In Roman Catholic ethics, seven virtues apply to human beings' actions and their relationship with God. According to Catholic teaching, the seven virtues affect human beings in the material and the spiritual aspects of life. All human beings can acquire the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The three theological virtues include faith, hope and charity. God grants the theological virtues, which lead to him. Without God's grace, human beings cannot attain faith, hope or love.
The Seven Catholic Virtues
The Roman Catholic teaching document, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, describes the seven virtues in detail. Human beings achieve prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance through intellect and free will. The fruits of the cardinal virtues include self-mastery and a joy that results from living a moral life. Human beings freely choose to act morally and the cardinal virtues create an openness to receiving God's love. The three theological virtues serve as the foundation and source of the cardinal virtues. When God grants faith, hope and charity or love, human beings receive gifts that prepare them to live as God's children with the gift of eternal life.
Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance
Prudence heads the list of cardinal virtues. Prudence gives people the ability to use their powers of reason to see what is good and what is evil. Through prudence, people have the ability to make moral choices. When human beings practice justice, they respect others' rights. Just persons strive for equality among all people and for conditions that serve the common good. The third cardinal virtue, fortitude, gives people the courage to stand up for what is good and right. Even in the face of death, persons with fortitude are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for just causes. The virtue of temperance leads people to practice moderation in the pleasures they seek and in the goods they use.
Theological Virtues: Faith and Hope
When God bestows the theological virtues on people, he builds on those human virtues that have prepared the soul for a life devoted and leading to God. Through the theological gift of faith, people receive the willingness to commit themselves entirely to God, to do good works and to be a witness to Christianity. The Catholic church teaches that without the theological gift of charity or love, faith cannot draw believers completely to Christ. Hope, the second theological virtue, creates a desire for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Hope signifies trust that Christ's promises are real. The virtue of love gives hope its promise of happiness and selflessness.
Theological Virtue: Charity
Charity serves as the theological virtue that gives all the other virtues life. With the gift of charity, Christians experience love for God and love for others. The theology of love is based in Jesus' teachings to love God and love others, and in Paul's teachings in I Corinthians 13 that the greatest of the virtues is love. Joy, peace and mercy are the fruits of charity.
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