BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (213): When does one sin against chastity?

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

Life and marriage are sacred. This is why anything that goes against them is a serious matter. “Grave sins against chastity differ according to their object: adultery, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, rape, and homosexual acts. These sins are expressions of the vice of lust. These kinds of acts committed against the physical and moral integrity of minors become even more grave” (CCCC 492).

One might object that the sixth commandment only talks about adultery. Does it really cover all the other acts mentioned above?

“Although the biblical text of the Decalogue reads ‘you shall not commit adultery’ (Exodus 20:14), the Tradition of the Church comprehensively follows the moral teachings of the Old and New Testaments and considers the sixth commandment as encompassing all sins against chastity” (CCCC 493).

In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul says, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness… I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:19,21).

In the epistle to the Romans, he specifically points to unnatural relations: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error (Romans 1: 24-27).

On 20 June 2015, Pope Francis visited Sicily and had an audience with young people. Among other things, he spoke about chastity. “I know that you are all good, but permit me to speak with sincerity. I would not like to be a moralist, but I would like to give an ‘unliked’ word, an unpopular word. Even the pope must sometimes risk to say the truth.”

He went on: “Love is very respectful of people. It does not use people. And, namely, love is chaste. And to you all, young people, in this hedonist world, in this world where there are only commercials, pleasure … I tell you: Be chaste! Be chaste!”

Pic: Annett_Klingner/pixabay

“Love is very respectful of people. It does not use people. And, namely, love is chaste. And to you all, young people, in this hedonist world, in this world where there are only commercials, pleasure … I tell you: Be chaste! Be chaste!”

Pope Francis, Sicily, June 20, 2015

“It is right to try for a genuine love, that knows to give life, that does not search to use the other for one’s own pleasure. A love that makes the life of the other person sacred: ‘I respect you, I do not want to use you.’ It is not easy, we all know the difficulty to overcome this easy and hedonistic conception of love.”

One of the offenses against chastity is the use of artificial means to control birth. In CCCC 498, the Church confirms: “Every action – for example, direct sterilization or contraception – is intrinsically immoral which (either in anticipation of the conjugal act, in its accomplishment or in the development of its natural consequences) proposes, as an end or as a means, to hinder procreation.”

On the other hand, artificial insemination and artificial fertilization are also immoral. “They are immoral because they dissociate procreation from the act with which the spouses give themselves to each other and so introduce the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Furthermore, heterologous insemination and fertilization with the use of techniques that involve a person other than the married couple infringe upon the right of a child to be born of a father and mother known to him, bound to each other by marriage and having the exclusive right to become parents only through each other” (CCCC 499).

The sixth commandment also protects the dignity of marriage. This is why it also teaches that one can offend that dignity through “adultery, divorce, polygamy, incest, free unions (cohabitation, concubinage), and sexual acts before or outside of marriage” (CCCC 502).

The stability of marriage and the family have a direct effect on the moral health of society. This is why civil authority also has a responsibility to do everything within its competence to provide an environment which makes it easier for everyone – single or married – to live the virtue. “Insofar as it is bound to promote respect for the dignity of the person, civil authority should seek to create an environment conducive to the practice of chastity. It should also enact suitable legislation to prevent the spread of the grave offenses against chastity mentioned above, especially in order to protect minors and those who are the weakest members of society” (CCCC 494).

(Main image: Egor