Q: Many TV shows include sexual remarks or people sleeping with people to whom they are not married. I don’t watch much television, but I do enjoy several hospital-based programs that have good plots but frequently include these situations, which are becoming more and more common.
Is it a serious sin for me to watch such programs? Do I need to confess such viewing?
A: Because of my Irish heritage, I will claim the right to answer your questions with a question—in this case, two: “How do you respond to the saying, ‘You become what you choose’? Can you regularly choose something that contradicts your deepest and most important values without eventually undermining those values and accepting as normal radically different values?”
Watching a TV show in which extramarital intercourse is common will not make you do the same. But don’t such shows eventually influence your sense of what is normal?
We cannot rewind our lives, so to speak, and rerecord any past part that we now regret. But we can decide which elements of our past life we want to reinforce in the future and which ones we want to dilute—in the sense of becoming less typical of us.
Many TV shows pride themselves on being honest and hard-hitting. But how honest is a TV show that implicitly portrays adultery as an activity where no one ever gets hurt as long as the adultery is never discovered? The damage is in the sin itself—not simply in its discovery.
I think that we are in danger of becoming a voyeuristic society that uses tabloids and certain TV programs to keep up on gossip about the extramarital affairs of sports stars, entertainment celebrities or politicians. Are we truly better off for knowing exactly how many extramarital partners a certain prominent person had or how he or she tried to cover up those affairs?
Can we regularly read these publications or watch those TV shows without eventually sharing some responsibility for the lowering of moral standards in our society?
Perhaps you are at a point where you need to confess watching those TV shows. Based on what you wrote, I cannot say. But I do know that it is always worthwhile for people to ask themselves: “Who am I becoming in the long run? Am I kidding myself that watching such shows is having only a positive effect on my life? Am I happy with what I consider normal?”