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Chapter 1: The Basis for Morality

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Chapter 1: The Basis for Morality

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  1. Chapter 1: The Basis for Morality OUR MORAL LIFE IN CHRIST

  2. 1. Introductory Lesson (for first day of class) • Syllabus • Cycle of instructional lessons • Instructional policy • Materials • Homework: • Read The Basis for Morality and Introductionthrough What the Moral Law is Not(pp. 2–6)

  3. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) ANTICIPATORY SET Ask the students to respond to the following statement in writing, then ask them to share their responses: Upon hearing the Ten Commandments, a student said, “I suppose God is entitled to his opinion, but I am also entitled to mine!”

  4. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) BASIC QUESTIONS What is required to accept Christ’s invitation to happiness and eternal life? What is the difference between objective morality and moral relativism? What is the essence of the moral law? Why is the moral law essential to Christianity? KEY IDEAS Christ’s invitation to share in his life in this world and in the next requires both a faith‑filled response and a living of that faith by using our freedom to do good. The moral law is the standard of human behavior established by God and taught by the Church. Objective standards of morality are opposed to moral relativism, which claims that moral standards are subjective and may vary according to situation and personal opinion. The moral law is not simply about rules but more importantly about how best to love God and our neighbor in thought, word, and deed. Christianity is about holiness, and good moral behavior is essential to attaining holiness.

  5. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) FOCUS QUESTIONS What is morality and moral law? Morality refers to the standards by which we judge actions to be good or evil. Moral law refers to the standards of human behavior that were established by God and are taught by the Catholic Church. What do the controversies between abortion proponents and pro‑life advocates reveal? The controversies reveal that, even though the two sides completely disagree, each believes that some kind of moral standard must exist. For example, one side speaks of the right of the unborn child to life. The other speaks of the woman’s right to an abortion. What is the difference between an objective and a subjective morality? Objective morality claims that our actions are good or evil independently of what we think about them, whereas subjective morality claims that the moral value of our actions depends on the situation and one’s opinion.

  6. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Put the students into groups of three or four and assign each group one of the five For Discussion questions. One student in each group should be the moderator of the group, another the recorder, and a third the presenter. Give the groups three to five minutes to discuss their question then call on the presenters to briefly share responses.

  7. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Conduct a mini‑lecture on why people tend to equate morality and the Catholic Church with “repressive teachings” on morality. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, much of the secular culture has been obsessed with sex. In 1950, only a tiny minority of people would have said that premarital sex, adultery, divorce, contraception, pornography, abortion, or homosexual behavior were morally acceptable. In 1950, ideas such as in vitro fertilization (test tube babies), cloning, same‑sex “marriage” and adoption of children, and partial‑birth abortion would have been considered morally unacceptable. While much of our culture has changed, the Catholic Church has maintained her perennial teachings and applied them to new situations that have arisen. These teachings have sometimes been scorned and ridiculed by the media, which accuse the Church of trying to impose its values on others, or to legislate morality.

  8. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) FOCUS QUESTIONS If Christianity is not just about moral precepts, what is it fundamentally about? Christianity is a message of salvation and holiness. What is the relationship between a morality of rules and a morality that includes rules? Christ’s morality is not a morality of just rules as if following rules would save you. Rather, it is a morality that includes rules. Moral laws and precepts show us the difference between good and evil and the path we need to follow if we want to please God, achieve true perfection, and obtain salvation.

  9. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) FOCUS QUESTIONS What do some people assume morality is basically about? Many people assume morality is all about issues pertaining to sexuality and marriage. They then conclude morality is nothing but an unnecessary restriction on human freedom. Besides matters of sexual morality, what else does the moral law include? It includes all human behavior that has a moral dimension, including war, health care, economics, poverty, discrimination, calumny, and criminal justice. Where can one find the official presentation of Catholic beliefs and teachings about the moral law? The third section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  10. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Have the students work with a partner to come up with at least one example of how, in some moral issue, one can be moral (in the good sense) or moralistic (in a bad sense).

