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Could watching certain TV shows be against our Catholic faith? – Part II of III

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek

Dear Father John, Is watching a show like the “Medium” against our Catholic faith? The show is from what I have heard is calling on spirits who have passed on from this life and supposedly can be reached through a medium.

In our first post in this three part series we reflected on how art and entertainment can touch our entire being. Both can be pleasing and attractive, but how much is really good for us?

Avoiding Immorality

We need to keep in mind two other related observations. First, certain types of entertainment are intrinsically evil – that is, the actual substance of the entertainment, the stuff that causes the pleasure, is immoral. As followers of Christ, we can never use or support or even tolerate these kinds of entertainment. This was the case in the ancient gladiator fights. The thrill that the spectators experienced came from the mortal danger the contestants faced: the combatants fought to the death. But human life is too precious for that! To make killing into a spectator sport directly contradicts human dignity. When the Roman Empire became Christian, this form of entertainment, eventually, was abolished. In our day, the most obvious example of this is pornography and all its related industries (strip clubs, prostitution, human trafficking, sex tourism…). This is a subset of the entertainment industry that treats human beings like products, like consumer goods to be bought, used, and thrown away. Not good.

Being Realistic

Second, many works of art or entertainment are not explicitly Christian or Catholic, and yet they present, in some form or other, authentic values. In the first centuries of the Christian era, theologians and philosophers argued extensively about whether Christians should read and study the classical works of literature and philosophy. The works of Cicero, Plato, Thucydides, Virgil… These were pagan works, written by pagans for pagans. They did not present Christ; they did not present a Christian world view. Because of this, many theologians believed that Christians should not read them. In the end, however, the Church realized that these towering achievements of the human spirit, even though they were not explicitly Christian, contained much that was “noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” And so, not only did we keep reading them, but Catholic monks were actually the ones who helped preserve them from obliteration during the Dark Ages.

Our society today is, in many ways, a neo-pagan society. As a result, much of our art and entertainment no longer presents an explicitly Christian world view. Yet, as in the case of the ancient classics, they may contain much that can inspire and edify us, even while they entertain us.

In our next post on this topic, Fr. John goes into specifics and discusses certain TV shows or other entertainment we should avoid if we have doubts about them. Father poses some questions to reflect on when making a decision on what to watch or not to watch.

PS: As Lent begins this week, might it not be a good idea to fast from either all entertainment or specific types of entertainment? Just a thought…

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published four other titles: "Seeking First the Kingdom", "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions", "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", "Inside the Passion"--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation".

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  • Thnguyen95

    I would like to read part 1 of of this article. The above link is giving me this message, “You do not have permission to preview drafts.”  Could someone please post a working link. Thank You.

  • judeen

    ive watched shows about ghost finding.. and was shocked to see that they called in the catholic church for excersism… and to bless the house…. Jesus said he was not a spirit or a ghost… we had a spirit that was in our house.. smelled like gas.. 3 different owners died in a car acceident.. before we moved in… the preist told me to tell it that they were dead and could go to heaven now and it was my house… it worked.. the dog would even respond to the smell before it happened…I dont watch these shows all the time .. just once or 2 times… so this would be intresting on what the church teaches about these people who do this

  • william white

    I stopped tv for 1+1/2years due to finance and rediculous rates and got along fine. sin was down prayer and devotion incredible… Now i retreived it back with ewtn as the excuse… ha ha..i watch csi…prayer is affected but not down… i do not watch news as i use catholic sourses online.. media for me is of power,money and well …deceit.
    I do not need a night light or sound as i live a life of solitude…if one has children i even stronger suggest no tv…It cripples us as families,takes teaching and prayer away to an all-time low but then so does internet,why test your virtue in this way,there are more fullfilling ways we are given to do that like serving our brother in so many ways.

  • Anonymous

    Fixed – sorry and thank you.

  • Kwanlu

    I used to occasionally watch one of the ghost shows, that featured 3 idiots who’d wander around in the dark yelling at ghosts. I always rather felt that they were really messing with something they shouldn’t, just from the vibe I got from the whole thing. The last time I started watching one their episodes, I turned to look at one of my cats, who was sleeping curled up next to me. She was asleep, but every hair along her spine was standing straight up. Never saw that before, never seen it since. Decided that the cat, even asleep, had better sense and judgement than do I, and I’ve never watched that show since!

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  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    I believe I commented in the first Post that I stopped watching TV for over 10 years now. Ditto for the numerous Radio FM Stations.  The contents of our  TV shows and FM Radio Stations which dominate the Mass Media in this part of the world are morally corrosive.  The political news are no better. I, therefore, decided to remain with the Catholic Websites and our local Catholic Radio Station. When I cannot sleep for some reason, I enjoy listening to EWTV which comes on after 11.30 p.m. Kenyan Time.  In the various Catholic Websites, I get the world news, Church news; and above all, Spiritual Nourishment. I just told myself : Mary, the world and her evils are swirling all over but since God is in Charge, remain in your Holy Church Websites, maintain your Prayer Schedules, be an faithful Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy, serve your Parishes where your input is needed and the rest are in God’s Loving and Merciful Hands. His Will always Gets Done even when all seems lost.

    • Kay

      Mary,
        Thank you for sharing, your thoughts touch me.  Here in Tennessee in the USA I find the same things “morally corrosive” as you do in Kenya.  EWTN is my mainstay and I’m so thankful for it and Catholic website teachings like CSD. You’re right Gods Will always does get done.
      Kay

  • Sandy

    In August of 2000 I turned off the TV for my entertainment.  This action freed up so much time that reading spiritually uplifting books became a great joy and there was more time for prayer.  This has been a great part of my personal conversion experience.  Today if TV is watched, it is from EWTN and not secular entertainment.  My husband and I look forward to watching the inspirational “saint” movies on EWTN at 8:00 on Saturday nights.  This time has become a “date” night for us and is helping us to become one in mind, heart, and soul.  Each person makes the decision to turn the TV on or off.  Much grace has come to me from the choice that I made in August of 2000.

  • Anonymous

    “Could watching certain TV shows be against our Catholic faith?”

    Does King Kong like bananas?

  • Gramper

    Thank you for this topic that sorely needs to be discussed by all families…we’ve heard “you are what you eat”…you are what you watch… you are what you do.. NO!  We are so much more than that: made in the image of God!  I pray that we DO what we are.

    Also, looking forward to specifics because you know how evil likes to twist the truth.  Remember the debates about how Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings were similar???!! 

  • Anonymous

    Condemning the watching of snuff films, porn, and gore-fest flicks is easy.  Let us also consider TV programs such as the gossip-mongering Inside Edition and its kin.  They indulge in spreading calumny and vice.  The many TV faux-courtroom daytime shows are similarly near-occasion-of-sin fare for they make a public spectacle of people’s sores.

    I really wonder that in all of the 24/7 broadcasting of 200-plus commercial cable and over-the-air channels – plus so-called public TV – there’s even 10 programs of value to watch in any week.

  • Sjohnbosch010

    Available, I hope, on DVD are episodes in a TV series called “Insight” which was produced for more than 10 years by Father Elwood Keiser, Paulist. They were little 27 minute plays, reminiscent of the early television anthology series. They are testament to the possibilities of television. Father Keiser was a tremendous producer. Some of the episodes have been posted on you tube.

    The Insight series avoided the traps of bad writing and worse acting. Father Keiser succeeded in drawing talented people because he allowed them to use their talents. He used to say, “People will do things for God they would never do for money.”

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