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Thursday, February 1, 2007
Is Bad Language a Sin?
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Q: Is using inappropriate language sinful?

A: Yes. Using inappropriate language is sinful. However, let's look at each segment of the all encompassing term of "inappropriate language". These segments include using God's name in vain, cursing, blaspheming, and profanity.

The second Commandment specifically forbids using God’s name in vain: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex 20:7; Dt 5:11). Therefore, one of the three criteria for a mortal sin is clearly in place – it is a serious sin. If the other two conditions are in place – deliberately doing the action and knowledge that it is wrong – then taking God’s name in vain is a mortal sin, which deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. Saying “O my [God’s name]” without reason and in a vain manner is using God’s name in vain. And, if a person dies in mortal sin, he/she will indeed go to Hell.

Names are greatly important as Sacred Scripture reveals in Revelations 2:17, 3:5, 3:12, and 22:4. The name given to the Lord, however, is above every other name (Ph. 2:10-11). In the Old Testament, “Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel [did] not pronounce His name [Yahweh]. In the reading of Sacred Scripture, the reveal name is replaced by the divine title “Lord”. It is under this title that the divinity of Jesus will be acclaimed: ‘Jesus is Lord’” (CCC 209). In the Gospels, Jesus’ divine name is mentioned numerous times including Matthew 1:21, 7:22, 18:20; Luke 1:31; Mark 9:38, 16:17; and John 14:13. Thus, Jesus’ name is deserving of all praise, and taking God’s name in vain is a mortal sin.

Cursing is likewise a mortal sin. Cursing is defined as calling down evil from God usually by invoking God’s holy name. Using such horrible expressions, the person calls on God to send a soul to Hell and/or inflict punishment on a person. How can we actually do such a horrendous thing – ask God to send a soul to Hell? Cursing is quite clearly also a mortal sin.

Blasphemy is “a contempt for God, expressed in thought, word or action.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states: “The second commandment forbids the abuse of God’s name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God, Jesus, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints…It consists in uttering against God –inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those ‘who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called’” (CCC 2146, 2148). The CCC continues by stating, “The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death…Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due to God and His holy name. It is in itself a grave sin” (CCC 2148). Thus, with such a clear message, blasphemy must always be stopped because it is a mortal sin.

And finally, we are forced to ask ourselves if profanity, like the three proceeding concerns is a mortal sin. And profanity can indeed by a mortal sin if done with great anger against another person. Language is a gift from God. It should be used wisely and not laden with profanities that are impolite, vulgar, and negative. We should always avoid profanity too and live following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. They have reached Heaven, if we imitate them, we too shall reach the throne of God.

I conclude with words of admonishment from Sacred Scripture: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (James 1:26).

Sources:

Saunders, Rev. William. “Why is bad language a sin?” Arlington Catholic Herald.

Walsh, Monsignor Vincent M. The Ten Commandments Merion Station, PA: Key of David Publications, 2000.


7 comments:

del_button February 1, 2007 at 10:10 PM
PBXVI said...

Good post. I hate it when I see Catholics using curse words as it is such a scandel. I think that some people in the Church are more political than sincere and find little problem using bad language to express themselves, but this is un-Biblical.

del_button February 2, 2007 at 11:48 AM
Travis said...

Good Post. I like the way you distinguished against the different types of language. I will add a link to your blog from my sidebar.

In Christ,

Travis

del_button February 4, 2007 at 12:04 AM
Chad (ServantOfTheTrueKing) said...

You do a good job on your blog and you seem to do your homework on topics that you write about. I would have to point out something in regards of what you said of mortal sin. It is true that mortal sin will put a soul in great danger of going to hell. Howevet it is not up to any of us to judge rather one would be going to hell or not in regards of having commited mortal sin. We must also trust in the mercy of God. Keep in mind what Jesus said about the wooden beam in your own eye. All of us sin and are not perfect. One should strive to be perfect as the heavenly is perfect as Jesus said. But there will be times when we fail. It is not by our merit that we might enter the kingdom, but by the merits of Christ.

del_button March 6, 2009 at 9:54 PM
Anonymous said...

I am a convert (a neophyte of 22 years), and wish I knew more about the Church's teachings on the Catechism. Your post helped me not only remind myself of the sinful nature of cursing, but also the powerful influence language can have on our souls.

Thank you,
Charlene

del_button March 6, 2009 at 10:21 PM
Matthew said...

Charlene, I am pleased to hear positive comments on this post. God bless!

del_button March 10, 2009 at 10:09 PM
Paul said...

Thank you for this article. It's a shame our society is filled with such vulgarity, especially coming from professed Catholics. Far too many people look past swearing as being a sin.

del_button November 7, 2009 at 7:18 AM
Anonymous said...

Instead, if one consults the traditional imprimatured manual of moral theology by Rev. Heribert Jone, OFM Cap, (1962), there one will find this: Profanity or the disrespectful use of the Holy Name in anger or thoughtlessly, is in itself only a venial sin. Profanity will be seriously wrong if the anger that causes it is directed against God or if it appears, objectively, at least, that one intends thereby to vent his anger against most sacred objects.

Fr Jone also offers other distinctions about speech or gesture that contains contempt for or insult to God, abusive language, etc.

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