I am about to wade into this topic. I have followed the Paula Deen saga some and know the matter is complicated because this is part of some ongoing litigation. I have no comment on the accusation the Paula Deen family treated blacks in the work place in an racist manner because that is still out there in litigation.
However what about the racial slurs ? Well Jimmy Carter had a few words to say on this today:
Carter said he remembers that the n-word was used "quite frequently" when racial segregation was the "law of the land" throughout the country, not just the South, where Deen is from and resides.
This is about the first lick of sense from a major figure on this I have heard.
I was raised in the deep south in the time that really the changes of integration was happening. Among white family and friends I had the word was quite common. I detested the word and it though it was being used in a way that rooted in evil. However there were sadly far too few of us at the time.
With that being said though I avoided the word I started thinking did I ever say it. Did I say it under my breath in some sort of road rage etc. I can recall saying just the n word just once 20 years ago and it was after a friend of mine had been a victim of a crime. It was done out of anger and frustration.
Did I say it more than that. It was so much around me its difficult to think I must not have said a few more times though I found it horrific.
So what would my Priest give me as Penance if I confessed. Heck not more than a Hail Mary I expect. But what if I have had decades ago used in far more common fashion. The Penance might be a tad more I suspect. However he would no doubt take into consideration time and and my culture .If I said it to a actual black person he might counsel me to seek their forgiveness
However lets say I went back to the Priest the next Sunday and said Father I can't get over saying the N word like I did 20 years ago.
The first thing he would do I am willing to bet would perhaps warn me I was in danger of falling into the dangerous sin of scrupulosity !
I think this relates to what the Pope said yesterday about the topic of fake Christians . He mentioned one category.
I think that is very apt. One cause of joyless rigid Christians is scrupulosity ! . The Priest also could make some sort of teenage boy masturbation analogy. Masturbation like demeaning racist words is sinful. However there is no condoning either sin that sometime HABIT over time lessens culpuabilty .
In many ways being raised in time and place where the n word was common view that the masturbation analogy seems apt.
You ask if masturbation is viewed as a mortal or venial sin. Remember, that for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met. It has to be a very serious and grave matter, which is committed with full knowledge and with deliberate consent. What we are saying is that for it to be mortal sin, it would have to be done deliberately, knowing that it is not what God wishes for us and without any regard for that. In order to judge the morality of a human act, certain conditions have to be considered. The Church recognizes, for example, that in the practice of masturbation, psychological factors including adolescent immaturity, lack of psychological balance, and even ingrained habit can influence a person's behavior, and this could lessen or even eliminate moral responsibility.
The condition that many persons claim for their innocence regarding masturbation is habit, and we certainly know how difficult habits are to break. We must keep in mind, however, that habit does not completely destroy the voluntary nature of our acts. As Christians who are going to be held accountable for our actions, we must strive to unite ourselves to the Lord and, therefore, do all we can to curb or eliminate all habits that detach us from Him. So, if a person is masturbating and knows fully that it is wrong, and does it willingly without doing anything to resist, then he or she is guilty of grave sin.
Heck in the era and place Paula Deen was raised just replace masturbation with racial epithet .
Now this does not not condone the use of N word , but golly it should give us some balance.
Final observations -
We have racial problems in this country. The way the whole Paula Deen episode is developing it seems to make it trivial. I am betting Jimmy Carter thinks the same
We are being asked to forgive a lot of people and treat them with human dignity. We are asked to forgive the illegal alien that broke laws through immigration reform. We are asked to find forgiveness and not execute people including the Boston Terrorist . We are asked to show mercy to even the terrorists we have housed down in Cuba. I could go and on and on and on.
I am not sure making someone do public penance for bad racial words they said decades ago helps any of the above. Another matter I suspect Jimmy Carter might agree on.