Have we lost the battle on entertainment?
Catholic News Service
Have we lost the battle for moral entertainment?
By Tom Sheridan | Former editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a deacon ordained for the Diocese of Joliet, Ill. He writes from Ocala, Fla.
Decades ago, one of my first newspaper jobs included proofreading the Legion of Decency’s list of movie no-nos. Remember the Legion of Decency? It was the modern version of the church’s Middle Ages Index of Forbidden Books expanded to film. The goal, when the Legion of Decency was launched in 1933, was laudable: encourage the motion picture industry to produce wholesome films by rating them. And slapping on the dreaded C (Condemned) rating if they didn’t measure up.
Catholics who slipped into a C movie were to be chastened. And darn well better get to confession. Soon. For a while, Legion of Decency ratings discouraged making and distributing offensive films. However, considering the fare on marquees lately, the Legion of Decency’s goal hasn’t exactly worked out as hoped.
What happened? The culture has shifted dramatically, and not always for the better.
When I was younger, if I’d wanted to check out one of those C flicks, I’d have to sneak into an out-of-the-way theater and feel guilty for weeks. Today, it’s different. What was condemned then is now mainstream.
And not just books and films. Music, videos, the Internet are too often offensive. Worse, it’s all as close as the computer I’m writing this column on.
Today, the church continues to offer guidance regarding films and some other media, including video games. Ratings are distributed by Catholic News Service and available through diocesan publications and websites. The still-laudable goal remains: identify some of what passes for “entertainment” as potentially damaging to souls.
But that’s hardly enough.
As a parent and grandparent and longtime journalist, I’ve watched the cultural erosion with concern. In response, some may think the church should return to the days of condemning offensive entertainment and media — and the people who patronize and produce them. But those days are beyond recapture. It’s even questionable — sadly — whether the church still has the power to influence the media that washes over us daily.
Does this mean that the church and the faithful should surrender to media that threatens to drown morality? Of course not. But it does mean changing tactics. Though the word doesn’t get used enough in today’s society, morally offensive media is still sinful. And it’s still a violation of human dignity.
Should the Church critique our entertainment opportunities? Certainly. It must also provide families with the tools, and encouragement, to properly form consciences. On their part, parents must become educated about today’s entertainment and what their kids are watching. And they must strengthen their knowledge of faith and morality. The Church can’t do it without them.
It takes strength, willpower, prayer to be a good parent
By Liz Quirin | Editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.
When I was a child of about 10, my father decided he didn’t like the tone of a movie that was on television, so he turned it off. I was surprised but probably only said something like “Daaaad” and let it go.
Fast-forward many years later when I decided I didn’t want my 10-year-old son watching a particular program on television, so remembering my own experience with parental disapproval, I turned off the TV and left the room. When I came back a few minutes later, the TV was back on. I looked at my son and remarked that I had turned it off. He agreed and said, “And I turned it back on.” We had a brief discussion about a parent’s role and a child’s role, and I turned it off again.
Now I was on TV alert, so I returned a while later. Sure enough, the TV was on. Turning it off, I explained that if I turned it off, it didn’t mean he could turn it back on when I left the room. Somehow, he seemed surprised.
We lived in a house that didn’t have cable, thinking we could keep our children from unacceptable TV by refusing to subscribe. Being adaptable, our children watched cable TV at their friends’ homes instead.
The only computer in the house was in a central location where no one enjoyed any privacy. Laptops, iPads and other portable electronic devices weren’t around, and our equipment was too big and bulky to move around.
These days, my niece has a bright youngster, almost a teenager, who has a cellphone and her own computer. She and her siblings have rules, and her parents are vigilant. They talk about using their electronics safely and wisely.
In these days when children seem more vulnerable — even if they see themselves as more savvy, hip or whatever — we know they must be protected and guarded as the precious gifts they are to all of us. Maybe we don’t know as much about their electronics, but we do know media can be instructive as well as intrusive, making privacy only a word to be circumvented.
Our problem in using our media and safeguarding our children is knowing how not only to talk to our children about electronics but also model responsible behavior ourselves. We can’t spend hours and hours on the Internet and expect our children to understand that’s not what they should be doing. We also must continue to monitor children’s cellphones and computers, looking at what chat rooms they visit and what calls they make and accept.
Even if they balk, we must continue to walk with them, guide them and say no to them as they grow and mature into an adult that may one day decide to turn off their own child’s “electronic devices” because it’s the right thing to do.
That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Doing the right thing as parents, making sure our children know we care enough about them to turn off programs we find objectionable, to take away a cellphone or computer when the information coming in or going out does not meet our standards of good, wholesome material.
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