SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Watching certain TV shows: Against our Catholic faith? II of III

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Entertainment, 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…


Art for this post on watching certain TV shows: Modified Comedy and Tragedy Mask Icon, Booyabazooka, 5 July 2006, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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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". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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