  11. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) FOCUS QUESTIONS What Basic Question does Catholic moral teaching answer? How can we best reflect our love for God and other people in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

  12. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Have the students complete the following table to clarify the analogy between playing on an athletic team and living in union with Christ.

  13. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Have the students complete the following table to clarify the analogy between playing on an athletic team and living in union with Christ.

  14. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) GUIDED EXERCISE Ask the students to provide examples of moral and moralistic people from The Scarlet Letter and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (or other) novels.

  15. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) CLOSURE Have the students write a one-sentence answer for each of the three Basic Questions of this lesson.

  16. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT Study Questions 1–12 (p. 27) Practical Exercise 2 (p. 29) Workbook Questions 1–7 Read “Characteristics of the Moral Law” and Supplementary Reading 2 (pp. 6–8, 20)

  17. 2. The Basis for Moralityand the Introduction (pp. 2-6) ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT Ask the students to write three questions about things they did not understand about the moral law in this lesson. Spend a few minutes sharing the questions and possible answers.

  18. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) ANTICIPATORY SET Have a student read the story of the rich young man as part of the class’s opening prayer (cf. Mt 19:16–26) and then briefly discuss what Christ is saying.

  19. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) BASIC QUESTIONS Why is the moral law demanded by the faith? What is the relationship between the moral law and happiness? How does the moral law make us wise? Why is the moral law objective and how does the moral law draw us to Christ? KEY IDEAS A full commitment to living the moral law is a demand of our faith, which enables us live out our vocation to holiness. The moral law sets us on the way to true happiness because it is rooted in love. Because living the moral law gives us wisdom, the moral law leads us to knowledge of the inner life of the Trinity and God's plans for us. Just as the physical laws governing the universe are not created but discovered, the moral law is objective, originating in God’s divine wisdom. The natural law is written in man’s heart by God himself. Abiding by the moral law draws us closer to Christ, who fulfilled and perfected the Mosaic Law.

  20. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) FOCUS QUESTIONS How does the Great Commandment relate to the Ten Commandments? The Great Commandment to love God above all else and to love your neighbor as yourself, puts all the Commandments into context and describes the interior spirit with which we are to embrace the moral law. Love is both the context and spirit. How does the moral law provide the way to true happiness? Living by the moral law helps us get closer to God, who is the true source of happiness.

  21. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) 1. The Law in general: vv. 17–20 2. Anger: vv. 21–26 3. Adultery: vv. 27–30 4. Divorce: vv. 31–32 5. Oaths: vv. 33–37 6. Retaliation: vv. 38–42 7. Love of Enemies: vv. 43–48 • Give the groups about three minutes to analyze their passages, then have them share their findings with the whole class. GUIDED EXERCISE Divide the class into seven groups. Assign each group one of the following passages from Matthew 5:17–48. The job of each group is to explain how its passage presents a New Law that perfects the Old Law. The phrase “the law and the prophets” refers to what we call the Old Testament:

  22. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) FOCUS QUESTIONS What is the origin of both the physical and moral laws of the universe? Both kinds of laws were created by God and are discovered, not invented, by human beings. What is the natural law? The natural law is the moral law written in the human heart. Why is the moral law objective? The standards of Christian morality are God’s plan for us. They are not determined by one’s preference or the will of the majority. What is the relationship between the morality of the Old and New Testaments? The Commandments given by God to the Jewish people were perfected and explained by Christ.

  23. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) CLOSURE Have the students free write for five minutes on the following question: What is, to you, the most important reason that you should obey the moral law?

  24. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT Study Questions13–19 (p. 27) Practical Exercise 1 (p. 29) Workbook Questions 8–11 Read “Moral Law and Free Will” through “Moral Law and Grace” (pp. 9–11)

  25. 3. Characteristics of the Moral Law(pp. 6–9) ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT Have the students complete Practical Exercise 1 in class. Have students pray silently about things that take precedence over God and things they might change in their own lives to give God center stage.

  26. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) ANTICIPATORY SET Incorporate the story of Cain and Abel (cf. Gn 4:1–16) into your class’s opening prayer and discuss the murder of Abel as a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve.

