TV Shows

I am not interested in your diagnosis of my spiritual life, which is both unwarranted and inappropriate on this forum. It is also totally irrelevant to the question I asked.

Film sequences, for example, which show men and women engaging in acts of fornication and adultery, even when such scenes do not necessarily show explicit sexual activity, are still unwholesome and inappropriate for those who profess Christ’s holy religion.

Why? This is not Catholic teaching.

Then there is the whole issue of scantily dressed men and women, often engaging in passionate kissing and caressing. How does viewing such unwholesome content square with a biblical passage such as Phillipians 4: 8? Is such indecent material conducive to the earnest pursuit of holiness or is it rather calculated to incite unchaste and sensual thoughts?

Such indecent material would indeed be inappropriate. I cannot actually remember a film in which individuals were caressing, but that is a different issue. Yes, scantily-clad men and women who are dressed as such for the purpose of titillating the audience should not be there.

Incidently, the actor British actor, Christopher Lee (of Hammer Horror fame) has often said that what makes a film frightening is not so much what the audience sees as what it does not see, or what is implied and left to the imagination.

His opinion is not Catholic doctrine, and it certainly does not apply to me. We are not in a position to dictate what is most scary to other individuals.

Portrait, you have still not actually answered my question, and your non-response was not even succinct. I assume that you are literate, so I am a bit confused. Can you help me out? Below is my question.

**Portrait, in VERY succinct language, please explain how one can determine whether a given program is moral or immoral. That is, what criteria permit a sound judgment of an arbitrary show? **

I erroneously assumed that you would understand my question given its simplicity. Perhaps I should rephrase with a hypothetical scenario:

I have a particular book that I am reading, but it could be immoral! What am I to do? How can I tell whether it is moral or not?

Since you have problems with concision and staying on task, which I do take personally because I do not enjoy reading paragraphs of material completely irrelevant to the simple questions I asked, I will obligingly offer some tips:

*]Omit anything that does not directly answer my question
*]Do not feel compelled to use complete sentences
*]Lists are useful
*]Be specific
*]Be exhaustive
*]Use adjectives sparingly

It rather rude of you not to be respectful of the time of your readers, by offering needlessly long posts, and not to be respectful of their human dignity, by neither answering their questions nor refusing to, which implies strongly that what they are asking is far less important than whatever repetitive and unusable diatribe falls upon our ears from your soapbox.

What’s offensive to one, isn’t offensive to another. My skin is VERY THICK, nothing offends me. Heck, I cann’t tell you what I had for lunch two days ago, let alone what I watched on TV two days ago.

Dear Baelor,

Hello again and thankyou for your recent reply which I will respond to sometime tommorow. However, as regards your above remarks, you have got the wrong end of the stick. It was not my intention, dear brother, to give any ‘diagnosis’ of you personally and I am sorry that you read it that way. My sincere apologies for any offence that my comments occasioned. The misunderstanding is, I think, down to my choice of words, namely: “This, I firmly believe, is the problem that *you *have today…”, which you wrongly interpreted as applying to you yourself, when in fact they were intended to apply only in a general sense. Having looked at them again, I can see that they are very ambiguous and it would have been better for me to have said, “This, I firmly believe, is the problem today with some modern Catholics…”. Whether this applies specifically in your own case is obviously something known only to yourself. Sometimes, I use the word ‘you’ in this general sense as it is just the way that I write and talk occasionally, but perhaps on internet forums it is best avoided so that it does not give rise to any unecessary misunderstanding.

Please stand by for a reply to your post in full tommorow, but I thought that it would be good to clear up any misunderstanding without delay. Please be assured of my good will and again I proffer my sincere apologies, dear brother.

God bless and do have a spendid day. Goodbye for now.

Warmest good wishes as always,



Your concern is appreciated. Thank you for the clarification.

Dear Portrait,

Thank you for your kind words and joyful decorum. As I attempted to point out in my previous post, we are now living in a relativistic world; i.e. “What is good for you may be bad for me. What is acceptable to you may not be acceptable to me.”

