A Question About Books, Movies and Television
#1
As much as I hate bothering everyone here with moral questions sometimes I just don't know where to go to for straight answers. (Also, I used to struggle greatly with scrupulosity.)

My first question about books, is essentially the same as all the rest.

I know that the Church says that we shouldn't read "bad" books. I am not quite certain what this means. I know that some people would extend this to mean any book which was not fully Catholic in everything it said. So for instance, I have books by ancient Roman philosophers (the Stoics) and people who try to use their philosophy to help with psychological issues today. Some of the modern authors don't have "friendly" opinions toward Christianity. I recognize that. So, I haven't read those books. I haven't even read the original authors because I was afraid it would be wrong. 

Add to that that I mentioned this to a priest in confession. I was reading one of the books described above and the author wandered off into Buddhism and eastern meditation. Now, I know what the problem is with this, but I asked the priest if it were okay to read books like that. He said something to the affect, "I don't think it is a good idea...". I have asked other priests and they said it was fine to read these books, but to read them attentively. 

So I am confused. Also, I was think about reading Jordan Peterson's book at last. But, I have essentially the same conundrum (he isn't explicitly Catholic, he might say weird things. Should I avoid this?)

And about movies and television. 

Ninety percent is junk. Granted. 

But what about movies like the Lord of the Rings? (please don't laugh). Isn't the actress who plays Arwen a little inappropriate?

I really hate to bother about this, but this kind of stuff has really, really bothered me for a while and I want to know how to act. Thank you.
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#2
If I may, allow me to share some thoughts and don't know if they'll be any help, but like you I have suffered from scrupulosity and have gradually gotten better, not through going to the other extreme of being lukewarm/lax (I don't think), just thinking more measuredly.

When to comes to something like Philosophy, the (traditional) Catholic kind is obviously more valuable than anything, but other non-Catholic kinds don't necessarily need to be avoided (depending on their approach to Truth, supposedly) and can be valuable too, can't they? It's probably more worth reading Ancient than Modern Philosophy though, keeping just to Western work, as much of that influenced St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas.

When it comes to Jordan Peterson's writings, he doesn't need to be avoided because of being non-Catholic or weird, but because his writings ironically can be pretentious or simplistic and often gobbledegook.

No, I'm not laughing at the LOTR reference (not having read the books but having seen the first trilogy of films) but you don't need to worry. J.R.R. Tolkien was devoutly Catholic and went further by saying that the more he worked on it all, it all became a more definite Catholic piece of work. Plus, I don't see why Liv Tyler (wasn't it?) as Arwen was inappropriate, but rather aptly tender and strong too really and from what I've read, the films weren't the most faithful adaptations of the books and so less Catholic as a result, but were still decent and good and probably did them reasonable justice.

The issue for me is how alright it is to watch TV/films with profanity, especially the worst kinds including taking Our Lord's Name in vain, as there have been many films I've really liked that did have that.

Basically, try to be careful about not being too permissive, but not puritanical either and not automatically avoiding non-Catholic material (seeing how it goes), but certainly doing so with what's anti-Catholic.

Hopefully been helpful, but maybe I shouldn't have said anything.
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#3
I've always understood "bad books" to refer to books that were anti-Catholic, likely to lead someone into error regarding the Faith, or sexually explicit. Sometimes I wish the Church would bring back the Index: it would make choosing reading material so much easier.
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#4
I would read The Intellectual Life by AG Sertillanges, OP. It focuses more on how someone whose called to the intellectual life should spend their time as it relates to reading, writing, learning and so on, but similar to how The Imitation is written for religious men, I'd imagine lay people of divers callings will find it a fruitful read.
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#5
(09-14-2019, 07:04 AM)Birdie Wrote: I've always understood "bad books" to refer to books that were anti-Catholic, likely to lead someone into error regarding the Faith, or sexually explicit. Sometimes I wish the Church would bring back the Index: it would make choosing reading material so much easier.

Indeed and that reminds me of something I was thinking about the other day.

There are so many particular books I want to read and yet know I'll probably never make it through them all. So wouldn't it be helpful if, for instance, the Church was more traditional/prominent in recommending and/or restricting on the basis of limiting bad work or too much or both?

