Back in the Fifties, I recall a Church guideline for Catholics as films came out, approved or forbidden. In the Sixties, I watched a comedy called Sex and the Single Girl. The title was misleading, in a way, it was not racy, and by today’s standards,quite innocuous. Still, now I hesitate. How do we know ?
How to know if a fil is "Catholic" acceptable ? I want to watch Sex and The Single Girl, despite the title it is arather innocuous, and funny. How do I know the Church approves, there is no more guidelines out ther
You can rely on your conscience. What creates an occasion of sin for one person who is young, suggestible or less educated may not create the same for another person (for example, a film student watching a movie for study purposes ). If you feel comfortable with the film then your conscience is likely telling you it is okay. If the film makes you feel uncomfortable when you watch, then turn it off.
Personally, I feel that if a Catholic watches a film with a dirty name, even if the film isn’t that bad, then the Catholic may be committing the sin of scandal.
Look at it this way: Joe Atheist is the typical angry atheist and he wants to find new ways to bash Catholics. He sees John Catholic watching the film with the dirty name. Now he has a new thing to attack Catholics with, even if the film wasn’t bad per se.
Same with this. If we replace Joe Atheist with Sam Cafeteria Catholic, then we’d probably see Sam say “If John can watch that, then I can watch (insert very immoral movie here)!”
We shouldn’t watch anything that is even remotely dirty. It can cause all sorts of problems.
The key here is “Personally, you feel”. Your personal opinion doesn’t make it a sin for the next person, whose conscience may feel differently from your feelings.
Also, what I think is “remotely dirty” may differ widely from what you or someone else might think is “remotely dirty”. People have different ways of looking at things, which is another reason why it’s hard for the Church to make one list that works for all.
The USCCB’s Catholic News Services still reviews movies. Those movies deemed morally offensive receive an “O” rating. For more recent movies simply enter the movie title in the search box on the home page; for movies reviewed before 2011 click on the link below the search box to access the website’s archives.
For older movies, movies from 1936-1978, you could also check Wikipedia’s “List of films condemned by the Legion of Decency.”
I haven’t read through all of this, so some of this is likely covered, but there is still a Catholic service, published on the Bishop’s council site for the US, which rates films, but not movies. I’ve often wondered what a Catholic’s duty was in regards to films given the “O”, morally objectionable, rating. I recently (very recently) dove into that and found that a Catholic is now bound to abstain from viewing films rated O, but must be on their guard and consider that it is rated O in deciding if to view it, and particularly if they do view. In this case, I’d recently watched a film that after seeing it I thought that it must be rated O, even though it had some solid moral lessons woven into clearly objectionable material.
Unfortunately no such service exists for television. I wish that it did.
FWIW, while it’ll sound “preachy” I suppose, I have a further opinion in that in my view popular US television is a huge example of the old maxim “The greatest trick the Devil played was to convince people he didn’t exist”. Lots of Catholics watch all kinds of sit coms and believe that they are simply “innocuous and funny” and not morally objectionable, when in fact they’re just faucets of moral filth. I’m somewhat fortunate here in that I’m not a huge television fan (I do like movies) and went through a period where I simply didn’t watch any of the current shows and then came back later to see them, and what had developed, after probably a fifteen year gap and was shocked. Shows I found “innocuous and funny” early on are in fact pretty clearly hugely morally objectionable if you are aware from them and that area of our societal wounds heal up. For example, Friends or the Big Bang Theory are really gross and objectionable in regards to the sexual message they send out.
FWIW, Sex and the City is one of the worst this way. I have seen it on rare occasion and the sexual message, as well as societal messages, are perverse and objectionable. You may wish to view some of the material written by Dawn Eden about the development of her conscience in which she refers to her earlier life prior to her conversion as following the Sex In The City ethos.
That wouldn’t mean that you can’t watch them as long as you keep the objectionable context in mind, but I tend to find that over time with television we find that to be very difficult to do. With movies, which we see in a more singular fashion, this is less true. Anyhow, when we wonder why we live in a culture in which a majority of younger Catholics think that same gender unions can be marriages, or why living and having sex with somebody you are not married to, etc. etc. are all okay, cultural exposure to an increasingly debased televised message forms a bit part of that. As somebody who is married to a non Catholic whose television viewing is more liberal than my own, I’ve always made the objectionable nature of a lot of television very clear when my children were viewing, as I think its really easy for people to just assume that if they see it on television, its really okay.
Just as an experiment (too bad its not Lent, this would be a better time for it) it often serves in this area to take a break from television and during that break, which need not be long (40 days about ideal) study the Church’s moral teachings in one way or another. Maybe listed to Catholic Answers or something instead.
Then, when you come back, see what you then think.
My guess is that with almost any popular television dram or sit com, you’ll then be a bit shocked by how many truly immoral messages are openly promoted and the extent to which conventional morality, and even the Church itself, is lampooned.
And I don’t think there’s much of a reason to then tolerate or entertain that stuff.
The Church doesn’t come out with a don’t read or don’t watch list. It’s discretionary .
For example the stuff talked about in Harry Potter is heretical to the Church but if you can read it and know it’s only fiction there isn’t anything wrong with it.
