A few "yes or no" questions about "swearing" and "oaths"


is it a sin to:

  1. Swear on the Bible “either in court” or “when an elected politician does so during inauguration” ?

  2. Saying simply “I swear” to someone ?

  3. Saying “I swear to (the Lord’s name)” ?

  4. To swear on oneself, or on someone else ?

  1. No

  2. No, just a figure of speech.

  3. Not if said with proper respect and for good reason.

  4. Same as Number 3.

The Catechism:


2149 Oaths which misuse God’s name, though without the intention of blasphemy, show lack of respect for the Lord. The second commandment also forbids magical use of the divine name.

[God's] name is great when spoken with respect for the greatness of his majesty. God's name is holy when said with veneration and fear of offending him.80 

2153 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained the second commandment: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all. . . . Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one."82 Jesus teaches that every oath involves a reference to God and 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, which all our assertions either witness to or mock.

2154 Following St. Paul,83 the tradition of the Church has understood Jesus’ words as not excluding oaths made for grave and right reasons (for example, in court). "An oath, that is the invocation of the divine name as a witness to truth, cannot be taken unless in truth, in judgment, and in justice."84

2155 The holiness of the divine name demands that we neither use it for trivial matters, nor take an oath which on the basis of the circumstances could be interpreted as approval of an authority unjustly requiring it. When an oath is required by illegitimate civil authorities, it may be refused. It must be refused when it is required for purposes contrary to the dignity of persons or to ecclesial communion.


This is a related question.
When taking an oath is one bound by that oath forever?
At induction into the military all pledge an oath, ditto when being sworn into office
or in a court of law.
How about just making a ‘promise’? Giving your word?

Would breaking the oath/promise/word constitute a sinful act or be merely a short coming in your character?

Probably to many questions but I have often thought that taking an oath constituted a lifetime commitment and a person was bound to keep his word.


Most oaths should have an explicit or implicit term of duration. For example, one takes an oath to one’s spouse, but this is “till death do us part.” One is no longer under the bonds of marriage when one’s spouse has passed on. Consider the Nazirites. Their oaths were not life-long (except in some cases, like Samson).

I suppose if the oath were understood to be permanent in duration, it would bind permanently, unless its terms were somehow invalidated or unable to be upheld. For example, a man would not be under oath to defend the United States if the United States ceased to exist, or if he were rendered a complete cripple.

When it comes to giving a promise or your word, it is the same as an oath, as far as I can tell, excepting that usually people take oaths more seriously before they make them so they’re less likely to have to go back on them.

It is preferable to go back on a bad oath than to consummate it as did one of the Judges of Israel who sacrificed his daughter to fulfill his oath, or Herod who killed St. John the Baptist to fulfill his oath. I do not think I would call Herod a sinner for breaking his oath if he chose to do that-- rather, I think the sin was the fact that he took a rash oath. But I could be mistaken here. Perhaps either of his choices were sinful (although obviously reneging less-so), and this damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario existed due to his unwise judgment.


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