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What is the Ninth Commandment? How does this commandment apply to the human heart?

txt-34ninthcommand1-usccaYou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

—CCC, nos. 2514-2533

The heart is the seat of moral personality: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication” (Mt 15:19). The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance.

—CCC, no. 2517

We experience tensions between spiritual and physical desires. This struggle belongs to the heritage of sin. This does not mean that we are to despise the body and emotions that, with the soul, constitute our nature. It does make us realize that we will face a daily spiritual struggle to acquire virtues that help us obey the saving action of the Holy Spirit and overcome vices that cause us to resist him.

The grace of Baptism purifies us from sins, but a certain tendency to sin remains. We must struggle against disordered desires by practicing purity of mind, heart, and body with daily vigilance. To do this, we need to examine our motives as well as our deeds, so that we always seek God’s will. This will cause us to discipline our feelings and imagination. Finally, since purity is a gift of God, we need to pray for it, as St. Augustine did:

I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you surely would have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. (The Confessions, bk. 6, chap. 11, no. 20)

You can read more from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, order your own copy, or read questions about it at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Copyright © 2006, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder.