There is a slight complication in the title since the Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestants all use a slightly different numbering systems for the ten commandments.
In the interests of ecumenism I have gone with the Jewish system of numbering, which is also the one most familiar to the majority of us.
Anyway the text of the commandments are more or less the same regardless of how they are numbered
The commandments concerned are:
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife
Civil laws involving this commandment were repealed in Western nations years ago. Hardly surprising given the number of politicians guilty of breaking this one. Sometimes there are consequences for their political future when they get caught out. Sometimes there are not.
We can easily think of examples of both the former and the later in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and nobody will forget the most famous political adulterer of all who comes from the USA and whose wife has parlayed the wrong done to her into a political career and perhaps the ultimate prize in American politics itself.
Well its hard to legislate totally against malicious gossip - but in legal settings breaking this commandment is called perjury or sometimes slander or libel.
And it is perjury that the court of of Cassation, the highest appeal court in Italy has just ruled does not apply in special circumstances, circumstances related to the other two of the ten commandments mentioned.
If you fancy someone else's wife it is a sin but not something that legislation could prevent nor something that there could be any unambiguous way of defining legally.
However the Italian case involves a woman who gave her lover her cell phone who then used it to taunt and threaten her husband. He was charged with abusive behaviour and she was charged with conspiracy.
The trouble was she lied to the court about giving her lover the cell phone, perjured herself in fact, breaking not only the 8th commandment but also Italian perjury laws in the process.
Or perhaps not the latter since the Court of appeal has ruled that
“the fact of having a lover is a circumstance which causes injury to a person’s honour in a family and a social context”.
It was, therefore, legitimate to lie “if the intention is to conceal an extra-conjugal relationship”, even in a judicial investigation,
ergo she did not perjure herself. So saith the Court of Cassation, the highest Appeal court in Italy.
Perhaps they have bought into the idea Moses was stoned when he bought them down from Mount Sinai,or perhaps they were stoned themselves when they made this ruling. Of course there places where the courts would have ruled that this errant pair receive a sentence that would end up with them being stoned.
My guess is Bill Clinton would love it if this ruling could be applied retrospectively to the United States.
As it is he remains a perjurer.
And when he hears about this ruling he will probably break the one about coveting your neighbour's ass - the Italian Court of Cassation.