Swearing Priest?


Last week I was listening to a Catholic radio station in the middle of the night. The program was a recording of a fairly well known priest who was giving a talk on vocations. At one point he was giving an anecdote about a seminarian who had called him in tears because he was madly in love with a woman and didn’t know what to do. The priest then shared what he had said to the young man…something like…“Why in the hell are you still in seminary?” Then something like “Get the hell out of seminary.”

I have been very troubled about his language use in th first place…and also the fact that this was a recording being shared by a Catholic radio station.

As one who is in the process of reverting…I am truly dismayed.

Is this not a sin?


No it is not; priests are people too; I think you have a hair trigger; and I think the priest’s advice was spot on.

A profanity-laced tirade filled with f-bombs? Different story. Use of “hell?!?” Puh-leez.


So I have a hair trigger because I don’t like to hear priests swear? Interesting perspective.


Some don’t even consider that swearing. Want swearing? Try hanging around some 8th grade boys on a basketball court!

Yes, I think you have a hair trigger on this.


yeah, seems to be quite the over reaction.


To swear is to take an oath or to make a promise. To use poor vernacular is poor taste. A case of poor taste. I have heard Sisters “cuss” and men, including priest, are so inclined to cuss a bit, but it would have better to have just left the word “hell” out of the priests’ response. Not horrible, just bad taste. Peace.


At worst, this is an imperfection. While it seems to be in poor taste for a priest to use such language, it doesn’t seem to be a sin.

Benedicat Deus,


This is very mild language, frankly.

Swearing would be either taking God’s name in vain (blasphemy) or using obscene words. This doesn’t fall under either category. The priest was probably speaking colorfully to make a point, just as Saint Paul did when he said “compared to Christ, everything is manure”, or the Prophet Elijah did when he said “why isn’t Baal answering? Has he gone to the loo?” :stuck_out_tongue:


Let me ask you to think about it this way. What is a curse or swear word (or phrase)?

The actual words “curse” and “swear” kind of give away the definition.

(1) a curse against God or another person; and (2) breaking sworn oath

So “da__ it” is in many ways worse than “sh_t.” Some of these bad words are really vulgar words and not curse or swear words.

In regards to what this priest said on the radio, I think he was simply trying to portray the truth. He most likely originally said it out of shock and frustration with the seminarian. But then repeated it on air to convey that shock & frustration to the listeners.

Furthermore, “what the hell?” is not really a curse either. One of Dante’s poems is called: “For Heaven’s Sake, Where In The Hell Is Purgatory?”

I know of a parish that had a program that they named “For Heaven’s Sake, What the Hell is Purgatory” as a play on words of Dante’s poem. The parishioners came up with it, thought Father would turn it down, but he thought it was brilliant. They had hundreds of people come to the adult faith event.

Point it… how was it used and why was it used? Sometime “bad” words, which are not curse or swear words, have purpose. Even by priests.

Finally, you have to keep in mind that priests are people. They play practical jokes on their friends & family; watch football/baseball; go to the movies, etc. and sometimes they even slip up and say things they shouldn’t when shocked or mad.

God Bless


This priest may have spoken this way even before he became a seminarian.


Do you notice the irony that what you consider salty language (though it’s not) you yourself typed on this website and it was not censored?


I’d guess the OP hasn’t been around a lot of priests - or sisters, either. I’ve heard some pretty salty language! At first, as a convert from Protestantism, I was shocked. Then I grew up. :wink:

It really helps in a lot of situations to not be wound too tight.

Almost forgot, I want to tell a true story about my mother & one of her best friends. The friend belonged to a very strict Protestant sect; any vulgarity was as bad as swearing, women couldn’t wear makeup or jewelery or cut their hair. When she was in her late 50s, she started getting very ill - turned out to be some sort of inoperable brain cancer (this was in the early '70s). As the cancer progressed, it affected her brain. She started acting “crazy” and would wander around the neighborhood cussing up a storm. Her church friends all abandoned her, saying she had lost her salvation or even that she was possessed. Mom stuck with her. Near the end of her life, she said that mom was the only friend she had left.

I learned not to let a few words get between me and other people.


My old parish priest growing up had been a chaplain in the Second World War. He would swear occasionally when things went wrong, which at that time was an affront on my eight-year-old ears. Now, of course, I respect very much what he went through, and understand how that language became his habit. And now, swearing and vulgarity is so common everywhere, in the media, the workforce, etc., that the words my old priest used (and the OP’s as well, in my opinion) are pretty tame. I agree with the others, no sin in the above case.


I know how you feel; I’m highly sensitive to bad/vulgar/profane/whatever-you-want-to-call-it language. It’s just the way I am, hair trigger or no. One of my quirks, you might say. I don’t plan on losing it any time soon. HOWEVER, I understand that just because I feel that way doesn’t mean the rest of the world should; I’m not forcing other people to live up to my standards, at least in that department. :wink: Therefore, yes, what the priest said would bug me, but it’s no sin. Like a previous poster said, priests are human too; it might have been a slip, or on purpose. Either way, forgive and forget. Plus, earthly language can sometimes make a point that “regular” language does not. I mean, would you even have remembered the situation if not for the color added to it? Peace, my friend; this too shall pass.

Or should I say this #&$(*@$^% shall pass? :wink: God bless!


It’s a minor sin.

People often swear when they are very emotional. The priest on the radio was probably emotional because the seminary student obviously was called to be a husband and not a priest (which there is nothing wrong with - somebody needs to have children).

If the swear words bother you, just use this as a learning experience. You seem to look up to this radio priest, and you can reasonably continue to do so while remembering that he too is human and makes mistakes (which means you can feel less guilty when you make mistakes).


Look up Miracle of Father Kapaun, the story of an army chaplain and POW in the Korean War. He was pretty salty with his captors.


I understand your initial concerns but I don’t think it is an issue. That language isn’t swearing, profanity or blasphemy. It seems to me it is really just a way to emphasize something that is, as others say, a little salty.

By the way look up minced oaths. It is a fascinating subject. It is a way to say something without it. For instance one might say ‘gosh durn’. Obviously what you are avoiding saying is a curse. I bring this up because a lot of folks use minced oaths but when you think about it should they? Had the priest said ‘the heck’ would that have bothered you?

I’ve had a priest who knows me tell me to ‘cut that s*** out’ in face to face confession. It didn’t bother me at all. He is a very holy priest. He is also very approachable and direct. If anything him saying that made me take more seriously my sin.

As a convert myself I know what you mean. There can be a real emphasis on keeping up appearances in Protestantism. It is a running joke about Baptists secretly drinking when they can. One thing I love about Catholicism is that it both ascends to Heaven but also is rooted in the world. It can be sublimely beautiful but also gritty. It really makes me believe I can go from who am today to a saint.


Oh yeah - Moms Mabley’s “Hide the Whiskey.” :smiley:

For years my poor mother felt guilty every time she had even a sip of wine. She finally got over that, and so did others in her family. Her sister even started a winery!


I don’t think it’s a big deal. Maybe not the best decision to say it on the radio, but I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye hearing the word hell.


And in all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of Jesus’s more colorful reproaches actually were laced with salty language and the Gospel writers intentionally left it out due to salty language not really translating well.

Seriously, I can see Him all too well telling St. Peter (after Peter tried to get Jesus to avoid being a suffering and dying messiah): Get the #*%& behind me, Satan!

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