Can Catholics Watch ‘Game of Thrones”?

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No. No they can’t. And if they think they can…they’re dreaming.

Some things in life are complex. Nuclear fusion is one. Linguistics, something I failed miserably in university, is another.

Mercifully, many things are pretty straightforward. So let’s make this simple. Being Catholic, a serious Catholic who loves the faith and seeks to become a better person via prayer, the sacraments and the life of grace means that there is a truckload of stuff that you can do and some that you can’t.

Ever since I have started this website I have been trying to make the point that the Catholic Church is not a democracy. It’s not like the local branch of a political party where every one gets a say. It’s a mystical body, established by Christ for the establishment of the kingdom of God so that people can get to heaven to be with God eternally. Pretty simple that. It would also be even simpler if Adam and Even had a stronger aversion to snakes. But them’s the breaks!

Anyways…back to the point.

We are sensory beings. What we see and hear has an impact upon our spiritual nature. And no, it does not matter whether you think it does or not. It just does. For example, there is a reason we have art galleries and a reason we have the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Beauty is an essential aspect of what it means to be human because beauty is one of the three transcendentals that constitute what is taking place in the heart of the Godhead. Within the very essence of the Trinity exist Truth, Beauty and Goodness in their ultimate and full expression. So, in this life the degree to which we expose ourselves to truth, beauty and goodness will strongly impact our relationship with God and our ability to experience him in daily life.You contemplate beauty you get closer to God…you watch Game of Thrones you get the opposite.

Game of Thrones strikes out on all three transcendentals. It is not true, in the sense that its depictions of sexuality and human intimacy do not conform to the truth of human sexuality as an exclusive gift by which spouses make a mutual self-donative gift of love in harmony with the self-giving essence of the Trinity. Game of Thrones is not beautiful and it ain’t got the market cornered on goodness either!

What exactly do you think St. Paul was getting at when he said in Philippian’s 4 V. 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.” He knew very clearly that what we allowed our eyes, ears and minds to dwell upon was pretty damn important. It”s not rocket science people!

I never thought I would quote St. Paul and Nietzsche so closely but good old Friedrich Nietzsche, that happy camper that helped provide the philosophical basis for the holocaust and topped Hitler’s ‘Must Read’ list, made the point. “If you stare into the abyss long enough the abyss stares back.” He knew that the longer we watch, consume and assimilate dodgy ideas and stimuli the sooner we find ourselves attracting the attention of genuine evil who is all too ready to serve more of what we want. 24 hour room service from the Pit! Oh, and yes, Catholics can mention evil and Satan. Pope Francis does it at least once per week and he mentions evil by name. So if you’re in the camp of ,”Evil is just bad ideas.”, then take it up with the Pope.

Common Replies

But I like the storyline!” Who cares! Crack users like crack but that does not make crack good for them! “I don’t focus on the sex just the plot.” Sorry friend! It’s a package deal. You watch the plot, you get the sex. You watch the sex, your attitudes shift over time and then, ‘lo and behold’,  you’ve joined the ranks of the cafeteria Catholics who don’t support the Church’s pastoral wisdom on sex, love and marriage. Well thank God you don’t get to vote on that!

So, let’s all grow up and realise that if you want to be Catholic then you need to make some adult decisions about what you are going to let into your life. Daniel went to Babylon but kept himself faithful to God by refusing to join in the headlong descent into hedonism that surrounded him. He made choices.

It’s time to take the culture back with a reenergised evangelical Catholic culture that has amongst its foundations a love of beauty in art and entertainment.

If you’re watching Game of Thrones…you’re dreaming!

 

 

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  • Trish

    Ooh fabulous article, great question whoever asked it, and terrific response. I’m going to show it to my husband! Thankyou !

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Trish…really appreciate the feedback and sharing the link. Hope your husband can read as well.

    • Reagan

      Ok.. I couldn’t find the comment button one here.. so I’m just going to reply.. (not actually replying to this)

      Im not disrespecting your religion.. But i do have to say that telling someone what they can and can’t watch or do is denying them the right to learn! People need to learn what is right and what is wrong from their own experiences. If one is told throughout their life that whatever someone says is the right thing to do, then what happens when what they say is right, is immoral? What about questioning the world? We are human and we need to flourish and prosper! And question everything so we can find answers and solve problems!
      Depriving people of the ability to learn is barbaric! And, frankly, many religious people haven’t experienced anything truly awful.. Because, at the slightest pondering of information, it seems outlandishly absurd! I have Neurofibromatosis Type II and I am 15. Ive had at least six surgeries and the doctors have confirmed that i will lose both my hearing, balance, and vision and my life expectancy is currently only about 23-30. If i were to keep this absurd believe that praying would help.. Id be dead! And, as previously stated, answers should be considered sacred.. not slavery to some book written thousands of years ago that exists in so many different texts that theres no way in hell any of them could possibly be right. Whoever wrote this, if you’re reading this. Ask questions! Learn for yourself, and, for gods sake, Don’t let something like this control your knowledge! Thousands of years of evolution went into making you! And you deserve more than ignorance!!!

