1. In the Sixth Commandment almighty God prohibits every thing that might stain our own purity or that of our neighbor.
One cannot enlarge upon sins against the Sixth Commandment, for the mere mention of what is impure takes the bloom oil our innocence. Hence St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians: “All uncleanness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints” (Eph. v. 3). Nevertheless Holy Scripture warns the faithful repeatedly and emphatically against these sins, so the Church cannot pass them by in silence. For this vice perhaps causes the destruction of more souls than any other; in fact among the lost souls in hell, few will be found entirely free from it.
God more especially forbids:
1. Impure thoughts and desires.
Evil thoughts are to be resisted both on account of their sinfulness in themselves, and because they lead to immodest actions. They are like a spark which occasions a great conflagration, unless it be immediately extinguished. St. Jerome compares unchastity to a snake, whose head must be instantly crushed, before it can eject its deadly poison. Evil thoughts must accordingly be banished at once; this is done most readily by diverting the mind, or having recourse to prayer. (See what was said about temptation.) As long as evil thoughts are displeasing to us, they are not sinful; we are only to blame if we take pleasure in them. “Evil thoughts are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. xv. 26). One ought to flee from unchaste thoughts as one would flee from an assassin, for they cause the death of the soul. Impure thoughts, if entertained, give rise to impure desires, i.e., the wish or longing for the sin suggested. As the tree springs from the root, so evil actions spring from lust. Lust is the consent of the will, and this is as really sinful, as Our Lord says, as is the deed itself (Matt. v. 28).
2. Impure words.
A man whose conversation is unclean has a thoroughly polluted conscience. Unchaste words are a sure sign of unchaste manners. And those who take pleasure in listening to improper conversation, are in great danger of falling into sins of unchastity. St. Louis, on his death-bed, exhorted his son so to regulate his conversation, that if all the world heard what he said, he would not have cause to blush for it. “The tongue is indeed a little member, and boasteth great things” (Jas. iii. 5). “Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not so many as have perished by their own tongue” (Ecclus. xxviii. 22.)
3. Impure actions.
These acts are differently designated, according as they are committed by the unmarried (Deut. xxii. 21), the married (Lev. xx. 10), persons related to one another (1 Cor. v. 1), or as they are sins against nature (Rom. i. 26).
4. Immodest looks.
Bold looks are forbidden, because they lead to sin, just as a parent forbids his child to play with edged tools. The sin on which the eye looks with pleasure soon takes possession of the heart. “Many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire” (Ecclus. ix. 9). He who observes no custody of the eyes, is like a driver who pays no heed to his horses; he will be carried away and dragged to destruction. Or like a fortress of which the gates are not guarded; the enemy soon effects an entrance through them. David would not have had so much to bewail, if he had kept watch over his eyes. “Look not round about thee in the ways of a city” (Ecclus. ix. 7).
5. Looking at immodest pictures, going to improper plays, and reading books of an immoral tendency.
Immodest pictures and plays corrupt more surely than impure conversation, because what one sees makes a deeper impression than what one hears. The indiscriminate reading of novels is to be avoided; there are many (and these are the most dangerous of all), which under a false semblance of propriety, kindle the passions, and thus do more harm than works of an openly immoral character.
6. Immodesty in dress and excessive finery.
Those who dress immodestly are the devil’s instruments for the ruin of souls. Vanity and love of dress are powerful factors in Satan’s service; for women who deck their person to attract men dare not presume to say that they are chaste and pure of heart; their very appearance gives them the lie. The longing for admiration does not come from a simple heart; it is a snare to entrap others into vice. It is a bad sign for a woman to be overdressed; those who make their toilet of paramount importance hold virtue cheap. “Let women adorn themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, or gold or pearls or costly attire” (1 Tim. ii. 9).
2. Sins against the Sixth Commandment of God are for the most part very grievous in God’s sight and accordingly are severely punished by Him.
Remember the Deluge and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrha. The chastisements God inflicts for the sin of unchastity have already been spoken of under the subject of the deadly sins. From the place given to the Sixth Commandment in the Decalogue it may be inferred that transgressions of this precept are on a par with murder and theft. Unhappily many of the plays performed in the theatre in the present day represent sins against the Sixth Commandment in an attractive light.