Faith and Morals

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The term signifies the object of Catholic faith in its entirety. Primarily it includes all the truths revealed by God and proposed by the Church as necessary for men to believe and to act upon if they are to attain eternal salvation, e.g., articles of the Apostles Creed, the commandments of love of God and neighbor. Such truths that are included in the object of Catholic faith are contained in the fonts of Scripture and tradition. Formally revealed truths may be contained in these fonts either explicitly, i.e., according to the manifest meaning of the words, or implicitly, i.e., as known from an analysis or a deeper understanding of the terms themselves.

Secondarily it includes other truths, which are proposed by the Church as necessary to enable men to believe in divine revelation or follow its moral precepts, although these truths have not been divinely revealed, e.g., determination of the canon of Sacred Scripture, canonization of saints, determination of the matter and form of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, some explicitations of the natural law. The Church does not propose these truths as formally revealed but as intimately connected with revealed truths and hence to be accepted on faith.

Historical and Theological Considerations. Many times St. Paul wrote that man is saved by faith rather than by works, i.e., that the supernatural gift of faith unites a man to Christ, and the "works" of the religious ceremonies and precepts demanded by the Mosaic Law are useless in effecting this union (Rom ch 3; 9.32; 11.6; Gal2.16; Eph 2.9). However, the faith in Christ demanded by Paul included avoidance of sin, i.e., good works (Rom ch. 6; 1 Cor ch. 58). The Gospels and Epistles demand not only faith but also good works (Mt ch. 57; Jn ch. 1417; Ja ch. 2). St. Clement of Rome (a.d. 95) spoke of sanctification by faith (1 Clem. 32, 33) but included good works as the outcome of faith. In the early Christian teaching, faith in Christ was distinguished from "works," i.e., the religious ceremonies of the Mosaic Law. Yet good works, meaning right moral conduct, were always connected with true faith.

After the condemnation in 1520 of Luther's proposition that the Church or pope can determine neither the articles of faith nor the laws of morality or good works (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer 1477), the term faith and morals began to appear in Church definitions more regularly. Trent used the term in reference to interpreting Scripture (ibid. 1507), while, Vatican I used it in defining the universal jurisdiction of the pope (ibid. 3060).

Object of Infallibility. The infallible teaching authority of the Church determines these "matters of faith and morals" and proposes them for acceptance by the faithful of the universal Church, on occasion through the pope speaking as the universal shepherd. This teaching authority preserves, guards, and interprets these truths of the deposit of faith according to the following categories: (1) The truths revealed directly by God and by Christ, or through His Apostles, and that ordain men to eternal life are preserved, guarded, and transmitted throughout the world, e.g., the Trinity, Christ's birth and Resurrection, the Church as a visible, hierarchical society. Moral matters such as the beatitudes, commands to love God and neighbor, indissolubility of marriage truths that are principles to guide men's actions toward Godare also defined. These truths are formally and explicitly revealed, that is, they are those that God manifestly intended by the words themselves, considering the nature of human speech and signification of the terms used. (2) Other truths that are formally revealed, but implicitly so, are also transmitted. These truths may be seen from an analysis of the terms of an explicit revelation without bringing in a third term as in a syllogistic form of reasoning. Correlative statements exemplify this: if Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is born of Mary, then Mary is the mother of God; the Council of Ephesus (431) defined this against the heretic Nestorius. Without necessarily declaring exactly how these truths of faith and morals are contained in revelation and without any formally declared logical process, the Church infallibly defines them as part of the deposit of revelation to be accepted on divine faith, and it does this in fulfilling its task of preserving, guarding, and explaining the revealed truths of Scripture and tradition. (3) Truths may be per se revealed, i.e., principally intended by God such as articles of the Creed, or per accidens revealed (Mt 13.12; 2 Tm4.916). (4) Faith and morals also includes truths that the Church defines infallibly, though not as part of the revealed deposit, e.g., canon of Sacred Scripture.

Conclusion. Faith and morals primarily includes all divinely revealed truths that God gave to the Church, either directly or through the Apostles, and that are contained in the Scriptures or tradition and that are to be accepted on divine faith as necessary for salvation. Secondarily it includes truths defined by the Church as necessary to preserve and explain the truths formally and directly revealed. The teaching authority of the Church alone determines these truths.

See Also: doctrine; dogma; revelation, theology of; revelation, virtual; rule of faith.

Bibliography: e. dublanchy, "Dépôt de la foi," Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant, 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 4.1: 526531; "Dogme," ibid. 4.2:157677; "Église," ibid. 218485; "Infaillibilité du Pape," ibid. 7.2:1699. n. iung, "Révélation," ibid. 13.2:2616. l. ciappi, "Freedom of the Faith and Papal Infallibility," in Thomist Reader (Washington 1957) 117. c. journet, The Church of the Word Incarnate, v.1 tr. a. h. c. downes (New York 1955) 338342.

[a. e. green]