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?
As long as women continue to give out the “benefits” without demanding the commitment, we’ll be in the mess we’re in. That’s just about the root of it: caving into mens’ sinful sexual desires and emotional manipulations. It’s what has caused illegitimacy rates in the inner cities to rise to an astounding 80%. That and the broken home that usually results are some of the leading sociological indicators (my major) of poverty and a life of misery.
In practice, traditionally, women have been more moral sexually than men have been. Whether that was due to the double standard or the fear of pregnancy or the social stigma, or actually understanding the goodness of waiting till marriage, or various combinations of the above, it is a demonstrable fact. That has now mostly broken down.
And in practice, traditionally, women controlled their language much better than men did. All I’m saying was that men admired that. You admire what someone does better than yourself. I’m not in any way, shape, or form saying that men get a bigger pass and have less responsibility to follow Scripture and the Church. I’m simply describing the usual sinful reality of it. It’s the distinction between prescription (the should and ought) and description (the actual fact).
I still think women have the edge in sanctity: in practice. But radical feminism and unisexism are working very hard to make sure that women are equally as sinful as men in all areas. For the most radical feminists, their working philosophy has been to “hate men and to simultaneously do everything possible to be exactly like them in every way.” Sort of the “identifying with the oppressor” routine.
Language is one of these areas. Premarital sex is another. This is my point. There used to be a pronounced difference [no pun intended!] in how women talked. So we men admired them for that. Now that distinction is rapidly diminishing, and I think it’s a shame, because it means that women are relatively more sinful (as a generalization) in this area than they used to be, and that’s a very sad thing and a loss of yet another element of Catholic tradition and the traditional relationship between the sexes.
Feminism (mainstream, not radical) actually gives credence to my argument here, by its own rhetoric and self-understanding. If women are not higher creatures than men in some sense, how is it that feminists are (and indeed the thrust of the secular culture also is) always urging men to be more like women: more sensitive, nurturing, and communicative in particular? This presupposes that women have these traits that men desperately need to learn and emulate. Now how could that be if women were not indeed “higher” than men, for whatever reason, in those respects? And that leads back to my point. We look up to y’all because you really do have characteristics that we lack.
It can work both ways, though. My wife often complains about groups of women going right into gossip and complaining about their husbands. This is a major fault in women, and one where they can learn from the generally better example of men. Men almost never run down their wives in public; hardly even in private, one-to-one. They instinctively regard that as low-class, cheap, utterly inappropriate, and a bad reflection on them (since they chose to marry this woman). It’s just not done. So this is an instance where women could be raised up a bit by imitating what men almost always do. Both genders have their characteristic besetting sins. I would say that the biggest ones are lust for men and nagging / complaining for women.
But this is another instance of women themselves thinking they are superior to men. If they didn’t, the many women who do this wouldn’t sit there for hours gossiping about their husbands and assuming they are dolts who “don’t get it” and who don’t grasp the simplest things, like being able to openly, honestly express their feelings (like most women do), and often assume at the same time naively, foolishly assume that they are perfectly innocent as to the origin and continuance of various marital difficulties: as if it doesn’t take two.
Of course, historically, there was indeed the dreadful double standard, with the “good girls” and the “bad girls.” That was because men demanded immoral sex (this being our leading fault). It was very wrong, and it was primarily men’s fault. There will always be women willing to take advantage of men’s weakness and leading sin, for profit. Hence, prostitution.
Likewise, the Victorians went too far in terms of being anti-sex (though this is often exaggerated). The devil exploits everything to his ends. If a culture adopts a fairly Christian outlook that premarital sex is wrong, then there will be the tendency, because of sin, to go too far and get to the place where sex is regarded as “dirty” and “evil”: even marital sex.
That was what started ancient gnosticism. But this isn’t the Catholic position. The Church Fathers strongly tended towards this error, too. I’ve read them. I compiled three books of their quotes. They were opposing the rampantly sexual pagan Romans, and so they sometimes went too far in the other direction. This is the human tendency, and the devil exploits it to the max. The true biblical view is found in the Song of Solomon: unashamed sexuality within the bounds that God set for us, for our own good and pleasure.