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Lesson 5

Freedom, Sin, and the Authority of the Church

Our ultimate happiness, which is found in God alone, is intimately bound up with our freedom. God has created us in His image and likeness, with the power to freely choose Him or freely reject Him. True freedom is the ability to choose the good, which is a moral decision.

Lesson Vocabulary

  • Freedom
    The power, rooted in the intellect and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one鈥檚 own responsibility. True freedom is the ability to do what one ought to do, that which is truly good and directed toward God, our happiness and fulfillment.
  • Object
    (n.): That to which the will deliberately directs itself. In the determination of the morality of a human act, it is the act iself. It is either objectively good or evil.
  • Intention
    (n.): The end or purpose one hopes to accomplish or bring about with a chosen act. The same act can be inspired by many different intentions. A good intention does not make an evil action good. The ends do not justify the means. A bad intention can make a good action evil.
  • Circumstance
    The specific environmental factors surrounding an action, including its consequences. They are secondary qualities of a moral act, and cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves (they cannot make an evil act good), but can reduce or increase one鈥檚 culpability, and can contribute to increasing or diminishing the objective moral goodness or evil of an action.
  • Sin
    A sin is something that we say, do, think, or fail to do that does not love God, our neighbor, or ourselves, as God has taught us.
  • Sin of Omission
    Sins that result from not doing something we should do. It is a sin of omission when we do not help our neighbor in need.
  • Mortal Sin
    (n.): Serious sin we choose to commit even though we know it is wrong. Mortal sin completely separates us from God, destroys His divine life within us, and rejects His love for us.
  • Vincible Ignorance
    (n.): The state of a person who is lacking knowledge they should have known. An individual displays vincible ignorance when he 鈥渢akes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing a sin鈥 (CCC 1791; GS 16).
  • Invincible Ignorance
    (n.): The state of a person who cannot be held responsible for lack of knowledge, such as those who have never heard the Gospel message.
  • Venial Sin
    (n.): Less serious sin that hurts our relationship with God, but does not destroy it.
  • Bishop
    (n.): A successor to the Apostles, who has received the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He is the leader of a particular church, or diocese, entrusted to him.
  • Pope
    (n.): The successor of St. Peter as bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the universal Catholic Church. The pope exercises a primacy of authority as the vicar of Christ on earth and the shepherd of the whole Church.
  • Eternal Law
    (n.): The source of all law, God Himself: the eternal and unchanging Truth outside of time and space.
  • Divine Providence
    The dispositions by which God guides His creation toward its perfection yet to be attained; the protection and governance of God over all creation.
  • Civil Law
    (n.): The set of laws people make by their own powers, such as the laws of various federal, state, and local governments.
  • Ecclesiastical Law
    The universal rules and regulations that govern the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Natural Law
    Man鈥檚 participation in the eternal law of God. It expresses the original moral sense that enables man to determine whether something is good or evil. It is written into the heart of every person and is universal in its authority and application. It is unchanging and permanent and provides a solid foundation on which human beings can build the structure of moral rules to guide their choices.
  • Revealed Law
    The law that comes to us from God鈥檚 revelation in history, begun with the Ten Commandments and the prophets, brought to fulfillment by Christ, and further elucidated by the Magisterium.
  • Old Law
    (n.): The laws of the Old Covenant given by God to His Chosen People and summarized in the Ten Commandments.
  • Ten Commandments
    The Ten Commandments are God鈥檚 Law given to Moses in the Old Testament. Breaking one of these Commandments is a serious sin.
  • New Law
    (n.): The law of the New Covenant established by Jesus, found especially in the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and the two great commandments. It is the perfection here on earth of the Divine Law, natural and revealed.
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