Are there 5 or 6 Precepts of the Church in the Catechism?

I’m baffled. A friend of mine came to me today and said: “How many are the precepts of the Church?”

I said, “Six.”

She said, “Name the sixth precept.”

I said, “Observe the marriage laws of the Catholic Church.”

Then she fetched a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and opened it to para. 2041 where it discusses the Precepts of the Church. She said, “Read this.”

I read it and I found only five precepts of the Church:

Paragraph 2042 reads:
1. “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
2. “Confess your sins at least once a year.”
3. “Receive the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Easter season.”

Paragraph 2043 reads:
4. “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
5. “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.”

But I found no sixth precept…

So what happened? I learned six precepts when I became Catholic, and I teach six precepts to my children for First Communion.

Why does the Catechism not mention the sixth precept, namely to “obey the laws of the Church concerning Holy Matrimony.” Is it mentioned somewhere else?


PS: I’d appreciate a prudent explanation for this. Vatican 2 bashers and sedevacantists need not apply.

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  • Dallas Carter

    Did you ever find an answer to this Dr. Marshall? My thought would simply be that the list of the precepts is something that gives, in brief, the way to assess whether or not you are fulfilling your obligations as a Catholic. However the list is not extensive and certainly there are other things required of Catholics that did not show up on any precept list. So there could be different ʻnumberedʻ lists.

    Also it seems, unlike the Commandments or other lists (like the theological virtues), the precepts ʻcouldʻ be changed as a matter of discipline. Certain ones, like Assisting at Mass on Sunday, will of course not change BUT it is possible that a higher requirement for confession and/or communion could one day be enforced. It is also possible that the Roman Pontiff could add more ʻrequired obligationsʻ of Catholics that might make later lists of ʻpreceptsʻ.

    My children learn 6 since thats what their main catechetical text (Baltimore Catechism) says.