God punishes the sin of impurity very severely even here on earth. For that sin He destroyed all living things except those in the ark of Noah during the great deluge. "And God seeing that the wickedness of men was great said: I will destroy man" (Genesis 6).
For the same sin God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah: "And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire" (Genesis 19). Today the site of these cities is covered by the Dead Sea, an ever-present reminder of the evil of impurity.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery." "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
By the sixth commandment we are commanded to be pure and modest in our behavior; by the ninth, in thought and in desire.
"Do you know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?…Glorify God, and bear him in your body" (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20). "Beloved, I exhort you as strangers and pilgrims to abstain from carnal desires which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
The sixth and ninth commandments are studied together because they both deal with commands about purity. The sixth commandment refers to external acts, and the ninth to the willful thoughts and desires.
"Oh how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory! For the memory thereof is immortal, because it is known both with God and with men" (Wisdom 4: 1-2). "The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (1 Corinthians 6:13).
God has always shown special love for those whose chastity is outstanding. Consider how He chose that purest of all mortals, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as His Mother.
Our Lord chose Saint John, the virgin Apostle, as the Beloved Disciple; it was John who was privileged to lean on His Heart at the Last Supper; it was to him that Christ entrusted His Mother.
The sixth commandment forbids all impurity and immodesty in words, looks, and actions, whether alone or with others.
To distinguish between the virtues of "purity" and "modesty," let us say that purity regulates the expression of the rights of the married and excludes them outside the marries state; while modesty is a form of temperance which inclines one to refrain from what may lead to unlawful pleasure.
This commandment forbids adultery, which is the unfaithfulness of a married person. It is a duty before God and men for married people to be true to each other. Adultery is a great evil, which breaks up the harmony of the family, and brings punishments in this life and the next.
Adultery is a sin not only against chastity, but also against justice; because it is injustice towards the spouse of the married person. In the Old Law the adulterer was punished with death. "For God will judge the immoral and adulterers" (Hebrews 13: 4). Married people should be most careful in avoiding even the appearance of unfaithfulness; when the spirit of jealousy enters, conjugal happiness goes out.
Matrimony is a holy state, through which Almighty God intends the propagation of the race. Actions in accordance with this purpose of matrimony are permitted to the married, but positively forbidden to the unmarried. Fornication is at all times a grave sin.
By "the married" is meant those Catholics validly married in the Catholic Church. Catholics, who marry before a justice of the peace or a non-Catholic minister, cannot live together as married people, because they are not married either in the eyes of the Church or before God. If those Catholics who are not married before a Catholic priest live together and have children, these are considered illegitimate, and are so registered at Baptism.
All impure and immodest actions, whether committed alone or with others, are forbidden. When impurity is committed deliberately, it is always a mortal sin.
The gravity of the sin of immodesty varies according to its nature, the conditions, and the relationship of the persons committing it. A good rule would be to refrain from doing anything you would be ashamed to have your pure mother or chaste daughter know you do.
The chief dangers to the virtue of chastity are: idleness, sinful curiosity, bad companions, drinking, immodest dress and indecent books, magazines, plays and motion pictures, videos, video games, and music.
Do not try to discover knowledge of sexual matters from companions. Ask older people whom you respect. And it is not enough to avoid the occasions: one must do the positive, opposite
to the dangers. "Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).
Idleness is the parent sin. Man is like the earth: if it is not planted to good seed, weeds grow on it fast. So a person is beset by all kinds of evil temptations unless he has some worthwhile occupation.
Thieves break into a house where everybody is paralyzed by idleness. When iron is not used, it begins to rust. And so man, who was made to be active, stagnates and becomes foul when nothing occupies him all day.
Sinful curiosity is a dangerous occasion of unchastity. So is too free companionship with the other sex. Undue familiarity between opposite sexes inflames the passions, just as straw blazes up when brought near the fire. Girls and young women certainly know that if they want to be respected, they must respect themselves, and not be too familiar with men.
There is a tendency today to mix up boys and girls indiscriminately in classrooms, in gatherings, in games, etc. Such familiarity rubs off the delicacy from girls, and the protective and gallant instinct from boys. Extremes should be avoided: but the danger in these days seems to be on the side of undue familiarity. Not only this, but they begin to unnaturally and unhealthily take on the other's traits in dress and attitude.
Bad companions are the cause for the fall into impurity of numberless young people.
A rotten tomato in a basket will rot all the rest. We should carefully avoid persons whose conversation is unchaste. Those who take pleasure in listening to improper conversation run a serious risk of falling into sins of impurity.
Excess in eating and drinking encourages sensuality, and will surely end in sins of impurity.
As an indication of the universal recognition of this truth, fasting is associated with holy persons dedicated to religious work and penance. If a man is taken up with his stomach, he will have no thought for his soul.
Immodesty and excessive luxury in dress is a grave occasion for impurity. A beautifully dressed girl is pleasing to look at; but the "art of looking nice" should not be indulged in to excess. Those who dress immodestly are instruments of the devil for the ruin of souls.
Women whose aim in life is to deck themselves in order to attract the attention of men are putting themselves in the way of unchastity. Undue longing for admiration does not come from a simple or childlike heart.
Indecent books, plays, and motion pictures, as well as immoral magazines and newspapers should be avoided like the plague. Bad shows, whether on the stage or the screen corrupt more subtly than immoral conversation, because what one sees leaves a stronger impression. Moreover, bad shows represent evil in attractive garb.
Next Thursday: The Sixth and Ninth Commandments - Sinful Desires Against Chastity