Catholics and Cussing
I am pleased to announce that The American Catholic has a very low level of cussing on its pages as certified here by the Blog and Website Cuss-O-Meter!
We live in a vulgar age of debased standards, and one example of this is the prevalence of unimaginative swearing. Compare and contrast Blagojevich, impeached and removed Governor of Illinois, convicted felon and soon to be the fouth governor of Illinois to be sent to the slammer in the past four decades with this fine example of imaginative swearing from Macbeth: “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon! Where got’st thou that goose look?” If one must swear, be imaginative about it!
To mask the fact that swearing today is unimaginative verbal filler, the shock value is upped with the all purpose F-Bomb. I have written about the prevalence of the F-Bomb in contemporary American society here. Today we live in the midst of a constant storm of profanity that has lost the ability to shock, but merely adds to the shabby quality of so much of modern life.
It may seem a minor sin to engage in such language, but one of our greatest saints, Saint Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars, would not agree with that assessment:
It is indeed surprising, my dear brethren, that God should have had to give us a commandment forbidding us to profane His sacred name. Can you imagine, my children, that Christians could so hand themselves over to the Devil as to allow him to make use of them for execrating God, Who is so good and so benevolent? Can you imagine that a tongue which has been consecrated to God by holy Baptism, and so many times moistened by His adorable Blood, could be employed in vilifying its Creator? Would anyone be able to do that who truly believed that God had given him his tongue so that he might bless Him and sing His praises? You will agree with me that this is an abominable crime, one which would seem to urge God to overwhelm us with all sorts of evils and to abandon us to the Devil, whom we have been obeying with so much zeal.
And yet, in spite of its enormity, its horror, its blackness, is there a more common sin than swearing, than the uttering of blasphemies, imprecations, and curses? Do we not all have the sorrow of hearing such language coming from the mouths of children who hardly know their Our Father, horrible words which are sufficient to draw down all sorts of evils upon a parish?
I am going to explain to you, my dear brethren, what is understood by swearing, blasphemy, profanities, imprecations, and curses. Try to sleep well during this period so that when the day of judgment comes, you will be found to have committed this evil without knowing what you were doing-though, of course, you will be damned because your ignorance will all be your own fault!
George Washington had a temper which he worked hard to control all his life. He would occasionally swear when he gave vent to his anger, a vice he detested in himself and in others. He made this clear in an order against swearing which he issued to the Continental Army on August 3, 1776:
The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice hitherto little known in our American Army is growing into fashion. He hopes that the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our army if we insult it by our impiety and folly. Added to this it is a vice so mean and low without any temptation that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
The order of Washington seems quaint in our eyes. That reaction of course says nothing about Washington and his order and quite a bit about our profane age.