“Ask a Priest: Is It a Sin to Watch Episodes of “Columbo” and “Bewitched”?”

Q: I’m a convert and my husband has told me that certain TV shows are forbidden by the Church. I watch old classic DVDs. He told me that the Church forbids watching shows like “Columbo,” “Bewitched,” “The Munsters,” some episodes of “Andy Griffith” and “Dark Shadows.” If I’m sinning, I’ll give this up. I just don’t understand how these are sinful compared to the gory, distasteful TV shows in today’s lineup. I don’t sit around watching TV. I work a full-time job, take care of the home, and I’m active in my parish. I just like to watch an old TV show now and then, remembering simpler times. -G.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I don’t recall the Church publishing a list of forbidden TV shows as such. What the Church does teach is a set of principles to guide us. Shows and movies that would expose us to the near occasion of sin (such as risqué material) should be avoided.

Also to be avoided are things that endanger our faith. This can be a more insidious area. “Bewitched,” for instance, was a light sitcom, on the surface. For some viewers, however, it could have acted as a kind of Trojan horse that convinced them that magic and witches — and by extension, the occult — are the stuff of harmless entertainment. While the show might not be a danger to you, a critically thinking adult, it could have an undesirable impact on children.

Rather than try to referee the shows that should be allowed in your home, I would recommend that you and your husband talk through these issues more thoroughly.

It is admirable that your husband wants to guards you and the household from secularizing influences. Perhaps the both of you can come to a compromise (in the best sense of the word) on what will be on the shelves in your home.

It is also good to avoid extremism. It isn’t clear where your husband found that list of forbidden shows. Beware of personal preferences (the Internet is full of them) that masquerade as Church rules. Was “Columbo” really that terrible?

It might be helpful for you and your husband to read Taming the Media Monster and then have an in-depth discussion.

Perhaps this might be an opportunity for you and your spouse to explore other pastimes, such as a good diet of serious reading and walks together, etc. I hope this helps.

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