  27. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) BASIC QUESTIONS What effect does Original Sin have on our free will? What is grace? What is the difference between sanctifying and actual grace? Why do some baptized persons live poor moral lives? KEY IDEAS Original Sin weakens our free will and inclines us toward sin. Grace is the help God gives us so we can distinguish good from evil choices and actually do good and avoid evil. Sanctifying grace is a permanent presence of God in our souls. We receive it at Baptism. Actual graces are temporary infusions of God’s grace to help us live according to God’s will. Some baptized person live poor moral lives because they refuse to cooperate with the graces they have received.

  28. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) GUIDED EXERCISE Part I of II Conduct a mini‑lecture on the Catholic understanding of the effects of Original Sin. Original Sin is transmitted to every human being as part of his or her human nature. It is not a moral guilt as if the person has committed a personal sin; rather, it is a wound that leads to sin. Due to Original Sin, the intellect is darkened, so it is harder to recognize the truth. The will is weakened, so it is harder to do good. The passions often overwhelm the reason and will rather than being ruled by them. This is called concupiscence, and it leads us to sin. Because of Original Sin, we experience pain, sickness, and eventually death.

  29. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) GUIDED EXERCISE Part II of II The most important consequence of Original Sin is the privation of sanctifying grace we experience as a consequence of the sin of Adam. Privation means being denied something we were created to possess. We were made to be in relationship with God and to have God’s own life within us. However, Original Sin alienates us from God. Although Baptism restores sanctifying grace, it does not remove the wounding effects of Original Sin. There are two principal errors in regard to Original Sin. On the one hand, some people have exaggerated the definition of Original Sin. For example, the Manichaeans claimed that everything physical is evil. Later, Calvin said our human natures are totally depraved. On the other hand are those who deny Original Sin altogether. For example, Rousseau and the Romantics claimed people are all originally good but are corrupted by society. Which reading of Original Sin seems to best explain human history: man as totally corrupt, man as naturally perfectible, or man as possessing a basically good but wounded nature?

  30. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) GUIDED EXERCISE Conduct a think/pair/share on the following question: According to Veritatis Splendor 102, what is the relationship between the temptation Adam faced and the temptations each one of us faces?

  31. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) FOCUS QUESTIONS What kind of freedom did Adam and Eve possess before their fall? They had complete self‑control over their minds, wills, and passions. What is Adam and Eve’s sin called? Original Sin. What are the three consequences of Original Sin for us? Each of us has inherited a clouded mind, a weakened will, and disordered passions. Despite possessing the natural law, why do we need God’s help to make good moral decisions on our own? Our tendency to sin, a consequence of Original Sin, makes it more difficult for us to distinguish good from evil.

  32. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) FOCUS QUESTIONS What is grace? Grace is a free gift that God gives us so we can share in his life and conform ourselves to his will. What is sanctifying grace? It is the abiding grace that we receive at Baptism through which God himself dwells in our souls, and we share in his life. What is actual grace? It is a temporary grace that gives us the knowledge and strength to do what is good and right.

  33. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) FOCUS QUESTIONS Why is actual grace necessary for every person who has reached the age of reason? Without it we would not have the strength to resist temptation and could not be faithful to the Commandments. We can always count on God’s grace to aid us to do what is right. Why do so many baptized persons live morally poor lives? Grace cannot operate if we lack the commitment or effort to do good, or if we rationalize that our bad behavior is exempt from the moral law.

  34. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) CLOSURE Have the students free write for five minutes on the relationship between Original Sin, grace, and free will.

  35. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT Study Questions20–21 (p. 27) Practical Exercise 3 (p. 29) Workbook Questions 12–17 Read “Moral Law and the Christian Vocation” through “Vocation and Discipleship,” and Supplementary Readings 1, 3 (pp. 12–14, 22–23)

  36. 4. Moral Law and Free Will and Moral Law and Grace (pp. 9–11) ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT Have the students work with a partner to answer the following question. Based on what you have learned in this chapter, how would you respond to someone who says he or she would never become Catholic because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal?

