The Ten Commandments

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is first summarized as to the purpose of the Ten Commandments. Then follows a more detailed explanation of each Commandment as to what it requires of us and what it forbids us. This is a useful short guide for an examination of conscience before the Sacrament of Confession.

"Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the "One there is who is good," as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments." And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother." Finally Jesus sums up these commandments positively: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (CCC #2052)

The Decalogue in Sacred Scripture: The word "Decalogue" means literally "ten words." God revealed these "ten words" to his people on the holy mountain. They were written "with the finger of God," unlike the other 700 commandments written by Moses. They are pre-eminently the words of God. They are handed on to us in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Beginning with the Old Testament, the sacred books refer to the "ten words," but it is in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ that their full meaning will be revealed. (CCC #2056)

The "ten words" sum up and proclaim God's law: "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them to me." (CCC #2058)

The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbor. The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbor. (CCC #2067). 

Since they express man's fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, 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. (CCC #2072) [Note they are not the "ten suggestions."]

1. I AM THE LORD THY GOD: THOU SHALT NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME. Commands: faith, making an effort to know what God has revealed through His Church, believing all that God has revealed, professing belief in what God has  revealed; hope; love; worship of God; reverence for holy things, prayer and sacrifice.
Forbids: idolatry, giving to a creature (any person but God) or creation (e.g. sun, moon, stars, "Mother Earth") the honor which belongs to God alone, superstition, spiritualism, seances, astrology, horoscopes, fortune telling, palm reading, ouija boards, trying to communicate with the dead directly or through others, and all occult practices; tempting God, sacrilege, attendance at false worship; presumption and despair; renouncing the faith or giving up the practice of our religion for the sake of wealth, honors, society, or worldly pleasures.


2. THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN. Commands: speaking with reverence of God and of the saints, and of all holy things; keeping lawful oaths and vows.
Forbids: blasphemy, the irreverent use of God's name, speaking disrespectfully of holy things, profane words (cursing); false, rash, unjust, and unnecessary oaths and the breaking of vows.


3. REMEMBER THOU KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY. Commands: going to Church on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation, reverence in Church.
Forbids: missing Church through one's own fault; unnecessary servile work; unnecessary public buying and selling; court trials; and whatever else may hinder the due observance of the Lord's day. 


4. HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER. Commands: love, respect, obedience to parents of children in all that is not sin; care on the part of parents for the spiritual and temporal welfare of their children; obedience to lawful civil authorities, obedience to religious superiors (when in accordance with Magisterial teaching.).
Forbids: hatred of parents and superiors; contempt, disrespect and disobedience towards our parents or lawful superiors.


5. THOU SHALL NOT KILL. Commands: live in peace and union with our neighbor, to respect his rights, to seek his spiritual and bodily welfare, and to take proper care of our own life and health; controlling one's anger.
Forbids: all willful murder, suicide, abortion, euthanasia, artificial contraception, sterilization, cloning, endangering life and limb of self or others, fighting, anger, hatred, revenge, and bad example.



Commands: chastity and modesty in all our looks, words, and actions; avoiding occasions of sin.
Forbids: unchaste freedom with another's wife or husband; pornography, bad movies or books, obscene speech; impure actions alone or with others; masturbation, fornication, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, pedophilia; also all immodesty with ourselves or others in looks, dress, words, or actions.


7. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. Commands: respect for the property and rights of others; the paying of just debts; paying just wages to employees; integrity in public officials. Repentance for sins also requires the restoration of ill-gotten goods, or the value of them, as best as we are able, bound to repair the damage we have unjustly caused.
Forbids: theft; damage to the property of others; not paying just debts; not returning found or borrowed articles; giving unjust measure or weight in selling; not paying just wages; bribery; graft; cheating; fraud; accepting stolen property; not giving an honest day's work for wages received; violation of contract.


8. THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR. Commands: truthfulness in all things, respect for the good name and reputation of other; the observance of secrecy when required. Repentance for sin also requires those who have lied about their neighbor and seriously injured his character must repair the injury done as far as they are able.
Forbids: lying, injury to good name of others, slander, detraction, tale bearing, rash judgment, backbiting, rash judgments, contemptuous speech; and the violation of secrecy.


9. THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S WIFE. Commands: purity in thought and desire.

Forbids: unchaste or impure thoughts, desires of another's wife or husband, and all other unlawful impure thoughts and desires.


10. THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S GOODS. Commands: be content with what we have, respect for the rights of others; rejoice in our neighbor's welfare.
Forbids: desires to take or keep wrongfully, or to damage, what property belongs to another.


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