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“Ask a Priest: What If My Fiancée Watches Racy TV Shows?”
Q: My fiancée and her family have been watching a certain TV program. This show has a lot of nudity and then a sex scene every few episodes. I was raised that watching nudity was extremely bad, but my fiancée says that it doesn’t make her feel anything and that she isn’t watching the show with the intent of watching the sex, so it’s OK. I have tried looking up reasons why this is against the Church and have had little to no luck with a straight answer with clear Church backing. I personally view this as pornography, but she disagrees. Can I have the Church’s view on nudity/sex on TV with Catechism citations, please? – L.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s good that you are raising objections to the viewing of this show.
You don’t need to wait for citations from the Catechism to support your belief. Your conscience is already telling you that this is not the kind of show you should be watching. It would be good to follow your conscience.
Pornography can be difficult to define. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said, “I know it when I see it.” Perhaps this show you mention might not normally be associated with the p-word.
For the record, the Catechism in No. 2354 says:
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
When it comes to nudity, some passages on modesty might help:
2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing….
2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things….
2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person. [end quoted material]
Now, men and women might differ in how they perceive nudity in a TV show or movie. Suffice it to say that it can easily be an occasion of sin for men, due to the way the male brain works.
This might be a good moment for you and your fiancée to have a heart-to-heart talk. There seems to be a wide divide between you and her on what should be a basic moral question.
You might ask yourself whether you would be comfortable being married to someone who easily accepts nudity on TV. TV has gotten worse over the years (from what I hear). Where will it go in the future?
The danger is that having nudity on the TV in your home would pave the way for worse things. You also want to think about your future children. How would racy TV affect their moral upbringing?
Moreover, what does this whole incident tell you about your fiancée and her family? How would the in-laws affect you and your children over time?
One of the key points of marriage is that spouses should help each other grow in holiness and get to heaven. The same goes for the children.
As a possible future husband and father, you would need to be the spiritual leader of the family. If you can bring your fiancée around to an appreciation for more-Christian type entertainment, you will be setting a good precedent for your lives together.
Ultimately what is as stake would be the happiness of the marriage and the destiny of souls.
It would be good to face this issue head on. You don’t have to “lay down the law” with your fiancée, but on the other hand it’s worth it to be bold about having the conversation. Now is the time when you want to discern whether this is the woman you want to spend your life with.
Marriage is difficult enough nowadays. The wider culture isn’t very supportive of the institution. That is all the more reason why you want to be sure that a future spouse shares your moral views.
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