  37. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) ANTICIPATORY SET Explain to the students that one of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council is Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church. One of the most important sections of Lumen Gentiumis Chapter Five, “The Universal Call to Holiness.” • Read the following excerpt (S 41), which describes the vocation to holiness: All Christ’s faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives—and indeed through all these, will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the Divine Will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world.

  38. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) BASIC QUESTIONS What is the universal call to holiness? What is the role of freedom and self‑mastery in our vocation? What is Christian discipleship? What is transformation in Christ? KEY IDEAS Every human being is called to holiness and therefore to living the moral law. We need both freedom and self‑mastery to respond to our vocation to holiness. To be a disciple is to imitate Christ, especially in his life and Death. We are called to become inwardly transformed in Christ.

  39. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) FOCUS QUESTIONS If one is not Catholic, a Christian, or even a deist, is the moral law necessary? The moral law applies to every human being because every person is called to holiness. What vocation does Baptism give every Christian? Every baptized person has the vocation to become completely centered on Christ. This is the holiness proclaimed by the Gospels and found throughout the New Testament.

  40. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) FOCUS QUESTIONS What is a disciple? The word disciple (“follower”) indicates an individual who has adopted another person’s way of life and taken on his or her particular type of discipline. Whose way of life and discipline are we called to adopt? We are called to imitate Christ. What event(s) in Christ’s life most dramatically illustrates the virtues we are called to live? In Christ’s Passion and Death we witness forgiveness, patience, humility, and love.

  41. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) FOCUS QUESTIONS Where does the imitation of Christ occur in a person’s life? Although it has outward manifestations, the imitation of Christ primarily occurs inwardly, in our hearts. What does it mean to be incorporated into the life of Christ? It means we are inwardly transformed to love, think, and act according to Christ’s example and teachings. How is St. Augustine an example of the need for both free will and self‑control? For many years, Augustine desired a life of holiness, but he lacked the self‑mastery to abandon an unchaste life.

  42. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) GUIDED EXERCISE Have the students work with a partner to complete Practical Exercise 13 on the relationship between freedom and sin: According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 1033–1037), what does the existence of Hell reveal about humanity’s destiny and proper end?

  43. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) GUIDED EXERCISE Conduct a think/pair/write/share on the following question: How does a person who is transformed by Christ see the world differently?

  44. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) FOCUS QUESTIONS What is the relationship between vocation and freedom? It is completely up to us whether we respond to our vocation. What two aspects of freedom are vital in following Christ’s teaching? First, we must want to follow Christ and live by his teachings. Second, we must have sufficient self‑control and self‑mastery to live the high standards of love and sacrifice exemplified by Christ.

  45. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) CLOSURE Have the students write a paragraph on their understanding of what transformation in Christ means, and how they feel about being changed in this way.

  46. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT Study Questions 22–26 (p. 27) Practical Exercises 4, 5, 8, 9, 13 (p. 29) Workbook Questions 18–24 Read “Christian Morality in Action” and Supplementary Reading 4 (pp. 14–15, 23)

  47. 5. Moral Law and the Christian Vocation and Vocation and Discipleship (pp. 12–14) ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT End class with a silent time of prayer in which the students complete Practical Exercise 4 on the meaning of discipleship in their own lives.

  48. 6. Christian Morality in Action (pp. 14–15) ANTICIPATORY SET This lesson examines “how morality, free will, our actions, and our interior dispositions are all inextricably interrelated.” Have the students write one‑sentence explanations for each of the following terms:

  49. 6. Christian Morality in Action (pp. 14–15) ANTICIPATORY SET This lesson examines “how morality, free will, our actions, and our interior dispositions are all inextricably interrelated.” Have the students write one‑sentence explanations for each of the following terms:

  50. 6. Christian Morality in Action (pp. 14–15) BASIC QUESTIONS What do our actions reveal about us? Are we responsible for our actions? On what standard must our moral actions be based? KEY IDEAS Our words and actions reveal our interior moral dispositions, whether good or evil. Despite the weakness of our wounded human nature, which tempts us toward evil, our actions are the result of our own free will. In order to follow Christ, our decisions and actions must be based on the moral law. The Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist help us greatly in this regard.