By the grace of God, I am a professional storyteller, and have been for some years now. The words, images, Everything - are carefully planned. But point to most any film starting in the late 1960s and compare it to those in the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s, and finally, the 2000s. The same end goal is being advanced no matter who wrote or directed it.

I would offer this as a clear clarification to all who doubt:


I think TV is something you have to watch and limit regarding what content is in the programmes and each person will have different views. Although I have to say, some of the stuff you mentioned, why watch it anyway it doesn’t even sound like decent viewing.

Dear Baelor,

Cordial greetings and a very good day. Thankyou for your response.

Even within a fictional context, dear brother, acts of fornication and adultery remain unwholesome and viewing them on film/television ought surely to be highly distasteful to a devout Catholic’s moral sensibilities. Moroever, how is watching people commit acts of mortal sin conducive to the pursuit of holiness and how does it aid a man in thinking on “whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely” (Phillip. 4: 8)? As Catholics an obligation is laid upon us to discern what media is morally permissible and this can only be effectively achieved by developing a properly formed conscience. We cannot expect our Church to micro-manage every aspect of our moral life, but it is certain that we must strive daily to resist all unwholesome influences - even those which emanate from the world of fictional entertainment.

As I said previously, moderate and infrequent violence that is central to a film’s plot does have a place. This has always been the case and most reasonable men would, I think, freely accept that. However, dear brother, this is not remotely the same as the frequent and graphic violence associated with unsavoury films like The Goodfellows and Straw Dogs (cited by the OP), the latter of which was shot on location quite close to where I formerly lived. Sam Peckinpah, the director, was by this time already a controversial figure after the Wild Bunch, which had quite rightly elicited much negative criticicism on account of its excessive and brutal violence.

A film/tv programme, dear brother, is clearly immoral if its plot line conveys the impression that fornication and adultery, for example, are not grave sins and that men and women can engage in them with impunity. Thus the Bond films make light of the bed-hopping *James Bond *and it is very much suggested to the audience that this makes him a jolly lucky chap. However, what this Bond character is actually doing is fornicating and so why should anyone be envious of a man commiting an act of mortal sin? Again, any programme that attempts to portray the homosexual lifestyle in a positive light, implying that only religious bigots would condemn such an ‘alternative lifestyle’, is plainly immoral and unwholesome. This is already happening here in the UK with some of those morally contemptible ‘soap operas’, which are sadly watched even by impressionable youth, who are being systematically brainwashed into thinking that the homosexual lifestyle is somehow ‘cool’. If there are characters in the plots who do oppose it they are always depicted as disturbed religious fanatics, not as perfectly balanced men sincerely holding a Christian moral worldview. The producers of these shows undoubtedly have an agenda and are desirous to change public opinion and, in their warped thinking, dispel unenlightened prejudice. These despicable programmes should be given a jolly wide-berth, but they should also be denounced in the strongest terms, for they are slowly corrupting public morals and destroying the very fabric of our society.

This is, dear brother, some of the criteria that ought to form the basis of our deliberations, but I cannot stress to you the importance of cultivating a well-formed conscience, for this is crucial if a man is to avoid catastrophic errors of prudential judgment. Of course men can be righteous overmuch, but they also need, especially in the age in which our lot is cast, to be
vigilant against any media that will harm their spiritual life and hamper their pursuit of holiness. Remember, if we are not on our guard against evil and unwholesome influences, then we are more likely to be influenced by them, which may even result in us finally defecting from our faith, like Demas, because of our love for this present evil world (I Tim. 4: 10). All of the faithful are called to sanctity and separation from the godless world and this will necessarily entail an avoidance of its many distracting and demoralizing influences, including unsavoury films and television programmes. If we have a properly formed conscience, then unwholesome influences will immediately show up on our radar when we encounter them.

God bless.

Warmest good wishes,



How does one make the determination that a film “conveys the impression that [mortal sins] are not grave sins?” Does it amount only to whether “men and women can engage in them with impunity” or not?

However, what this Bond character is actually doing is fornicating and so why should anyone be envious of a man commiting an act of mortal sin?

No reason, which is why I watch Bond films and am not envious of James Bond.

