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Could watching certain TV shows be against our Catholic faith? – Part I of III

February 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Discernment, Fr. Bartunek

Q: Dear Father John, Is watching a show like the “Medium” against our Catholic faith? The show is from what I have heard is calling on spirits who have passed on from this life and supposedly can be reached through a medium.

A: We have to answer this question on two levels, general and specific. The general question is: How should we make decisions about the kind of entertainment we consume – what criteria should we use to make those decisions? The specific question is: Where does the show “Medium” stand as regards those criteria?

Human Beings Love Art and Entertainment

Art and entertainment are meant to serve a noble, useful, and lovely purpose for us human beings. History is eloquent on this point. Ever since there have been human communities, there has been entertainment. Epic stories, transmitted orally long before they were written down, are already in existence at the very dawn of civilization. The dramatic arts, the performance arts, and the plastic arts emerged even before civilization, in conjunction with religious rituals and beliefs. Athletic contests, another form of entertainment, were already highly developed by the time the city of Rome was founded, in 753 B.C. So we can safely conclude that the delight we experience through enjoying works of art and entertainment touches something near to the core of human nature.

What is the purpose of that delight? Why did God give us sensitivity, a capacity to enjoy these pastimes? This is the most important question. If we can identify the purpose of entertainment, from God’s perspective, we can then determine which products, which kinds of entertainment, we should choose to enjoy.

The Power and Purpose of Entertainment

Art and entertainment move the heart. They give us an experience of beauty and truth that touches every part of our human soul: our intelligence (they engage our mind), our emotional world (they stimulate powerful feelings), and our will (they stir up or reinforce certain desires). Take the story of Cinderella, for example. As we read/watch/listen to that story, our minds resound with the truth of justice – the evil stepsisters tried to imprison Cinderella, but the prince set her free; our emotions vibrate with sadness at Cinderella’s plight, with hope when the fairy godmother appears, with fear when the clock strikes midnight, with utter joy when the prince sets out with courage and determination to find the foot that fits the glass slipper; and our wills then find themselves desiring to promote justice, to continue hoping, to be courageous and determined. At the end of the story, then, we have been instructed, reminded, nourished – the values embodied in the story are strengthened in our hearts. This is the power of art and entertainment!

A work of art or entertainment that is pleasing and attractive, then, is kind of like a Trojan horse: it causes that values contained within it to enter into and echo within our own hearts. When we swallow the pleasure, we also swallow, at least a little bit, the world view.

As a result, if we allow ourselves to be repeatedly entertained by songs/stories/images that are pleasing to consume, but that contain anti-values, or anti-Christian values, on the inside, we are putting our souls in danger. Junk food is okay every once in a while, because it tastes good. But if we make ice cream and potato chips into staples of our diet, our health is going to suffer; those foods are pleasing to eat, but they contain more trans-fats than vitamins.

St. Paul presents this principle clearly and beautifully in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

In our next post on this topic, we will talk about how some entertainment can be evil and immoral along with a few practical examples. Other works of art and entertainment may not be Catholic or Christian, but may present authentic values.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently resides in his Order’s General Directorate in Rome, where he is continuing his writing apostolate. His blog contains questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. His online retreats are available at www.RCSpirituality.org.

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  • Greenncool

    I’m new to this site. I was just wondering how can I send a question to be answered by one of the bloggers on the site? Any help is much appreciated. :)

  • rosemarie kury

    The show “Medium” is no longer even on television!  It was cancelled last year.  I think shows like “Mad Men”. Jersey Shore, and some others should be looked at.  To me the Medium was a good show and it also showed a good home life with a concerned husband and children that you could identify with.  The plot was that she had “dreams” of murders being committed, so she worked with the police on that.

    It didn’t show her doing fortunetelling, reading Tarot Cards or predicting the future, just showed that she had a gift.  Also, no tumbling in bed scenes.  She actually wore pajamas and it presented a good relationship between her and her husband.

    • EM

      There is scripture that SPECIFICALLY forbids the use of MEDIUMS. Don’t be fooled. The person the show is based on, by the way, does not seem to be a very good person, if you look into it.

  • Mary@42

    Thank you Father John. A long time ago, I came to the conclusion that any Film, be in the Theatres, or the popular ones on Television which convey negative moral message MUST BE AVOIDED. In my younger days, Films and early TV Shows always conveyed a positive Moral Teaching behind the Story.  Your quotation of the Cinderella falls in this category.  We also have the “Sound of Music” which is popular to this day – so many years after it was produced. Sadly, in recent times, the Entertainment Industry has exploded  with Films and TV Shows which are bereft of any Moral Teaching.   To me, this is the result of the break-down of the Moral Fabric of the Society .  In particular, in the Western World the sense of Good and Evil has all but vanished and the god of “me, I and myself” has been elevated to the throne of a “god” in the name of “My rights”.  And the Entertainment Industry panders to this immoral anti-God philosophy. My view is that present-day parents have a most difficult job of ensuring their children are not destroyed by what they watch, read and follow, particularly on the Internet.

  • Janet

    Liked the reference to Phillippians 4:8. It will keep me grounded.

    • Anonymous

      It really is a great verse to meditate on. It really changed my perspective and approach.

  • EM

    I must warn my friends here that shows such as Medium and others that deal with encouraging and romanticizing the occult are dangerous and we take great risks with our spiritual health when we indulge in them, even when just watching for “entertainment” as if it won’t affect us spiritually. It can, and very badly. Don’t let evil even get one foothold in your life, even if seems like it is just “entertainment” – that is a lie of the evil one, designed to get you to lower your guard. There is plenty of good, quality entertainment that won’t endanger you spiritually that you can enjoy.

  • Cmittermeier

    As a writer, as a consumer and as a parent I am glad you have started this series.  Thanks!

  • judeen

    thank you for this post… – bad books on spells , so on we can understand.. but like cinderella.. it seems harmless… yet , I have seen grown marraiges, break up for the prince that carries you away is not happily ever after…. !!! and kids grow up to think married life is like this!!!   also impurity , steals our spiritual gifts away , at most times… if it causes bad thoughts… you sin,, then the gift is stilled. untill repentance… too when attacked by the devil , he will use that image to try to get you to sin…or take your mind off prayer…
           when I watch real shows.. about fights in life… I pray… pray for those souls… to see what needs prayer… relationships… respect, to grow up… for parents to let go of their grown children..  but has to be in prayer. and not too much of it.. for fighting is not of God.. and will rub off on your mind…

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  • Rustyrusticator

    I’m a retired ballet dancer, and after the tripe-filled movie “Black Swan” (which I walked out of, by the way, having gone for no other reason than to see an old ballet teacher of mine in one of the opening scenes,) I haven’t been to the movies since.  I don’t download anything off of iTunes either, unless it is a well-loved classic, pretty antiseptic by today’s “standards.”
    Most of what passes for entertainment nowadays is an insult not only to my moral sensibilities, but my intelligence.

    The film industry really needs to get the message that people are hungry for uplifting, edifying, and intelligent entertainment.  Are we really this depraved and stupid that we enjoy this stuff?

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