Rick O: Hello there, Catholic Skywalker.
Catholic Skywalker: Hello, Rick O. What brings you by?
RO: I was just walking past when I saw you here at this coffee shop typing away on your computer. Blogging?
CS: As always.
RO: What are you writing about now?
CS: I’m just finishing up my review for Pitch Perfect 2.
RO: Oh. Did you give it a favorable review?
CS: Not so much. It wasn’t as good as the first.
RO: But you thought the first one was a good movie?
CS: Yes. I found it very enjoyable.
RO: But wasn’t there a good deal of underage drinking and pre-marital sex?
CS: It wasn’t graphic. It was PG-13, after all.
RO: That isn’t the point. This was a movie that had characters engaging in moral depravity.
RO: And you gave it a good review?
RO: Don’t you see a problem with this? You are a Catholic movie blogger.
CS: Among other things.
RO: Regardless, you are someone who critiques the popular culture from the point of view of a faithful Catholic. How could you as a faithful Catholic give a positive review to something that is morally bad?
CS: Have we determined that it is morally bad?
RO: I believe we have.
CS: I do not think so. Perhaps you are correct, we shall have to return to this question soon. But first, let us lay out the essential problem.
CS: I take it that you would say that most of the pop culture has a great deal of moral depravity?
CS: And you would agree that the popular culture is pervasive. It is almost impossible to avoid it?
CS: Should we avoid it?
CS: It would seem that morally depraved things are bad for us. Would you agree?
RO: Of course.
CS: And if they are bad for us, we should avoid them, correct?
RO: Not necessarily.
CS: How so?
RO: There are a number of things that you cannot avoid that also have within them moral depravity. The world is full of such dangers. If you are a cop, you have to encounter criminals. But even in the less extreme sense, all of us have a bit of moral depravity in us and we cannot shut ourselves off from each other completely.
CS: Then what is the principle?
RO: I would divide the encounters in 3 ways: 1) You encounter moral depravity to fight it. In this case you do not shut your eyes to the evils of this world, but you enter into the fray.
CS: So this would be, as in your example, a police officer investigating the world of, say, human trafficking?
CS: Would you also include those who wish to encounter the popular culture as a way to combat its influence? For example, a person who watches The Last Temptation of Christ in order to accurately assess its moral depravity?
RO: Yes, but there this leads to my second type of encounter.
CS: Please tell me.
RO: 2) You encounter the depravity and enjoy it. These are people who seek out things because they are morally depraved and take pleasure in it. These are the people who seek out pornographic sex and violence for the thrill that it gives. These are people that seek out works that are blasphemous because they hate God or the Church.
CS: Then how does the first lead to the second?
RO: Nietzsche said that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you.
CS: You are quoting an atheist to support Christian morals?
RO: Truth is truth, no matter who says it.
CS: Well said. But back to the matter at hand. You are saying that someone engaging in 1 is in danger of 2?
RO: That is correct. If the morally depraved thing has the power to tempt and ensnare the soul, a person could enter into the encounter only to corrupted by it.
CS: Like Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith.
RO: Please don’t bring up those horrible prequels in any of your examples.
CS: Hmm… we’ll have to discuss that later. But for now, what is your third encounter?
RO: 3) You encounter the depravity and excuse it.
CS: How is that different from 2?
RO: In 2, you actively support and enjoy the elements of depravity. In 3, you ignore them.
CS: So to sum up, the three ways we encounter moral depravity in the popular culture are: 1) We encounter it to fight it, 2) we encounter it and are corrupted, 3) we encounter it and we ignore it.
RO: That is it exactly.
CS: And is 3 as bad as 2?
RO: It certainly can be. Take your praise of Pitch Perfect. I would say that you think you are doing 1, you actively avoid 2, but you have fallen into 3. You are praising a piece of art which is also morally depraved.
CS: Then if I engage in 3, doesn’t it appear that I have been corrupted by that depravity at some level?
RO: How do you mean?
CS: To say that evil is good is a corruption, correct?
CS: But to ignore evil or to come to some kind of detente with evil is also a corruption, correct?
RO: It would appear so.
CS: Then isn’t 3, simply 2 on your view.
RO: That follows.
CS: So you would say that in the end the only reason to interact with the moral depravity in the popular culture is to fight it, but even then it is perilous and can lead to corruption.
RO: Yes, that is what I would say. And you agree?
CS: I did not say that.
RO: Then what are you saying?
CS: What am I saying? I’m not quite sure yet, but I find this dialogue very illuminating to what I am trying to say.
RO: I do not understand.
CS: I have not yet formulated my conclusions, but I find our conversation very helpful in doing so.
RO: So do you agree with me or not.
CS: I agree with you that 1 is dangerous and 2 is bad.
RO: What about 3?
CS: I am not sure if we stated 3 properly.
RO: How do you mean?
CS: You used my review for Pitch Perfect as an example, correct?
CS: You and you would say that in my review because I praised what was good even though there is moral corruption in it, I have fallen into some kind of corruption myself.
RO: It would seem so.
CS: You may be right, but I am not quite ready to agree. Let us at least agree that we have discovered the central problem that needs to be resolved.
RO: And that is?
CS: Is it morally acceptable for a Catholic to enjoy an immoral movie? For brevity’s sake, I am using the term “movie” to mean “any film, TV, show, internet video, or anything else in the audio/visual arts.” Would you accept that this is the central problem?
RO: I would. How do we resolve it?
CS: We shall have to first determine how a movie is morally bad.
RO: Isn’t that obvious?
CS: I do not know. We shall have to see.
End Part I.