The use of God's Name in Vain in Books


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!

You poor guy, that fellow’s advise leaves me fuming for your sake :mad:

There is surely a huge difference between using His name in vain and a representation of someone using His name in vain!! I CERTAINLY do not think you should stop reading Sherlock Holmes (wonderful stories!) over that!!! -When someone uses the term in reality they may (or, to be honest, in this day and age, may not) be aware of such a exclaimation being a sin and insulting to Christianity. But FICTION must represent real life to some degree, as it tells us about the real World. Would you stop reading Holmes just because it has murders in?! They are not real- they are a representation of something that can (and sadly does) happen. Are you a murderer because you read them?!!! One of the characters using God’s name in vain may besmear the character (assuming they are religious) but it certainly does not damage the (very great) book and, goodness me, CANNOT affect your own morality.

That priest, in my opinion, spoke utter rubbish:mad:. Many priests are great teachers (so carry on learning and trusting) but they are not infallible…regardless of a Phd. A Phd is a great thing…but there are nihilists and occultists with Phds: given your faith, do you agree with them?
The Sherlock Holmes stories are some of the greatest (and- c’mon- safest) works of literature out there. If anything they will get you closer to God through their very creative beauty.:wink:

When it comes to situations like this, I just like to see it with my eyes and pass over it with my mental reading, or at least, replace it with an “For goodness’ sake, stay off the moors!”

In regard to what your priest mentioned, I don’t think that that is correct. My understanding (and please someone correct me if I’m wrong) that, as long as we do not condone or accept the sins that we see in movies or television, and as long as it doesn’t lead us into sin, then it is fine to watch.

May God bless you and keep you in the Light of His Truth! :slight_smile:

P.S. I love Sherlock Holmes and have read all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels/short stories! The Hound of the Baskervilles is great! :slight_smile:

Interesting opinions. Keep 'em coming

Yes I am aware of this film list. However it isn’t some sort of declaration of infallibility from the Church and doesn’t seem to bear any weight whatsoever…

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