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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the fourth Commandment and what are the sins against it?

A. 1. The fourth Commandment is, “Honour your father and your mother.”

What is ordained by this Commandment? It is commanded to love and respect our parents, and to obey them in all that is not sinful. “Hear my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching.” [Prov. 1:8] “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother - this is the first commandment with a promise.” [Eph. 6:1-2] “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” [Rom. 13:1]

It is also commanded to respect and obey every lawful authority, both religious and civil. Note: This Catholic doctrine that we are obliged in conscience to obey the just laws of the land is the best answer to the charge that a Catholic cannot be a good citizen.

The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.” “This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons. (C.C.C. # 2199)

The fourth commandment illuminates other relationships in society. In our brothers and sisters we see the children of our parents; in our cousins, the descendants of our ancestors; in our fellow citizens, the children of our country; in the baptized, the children of our mother the Church; in every human person, a son or daughter of the One who wants to be called "our Father." (C.C.C. # 2212)

As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." [Col 3:20; Cf. Eph 6:1] Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so. As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. (C.C.C. # 2217)

The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress. Jesus recalls this duty of gratitude. [Cf. Mk 7:10-12] (C.C.C. # 2218)

For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother. [Sir 3:2-6] O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him... Whoever forsakes his father is like a blasphemer, and whoever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord. [Sir 3:12-13, 16]” (C.C.C. # 2218)

Public authority is obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person and the conditions for the exercise of his freedom. (C.C.C. # 2254)

It is the duty of citizens to work with civil authority for building up society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. (C.C.C. # 2255)

Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) (C.C.C. # 2256)

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