The Church at one time did publish a listed of condemned writings that Catholics were in some fashion, if I recall correctly, obligated to avoid. The list was often surprising to non Catholics as it contained things that non Catholics simply assumed would be on it, and often were not.
And at least some things really are not discretionary. Viewing pornography, for example, is a mortal sin. Unfortunately in our culture this is actually a surprise to many Catholics and I’ve run across Playboy back in the day in more than one Catholic household, and I knew a very devout man who kept a collection of such magazines. But, I’ll say it again, viewing pornography is a mortal sin.
The question is therefore on some things where that line is crossed. Anymore, the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is pretty much pornography. But that’s not widely known, it seems, even though 99.99% naked women in seductive poses would seem to be self evidently pornography. Much less clear are films that include nudity in some fashion for other purposes or other ostensible purposes.
Anyhow, the Church isn’t quite a open to “use your conscience as your guide” in this area as it might seem. There are some things we are to avoid upon the pain of the death of our souls.
On the remainder of it, with something like Harry Potter, its so clearly fantasy that any danger would (it would seem to me) to be very slight. With shows that portrays themselves as slices of life, or on the cutting edge of hip and cool life, that’s not nearly so clearly the case. A show like The Big Bang Theory, for example, flat out proposes that amongst young educated people illicit relationships are the cool and hip thing to do. Friends was the same way. Those shows present arguments about daily moral conduct where as Harry Potter, etc. do not.
I’m a big fan of people learning to use their conscience, if for no other reason than many movies and shows (TV shows for example) are not on a list, so you have to decide for yourself.
As for TV, I barely watch it at all, and when I did I almost exclusively watched Cops, America’s Most Wanted, and the two crime and investigation networks. Sitcoms got very boring to me around the time Friends got popular. As a female engineer, I thought the early seasons of Big Bang Theory were stupid beyond belief, and many of the lawyer and political shows were either stupid (Ally McBeal, LA Law) or too much like going to work for me to relax and watch them. The only recent show I was somewhat interested in seeing was The Sopranos, I like a good mobster or gangster story.
I was amused recently to see that Kevin Spacey us apparently as much of a sleaze in person as his character on the show. I wonder how they will kill him off and end the show. I seem to recall that in the British version of the show, the main character Francis died at the end of the third miniseries.
Thank-youfor your in depth comments, they are most helpful. Here’s what I’ve learned. The title of the movie is a reference to HelenGurley Brown’s book, although when I first watched the movie, I was not awareof her, being young and immature. Iliked Natalie Wood, and recall that Lauren Bacall really stole the show. Brown’s book must surely have been condemned bythe Church, as she was part of the literary group who led the Sexual revolution,and she became an editor for Cosmopolitan – pulp filth. It was my hope that I could separate that partof it from the movie. There are noexplicit scenes that I recall, and it’s a far cry from what is out theretoday. The best part of the filminvolves a funny driving sequence on the freeway where the characters try tolink up and straighten out their problems. But I just can’t get past thetitle, and it’s inference, and you’ve given me a conscience alarm. Beside my TV is a picture of Our Lady ofFatima, and I decided that regardless of the “merits” of the movie’s comic side, it’s an offence toOur Lady. You are so correct in yourdiscretion about films and TV shows. Ihave had to give up much of Seinfeld, never did like Big Bang Theory, or manyof the shows that have come out. Also,the title alone is an offence to our Catholic beliefs. Thank-you for helping me.
Do you mean the old film with NAtalie Wood? It might be on the Usccb website.
Yes, It’s a comedy, and the title makes it sound awful. It’s loosely based on Helen Gurley Brown, none of which I understood when I watched it years ago. Lauren Bacall played a great part in it, and there were no racy scenes.
I have decided not to watch it after buying a set of Natalie Wood films. The title is offensive to Catholic teaching. But then I watched The Notebook, and now question even that. Don’t want to be scrupulous to the point of being prudish, but when in doubt, don’t seems to be the answer. How I wish we had guidance on films!
Thanks for your suggestion, I did try that website, but no luck.
(If the film had another title, I think it would be fine, but I’d like to hear from a priest or clerical authority).
thanks for trying to help.
The Exorcist is on there for 1973.
I’ve checked with Catholic News Services, the movie is not listed in their archives, so have sent a request for an answer from them.Will post when they reply. Thanks!
Catholic News Services did not have a listing for the movie, even in their Archives. However, in response to my request for advice, this is what they wrote:
"They might have decided since sex outside of marriage was the premise of the book (Sex and the Single Girl movie same name as well) they need not review it since it was obviously objectionable. I don’t know what the criteria for reviewing movies in the 1960s was."
Thank-you to everyone who wrote to help, I appreciate all the input. What I’ve learned from this is, when in doubt, don’t until you can get a firm answer. No film or TV program is worth tarnishing the Soul.
Another good resource for films is http://decentfilms.com/
He is a frequent guest on Catholic Answers Live, reviews movies for the National Catholic Register.
To be fair, the Big Bang Theory has been slowly marrying the characters off… and kids start to enter into it. As the characters grow up within the series, they move away from “illicit” relationships.
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