Again, any programme that attempts to portray the homosexual lifestyle in a positive light, implying that only religious bigots would condemn such an ‘alternative lifestyle’, is plainly immoral and unwholesome.

In other words, homosexual lifestyles must be explicitly condemned in the show? Or do you mean something else? Could immoral homosexual behavior be portrayed at all? Under what circumstances could it be portrayed?

This is, dear brother, some of the criteria that ought to form the basis of our deliberations,

They are not criteria, because you have not explained how this determination can be made. You have also not explained why I cannot consume media that have problematic motivations that can be dissociated from the content.

I’m beginning to wonder how much of the current discussion is relevant to the OP. Not that it isn’t interesting, but I don’t know if it’s helpful. The OP asked:

The short answer would be “it depends”. It depends on how they are presented and used in the story, and on each person’s own limits. We can’t make sweeping statements like “all of these are always sinful” or “these are never sinful”, because we don’t know the full situation.

As far as I know, only one of these things is always sinful to watch- “excessive violence”, since it is, by the OP’s own description, “excessive”. Everything else, I think it depends. Even for sex- are we talking pornography here, or strongly implied sex that isn’t condoned by the narrative? We don’t know. Is the viewer in question prone to lusting, or do they never struggle with it? We don’t know that, either.

As I understand it, it is sinful to watch a show if:

-It is a near occasion of sin for you (it causes you to lust, etc.) or it causes you to become more prone to commiting sins in the future. An example would be if, after regularly watching a show with the occasional dirty joke in it, the viewer starts to tell disrespectful jokes himself.
-It could cause someone else to sin, or cause scandal.

Anyways, I know this wasn’t exactly “succinct” or anything, but I really wanted to throw my :twocents: in there. If I’m wrong anywhere (wouldn’t be a bit surprised :blush:), maybe it’ll give somebody a springboard to explain which actions are objectively sinful, since I’m pretty sure that’s what the OP asked about. Not personal preferences or appeals to “common decency”. He wants to know about whether watching certain shows is objectively wrong.

We do know. I know how Hollywood works. Every word, every scene is carefully planned. Nothing is accidental. Nothing is relative. It’s all designed to illicit a preplanned response. Hollywood has been around for a long time and the writers know how to affect viewers on an emotional, psychological and even spiritual level. This goes for the average viewer, meaning most people.

Before a movie is released, it is pre-screened by an audience who are asked to criticize it. Then, changes are made. Nothing is by accident.

Just because a story can be told a number of different ways does not change the message. The viewer is supposed to be able to relate to the main characters. In the past, there were clear good guys and bad guys. As time passed, we had characters like Dirty Harry, called vigilantes or anti-heroes. That was a lie. A police officer does not threaten to shoot a bunch of people to encourage them to see him as a threat. He does not gleefully gun them down while saying, right before, “Go ahead. Make my day.” with a grim scowl on his face. Such a man no longer values human life or justice. He is judge, jury and joyful executioner.

And living with your sex partner? What’s the big deal? Everybody’s doing it. Just get on the pill, and if you get pregnant, your call. The guy is just your sex toy, until he gets on your nerves or you get bored with him. Then you kick him out or just leave. Kids? Who needs that? Orgasms are all that matters and money.

God forbid,

edwest, none of that is relevant. Only the morality is relevant. Unless you would like to connect that to the morality, please stop posting off-topic.

I’m aware of how movies work, though I have no doubt your knowledge is far greater than mine. That said, this discussion is not limited to Hollywood and its agenda- the question regards all of TV. That includes older shows, cartoons, foreign shows, and anime. The same principles may apply as far as accidents, but the same political and moral undertones are not present in all of TV.

No, it doesn’t. But it does change the effect on the viewer. Watching a story with explicit sex scenes would be sinful- but if the same story can be told without these scenes, watching it might not be sinful.

OK, I haven’t seen Dirty Harry, so forgive me if this is irrelevant. I think it’s wrong to show the evil actions of anti-heroes in a positive light. I don’t think it’s wrong to portray anti-heroes in all circumstances. I mean, Batman is a vigilante. If all our characters were near-perfect, there would be an awful lot of experiences we couldn’t acknowledge and an awful lot of themes we couldn’t explore. I’m not advocating for watching blatantly anti-christian or immoral works- I am saying that it is possible to portray characters who are immoral without condoning those actions.

