A couple weeks ago, Pat Archbold started a discussion on boys and “cursing” at the National Catholic Register. I was late in reading the post, but thought that, as a mother of 4 boys, I should address this issue. I firmly believe that the double standard between boys and girls on moral issues has got to go.
Some commenters denied that cursing was a sin. Others said it should be expected of boys until they are civilized by their future wives. Let’s look at this issue rationally, instead of just emotionally. What do the Bible and the Catechism say? What is the example of Christ? Why is this issue important?
“Bad language” takes many forms
First, there is blasphemy. Taking God’s name in vain breaks the 2nd commandment. Obviously sinful. Then there’s cursing, in the sense of the opposite of blessing. Finally, there’s crude or vulgar language. Since many of Pat’s commenters spoke about vulgarity, I want to address that here too.
Jesus was a boy
I wrote briefly about this in my Christmas letter. The Bible tells us that Jesus was like us “in all things but sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He is our model, especially a model of true masculinity. “What would Jesus do?” is not just a cliché. It’s a question we should ask ourselves often. I can’t imagine Jesus using profane, suggestive, or crude language, can you? I doubt He ever made jokes about body functions. If I’m wrong here, please correct me.
Church teaching about bad language
Jesus told His disciples not to swear. In fact, He said not only should we avoid using God’s name to back up our oaths, we shouldn’t even use Jerusalem or our own heads. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “God’s presence and his truth must be honored in all speech. Discretion in calling upon God is allied with a respectful awareness of his presence” (2153). The Church allows oaths for grave reasons, such as court proceedings, but not otherwise. Boys should not swear, in the strictest sense of the word, in routine, daily speech. Neither should they use the name of Mary or the saints lightly (2146).
According to New Advent, “In moral theology, to curse is to call down evil upon God or creatures, rational or irrational, living or dead.” This is usually sinful when it is done by anyone but God–or His representatives acting according to His will. Of course, the gravity of the sin depends on who or what is being cursed, and for what reason. The only rational being you can usually curse with impunity is the Devil. But even there, you should be cautious, as the Bible tells us: “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you'” (Jude 1:9).
Here are some other verses to consider:
“Every form of life, four-footed or winged, crawling or swimming, can be tamed, and has been tamed, by mankind; the tongue no man can tame. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. We use it to say, ‘Praised be the Lord and Father’; then we use it to curse men, though they are made in the likeness of God. Blessing and curse come out of the same mouth. This ought not to be, my brothers!” (James 3:7-10).
“I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter” (Matthew 12:36).
“But now you must get rid of all such things— anger, wrath, malice, slander and filthy language from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (James 1:26).
“Let not your mouth become used to coarse talk, for in it lies sinful matter” (Sirach 23:13). “A man who has the habit of abusive language will never mature in character as long as he lives” (verse 15).
“Nor should there be any obscene, silly, or suggestive talk; all that is out of place” (Ephesians 5:4).
Pretty clear, don’t you think?
Boys are neither angels nor beasts
A boy has a body like animals, but an intellect and will like angels. Boys should not be ruled by instinct or emotion. They need to be taught self-control. Vulgar language at the very least betrays thoughtlessness. Often it betrays something more–that a boy’s mind is preoccupied with things unworthy of a child of God, or that he devalues God’s gift of creation. Vulgarity regarding sex is only a step away from sexual sin, as both show a lack of respect for the marriage covenant.
In short, if women are supposed to civilize men, what excuse does a mother have for not raising her sons with pure lips? I am a woman too, and I have my boys under my influence for 18 years. That ought to be enough. (But don’t worry, I won’t assume mothers are to blame for their sons’ bad behavior.) I want my sons to reach the heights of the spiritual life. I’m not content to let them suffer in Purgatory because I was lax. Let’s teach our boys to be real men!
Do you disagree? Or want to show your agreement? Please comment below. Let’s get a lively discussion going.