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A Beacon Of Light… The Sixth Commandment And The Gift Of Chastity

May 10, 2022 Frontpage No Comments


(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Continuing on our journey of the Catechism, today we arrive at the Sixth Commandment. The Sixth Commandment is: You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14, Deut. 5:18). This Commandment, however, was further clarified by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus explains that not only is the act of adultery wrong, but the actions leading up to it are improper as well. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).
    Jesus reminds us that there is so much more to this Commandment than just adultery. What do I mean by this? In looking at the Catechism, we see that this Commandment is broken down into four parts: male and female He created them, the vocation to chastity, the love of husband and wife, and offenses against the dignity of marriage. Each of these offers further clarification of the importance that this Commandment plays in the life of all God’s children.
    Understanding the purpose of this Commandment, requires a refresher concerning the purpose of creation. Creation has at its core, the purpose of God’s love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds of this in the following way:
    “God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image…God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion” (n. 2331).
    Thus, the sin of adultery, is inconsistent with the “inscribed vocation of love and communion.” Furthermore, men and women, are created in the “image and likeness of God.” This “creation” predisposes us to follow the Creator’s example of created love.
    This Commandment deals primarily with our sexual nature. God’s gift of sexuality affects every aspect of the human person. This includes the body and soul. It concerns our affection for others, our capacity to love and procreate, and more generally, it affects our aptitude in forming bonds with others (CCC, n. 2332). We know, however, that the effects of original sin have corrupted our “vocation of love and communion.” Since it is a gift from God, we must cherish and acknowledge our sexual identity.
    Accepting our sexuality as a gift from God enables us to understand the physical, moral, and spiritual differences, not seeing them as obstacles to overcome, but rather, as a complementarity toward the good. This complementarity is oriented toward marriage and the flourishing of family life (CCC, n. 2333).
    Harmony in society is dependent upon this complementarity. This also implies that man and woman share an equal human dignity. Man and woman are equally a person because they were both created in the image and likeness of God. The Sixth Commandment includes the entirety of human sexuality.
    Our sexuality is attached to the gift of chastity. The Catechism defines chastity in the following way: “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrality of the gift” (CCC, n. 2337).
    The gift of chastity is linked to Baptism. Why? Because Baptism invites us into the family of God, whereby we become like Christ. In Baptism we “put on Christ” and pledge to follow the master of chastity who is Christ (CCC, n. 2348). All the faithful are called to live chastity in communion with their state in life.
    For example, husband and wife are called to live conjugal chastity, while others profess a life of virginity or consecrated celibacy. There are three forms of living the virtue of chastity. First, it is lived through the marriage bond of the spouses. Second, it is lived through the lives of widows and widowers. Third, it is lived through the life of virgins. This combination of living different states of life in the Church is what increases and is an expression of the richness found in living a life of Christ.

The Sexual Revolution

Through original sin, however, man and woman have received concupiscence, that is, an unhealthy desire toward sexual things, also known as lust. This “unhealthy desire” is behind the explosion of the sexual revolution we find ourselves living through today.
The boom of this “sexual revolution” has caused many offenses against the gift of chastity. Sexuality is geared toward the procreative and unitive aspect of human love. Sadly, there exists in society a distorted understanding of this; hence, sexuality has become something selfish. These selfish tendencies have led to sins like masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, rape, and homosexuality. Each of these destroys and hurts our relationship with Christ, and opens a fissure in the soul, where the Tempter may enter.
Masturbation is the deliberate arousal of the sexual organs that promotes a false sense of personal pleasure. The fact that it is “personal” instead of procreative and unitive is a violation of the gift of sexuality.
Fornication involves the intimate actions of unmarried persons. This action, between a man and a woman, goes against the dignity of the person and reduces them as an object of lust, rather than a gift united in love.
Pornography is the perverted twisting of sexual acts that displays a false understanding of the dignity of the intimacy of man and woman. This perversion causes grave harm to actors, actresses, viewers, and the public itself. It violates the dignity of “self-worth” and causes all involved to be lowered to the state of objects, rather than raised to the dignity of a person.
In a similar way, prostitution violates the original gifts received in Baptism. Baptism designates our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Prostitution, on the other hand, causes great harm and treats our bodies as mere instruments of pleasure. This has also become a black mark in society, because it encourages the trafficking and often exploitation of woman, men, and children. The consequences of prostitution can cause irrefutable harm and leads to destitution, blackmail, and social exile (CCC, n. 2355).

The Image Of God

Rape is another, most grievous, action against chastity. The forcible act of violating one’s sexual freedom causes grave harm. Rape causes deep wounds that affect the freedom, respect, physical and moral integrity of the person. These wounds can take years to heal, and in some cases, the wounds are so deep that many often end in suicide. Even more disturbing is the inviolate rape of children. This kind of rape, or incest, is so serious it causes total devastation in the life of the child.
Parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, nuns, and sadly even clergy, who commit these acts perpetrate a great evil on these children. This causes great scandal in society and leads to a genuine distrust of children in authority figures.
Another difficult and growing concern today is homosexuality. This refers to the relations between men or woman, who have sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. It has spiraled out of control in recent years and has taken on many transformations.
Most concerning has been the introduction of the transgender mentality that allows people to choose their sexual identity. This idea of “choosing” one’s identity goes against the dignity of our nature as created by God. God creates us in the image and likeness of Himself, “male and female he created them.” The idea that we have the ability, or the right, to change the way God created us, is disturbing.
Basically, what it boils down to is this: The transgender movement is another way to destroy the identity of God, by insinuating God made a mistake. This is preposterous and goes against everything we know regarding God. We need to pray for those who are trapped and confused by society’s distorted misunderstanding of the dignity of the person. We must always love the sinner, but we can never accept and justify the sin.
Whether someone identifies themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or whatever other nuances are now used, they are all bound by the virtue of their Baptism, to live authentic lives rooted in chastity.
The Sixth Commandment also defines the importance of marital love. In married life, that is through the Sacrament of Marriage, the physical intimate moments of the spouses are a share in the spiritual communion that exists between husband and wife. In this way, there exists a bond of fidelity to each other.
Accomplishing this goal requires sacrifice on the part of both the spouses. This sacrifice is necessary in developing lasting fidelity, whereby, the gift of children is a joy. This is why anything contrary to the gift of marriage, like divorce or adultery, has no place within the marriage bond.
Next week we will study the Seventh Commandment.

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