When is taking God's name in vain a mortal sin?

I’ve done extensive research on the 10 Commandments, and the second being “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Now, I understand that I’d be sinning if I were to say, “Oh, my God”, in the example of expressing how cute a dog is, or being shocked by a dangerous, yet successful, display. I know that you can take the name of the Lord in vain in a few ways:

  1. Saying “Oh my God”
  2. Swearing unto oath (God’s involvement is huge here)
  3. Dropping a bomb with “God” as the prefix

Are all of these examples or mortal sin? If one or two of them aren’t, what’s the reasoning behind it?

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  1. In most cases, a venial sin because the person said ‘‘Oh my G*d’’ without thinking he was taking God’s name in vain. If the person knew he was taking God’s name in vain and still said it anyway, I don’t know, but I assume (I’m not sure) it would be venial. Have a read of this though: http://www.xt3.com/wyd2013/library/view.php?id=9403&categoryId=55

  2. Swearing on a false oath is a mortal sin; it is the sin of perjury. I don’t think swearing unto a true oath is a sin at all. Certainly, we shouldn’t make oaths if they aren’t necessary, but if the situation calls for it (e.g In court) then I don’t think it’s wrong to swear an oath. I think such may even be a reverent use of God’s name: you’re calling upon Him to witness that you’re telling the truth - that’s saying something; it’s saying that God is all-truthful and good.

  3. I don’t know whether it’s mortal or not, but it’s guaranteed to be at least a venial sin unless a person does it without realising (e.g then it might not be a sin)

I understand the 2nd case; perhaps I should’ve clarified. In respect to the 1st case, perhaps I can ask Fr. Mike Schmitz (host of Ascension Presents) about it. Maybe I can call in to Catholic Answers.

I’d assume that saying something like “Cotdangit” (translated into profanity) would be venial, too, but you can never be too careful with things like this.

This is not to say that I’ve developed a habit of this, but I read an article where taking His name in vain can be a mortal sin, so I was curious as to when.

Our priest told us taking God’s name in vain is a mortal sin. This of course presumed the other two conditions for mortal sin are met. If it just slips out, it would be venial sin.

Best never to do it for any reason. Never mind making the word of God vain, but His very name? No, thanks! Custody of the tongue, as prescribed by James the Less in the third chapter of his Epistle, is something to strive towards. As well, our Lord gave us a seemingly little-known yet sobering teaching:

Matthew 12:34-37
"You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Clearly intended to scare hell out of us!

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I watched a video on the Second Commandment (Third for Jews, Second for Catholics) and what I got from it is this:

If someone were to say, “God, did I have a bad day at work today,” then a former interpretation of this Commandment would’ve told us that this person has mortally sinned. However, according to Dennis Prager of Prager University, the Second (being careful not to say Third) Commandment does not say, “Don’t TAKE the name of the Lord your God in vain.” The original Hebrew translation reads, “Do not CARRY the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

So, I’d think that saying something like “Oh my God” outside of prayer would be venial sin, but this is just an assumption. I do know, however, that the original translation entails doing evil acts in God’s name. Take the actions of Al Qaeda, the terrorist Islamic group responsible for 9/11. If they had the same Ten Commandments that we do, then this would be what the Commandment concretely prohibits, since they hijacked and crashed 3 planes in the name of Allah. Assuming that Islam and Catholicism are, for the most part, synonymous, then this should not be the approach that Muslims take to convert.

In short, all of the situations above are venial sin at the very least, the second being mortal sin for sure. But, it is simply a mistranslation that prevents us from fully understanding this Commandment.

A mortal sin requires a matter of a grave nature to be chosen willfully and deliberately with full knowledge and consent of the offender. I doubt any one who “slips” in using God’s name commits anything near a mortal sin.

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