Choose a topic from Part 2B:

89. Oaths

1. To take an oath is to swear. And to swear isto call upon God to witness that we speak the truth(declaratory oath), or that we will keep a promise(promissory oath).

2. It would be irreverent to call upon God as our witnessin merely trifling matters. It is very wrong and sinful to swear toa he, or to take oath on a promise one does not intend to keep. Butit is lawful, in serious and important matters and with duecaution, to take a sincere oath. Such an oath is usually an act ofreverence to God.

3. The conditions necessary for a lawful oath are: truth,judgment, and justice. For Holy Writ proclaims as much when (Jer.4:2) it says: "Thou shalt swear: As the Lord liveth, in truth,and in judgment, and in justice." We must swear intruth: we must never swear to a lie or to an insincerepromise. We must swear in judgment: an oath must be madewith prudence and discretion, and for no frivolous reason. We mustswear in justice: a promissory oath must not pledge whatit is unlawful to perform.

4. As we have seen, an oath, rightly made, is an act ofreverence to God. It is thus an act of the virtue of religion.

5. But an oath, however reverent, indicates a lack and adeformity: it indicates a lack of trust between man and man. Hence,an oath is not desirable for its own sake. An oath is rather like amedicine: not good to take for its own sake, but only for thecuring of an ailment. Therefore, oaths are not to be used morefrequently than necessary. Scripture says (Ecclus. 23:12): "Aman that sweareth much shall be filled with iniquity."

6. Men sometimes swear by creatures ("by mysoul," "by St. George," etc.), and such expressionsare really oaths if they refer, through creatures, to God.Otherwise these exclamations are not truly oaths at all. Often theyare part and parcel of expressions of cursing.

7. A true promissory oath that meets the conditions ofjustice and judgment must always be kept. But one must notfulfill a promissory oath that involves injustice; one cannotlawfully swear to do what is unlawful. Herod swore without judgmentand justice to give to Herodias anything she might ask. When hefulfilled his oath, causing the death of St. John the Baptist, hecommitted a new and a greater sin. His oath itself was a sin; itsfulfillment was another sin and a worse sin.

8. An oath is not more binding than a vow; on thecontrary, a vow, by its nature, is more strictly binding than anoath. For a vow rests on reverence and fidelity, and to break it isa double offense. But an oath rests on reverence; to violate itdoes not necessarily involve infidelity.

9. An oath admits of dispensation. If a vow, with greaterbinding power, can be dispensed, certainly an oath, which is lessbinding than a vow, can be dispensed.

10. An oath is made void by certain conditions ofperson and time. Thus a minor cannot make a binding oath. Andpersons of great dignity, such as the king or the president of acountry, are guaranteed trustworthy by their office, and areusually not required to swear; thus, in a sense, their oath is voidas being unnecessary.

"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."
St Philip Neri

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