By the way, I agree with censorship and you might find this article I came across a while back insightful:

In Defense of Censorship
https://bonald.wordpress.com/in-defense-of-censorship/
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#6
Fr. Stephen DeLallo, SSPX, wrote a small booklet on the moral principles guiding the reading of literature. You can find an old version here: http://www.ecclesiamilitans.com/Catholic...rature.pdf

He has since updated it with more concrete examples (such as discussing books from Harry Potter to Flannery O'Connor, etc), but I can't find a copy online.

But a good summary of the tradition is that much of what was censored came down to a matter of general prudence. A person who was uneducated would not be equipped to process arguments found in anti-Catholic books. On the other hand, an educated person could pridefully believe that he might read anything and not be affected. It seems with the advent of mass literacy, most people fall in that latter category. Hence the innumerable armchair theologians, especially among trad Catholics, who have read some snippets of theological manuals without any systematic theological or philosophical training and then end up making wildly off conclusions.

Only those scholars sufficiently trained and commissioned were allowed to read books on the Index, from my understanding. But even today some of the literature that we consider classic is full of what used to be considered quite indecent and scandalous for the average reader.

The Jesuits, the famous champions of classical education after the Renaissance, were notorious in how strict they were in their censoring of the old Greek and Roman literature. They were often and increasingly criticized by Protestant and secular educators, but in light of the fall of the liberal arts tradition and the way things have been done since John Dewey, it seems the Jesuits may have had it right.

Regarding movies and TV, there is a very long, interesting, but complex history of the relationship between the Church and the development of these media. Most scholarly/semi-scholarly books covering things like the Legion of Decency look at these things as backwards and quasi-Inquisitorial. Of course, now we look back and think, boy maybe they had something right too...

If you want to read some of the literature on movies and censorship from literally 100 years ago, some of it is reproduced here:

http://rugwig.blogspot.com/2018/10/repos...ovies.html
http://rugwig.blogspot.com/2018/10/repos...-1919.html

And here is a breakdown of Pius XI's encyclical on motion pictures (1936): http://rugwig.blogspot.com/2016/07/pius-...otion.html

Pius XII also addresses film on several occasions. Pius XII took a more open and optimistic view of movies than Pius XI did. Pius XI would have preferably reduced movies to a tool for educating the common man for whom education in abstract reasoning and argumentation may have been too complex or beyond his practical means. 

Anyway, this might not really help address your questions, but from my reading of the history, the Church's general directive has always been--exercise prudence. You know yourself best. And in the more extreme cases, the Church herself has had to ban certain books to keep the literate on the straight path. If you find the actress playing Arwen to be a proximate occasion of sin, then just don't watch the movie. I recall it being an ongoing internet joke about how many people had self-abused to images of the actress, so I don't think you're being too sensitive about the matter. The average level of virtue today seems much lower than in the past. 

Regarding Stoicism, I've always read that to be the naturalistic version of resignation to the will of God. The two are essentially describing the same psychological reality, but stoicism, while it gives nice psychological advice for how to accept one's circumstances, is promoted today precisely as a secular alternative to what is already found implicitly in the Catholic mystic tradition. Resignation to the will of God is infinitely higher because it also incorporates the supernatural. I find it interesting that modern psychological studies are only confirming the genius found in the Catholic tradition, going back to the desert fathers, who write in similar terms sometimes to the Stoics.

Peterson is good for the modern man who has lost his rooting in an older spiritual reality, but really if you're even slightly familiar with Catholic spiritual writing, you'll realize that Peterson's grasp is pretty shallow. He can't get past Jung, and hence can't get past Kant, and therefore reads all spirituality as a Modernist (in the true sense) would. He has some good things to say on the psychological level which are perfectly explainable from a traditional Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective, rather than a Jungian. The reason we don't hear about it from the Thomists is because most of them are dry academic Dominicans who could care less about reaching on to the modern man in a way Peterson so effectively does.

Peterson's 12 Rules for Life is a good read though. It's entertaining in many parts and quite insightful psychologically. Just when it comes to religion, don't expect him to be anything close to magisterial. His Maps of Meaning is good in some ways also; it's obviously an academic text however and much drier. If you really want to learn what he says in the book, however, just watch one of his lecture series on Maps of Meaning. It would save you time.

Sorry, I could go on and on more, but my posts tend to be too long-winded anyway.
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