Source: Captivated by Your Teachings: a Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics,
by Father Anthony J. Salim
5. You shall not murder. (NRSV)
The Church has traditionally restricted to the absolute minimum the instances when life may be taken: legitimate defense of self and of society. Recently, John Paul II has stated that the circumstances under which the State may take a life in capital punishment are “...very rare, if non-existent.” The other arena in which killing was more traditionally seen as permitted but that is seriously questioned today by the Church is war and the so-called just war theory. Nuclear holocaust, made possible by the unchecked arms race, as well as the technologizing of the means of war, render medieval images of hand-to-hand combat ludicrous and unconscionable. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it (CCC 2327).The Church and human reason assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflicts. Practices deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes (CCC 2328).The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured (CCC 2329).
No matter how it is rationalized, abortion remains in the Church’s teaching an act of murder against defenseless life. This crime against life carries with it a penalty of excommunication. In vitro fertilization is not permitted by the Church because in the process of fertilizing the eggs in a petri dish, more than one egg successfully treated become zygotes and capable of growing into viable embryos. Hence, when they are discarded human life is too. Biogenetics is a new and largely uncontrolled area. While scientists possess an increasing capability for good through better technology, the question still remains: how is this to be monitored and by what moral and ethical standards?
Euthanasia is often whitewashed as “mercy-killing”; it is prohibited here as is suicide “with the intention of setting an example” (CCC 2282). However, in very many cases, other circumstances—such as psychological or emotional—come into play.
This commandment also forbids the abuse of the body, mind and spirit and safety. Included are abuses of alcohol and drugs. The public sector has finally caught up to the moral wisdom of avoiding smoking, which has been proven to harm one’s own health and the health of others (in secondary smoke). Any reckless, irresponsible behavior is forbidden as contrary to the service of life.
Since the opposite of death is life, we recognize here that the Catholic Church is a Church which respects life, from beginning to end, in the words of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a “seamless garment.”
Here we must also consider non-physical violence as well. Thus anything which degrades or diminishes the dignity of another is forbidden. This includes prejudice of any sort, notably, racism and sexism. Scandal, which leads another to do evil, is also forbidden. In short, any kind of violence is forbidden by the 5th Commandment.
As usual, Jesus pushes the point to its extreme, to an ideal that always challenges:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mt 5:38-45). He also said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God.”
6. You shall not commit adultery.
Adultery violates the trust that stands at the heart of the marriage commitment. When this Commandment was given, it was to protect the sacredness of family life, which included the love and respect spouses were to have for one another. When one of the parties committing adultery is married, it is bad; if both are married (not to each other), it is double jeopardy. Divorce is forbidden, because by it the bond between spouses and society’s bonds of family life are broken. Pre- and extra-marital sexual relations, however sincere, do not express the full commitment called for by truly Christian marriage. Of particular concern is the growing acceptance of unmarried Christian people cohabitating. It is widely but wrongly assumed today that engaged persons may live together and carry on an active sexual life without sin. It is claimed that doing so enables people to get to know each other better and thus the couple will have a better marriage. The realities point to the opposite. Couples often break up bitterly when they really learn truths about themselves that they don’t like; yet the emotional scars of undisciplined sex remain. In addition, cohabitating sends the wrong message to the very young that promiscuity is acceptable. The Church teaches that the gift of sex is to be used within the context of a committed, Christian marriage; and anything outside of that context is forbidden. This includes: fornication, masturbation, polygamy, the use of pornography, prostitution, rape (actually a sin of violence), incest and any abuse by adults perpetrated on children. While the Church condemns the use of artificial contraception, including sterilization and vasectomy, it does not prohibit the regulation of procreation by natural methods, such as natural family planning. The reliability of natural family planning methods has improved greatly. Considered under this Commandment are the virtues of chastity and temperance, which help us to control our strong sexual drives toward improper use of them and towards impurity. By this Commandment Christians are urged to use modesty, patience and discretion in dress and speech, for modesty protects the person’s intimate center (CCC 2533).