Truly obscene, crude, sexually-oriented language is beneath the standards of the Bible and the Catholic Church. The way some (many!) talk today was confined to locker rooms, bars, and bachelor parties when I was in college 35 years ago (and mostly just to men). And I think that was a good thing.
Oh, for sure we had Woodstock and George Carlin and R-rated movies and punk rock. But it wasn’t everywhere; in-your-face, mainstream, on TV, inane, and obscene hip hop songs blaring from the next car over at the gas station . . . People instinctively knew that it was to be confined and strictly limited. It was “behind closed doors.” It wasn’t the stuff of public articles and Thanksgiving dinners. People were scandalized in 1972 when they learned (through the notorious Watergate tapes) that President Nixon said “GD.” They really were! It wasn’t just prudes and 70-year-old ladies in purple tennis shoes who taught Sunday School. I’m old enough (58) to personally remember all that.
Society has regressed, as it has in so many other ways. Now women can swear like sailors or pimps (even publicly, even in Catholic circles!). “You’ve come a long way, baby.” People not only see nothing wrong with that, but wonder how anyone possibly could, as if objection to it were the strangest thing in the world and confined to the most ridiculous, antiquated, almost self-parodied “fundamentalists.” Thank God for Netflix, used DVDs, and many cable channels, so parents can still get good quality TV and movies for the family, amidst the nearly universal cultural decline of language.
I think it’s pathetic and disgraceful. Men have so looked up to women and admired them, traditionally, precisely because we feel they are on such a higher level (morally) than we are: the finer creatures. It’s why there is such a huge fuss made about Mother’s Day, while I always joke that Father’s Day is about on the level of Groundhog Day. “Mom, baseball, and apple pie”, etc. I have always sincerely believed this. If that’s now considered old-fashioned and quaint, so be it. Count me in. It used to be called “chivalry” till the radical feminists (not feminism per se) did all they could to mock and destroy it as a cultural norm. My wife and all the women I admire are up on the pedestal.
St. Paul stated that “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28; RSV). It’s not an unequal scenario at all. We’re equals under God. I’m not advocating at all that there should be a double standard: with women held to a higher level. Let’s get that straight. A few people on Facebook, reading an early version of this post mistakenly thought that.
I’m not against women having freedom to act as they please, as men do. I’m disappointed when they become coarse and crude like so many men are. What a shame. Why in the world would women seek to emulate men’s worst characteristics? Even the Catholic / Christian / cultural notion that one doesn’t speak a certain way “in mixed company” is now lost. That was out of respect for women, in deference to them as finer creatures: not as crude and vulgar as men are. Now women join right in, and talk the same way themselves!
We all fall short in many ways. I’m not talking about the occasional slip, use of strong language in an outburst of passion, or in tragic situations, exclamations when we hit our head, etc., not even the relatively minor “swear words” (though obviously those should be tempered in any sort of professional or church setting), but rather, about brazen, consistent use, vulgarity, obscenity, sexual gutter language, and (above all) trying to rationalize it away as a non-issue, as if it is perfectly fine, and unfathomable that a Catholic organization would ever consider dismissing a writer on the grounds of persistent bad and insulting language.
My friend Patti Sheffield, on my Facebook page, outlined some of the biblical data regarding proper language:
Ephesians 5:1-5 is pretty explicit on the conduct expected of Christians, and verse 4 specifically condemns “obscenity or silly or suggestive talk”, not just taking God’s name in vain. Ephesians 4:29 [“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear”], included in the list of rules for new Christians, explicitly forbade foul language. James also warned in his writing that we must learn to bridle our tongues. That means, simply put, have a filter. If someone is going to proclaim the Gospel (by being an apologist or a writer), then at least, have a filter.
If we can’t be bothered to do that, we’re just conforming ourselves to the world instead of transforming it in Christ. And as Christ warns us in Matthew 12:36-37, we will be called to account for every careless word we make, and that will be a big factor in our final judgment. Why risk it for the sake of what some call humor?
And let’s not forget the sage, stinging advice in the book of James:
James 3:3-11 If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies.  Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish?
Again, I’m not saying that women are held to one ethical standard and men to another: the old ridiculous double standard. No! It is us admiring women because they voluntarily chose to be more moral than we knew ourselves to be. It has to do also with men and women being fundamentally different in the first place. Ideally, we look up to each other, because of the complementarity that God designed.
The Catholic tradition is what taught the beauty and necessity of waiting till marriage, while the sexual revolution has brought us wonderful things like ubiquitous pornography. That really raises women’s stature in the eyes of men, doesn’t it? We need to understand what chivalry is in the first place and what has gotten our society into the sad, pathetic state it is now, after 50 years of wonderful sexual liberation. Everyone’s ecstatically happy, aren’t they? Families and marriages are better than they have ever been. Not! How’s the culture doing on marriage and treatment of women, post sexual revolution? How well has that pitiful social experiment / wholesale rebellion against sane, sensible tradition worked out?