [5] Defraud not one another, except, perhaps, by consent, for a time, that you may give yourselves to prayer; and return together again, lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.

    Commentary: [2] Have his own wife: That is, keep to his wife, which he hath. His meaning is not to exhort the unmarried to marry: on the contrary, he would have them rather continue as they are. (Ver. 7: 8.) But he speaks here to them that are already married; who must not depart from one another, but live together as they ought to do in the marriage state.

    [6] But I speak this by indulgence, not by commandment. [7] For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. [8] But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I. [9] But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt. [10] But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband.

    Commentary: [6] By indulgence: That is, by a condescension to your weakness.

    [9] If they do not contain: This is spoken of such as are free, and not of such as, by vow, have given their first faith to God; to whom if they will use proper means to obtain it, God will never refuse the gift of continency. Some translators have corrupted this text, by rendering it, if they cannot contain. [11] And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife. [12] For to the rest I speak, not the Lord. If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not put her away. [13] And if any woman hath a husband that believeth not, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband. [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy. [15] But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.

    Commentary: [12] I speak, not the Lord: Viz., by any express commandment, or ordinance. [14] Is sanctified: The meaning is not, that the faith of the husband or the wife is of itself sufficient to put the unbelieving party, or their children, in the state of grace and salvation; but that it is very often an occasion of their sanctification, by bringing them to the true faith.

    [16] For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? [17] But as the Lord hath distributed to every one, as God hath called every one, so let him walk: and so in all churches I teach.


    St. Mark 10 : 6 - 10: But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. [7] For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. [8] And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. [9] What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.


    St. Mark 10 : 11 - 12: [11] And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. [12] And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.








    Condemnations of Divorce


    Divorce: a legal separation of married persons usually sought from a civil authority that in no way dissolves the marriage bond. No court, no judge, no legislature, no power on earth, can break the bond which unites husband and wife. For certain just cause, especially for the crime of adultery, they may live separately, but they are still married and cannot marry again. Let it be remembered that no so-called Divorce, no guilt, no desertion, can ever sever the marriage bond. Nothing but a certain knowledge of the death of one party can make it lawful for the other to marry. If therefore, after a divorce is granted by the law of the land, either party should marry another person, such a marriage would be no true marriage before God, but adultery.

    "Divorce is born of perverted morals, and leads, as experience shows, to vicious habits in public and private life." (Pope Leo XIII)


    "So long as a husband lives, be he adulterer, be he sodomite, be he addicted to every kind of vice, if she left him on account of his crimes he is her husband still and she may not take another." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, c. 397 A.D.)


    "To the doubts proposed to him the Supreme Pontiff, among other remarks, responds: 'The decision of lay tribunals and of Catholic assemblies by which the nullity of marriages is chiefly declared, and the dissolution of their bond attempted, can have no strength and absolutely no force in the sight of the Church...'" (Pope Pius VII, 1803 A.D.)


    "Not even [the Church] can ever affect for any cause whatsoever a Christian marriage which is valid and has been consummated, for as it is plain that here the marriage contract has its full completion, so, by the will of God, there is also the greatest firmness and indissolubility which may not be destroyed by any human authority." (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930)


    "According to our teacher, just as they are sinners who contract a second marriage, even though it be in accord with human law, so also are they sinners who look with lustful desire at a woman. He repudiates not only one who actually commits adultery, but even one who wishes to do so; for not only our actions are manifold to God, but even our thoughts." (St. Justin the Martyr, c. 148-161 A.D.)


    "You dismiss your wife, therefore, as if by right and without being charged with wrongdoing; and you suppose it is proper for you to do so because no human law forbids it; but divine law forbids it. Anyone who obeys men ought to stand in awe of God. Hear the law of the Lord, which even they who propose our laws must obey: 'What God has joined together let no man put asunder.'" (St. Ambrose of Milan, Doctor of the Church, c. 389 A.D.)


    ". . . if marriage could be dissolved by divorce, married persons would hardly ever be without causes of disunion, which would be daily supplied by the old enemy of peace and purity; while, on the contrary, now that the faithful must remember that even though separated as to bed and board, they remain nonetheless bound by the bond of marriage with no hope of marrying another, they are by this very fact rendered less prone to strife and discord." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)


    "It is hardly necessary to point out what an amount of good is involved in the absolute indissolubility of wedlock and what a train of evils follows upon divorce. Whenever the marriage bond remains intact, then we find marriages contracted with a sense of safety and security, while, when separations are considered and the dangers of divorce are present, the marriage contract itself becomes insecure, or at least gives ground for anxiety and surprises. On the one hand we see a wonderful strengthening of goodwill and cooperation in the daily life of husband and wife, while, on the other, both of these are miserably weakened by the presence of a facility for divorce." (Pope Pius XI, "Casti Connubii", 1930)





    Sins Against the Marriage Contract


    Adultery: The competed act of carnal intercourse between persons of different sex, of whom one at least is married to someone else. It is a sin against both chastity and injustice, and if both parties are married the offense is aggravated, for each one incurs a double sin of injustice. For a married person to give consent to his or her partner's adultery does not alter the sin, for marriage rights are inalienable.

