I’m writing, as the topic header suggests, to ask about the use of God’s Name in Vain when written in a book. I am currently reading one of the Sherlock Holmes novels and there has been a use of God’s Name which could be seen as a vain use (a character says ‘For G*d’s sake, stay off the moors’. Now, in the past this wouldn’t have bothered me. However, I heard a sermon a few months ago in which the priest said that any film where God’s name is taken in vain would be a sin on our part too because it was impossible for the actor to simulate the sin and that we are cooperating in said sin by watching the film. Now, I looked into some more details on this and I found that the same priest (a PhD, I should add) said that (a chap reported in a blog post and which I referenced in an email I sent to Father) if an actor really committed a mortal sin in his acting we too would commit a mortal sin by watching it (if we knew it was going to happen), and that and that if an actor committed a venial sin we too would commit a venial sin by watching.
Now, I emailed Father about this sermon and raised some questions regarding the nature of the cooperation (as the Church teaches that some cooperation can sometimes be allowed under some circumstances, a distinction known as material and formal coopertion). He replied very simply that under the principles laid down by moralists that as soon as we pressed play on the DVD remote we were cooperating in the sin which was to occur in the film.
Putting this aside for a moment, but keeping it in mind, and returning to our Sherlock Holmes example, I do wonder whether the use of God’s name within the particular novel does render it impossible to keep reading now I have stumbled upon it. However, I think there are clear differences (though I gladly admit I’m not trained in any way in moral theology) between a film where the words and actions of the actors are made present through the watching on the film, and something which has been written down on paper (that said one wonders if the book sellers sin by selling them?). I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this!