Front Matter Believing and Doing The Moral Agent Conscience Laxity and Scruples The Law of God and its Breach Sin How to Count Sins Capital Sins Pride Covetousness Lust Anger Gluttony Drink Envy Sloth What We Believe Why We Believe Whence Our Belief: Reason Whence Our Belief: Grace and Will How We Believe Faith and Error The Consistent Believer Unbelief How Faith May Be Lost Hope Love of God Love of Neighbor Prayer Petition Religion Devotions Idolatry and Superstition Occultism Christian Science Swearing Oaths Vows The Professional Vow The Profession The Religious The Vow of Poverty The Vow of Obedience The Vow of Chastity Blasphemy Cursing Profanity The Law of Rest The Day of Rest Keeping the Lord's Day Holy Worship of Sacrifice Worship of Rest Servile Works Common Works Parental Dignity Filial Respect Filial Love Authority and Obedience Should We Help Our Parents? Disinterested Love in Parents Educate the Children Educational Extravagance Godless Education Catholic Schools Some Weak Points in the Catholic School System Correction Justice and Rights Homicide Is Suicide a Sin? Self-Defense Murder Often Sanctioned On the Ethics of War The Massacre of the Innocents Enmity Our Enemies Immorality The Sink of Iniquity Wherein Nature Is Opposed Hearts Occasions Scandal Not Good to Be Alone A Helping Hand Thou Shalt Not Steal Petty Thefts An Oft Exploited, But Specious Plea Contumely Defamation Detraction Calumny Rash Judgment Mendacity Concealing the Truth Restitution Undoing the Evil Paying Back Getting Rid of Ill-Gotten Goods What Excuses From Restitution Debts

Explanation of Catholic Morals - J. Stapleton

Filial Love

He who has a heart, and has it properly located, will not fail to love that which is good; he will have no difficulty in so doing, it will require neither command nor persuasion to make him do so. If he proves refractory to this law of nature, it is because he is not like the rest of mortals, because he is inhuman; and his abnormal condition is due, not to nature's mistakes, but to his own. And no consideration under heaven will be equal to the task of instilling affection into a stone or a chunk of putty.

That is good which is desirable, or which is the source of what is desirable. God alone is absolutely good, that is to say, good in Himself and the cause of all good. Created things are good in the proportion of their furnishing us with things desirable, and are for that reason called relatively good. They confer benefits on one and not perhaps on another. When I say: this or that is good, I mean that it is useful to me, and is productive of comfort, happiness and other desirable things. Because we are naturally selfish, our appreciation of what is good depends on what we get out of it.

Therefore, it is that a child's first, best and strongest love should be for its parents, for the greatest good it enjoys, the thing of all others to be desired, the essential condition of all else, namely its existence, it owes to its parents. Life is the boon we receive from them; not only the giving, but the saving in more than one instance, the fostering and preserving and sustaining during long years of helplessness, and the adorning of it with all the advantages we possess. Nor does this take into account the intimate cost, the sufferings and labors, the cares and anxieties, the trouble and worriment that are the lot of devoted parenthood. It is life spent and given for life. Flesh and blood, substance, health and comfort, strength of body and peace of soul, lavished with unstinted generosity out of the fulness of parental affection—these are things that can never be repaid in kind, they are repaid with the coin of filial piety and love, or they remain dead debts.

Failure to meet these obligations brands one a reprobate. There is not, in all creation, bird or beast, but feels and shows instinctive affection towards those to whom it owes its being. He, therefore, who closes his heart to the promptings of filial love, has the consolation of knowing that, not only he does not belong to the order of human beings, but he places himself outside the pale of animal nature itself, and exists in a world of his own creation, which no human language is able to properly qualify.

The love we owe to our parents is next in quality to that which we owe to God and to ourselves. Love has a way of identifying its object and its subject; the lover and the beloved become one, their interests are common, their purpose alike. The dutiful child, therefore, looks upon its parent as another self, and remains indifferent to nothing that for weal or for woe affects that parent. Love consists in this community of feeling, concern and interest. When the demon of selfishness drives gratitude out of the heart and the ties of natural sympathy become strained, and love begins to wane; when they are snapped asunder, love is dead.

The love of God, of course, primes all other love. "He who loves father or mother more than me," says the Saviour, "is not worthy of me." Filial love, therefore, must not conflict with that which we owe to God; it must yield, for it draws its force from the latter and has no meaning without it. In normal conditions, this conflict never occurs; it can occur only in the event of parents overriding the law that governs their station in life. To make divine love wait on the human is criminal.

It may, and no doubt does, happen that parents become unlovable beings through disregard for the moral law. And because love is not a commodity that is made to order, children may be found who justify on these grounds their absence of affection or even their positive hatred for such parents. A drunken parent, one who attacks the life, virtue or reputation of his offspring, a low brute who has neither honor nor affection, and whose office it is to make home a living hell, such a one can hardly be loved.

But pity is a form of love; and just as we may never despise a fallen parent, just so do we owe him or her, even in the depths of his or her degradation, a meed of pity and commiseration. There is no erring soul but may be reclaimed; every soul is worth the price of its redemption, and there is no unfortunate, be he ever so low, but deserves, for the sake of his soul, a tribute of sympathy and a prayer for his betterment. And the child that refuses this, however just the cause of his aversion, offends against the law of nature, of charity and of God.