    The Crime of Adultery united to a promise of marriage, establishes a diriment impediment to the union of the criminals (1075). The crime of adultery gives the innocent person grounds for perpetual separation (1129). Persons openly living in adultery are excluded from all ecclesiastical benefits until they have sincerely repented (2357, 2). If clerics are guilty of this crime they are to be suspended, disgraced, and deprived of all clerical benefits (2359, 2).


    Attempted Marriage: A married person, who attempts a second marriage, becomes a public sinner, and is to be excommunicated or placed under a personal interdict (2356). A priest who attempts marriage is excommunicated (reserved to the Holy See) and forfeits all ecclesiastical standing (2388, 1). A religious by the same crime is expelled from his Order (646, 1, 3).


    Bigamy: an attempted marriage, even by mere civil ceremony, by persons validly married. Those guilty of Bigamy are automatically branded with Infamy. If they do not heed the admonition of the Ordinary, but continue to live in the unlawful union, they are to be punished, according to the gravity of their guilt, either with excommunication or personal interdict (Canon 2356).

    Polygamy: a man having more wives than one--opposed to Divine law and the original institution of marriage.

    Polyandria: a woman having more husbands than one--opposed to the law of Nature.

    Infamy: A stigma attaching in canon law to the character of a person. It is of two kinds: infamia facti (of fact) or loss of good name by reason of crime or evil conduct, and infamia juris (of law) or stigma attached by common law to certain persons as a vindictive penalty, e.g., to those who profane the Blessed Sacrament, lay violent hands on the pope or his legate or a cardinal, desecrate dead bodies in their graves, take part in duels, or commit simultaneous bigamy.


    Can. 1069: Although the previous marriage be invalid or dissolved for whatever reason, it is not lawful to contract another one before the nullity or dissolution of the first has been legally and certainly established.

    This impediment is implied in the divine law of the unity of marriage, which now binds all men whether baptized or not, and which admits of no exception.






    Sins of Impurity

    The Sixth Commandment explicitly forbids only adultery.
    Everything, however, that is contrary to the decent propagation
    of the human race is also prohibited, that is, every external sin against
    chastity. The ninth commandment prohibits unchaste thoughts and desires.



    Lust: The inordinate seeking of the pleasures of the flesh. Lust defiles a man as no other sin does. It degrades man to the level of the beast. All directly voluntary sexual pleasure is mortally sinful outside of matrimony.


    Fornication: is a completed act of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married but are free to marry. It is a grave sin and intrinsically wrong and are mortally sinful.


    Concubinage: the state--more or less permanent--of a man and woman living together in illicit intercourse. Persons living in public concubinage are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. "Any one publicly living in concubinage shall be excluded from all legitimate ecclesiastical acts until he has repented and amended his life" (Canon: 2357, 3). Persons living in concubinage are not to be admitted to Holy Communion (855). Public or notorious concubinage is a source of impediment of public propriety. (1074)


    Contraception or Birth Control (Onanism): A regimen of one or more actions, devices, or medications followed in order to deliberately prevent or reduce the likelihood of pregnancy or childbirth. This includes what is known as "Natural Family Planning" when utilized with the intent of avoiding conception while carrying out the marital act. It is a very grave violation of the married state, and contrary to the primary end of marriage (i.e. the procreation and education of children).

    Incest: is sexual intercourse between persons related by blood or by affinity within the degrees in which marriage is forbidden by the Church. To the sin of impurity there is added another grave sin against piety. It is controverted whether or not sins committed with persons related in the first degree of the direct or collateral line either by blood or by marriage constitute an additional and specifically different malice.


    Sacrilege: is the violation of a person consecrated to God, or of a sacred thing or holy place, by a sin against chastity. Sacrilege is also committed by the reception of the sacraments unworthily, or to steal sacred vessels or other Church property, to do damage in a church, to despise relics and holy pictures, mutilate images, etc. See link on Unworthy Communion.


    Rape (Oppression): is the consummated carnal sin with a woman against her consent. Beside the mortal sin against chastity it is a grave sin against justice to ravish a woman. A double injury is committed in the ravishing of a virgin, namely, an unjust violation of her right and the additional injustice of deflowering her of the precious possession of physical integrity.


