When does a joke become blasphemous?

This came up in the young adult group my wife and I are in. It seems to us – following the example of, say, G. K. Chesterton – that it can be perfectly acceptable to make jokes about religious matters. But obviously there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But where are those lines drawn?

For instance, does any mention of the name of Jesus in a joke constitute blasphemy? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says

“The Lord’s name is holy.” For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it (CCC 2143).

but this seems entirely contrasted against using the Lord’s name as a curse, or in a false promise and doesn’t mention the idea of telling jokes. Is it okay to tell a “So Jesus walks into a bar…”-joke?

If it is acceptable to tell such a joke – and I’ve definitely heard a few such jokes that seemed to me quite funny – then when would it be a blasphemy?

Cartoonist Jim Davis (comic strip, “Garfield”) once observed that we laugh at something not so much because it is funny but because it is true. If a joke on a religious matter serves to point up a religious truth, it would not be blasphemous to tell it even should it involve using the name of Jesus.

Look at it this way: Jesus often told parables that must have been quite startling to the people of his day, but that do not startle us because we are so familiar with them. In these parables, Jesus compared God to, among other things, an unrighteous judge (cf. Luke 18:1-8) and to a thief (cf. Matt. 24:42-44). These parables served the purpose of educating his listeners about God.

If a particular joke serves this purpose in a positive manner, it is not blasphemous. But if it is unnecessary or derogatory, then it may well be blasphemous.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.