Ask a Priest – “Oh My God”, Am I Breaking the Second Commandment?

30 Mar 2012

Mar 30, 2012

Is it acceptable to listen to songs with phrases such as “Oh My God”. Is this using the Lord’s name in vain?

The second commandment says: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

In its explanation of the second commandment the Catechism says we should have respect for his name. It goes on to say that we should avoid promises invoking God’s name, and blasphemy, hatred, reproach or defiance, and oaths which misuse God’s name.

There is a significant difference in the above things we are supposed to avoid and using the expression when witnessing some tragedy or great event, when we might exclaim “Oh my God.” In some circumstances this could even be an act of faith, calling upon God’s help in the midst of some tragedy. As I said before a lot depends on the context and the intention of the person.

One manual of moral theology explains this in the following way.

c) The casual, irreverent use of God’s name is not blasphemy. The casual use of divine names and the names of saints or holy things to express negative feelings, without hostility toward God, bears an outward similarity to blasphemy. But when such expressions are used (as they commonly are in some social and cultural situations) without any thought of dishonor to God or any intent to detract from his goodness, they are profanity rather than blasphemy, and are venial sins of irreverence. Insofar as it is irreverent, however, profanity in speech should not be taken lightly.

In itself, profanity is more serious than thoughtless cursing of other persons without serious intent (Go to hell!), for such cursing is not irreverent toward God but only disrespectful toward a created person. And both profanity and thoughtless cursing are more serious in themselves than the mere use of vulgar language, which is sinful only inasmuch as it needlessly annoys and distresses others.

So, depending on the circumstances and the intention of the person and what is actually said it might not be a sin at all, or it could be a venial sin, or if it is a blasphemy that really is offending God directly and intentionally then it could be a mortal sin. Just merely saying “Oh my God” does not mean you are mortally sinning.

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