    Abduction: consists in kidnapping a woman and forcibly detaining her with the intention of future marriage. While this detention lasts it establishes an invalidating impediment to the marriage (Canon: 1074)


    Pollution: An unnatural sin against purity also known by the names of self-abuse or masturbation. It consists in the complete sexual satisfaction obtained by some form of self-stimulation. When direct and voluntary it is always gravely (mortally) sinful.


    Sodomy: An unnatural sin against purity that is among the four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. (Gen 18: 20-21). It consists in the complete copulation, especially that of one male with another and is always gravely (mortally) sinful.

    Homosexuality: Condemned from Sacred Scripture: "Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error" (Rom. 1:24-27).

    Homosexuals cannot be chosen as sponsors for Baptism according to Canon 765, 766: the Code wishes to debar from sponsorship all whose moral character and reputation do not guarantee fitness to raise a Catholic child, which, as sponsor, one would be expected to do in case of necessity. Besides, sponsorship is an honor and should not be conferred on unworthy persons.

    Cross Dressing (Transvestite): Condemned from Sacred Scripture: "A woman shall not be clothed with man's apparel, neither shall a man use woman's apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God" (Deut. 22:5).

    Self-Mutilation: The action of depriving oneself of any bodily organ or of its use. Since man is not the owner of his body but only its custodian, self-mutilation is gravely illicit and mortally sinful. Examples of self-mutilation include transsexuals who have undergone surgery to change their God-given gender.


    Bestiality: is a sin of impurity with an animal






    Crimes Against Life


    Murder: The direct and wilful killing of an innocent person, contrary to the divine command, "The innocent and just person thou shall not put to death" (Exod. xxiii, 7). To constitute murder in law, the person killing another must be of sound mind or in possession of his reason, and the act must be done with malice prepense aforethought or premeditated but malice may be implied as well as expressed. Willful Murder is one of the four sins that cries to heaven for vengeance and is a grave (mortal) sin.


    Abortion: The expulsion of the foetus (unborn human baby) from the womb before it is able to lead a separate life; to be distinguished from premature birth. Accidental abortion is known as miscarriage. Artificial abortions [includes Medical Abortions (ex. morning after pill and other stimulates to induce abortion) and Surgical Abortions (ex. Selective Reduction and Partial Birth Abortions], directly sought for are willful murder and forbidden by the Catholic Church as a grave (mortal) sins against the 5th Commandment. Aborted babies who die without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism are denied heaven, as the Council of Trent teaches, "infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism".

    Commentary: Pope Pius IX. declared in 1869 in Apostolicae Sedis that the penalty of excommunication is incurred ispo facto (automatically) for those who procure an abortion at any stage of foetal development--from conception to birth. This penalty is still in force today and applies to individuals who have taken RU486 (Morning After Pill), authorized selective reduction, used in vitro fertilization to conceive a child or donated frozen embryos to science. Surgical abortions or other medical abortions also incur this penalty.

    Penalties of Abortion: Persons who procure abortion, the mother not excepted, automatically incur excommunication reserved to the Ordinary at the moment the crime takes effect; if they are clerics, they shall also be deposed (Canon 2350).

    Accomplices in Abortion: incur the same penalty as the principal agent even though they are not expressly mentioned in the law, provided they in anyway conspire and physically concur in the execution of the offense, or provided the offense is of such nature that it requires an accomplice, or if without their co-operation the offense would not have been committed (C.2231)


    Euthanasia: The wilful and inexcusable murder of an individual, falsely portrayed as a means of providing a gentle, and easy way to die for someone who is in great pain or suffering. When Euthanasia involves a parent, this mortal sin is known as parricide as it also violates the Fourth Commandment and the reverence that is due to one's parent.


    Suicide: is the self-murder, or the act of designedly destroying one's own life. Suicide is one of the most terrible sins a man can commit. By it men leave little or no room for repentance, for hope or for charity. As a rule, suicides die in their sins--yea, their death is their sin; and what an awful state must they be in who resolve that their last act in life shall be a most grievous sin! They indeed are self murderers, for they destroy not only their bodies, but their souls also.

    It is, therefore, never lawful for a man on his own authority directly to cause his own death. The precept Thou shalt not kill forbids the killing of any man, and much more the murder of one's self. We cannot dispose of what does not belong to us, and over which we have no dominion or right; and God has reserved to Himself the dominion over life and death. Hence, neither to avoid sin nor to avoid a most excruciating death would it be lawful for a man to take poison; neither would it be lawful for soldiers to put themselves to death, rather than fall into the hands of their cruel or savage enemies.