JMC : The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.

The Fourth Commandment.

We enter now on the study of those commandments which were written on the second Table. All these regard the rights and duties of men in respect to their fellow-men. Their special rights and duties, that is those peculiar to men as members of the domestic and civil society, are regulated by the fourth commandment; their individual rights and duties in regard to life, by the fifth: those connected with the propagation of life, by the sixth and ninth: those regarding the goods of fortune, by the seventh and tenth; and those regarding their good name, by the eight.

The fourth commandment is: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee". It is the only commandment that was promulgated on Mount Sinai with a promise attached to it. It is a promise of temporal reward, besides the eternal reward which is, of course, in store for those who keep all the commandments; for Christ has said: "He that hath My commandmends and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. And he that loveth Me shall be loved by My Father: and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" etc. (Jo. XIV, 23). On the other hand, a curse is pronounced upon those who dishonor their parents: "Cursed is he that honoreth not his father and mother: and all the people shall say, amen." In this commandment the word honor, as reason indicates, and as is explained in other portions of the Holy Scriptures, includes love, reverence, and obedience. 1. Love requires, (a) That we cherish kindly sentiments towards our parents, sincerely wishing them temporal and eternal happiness. (b) That we earnestly strive to procure them such happiness by our behavior toward them and by helping them in need. (c) That we carefully avoid all that may grieve them.

2. Reverence, both inwardly in our thoughts and outwardly in our words and actions, is due them, because nature has made them our superiors: "Honor thy Father in work and word, and all patience" (Ecclus III, 9).

3. Obedience to all their just Commands is due, because they hold the place of God in our regard. Christ has taught us so by His words and by His example. for He lived for thirty years at Nazareth with His parents: "And He was subject to them" (Luke II, 51).

This obedience must be practiced as long as the children remain under their parents' care ; and they are to remain thus until they are of full age, or until the parents allow them to become their own masters. But their duties of love and reverence are not confined to any period of life nor can they be cancelled by any fault the parents may commit for they are founded on the fact that the parents have given life to their children, which is the greatest of temporal blessings. Therefore the Scripture says "Son, support the old age of thy father, and grieve him not in his life: and if his understanding fail, have patience with him and despise him not while thou art in thy strength: for the relieving of the father shall not be forgotten. For good shall be repaid to thee for the sin of thy mother. And in justice thou shalt be built up, and in the day of affliction thou shalt be remembered, and thy sins shall melt away as the ice in the fair, warm weather" (Ecclus. III, 14-17).

It is a grievous sin, (a) To strike one's parents, even though they be not hurt but only much grieved thereat. The Old Law read thus: "He that striketh his father or nother shall be put to death" (Exod. XXI, 15); (b) To curse them: "He that curseth his father or mother shall die the death" (ib. 17); (c) Grievously to deride or revile them, or to refuse for a long time speaking kindly to them; (d) To refuse them assistance when they are in grievous need.

Right order also requires mutual love and solicitude for one another's welfare among brothers and sisters and relatives generally, also special honor to grand-parents; and proper submission of the children to all persons to whom is committed any share of parental authority.

Parents, on their part, owe to their children love and support, good example, correction, and such an education as shall properly provide for their spiritual welfare, and for their temporal prosperity according to their station in society.

The education of the children belongs by right to their parents, not to the State; for God evidently intends this duty to be exercised by those whom He has best qualified for this purpose. Now such are the parents; for in them, not in the officers of the State, is implanted a genuine, self-sacrificing solicitude for their children's welfare, together with that prompt perception of their wants which best enables them to supply the same. Besides, the family existed before the State, and it does not strictly need the State for the performance of its own task, which is to secure the happiness and perfection of all its members. The education which parents give to their children, or cause to be given them, should be thoroughly Christian; for religion is every one's principal duty and highest interest. And it is distinctly taught in the Syllabus of Pius IX, that Catholics cannot approve of a system of education which is severed from the Catholic faith and from the power of the Church, and which regards only or primarily natural knowledge and social life.

Parents may sin grievously by treating their children with excessive severity, by calling them very opprobrious names; or, on the other hand, by spoiling them through excessive indulgence or flattery; or again by cherishing excessive partiality to some of them to the great detriment of the rest.

318. The husband and wife owe to one another love, co-habitation, support, and assistance in the labors devolving on them. The wife is a partner, not a mere servant or slave, to her husband. Still in every society there must be a head; and this is naturally the father, who also represents the family in civil life. "The head of tlie woman is the man", says St. Paul (1 Cor. XI, 3). Both reason and revelation deny perfect equality of rights for men and women.

Masters owe to their servants just wages, kind treatment, supervision of their conduct, for which the masters are to some extent responsible to God.

Servants owe to their masters faithful service, reverence, and obedience.

All these domestic duties are clearly laid down in St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, III, 18-25, and to the Ephesians, VI, 1-9.

Professors and teachers owe their pupils love, good example, correction, and sound doctrine; while their pupils owe them in return love, reverence, docility, and diligence in their studies.

Finally, citizens owe their rulers respect and obedience in civil matters.

The duties of magistrates are protection and right government of their subjects, for whose welfare they have been raised to authority; for subjects do not exist for the benefit of rulers, but rulers are intended by the Creator for the benefit of the people. If citizens enjoy the right of the ballot, they so far share in the sovereignty of the State, and they must use their power for the common good.

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