There are three things however I think are often extremely compelling and widespread to use as excuses. They are:
- Humour: Humour, a joke, is often used as an excuse for unholy acts and words in ourselves and others.
- Art: Artistic license is often used to bypass morality in many aspects.
- Veracity: The truth of something is often used as exoneration for sinful acts.
They are easy to address, despite their widespread appeal.
Humour is an interesting part of human psychology, but it is clear that it is usually not a choice. In other words, the immediate reaction we have is not usually voluntary. This results in instances where we may have involuntary reactions to what we sense or involuntary thoughts, but the bigger danger is seeking humour in entertainment and in our interactions with others without regard to what is proper.
Just like humans are clearly prone to eating foods which are not healthy, but which have traits which are appealing to irrational human flesh (high fat, sugar, salt, etc). Our tongues (and other sensory tissues) do not distinguish foods, but only have a base appreciation of certain traits which we must rationally control if there is no natural limit otherwise we will be harmed. Likewise, entertainment draws us, and with particularly easy access to it on demand, and it does not draw us rationally. If we seek to laugh, we can easily find a reason, but how often do we distinguish between proper and improper sources of entertainment?
Scripture contains examples of improper use of humour:4 Kings 2:23-24
And he [Eliseus] went up from thence to Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, little boys came out of the city and mocked him, saying: Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And looking back, he saw them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord: and there came forth two bears out of the forest, and tore of them two and forty boys.Matthew 27:29-30
And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews. And spitting upon him, they took the reed, and struck his head.
Using humour, whether in our own words or in seeking entertainment, is no different from other appetites of the flesh. We do not, in the Church, typically use lust as a reason for engaging in sins of lust, but we often do use the excuse of humour to engage in, or otherwise participate in, sins of all sorts. If it is not good, it should be cut off, even if it means finding a laugh by other means.
Some would say unholy artistic expressions are not art or that unholy music is not music, etc, however, this is a false path as it is just redefining art rather arbitrarily. For the sake of discussion and common usage, even the most baneful art will be considered to be art.
The use of art to sin against chastity, humility, and all virtue is very widespread. Almost all popular music is directed, explicitly, towards lust or another vain pursuit. Artistic expression is like human expression in other ways. The intention and what is expressed is very important.Jeremias 10:14-15
Every man is become a fool for knowledge, every artist is confounded in his graven idol: for what he hath cast is false, and there is no spirit in them. They are vain things and a ridiculous work: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
There is the topic of nudity in art, which is featured heavily in certain time periods. There could be much written on it, and much has been, but the key I think is this:1 Thessalonians 5:22
From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.
Avoiding active scandal is very important, and this includes when intentions could be expected to be mistaken. The problem with the artistic styles of the past in the Church was focused more on the emulation of pagan styles, rather than nudity itself on many occasions. The key is not the superficial, but what is internal. Michelangelo's style of work is not considered improper, however, to make such art now probably would be due to the current social and cultural situation we are in, and in a previous time when pagan art was active, it probably would have been improper as well. When in doubt, refrain. The use of excuses to scandalise each other is not good.
The truth and fact of something is not an excuse for sin. Detraction by definition includes a true (or believed to be true) statement and it is a sin. Using truth to commit active scandal is an error. It may be true, but that does not mean it should be expressed. And more shallowly, using the fact one has a certain feeling or thought as an excuse to express it is an error.James 4:11
Detract not one another, my brethren. He that detracteth his brother, or he that judgeth his brother, detracteth the law, and judgeth the law. But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Speaking of the sins of others is not something which should be done without good cause, and fact is not a good cause.
The Sins of Others
The importance of avoiding these excuses (and the cause to make them) extends especially to the sins of others. Many comedians, situations captured in words or in more detailed recordings, artists, artistic expressions, and revealed information is unholy, although the base appeal is still there to laugh at improper jokes, purposefully seek unholy art, and to engage in curiosities and detraction about others who have sinned.
This may mean changing our behaviour. It may mean giving up music, visual entertainment, and other things for which we have had appreciation. We may resist thinking that we have been doing something wrong all the time. However, that is what knowledge does. Blame is not in ignorance, but knowledge is not to be avoided. If our ignorance is keeping us from being close to God, would not we wish to learn? But we resist. It is clear however we do not mourn the bad things we give up after they are gone. It is only while we have them do we think we need them.
What good is to desire to be a martyr or a great confessor of the Faith if we cannot do the least thing in our lives? Giving up a disk, a subscription, or some habits is nothing. Many give up things of this world without any spiritual reason. This is the hidden trap: we can fantasize about martydom to which we are not called while we ignore the small sacrifices we are actually called to make. What good is to to be a servant who thinks about grand things while ignoring the small tasks we are given?Matthew 24:43-51
But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come. Who, thinkest thou, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family, to give them meat in season. Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come he shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming: And shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and shall eat and drink with drunkards: The lord of that servant shall come in a day that he hopeth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not: And shall separate him, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.