The problem with the OP’s question is that it doesn’t account for presentation. If we say “no portraying witches”, the Wizard of Oz is off-limits. If we outlaw wizards, we lose The Lord of the Rings. Even if we narrow it down to what the protagonists do, it wouldn’t account for shows with villain protagonists.

I’m also not sure if one shortcoming makes a show sinful to watch. Someone with mature faith should be able to handle the occasional problematic portrayal, right?

Dear Ed,

Cordial greetings and a very good day.

Thankyou, dear brother, for providing that link to the Vigilante Cura, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI, which, I would hasten to add, remains authoritative Catholic teaching for the faithful today. Indeed, I would urge all those currently viewing this thread to peruse that document very carefully, for they will then perhaps begin to appreciate just how morally objectionable is the content of much modern film/television output, to say nothing of the extent in the deterioration of standards of decency, especially since the permissive revoultion of the Sixties. Incontrovertably, the world of film/tv, and indeed the arts and literature generally, are in a very desperate plight and wallowing in a veritable cesspit of iniquity. Bring back the* Legion of Decency*, I say, and a more rigorist approach to media evaluation, for it could provide the very moral disinfectant that our depraved Western society so urgently requires. In any event, we certainly need a more stricter censorship, both in the UK and Stateside, that will uncompromisingly supress before public release films containing morally objectionable material and profanity. There is, alas, a lowered public opinion that urgently needs to be raised. Sadly, the consciences of many men, especially film makers, appear to be “seared with a hot iron” (I Tim. 4: 2), that is to say, they are so immersed in godlessness that they are thoroughly lost to the very first principles of virtues and basic morality. Their unwholesome film output is but a reflection of the darkness that lurks within their hearts - “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (S. Matt. 12; 34-35).

It admits of no doubt, dear brother, that there has been, as you rightly say, a tragic declension in film and television standards since the Sixties moral revolution. Have professing Catholics remained impervious to the steady stream of morally unhealthy films/TV? Most certainly not, as multiple discussions here on CAF evince ony too plainly. Owing to increased worldly conformity many modern Catholics have sadly compromised their standards and allowed themselves to descend to the level of the ungodly in their midst, that is to say those who are habitually walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2: 2). Look, we Catholics properly belong to the high mountain land above and even now our commonwealth is supposed to be in Heaven (see Phillip. 3: 20), but many are virtually indistiguishable from their pagan neighbours; they watch the same culturally unwholesome films and television programmes, read the same degrading fiction and listen to the same debased music. All of this, I would contend, is highly prejudicial to the cause of Christ’s true religion and its mission to the world. As those who profess godliness we cannot befoul our immortal souls with the filth of the immoral culture around us without bringing contempt upon our most holy faith - “I beseech you therefore, brethren,…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12: 1-2). This whole issue of morally objectionable film and televsion material cannot be disassociated from the much broader issue of personal sanctity and separation from the godless world; it must needs always be considered in the light of our call to holiness, for only then will we clearly apprehend the urgent moral obligation to resist unwholesome media influences (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paras, 2013-15; 2496). Our souls must be kept “unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1: 27).

The crucial question is, dear brother,: are we earnestly seeking a more intimate communion with Jesus Christ and our we setting our affections upon things above, rather than the morally corrupting things of this fallen world? If we answer yes unreservedly, then surely we will want to protect our moral sensitivity to sin and will accordingly give all morally objectionable and culturally unhealthy media a very wide-berth indeed. However, key to all this is developing a properly formed conscience that will sharpen our powers of discernment, thus enabling us to to make the correct viewing choices as regards films and television programmes.

This, dearly beloved friends, will be my final post in this thread as I do not feel that I can say anymore by way of response, in addition to what I have said already in this and my previous posts. May God be with us and enlighten our hearts and minds as we continue to ponder this very important topic after we have said farewell. My earnest prayer is that those who are confused and uncertain may be guided by our Lord into all truth, never being afraid to revise their thinking upon the matter.

