“Ask a Priest: Must We Avoid All Media That Have Themes Contrary to the Faith?”

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Q: Are we as Catholics obliged to avoid reading or watching books, movies, and TV shows that include gay characters? I know the secular world today is wanting to promote diversity and ideals that are contrary to Catholic belief (such as the normalization of homosexual relationships and radical feminism). There are rarely any books I’ve seen that shows characters accepting the true Christian approach to homosexuality. As an avid reader and book blogger, I know that if a book revolves around a gay character or couple, and the main theme is accepting and acting upon this sexuality, I know I should avoid it. But the line gets blurry for me when it comes to books that includes an LGBT character on the side (where he/she is not the main focus). Even some really good stories I’ve read and reviewed fall under these categories. Is it ever permissible to read such books or watch such movies/shows and even promote them, or is there a moral obligation to avoid them whenever possible? Some people might say, “They’re just movies or books,” but I know that they do hold immense power in impacting viewers and readers. – K.N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are so mindful of the agenda at work in a lot of the secular media.

As Catholics we have the obligation to avoid material that would be a blatant near-occasion of sin, such as explicit sexual content in a movie or book. Beyond that, though, there is no simple answer in every instance.

Lots of serious literature and movies over the years have had less-than-saintly characters. Even the Bible has its share of edgy tales.

Secular media, of course, are a far cry from inspired Scripture. The latter points us to Christ. The former can lead us to the father of lies.

Perhaps an analogy is worth keeping in mind.

Try putting a frog in a pot of hot water, and it jumps out immediately. Put a frog in a pot of cool water and turn up the heat little by little. The frog won’t notice, even as it reaches death’s door.

The same can happen in the moral realm. We expose ourselves to certain seedy plots and racy characters, and eventually we can become numb to them. Along the way our worldview warps. What used to offend us, we now barely notice. Our conscience grows dull.

Meanwhile, the people around us might be going through the same process. The result: year by year the culture grows more accepting of what used to be unacceptable.

If we aren’t careful, we can feed that culture, in that we no longer challenge things the way we used to. Moreover, by consuming bad media, we nurture the demand for them. Hollywood obliges by producing more of the stuff. And so the downward spiral continues.

Suggestion: You might want to make a concerted effort in the other direction. Make Christian-friendly media your staple for consumption. Don’t go with the flow. And don’t be afraid to do some radical surgery, even up to cutting the TV cable and banning certain books from your reading list. When you do decide to read and review stories that promote a non-Christian worldview, be sure to clearly explain the downside even as you fairly explicate the good points.

Above all, whatever you do, remember 1 Corinthians 10:31 and “do everything for the glory of God.”

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