THE natural order of things brings us to a consideration of the Sixth

Commandment, and at the same time, of the Ninth, as treating of the

same matter--a matter so highly immoral as to deserve the specific

appellation of immorality.

People, as a rule, are tolerably well informed on this subject. It is a

knowledge acquired by instinct, the depraved instinct of our fallen

nature, and supplemented by the expe
iences weaned from the daily

sayings and doings of common life. Finally, that sort of journalism

known as the "yellow," and literature called pornographic, serve to

round off this education and give it the finishing touches.

But, on the other hand, if one considers the innocent, the young and

inexperienced, who are not a few; and likewise the morbidly curious of

sensual tendencies, who are many, this matter must appear as a high

explosive, capable of doing any amount of damage, if not handled with

the utmost care and caution.

Much, therefore, must be left unsaid, or half-said; suggestion and

insinuation must be trusted to go far enough, in order that, while the

knowing understand, the ignorant may be secure in the bliss of their

ignorance and be not prematurely informed.

They, for whom such language is insufficient, know where to go for

fuller information. Parents are the natural teachers; the boy's father

and the girl's mother know what to say, how and when to say it; or at

least should know. And if parents were only more careful, in their own

way, to acquaint their children with certain facts when the time comes

for it, much evil would be avoided, both moral and physical.

But there are secrets too sacred even for parents' ears, that are

confided only to God, through His appointed minister. Catholics know

this man is the confessor, and the place for such information and

counsel, the holy tribunal of penance. These two channels of knowledge

are safe; the same cannot be said of others.

As a preliminary, we would remark that sins, of the sort here in

question as well as all kinds of sin, are not limited to deeds.

Exterior acts consummate the malice of evil, but they do not constitute

such malice; evil is generated in the heart. One who desires to do

wrong offends God as effectively as another who does the wrong in deed.

Not only that, but he who makes evil the food of his mind and ponders

complacently on the seductive beauty of vice is no less guilty than he

who goes beyond theory into practice. This is something we frequently

forget, or would fain forget, the greed of passion blinding us more or

less voluntarily to the real moral value of our acts.

As a consequence of this self-illusion many a one finds himself far

beyond his depth in the sea of immorality before he fully realizes his

position. It is small beginnings that lead to lasting results; it is by

repeated acts that habits are formed; and evil grows on us faster than

most of us are willing to acknowledge. All manner of good and evil

originates in thought; and that is where the little monster of

uncleanness must be strangled before it is full-grown, if we would be

free from its unspeakable thralldom.

Again, this is a matter the malice and evil of which very, very rarely,

if ever, escapes us. He who commits a sin of impurity and says he did

not know it was wrong, lies deliberately, or else he is not in his

right frame of mind. The Maker has left in our souls enough of natural

virtue and grace to enable us to distinguish right and wrong, clean and

unclean; even the child with no definite knowledge of the matter,

meeting it for the first time, instinctively blushes and recoils from

the moral hideousness of its aspect. Conscience here speaks in no

uncertain accents; he alone does not hear who does not wish to hear.

Catholic theologians are even more rigid concerning the matter itself,

prescinding altogether from our perception of it. They say that here no

levity of matter is allowed, that is to say, every violation, however

slight, of either of these two commandments, is a sin. You cannot even

touch this pitch of moral defilement without being yourself defiled. It

is useless therefore to argue the matter and enter a plea of triviality

and inconsequence; nothing is trivial that is of a nature to offend God

and damn a soul.

Weakness has the same value as an excuse as it has elsewhere in moral

matters. Few sins are of pure malice; weakness is responsible for the

damnation of all, or nearly all, the lost. That very weakness is the

sin, for virtue is strength. To make this plea therefore is to make no

plea at all, for we are all weak, desperately weak, especially against

the demon of the flesh, and we become weaker by yielding. And we are

responsible for the degree of moral debility under which we labor just

as we are for the degree of guilt we have incurred.

Finally, as God, is no exceptor of persons, He does not distinguish

between souls, and sex makes no difference with Him. In this His

judgment differs from that of the world which absolves the man and

condemns the woman. There is no evident reason why the violation of a

divine precept should be less criminal in one human creature than in

another. And if the reprobation of society does not follow both

equally, the wrath of God does, and He will render unto every one

according to his and her works.