What is the Catholic teaching on cussing?
I scoured the Catechism and was unable to find anything specifically about “cussing,” or using foul language. But, there are a few articles that are related, and these might be helpful.
As Christians, we must conform our words to the mind of Christ and follow His example (no. 1694). God’s presence and His truth must be honored in all speech (no. 2153). He is “the Lord of all speech” (no. 2152), and human speech is either in accord with or in opposition to God who is Truth itself (no. 2151). Living in accordance with Truth includes displaying an uprightness and sincerity in speech (no. 2468). The purpose of speech is to communicate truth (no. 2485) .
Conversely, abusive language is forbidden by the fifth commandment (no. 2073), and anyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment (no. 2302-2303). Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury (no. 2477). Finally, cussing often includes taking God’s name in vain, and this is forbidden, as is language against the Church, the saints, and sacred things (no. 2148).
The Bible is more explicit in its condemnation of foul language. See, for example:
Eph 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.1 Pet 3:10 For “He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile;
Jas 1:26 If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Jas 3:7-10 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.
Using foul language is also wrong because of the scandal it causes. What kind of witness do we give to non-Christians when we speak crudely to each other? We are called to sanctify the world, not fall into its various vices. Also, cussing is usually symptomatic of anger, impatience, hatred, and other sentiments that are generally unbecoming of a person who is supposed to be living a life of grace, peace, and self-mastery.
Peace of Christ to you,
Nicholas Hardesty, WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
Feel free to email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org