The Catholic Catechism -
the 10 Commandments
The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbour.
The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbour.
2067 As charity comprises the two commandments to which the Lord related the whole Law and the prophets . . . so the Ten Commandments were themselves given on two tablets. Three were written on one tablet and seven on the other.
2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."
The unity of the Decalogue
2069 The Decalogue forms a coherent whole. Each "word" refers to each of the others and to all of them; they reciprocally condition one another. The two tables shed light on one another; they form an organic unity. To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others.30 One cannot honor another person without blessing God his Creator. One cannot adore God without loving all men, his creatures. The Decalogue brings man's religious and social life into unity.
The Decalogue and the natural law
2070 The Ten Commandments belong to God's revelation. At the same time they teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person. The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law:
From the beginning, God had implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law. Then he was content to remind him of them. This was the Decalogue.
2071 The commandments of the Decalogue, although accessible to reason alone, have been revealed. To attain a complete and certain understanding of the requirements of the natural law, sinful humanity needed this revelation:
A full explanation of the commandments of the Decalogue became necessary in the state of sin because the light of reason was obscured and the will had gone astray.
We know God's commandments through the divine revelation proposed to us in the Church, and through the voice of moral conscience.
The obligation of the Decalogue
2072 Since they express man's fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbour, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.
2073 Obedience to the Commandments also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light. Thus abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment, but would be a grave offence only as a result of circumstances or the offender's intention.
"Apart from me you can do nothing"
2074 Jesus says: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
2075 "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" - "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:16-17).
2076 By his life and by his preaching Jesus attested to the permanent validity of the Decalogue.
2077 The gift of the Decalogue is bestowed from within the covenant concluded by God with his people. God's commandments take on their true meaning in and through this covenant.
2078 In fidelity to Scripture and in conformity with Jesus' example, the tradition of the Church has always acknowledged the primordial importance and significance of the Decalogue.
2079 The Decalogue forms an organic unity in which each "word" or "commandment" refers to all the others taken together. To transgress one commandment is to infringe the whole Law (cf. Jas 2:10-11).
2080 The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law. It is made known to us by divine revelation and by human reason.
2081 The Ten Commandments, in their fundamental content, state grave obligations. However, obedience to these precepts also implies obligations in matter which is, in itself, light.
2082 What God commands he makes possible by his grace.
According to Exodus in the Old Testament, God issued his own set of laws (the Ten Commandments) to Moses on Mount Sinai. In Catholicism, the Ten Commandments are considered divine law because God himself revealed them. And because they were spelled out specifically with no room for ambiguity, they’re also positive law.
Hence they’re also known as divine positive law.
The Ten Commandments are
“I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange Gods before Me.
This commandment forbids idolatry, the worship of false gods and goddesses, and it excludes polytheism, the belief in many gods, insisting instead on monotheism, the belief in one God. This commandment forbids making golden calves, building temples to Isis, and worshipping statues of Caesar, for example.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The faithful are required to honour the name of God. It makes sense that if you’re to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then you’re naturally to respect the name of God with equal passion and vigour.
“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”
The Jewish celebration of Sabbath (Shabbat) begins at sundown on Friday evening and lasts until sundown on Saturday. Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians go to church on Sunday, treating it as the Lord’s Day instead of Saturday to honour the day Christ rose from the dead.
“Honour thy father and mother.”
This commandment obliges the faithful to show respect for their parents — as children and adults. Children must obey their parents, and adults must respect and see to the care of their parents, when they become old and infirm.
“Thou shalt not kill.”
The better translation from the Hebrew would be “Thou shalt not murder” — a subtle distinction but an important one to the Church. Killing an innocent person is considered murder. Killing an unjust aggressor to preserve your own life is still killing, but it isn’t considered murder or immoral.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
The sixth and ninth commandments honor human sexuality. This commandment forbids the actual, physical act of having immoral sexual activity, specifically adultery, which is sex with someone else’s spouse or a spouse cheating on their partner. This commandment also includes fornication, which is sex between unmarried people, prostitution, pornography, homosexual activity, masturbation, group sex, rape, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia.
“Thou shalt not steal.”
The seventh and tenth commandments focus on respecting and honoring the possessions of others. This commandment forbids the act of taking someone else’s property. The Catholic Church believes that this commandment also denounces cheating people of their money or property, depriving workers of their just wage, or not giving employers a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, and vandalism are all considered extensions of violations of the Seventh Commandment.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
The Eighth Commandment condemns lying. Because God is regarded as the author of all truth, the Church believes that humans are obligated to honor the truth. The most obvious way to fulfill this commandment is not to lie — intentionally deceive another by speaking a falsehood. So a good Catholic is who you want to buy a used car from.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”
The Ninth Commandment forbids the intentional desire and longing for immoral sexuality. To sin in the heart, Jesus says, is to lust after a woman or a man in your heart with the desire and will to have immoral sex with them. Just as human life is a gift from God and needs to be respected, defended, and protected, so, too, is human sexuality. Catholicism regards human sexuality as a divine gift, so it’s considered sacred in the proper context — marriage.
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.”
The Tenth Commandment forbids the wanting to or taking someone else’s property. Along with the Seventh Commandment, this commandment condemns theft and the feelings of envy, greed, and jealousy in reaction to what other people have.