Because “soul” means the life-giving principle of a living thing, we must hold that God…
Is it considered a mortal sin to say, ‘Oh my God!’?
Question: I recently stumbled upon a video from a very good, well-known priest who said he thinks saying “Oh my God” is a mortal sin since it uses the name of God in a vain or empty way. However, I also read an article from another good priest who says, “While morally problematic to thoughtlessly use the name of God, (it) does not rise to a level of serious sin.” I also wonder if it is mortal even if you are not saying it out of anger or contempt for God, but as an expression of joy and happy surprise. Is saying “Oh my God” a mortal sin?
— Michael Quigley, via email
Answer: Objectively speaking, it can be a mortal sin. However, this does not mean that every occurrence of saying “Oh my God” is mortal. For one to commit a mortal sin requires that the matter be grave, and that one with deliberation and full knowledge of its wrongness and with full consent of the will commits it anyway.
The Second Commandment says, “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain” (Ex 20:7). The Hebrew word here, lashshav, means to speak God’s name in a deceitful or empty way. Hence to lie under an oath invoking God as a witness — for example, I swear to tell the whole truth … so help me God — is a very grave sin.
The Hebrew word also implies that using God’s name in a vain (empty) way is sinful. There are a variety of ways people use the Lord’s name in an empty or perverse way. Often when expressing shock or exasperation someone might say, “Jesus Christ!” or “God damn!” There was a lesser form of this especially among Irish Catholics — “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” And in our time there is the common, “Oh my God!” (OMG!). The degree of sin involved in these expressions varies. Sometimes people have developed a habit of such expressions and say them almost without deliberation. Surely it is a habit to break, but when deliberation is not sufficient, the sin is less than mortal. Habit also tends to reduce one’s freedom, and without full consent of the will, the sin may be less than mortal.
In the end however, expressions such as “Oh my God!” are to be avoided and one should work to remove this tendency to use God’s holy name as a mere expression of surprise or exasperation.
Exorcism and consecration
Question: In regard to the recent consecration of the nation to Mary, I’m wondering if an exorcism was performed prior to the actual Mass of consecration. I heard a priest say that exorcism should be done first, but it could be done privately. He cited Isaiah 6 — the seraph purifying the tongue of Isaiah prior to giving him his mission. So if the exorcism wasn’t done first, would that mean that the consecration was not effective?
— Esther Williams, Arlington, Virginia
Answer: There are no definite rules or laws requiring this. Hence a consecration can be performed without an exorcism preceding it, and the lack of a prior exorcism in no way invalidates the consecration.
There is an ancient tradition of exorcism preceding solemn blessings. For example when holy water was solemnly blessed, both the water and the salt were both exorcized before they were blessed and commingled. Something similar was done with blessed olive oil. Further, in baptism, exorcisms commonly preceded baptism. Even in the new rite of baptism there is an exorcism, though its tone is very mild compared to the vigorous exorcisms of the old rite.
St. Thomas Aquinas says of the pre-baptismal exorcisms: “Whoever purposes to do a work wisely, first removes the obstacles to his work; hence it is written (Jer 4:3): ‘Break up anew your fallow ground and sow not upon thorns.’ Now the devil is the enemy of man’s salvation, which man acquires by baptism; and he has a certain power over man from the very fact that the latter is subject to original, or even actual, sin. Consequently it is fitting that before baptism the demons should be cast out by exorcisms, lest they impede man’s salvation” (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 71, a. 2, Respondeo).
Hence one might reasonably argue that an exorcism preceding a consecration would be of value and tend to increase the fruitfulness of the consecration. But its absence does not affect the validity of the consecration.