Q. 1. What is the sixth Commandment and what are the sins against it?
A. 1. The sixth Commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.“
What is the sin of adultery? Adultery is the sin of a married person who is unfaithful to his or her marriage vow. The common term used is "cheating" on one's marriage partner. “But he who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself.” [Prov. 6:32]
Can adultery be committed any other way? “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus interprets God's plan strictly: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." [Mt 5:27-28] What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. [Cf. Mt 19:6]” (C.C.C. # 2336)
Does this Commandment apply to anyone besides married people? Yes, it forbids fornication by unmarried persons, and all actions, alone or with others, of the same or different sex, that are contrary to chastity, decency, and modesty. "Fornication" means sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other.
“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; fornicators, idolators, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers - none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” [1 Cor. 6:9-10] “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.,” [Gal. 5:19-21]
Do we break this Commandment by sins of speech and of sight? Yes. Conversations and stories that offend against modesty are forbidden by this Commandment. It is also forbidden to read bad books, or to witness suggestive plays and pictures, or to yield to sinful curiosity of the eyes.
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” [Mt. 5:8] “But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.” [Eph. 5:3-4]
The various forms of chastity
All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has "put on Christ," [Gal 3:27] the model for all chastity. All Christ's faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his affective life in chastity. (C.C.C. # 2348)
People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single." [CDF, Persona humana 11] Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:
There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others.... This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church. [St. Ambrose, De viduis 4, 23: PL 16, 255A] (C.C.C. # 2349)
What are some offenses against the virtue of chastity? The following sins oppose chastity:
- Lust: an intense or obsessive sexual desire.
- Masturbation: the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure outside of marriage.
- Fornication: sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other.
- Pornography: Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.
- Prostitution: offering sexual acts/intercourse for pay.
- Rape: forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.
- Practicing homosexuality: sexual activity with another of the same sex.
- Common-law relationships: living with and being sexually involved with another person outside of marriage.
- Sodomy: anal intercourse committed by a man with a man or woman or with an animal.
What are the offenses against the dignity of the marriage? They are:
- Polygamy: the practice of having more than one spouse at one time.
- Incest: sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry, such as between a parent and a child.
- Sexual abuse: sexual activity that is deemed improper or harmful, as between an adult and a minor or with a person of diminished mental capacity.
- Partners making no commitment to one another.
- Marriage before a Justice of the Peace, therefore rejecting a Sacramental Marriage.