two men walking through tunnel

The Commandments of the Mafia: The Honored Society

The commandments of the church are the commandments of the Mafia. But for the Mafia the significance of the commandments is less ethical than practical. God exists in order to be useful to Cosa Nostra.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me: The boss is infallible, a padre eterno, God’s vicar on earth, master over life and death

Honor thy father and thy mother: The preservation of the family goes above all else, even one’s own life. But only so long as individual family members don’t tread the dignity of a man of honour, the clan or Cosa Nostra itself into the mud – a sister who has an extramarital affair that the whole town talks about has forfeited her life.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour: Mafiosi are obliged to be completely honest with one another. A man of honor never lies. Either he says nothing or he tells the truth, because his honesty is of crucial importance to the survival of Cosa Nostra.

Thou shalt not commit adultery: A mafioso may not deceive his wife: the mother of his children could become an unpredictable security risk if the extramarital relationship came to light. And a lover is often less easily tamed than a wife. Besides, a mafioso who is known to have affairs is seen as someone incapable of controlling himself sexually and emotionally, which means that he isn’t professionally trustworthy.

There is only one Christian commandment that has not been taken on board by Cosa Nostra: Thou shalt not kill. But can a job be a sin? A man of honor kills without passion. For him, to kill is to fulfil one’s duty – to his state, his people, Cosa Nostra, which he is sworn to serve, since the all-powerful godfather said: ‘Now you no longer belong to this world. Now you are our business. Cosa Nostra.’

Extract from ‘The Honored Society. The Secret History of Italy’s Most Powerful Mafia’ by Petra Reski. Published by Atlantic Books, 2008.

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