“Ask a Priest: Is Acting Sinful?”

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Q: I’m enrolled in an acting class at my college and we’re doing a play by Molière. I was cast as someone who doesn’t have any lines. I’m wondering if it would be wrong to be in this play and if acting in general is sinful. – S.K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Perhaps there isn’t much in a Molière play that would scandalize many people in the 21st century. But the wider question you raise is an important one: Is acting in general sinful?

Acting is not intrinsically sinful. It involves talents that can enlighten and entertain others. Pope St. John Paul II was an actor in his youth.

The key point is what you act in. If you are acting in things that are edifying or artful in a positive sense, then that’s OK. If you are talking about acting in things that are obscene or salacious, then you might be putting yourself in mortal sin and being a source of scandal for others.

John Paul II in his 1987 address to leaders of the communications industry, in Hollywood, said, “Your work can be a force for great good or great evil.” That caveat could apply to acting. (See the Pope’s full address.)

This is the moment when you might want to take things to prayer and make some fundamental decisions. The temptation for actors, especially since many of them struggle to start a career, is to accept any kind of role — and all too often the roles offered aren’t morally uplifting.

Of course, most good dramas also have characters who make mistakes or commit sins. In that sense, an actor may play an evil or an antagonistic character, since the play as a whole is worthy. Pope Pius XII explains this in greater detail in his discourse “The Ideal Film.”

You might need to consider whether you can act within moral boundaries, or whether the field in general will compromise you. This is not a danger to be underestimated.

Perhaps you might want to try to network with like-minded actors and artists who want to use their talents for the glory of God. You might check out the Act One site, for ideas.

Although it is a daunting task to use acting to promote a Christian outlook, it is not impossible.

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