“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Listen to Racy Songs?”

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Q: When I listen to songs, the singers often refer to their lover as being the only one they need in life, their salvation, their heaven, their feelings of ecstasy. Songs also say or suggest what they do physically in the relationship. And in other songs they will use some bad words or use the Lord’s name in vain. It is difficult to find songs I like and are acceptable at the same time. If I listen to songs that are mostly chaste but do have lyrics that say or suggest only needing one person, some physical romance, or questionable words, is it a sin/occasion of sin? I know a lot of romantic things should only be between a husband and wife, but is it OK to listen even if I know better? Thank you! – Lulu

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The Church doesn’t issue specific norms in these kinds of cases. For good reason: it would be virtually impossible to keep track of songs. Spotify alone has 82 million songs on its platform, according to a quick Internet search.

Still, Church principles can guide us.

First, we should pay attention to our conscience. The fact that you asking whether it’s OK to listen to some of these songs “even if I know better” is a sign that you sense something is wrong.

Here you need to be open to what the Holy Spirit might be nudging you to do (or not do). Ignoring his promptings could lead to a weakening of conscience.

Second, it’s good to remember that our minds are like sponges. And what they soak in can affect the way we think and act.

If our “sponge” is soaking in a swamp, our thinking can take on a foul side. Over time, we can begin to think that sinful things (especially involving impurity) are no big deal. You want to avoid going down that slippery slope.

Third, listening to and buying racy or irreverent songs is a way of endorsing them and providing a market for them. And if you are listening within earshot of others, that could scandalize them, especially children.

Fourth, you might ask yourself whether there are better things you could be listening to. There are likely plenty of sources that offer cleaner fare.

And don’t forget the parallel universe of what is popularly known as classical music. Listening to the likes of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, for instance, could give you a whole new outlook on music.

In any case, it’s good to remember St. Paul’s advice: “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So keep your ears attentive to music that can truly lift your soul.


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