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Is it okay to joke around about Jesus, Holy Scriptures, and other holy things? Is it okay to perform plays where Jesus is portrayed in funny ways in order to get others interested in the Catholic Faith?

My opinion is that it is obviously something bad, but I am interested in the explanation of why it is wrong? Also, it seems to me that to prove such conduct is bad, it will be necessary to use the definition of what a joke is, and show that when some holy thing is involved in it, that such a moral action is bad. Also, I am interested in examples of saints that denounce such action.

I am interested in the Catholic viewpoint.

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Comparing the sin of blasphemy with that of irreverence, McHugh, O.P. & Callan, O.P. write in Moral Theology:

  1. Unlike God, creatures are subject to imperfections, moral or physical, and thus it is not always erroneous or blasphemous to attribute imperfections to the Saints or sacred things.

    (a) If sacred persons or things are spoken ill of precisely on account of their relation to God, or in such a way that the evil said of them reverts on God Himself, blasphemy is committed. Example: It is blasphemous to say that the Mother of God was not a Virgin, that St. Peter was a reprobate, that St. Anthony and St. Simeon Stylites were snobbish or eccentric, that the Sacraments are nonsense, that relics are an imposture, etc.

    (b) If sacred persons or things are criticized precisely on account of their human or finite imperfections, real or alleged, the sin of irreverence is committed, when the criticism is prompted by malice or levity. No sin at all is committed, if one is stating facts with due respect for the character of the persons or things spoken of. Examples: To call a Doctor of the Church an ignoramus out of anger at a theological opinion defended by him, would be of itself a serious sin of disrespect. To speak of a Saint as a dirty tramp or idle visionary, if the intention is to insult, is also a serious sin of disrespect. But, if one were to say in joke that St. Peter was a baldhead, St. Charles Borromeo a big nose, the sin of irreverence would be only slight. No sin would be committed, if one, describing a religious painting from the artistic standpoint, called it an abomination.
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  • Interesting that "eccentric" is listed as an example under a). I wouldn't say that term is unambiguously negative (unlike the other examples). – eques Jun 17 '20 at 18:31
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Is it wrong to joke about holy things?

The short answer is no, as long as the Sacred is maintained and no blasphemy is committed.

Telling jokes about about the Scriptures, Jesus, Mary, the sacraments and so on, may possibly be permitted in Catholicism. But in all things the sacred must be maintained and blasphemy must be avoided.

The basis for this attitude can be found in the Scriptures. For example, God clearly commands us to respect Him in the Ten Commandments:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. - Ex. 20:70

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. - Deut. 5:11

More specifically, as regards the Holy Eucharist, St. Paul admonishes the faithful in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. - 1 Cor. 11:27-29

The sacredness, even in jokes has not to be seen as being disrespected. In fact, disrespecting the Sacred could be considered a kind of blasphemy. The Catechism explains:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. [In the usual Catholic numbering, which follows St. Augustine, that is the Commandment against using the Lord’s name in vain.] It consists in uttering against God—inwardly or outwardly—words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. … The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. … Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin (No. 2148).

To joke about Jesus, Sacred Scripture and other holy subjects may be permitted, as long as the sacredness of the subject is maintained and no blasphemy is committed. This also goes for story telling and making puns.

My favourite story of Mgr Roncalli, who went on to become Pope John XIII (known also as the Good Pope) although not the best in this situation, does show where I am going.

Msgr. Angelo Roncalli once found himself seated at a banquet next to a woman who was dressed with little regard for the virtue of modesty. Others observed him, wondering how he would deal with his predicament, given his moral convictions and his reputation for diplomacy.

After the dinner, Msgr. Roncalli took an apple and offered it to the woman in question. She declined his offer. Nonetheless, he persisted in his offer, to the point that the woman asked why he was so interested in having her eat the fruit. He responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Because when Eve ate an apple, she realized she was naked.”

Msgr. Roncalli went on to become Pope John XXIII — now Blessed John XXIII. It’s not known what happened to the woman. - The Secret of Modesty

Here is a joke.

What is the favourite baseball team?

The Cardinals?

No, it is the Angels. He has more confidence in them!

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    From St.Pio X Catechism: "2 Q. What is meant by: Not to utter the Name of God irreverently? A. Not to utter the Name of God irreverently means not to mention this Holy Name, or any other name that in a special way refers to God Himself, such as the name of Jesus, of Mary and the Saints, in anger or in joke or in any irreverent way whatsoever." This explicitly mentions joking as a form of disrespect; also, I do not fell it is right thing to do. Any thoughts? – Thom Dec 21 '19 at 15:52
  • @Thom Write your own answer, if you you wish? Sounds like you have a good start. – Ken Graham Dec 21 '19 at 15:56
  • I am not sure how to answer question I posed, so I do not feel capable of that. Thanks for you answer. – Thom Dec 21 '19 at 15:58
  • How is your John XXIII story a "joke about holy things"? – Geremia Dec 21 '19 at 18:53
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    @Thom Found this book Jesuits Telling Jokes published by their own society (Loyola Press) joking about themselves in order to teach the readers about Ignatian Spirituality. I suppose one measure is whether at the end of the day people will appreciate more of the holy things? – GratefulDisciple Dec 22 '19 at 0:22

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