“Ask a Priest: Is It Sinful to Watch a Bawdy TV Series?”

Q: I personally enjoy watching shows like “Family Guy.” I know that “Family Guy” has some pretty low humor at times. Some of it is just simply in bad taste, and other times it is sexual. I was wondering if it is venially sinful or mortally sinful to watch those shows. There are some episodes where they actually mock religion, but I avoid watching those particular episodes completely. I no longer watch “Game of Thrones” because it is way too blatant on the nudity and sexuality. – Kris

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Our minds are a little like sponges. They tend to soak in whatever is in the surrounding environment.

If you are exposing yourself to TV shows with low humor and bad taste and sexual innuendo, these will likely leave their mark on your thinking and possibly your spiritual life.

As for the sinfulness of watching these shows, they might indeed lead you into at least venial sin, for various reasons.

First, they constantly expose you to anti-Christian themes and topics that denigrate the respect due to sexuality. All of this is morally counterproductive and can have a deep and subtle impact on your views.

Second, your viewing these shows might give scandal to others. That is, if people perceive you as religiously inclined, they might think, “Kris watches that show, so it must be OK.”

Third, your watching these shows in some way feeds the demand for this kind of fare. You become part of the problem of low-brow media, even if in a small way.

All this could lead to mortal sin, especially over the course of time, as attitudes change and then harden.

Perhaps one question you should ask yourself is this: If watching these shows is “only” a venial sin, will you continue to do it? If your answer is yes, then you might be already heading for serious trouble. Easy acceptance of venial sin quickly can lead to mortal offenses.

It is good to remember that we aren’t called just to avoid mortal sin. We are called to be saints.

Perhaps this is a moment to recall St. Paul’s line in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Do everything for the glory of God”– and take it to prayer. By establishing a mini culture of Christian values in your home – what you watch, what you listen to, how you dress, etc. – you will help to reinforce your faith and give the Holy Spirit plenty of fertile ground to work with.

Life is short. Is it worth spending that short time on earth watching bad TV? If you quit one TV series for its bad content, you seem to be moving in the right direction.

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