Blessings be upon you and may the peace of God be yours now and always.

Warmest good wishes,



No. Watching Merlin, Halloweentown, or the Harry Potter movies is not sinful.

“soul eating”

If you’re referring to the anime Soul Eater, then my answer would again be no.


What do you mean by sex? If you mean pornography, then yes because the Catholic Church condemns pornography. If you mean implicit sexual references, then I would say no.

excessive violence

While the Church does condemn gratuitous violence, I would say it depends on what you mean by “excessive violence.” Wars are generally excessively violent, but I wouldn’t say it’s sinful to watch a depiction of war.


No. Watching Supernatural is not sinful.


Here’s the thing: good books, movies, and TV shows require a plot, which entails conflict, climax, and resolution. This will, generally, require that immortality be present.

dirty jokes


Outside of pornography and gratuitous violence, there is no Church teaching telling us “Oh, X is moral to watch” or “Y is immoral to watch.” We, as individuals, must decide for ourselves whether or not we will be affected by watching Supernatural, Dexter, or Big Bang Theory.

Which brings me to my next point:

I would recommend taking what Ed and Portrait say with a grain of salt. Most of their advice is not very useful in my opinion, for the following reasons:

  1. Portrait’s posts are vague, verbose, and unsubstantiated. If he wants his posts to be more helpful, then he needs to succinctly describe what is specifically wrong with specific scenes from specific material. It would also help if he backed up his arguments with specific evidence (both empirical and logical) and Church teaching.

I would also dare to say his habit towards prolix posts would count as the “loaded language” fallacy. But that’s just me. :shrug:

  1. Portrait also frequently commits the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. In other words, many of his posts involve something along the lines of “If you were truly a devout member of Christ’s most holy religion, then you wouldn’t watch X, read Y, or play Z.”

Case-in-point: My high school religion teacher is an extremely devout Catholic. He attends Mass daily, has a doctorate in theology, has attended World Youth Day and March for Life several times, and teaches classes on basic Catholic theology, sacramental theology, moral theology, and the Old and New Testaments. At the same time, he loves to listen to Rush and watch Dexter. Should his moral decency and “Catholic devout-ness” really be called into question simply because Geddy Lee is an atheist or that Dexter is a serial killer?

  1. Ed and Portrait adhere to the ludicrous claim that you WILL (no ifs, ands, or buts about it) be morally affected if you watch something containing that which the Catholic Church considers immoral. Surely, there are some people who are more sensitive to certain material than others. But it is a logical fallacy to say all people are sensitive to certain material just because some people are sensitive to certain material. We are all different from each other, and therefore react to things differently. I can watch Supernatural without seeking out the occult. My friend can play *Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas *without stealing cars, picking up prostitutes, or beating up old ladies. We can be influenced by something only if we allow it to influence us.

  2. Both advocate that portrayal of immorality in any form of entertainment counts as support or praise of that immorality, unless it is explicitly condemned. This is both a ridiculous idea and an illogical conclusion. The fact that Charlie’s sister has an abortion and the fact that Charlie’s friend Patrick is gay in Perks of Being a Wallflower does not necessarily mean Stephen Chbosky supports abortion or homosexuality.

  3. Ed likes to claim that most entertainment out today “isn’t worth indulging in.” I agree with this to a point, but what is “worth watching” is a subjective matter. Only I get to decide whether or not Merlin is “worth watching.” And not everything from the 50’s and 60’s is worth watching, either. Both my parents and my grandparents alike can’t stand some of the shows Ed and Portrait have mentioned in these type of threads.

  4. Ed’s posts imply that, because he works in the media, writes fiction, and helps people write fiction, he is an expert on these matters and we should therefore accept what he says without question. It doesn’t work that way. Appeals to authority count as logical fallacies, especially when the person in question hasn’t substantiated why we should consider him an expert on these matters.

  5. And, honestly, what I get from most of their arguments is that they want entertainment that portrays a Catholic, Utopian society. Such demands would result in boring, meaningless entertainment.

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