      - A 15 year old girl.

      • Jonathan Doyle

        Thanks Reagan for your post. It has been quite a topical article this one. I guess the key point is that article was a addressing a specific question and a specific audience, namely, practicing Catholics.I did not write it as a broad message to non-Catholics. As St. Paul said, “Who am I to judge those outside the Church…” Also, as you can see from one of the comments, the Church does have a clear response to the particular question I was addressing.I guess when you mention

        People need to learn what is right and what is wrong from their own experiences

        I would suggest that this is a good idea in theory but many of us don’t actually learn good and bad from our experiences. If we did then people would stop negative behaviours once they discovered they were undertaking them. I think another issue is that it makes morality a purely personal behaviour which we subjectively develop. This leads to a world where every person defines good and bad for themselves based on their feelings. The history of most of the 20th century shows us what happens when powerful people begin to define morality for themselves.

        120 million died in the 20th century based on non-religious belief systems which seems to get ignored in the rush to blame religion for all the issues in the world. In contrast the famous Spanish Inquisition saw 5000 people die in a process that took 400 years of intermittent violence.

        The current trend is to blame religion for just about everything. We then overlook the extraordinary contributions that faith has made to the world.

        Thanks again for your post. I think you raise some interesting ideas.

  • Marie Marjanac

    Our ultimate yardstick should be: what Christ would think? Imagine Jesus sitting right next to you and then see if Game of Thrones or any other near occasion of sin is a good place to be. Would you be embarrassed by your activity if He was in the room with you? Think about why that is. Things of beauty, goodness and truth will NEVER be ashamed to share an experience with Jesus. Let this be your guide.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Awesome Marie…great point. Jesus said, “Be Holy as your Heavenly Father is Holy.” We cannot do that without the aid of grace and prayer and sacrament and community. Jesus loves us enough to know what will bring us deep joy. No parent gives their child toxic food. Jesus would not sit comfortably by as a generation consumes media content that chokes the life of grace.

  • Gordon Walsh

    I agree with your comments. Personally, I do not know anything about “Game of Thrones” and to be honest it does not interest me.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Gordon…whether it’s Game of Thrones or something similar I guess the question remains, “What do we choose to focus upon?” Thanks for your comment.

  • Penny

    Great article – spot on!

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Penny!

  • Peter

    If you watched Game of Thrones and what bothered you about it was the sex scenes, I think I am more worried for you than the author of the books.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Not sure I understand Peter?

  • Trish

    Well, hubby is not a person of faith, and while even he concedes this particular show is pretty full-on, he does watch things like Grim and likes the (teenage) kids to watch with him. This is the real issue for me. I’m constantly walking a tight-rope at home, and find that he’s more responsive to advice when it comes from someone else :).
    Plus, he came along to one of your sessions with school parents, Jonathon, where you decried the moral worth of the program 2.5 men and he froze – because I’d been nagging him about this for months! I couldn’t believe the coincidence. He has never watched it again (a huge THANK YOU for that, too!)

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Well there you go…one less victim for Charlie Sheen! Thanks Trish….hang in there…the language to change a man’s heart is encouragement and affirmation. All men want to be better men and deep down know they were made to be fine men. We just need to give them gentle suggestions!

  • Anonymous

    Simply put, I do believe there is a god. What I don’t believe is we should think of God as almighty or a higher being. We shouldn’t have to praise, worship or seek forgiveness from him. To become a better person we shouldn’t have to read the bible, pray to god, go to church or participate in the sacraments. I do strongly agree with with the values and morals Christianity teaches, like compassion, empathy, kindness, awareness, love etc. But I believe that if God is truly real, then we should see him as a mate, someone watching over us, but not judging. If that makes sense. :)

    • Jonathan Doyle

      I agree we should see God as a friend…but also as God. Thanks for your honesty.

  • Shan

    I think I understand your argument Jonathan, but I disagree with you.

    I disagree with you on your assessment of Game of Thrones, and on your position about cultural engagement.

    Your take on GoT’s merits seems primarily driven by the sexual aesthetics of the show. But you could level the same charge at many works of art. Simply because it operates with a different set of values doesn’t mean that it should be ipso facto rejected. Criticized and debated with – yes – but dismissed out of hand? No. (Consider this article in which the author uses GoT to help appreciate the sacramentality in Lord of the Rings. http://www.ucatholic.com/catholic-articles/game-of-thrones-and-lord-of-the-rings/ )

    For me, that is the more troubling aspect of your criticism, the call to bulwark Catholicism that secedes from the rest of the culture. I know you want “a reenergised evangelical Catholic culture that has amongst its foundations a love of beauty in art and entertainment” but I suspect that means more pablum like Seventh Heaven rather than finery like To Kill A Mockingbird.

    In my experience, entertainment that is expressly and purposely Christian is not entertaining because it primarily is a form of proselytism. Apocalypto is a violent film that features gore, nudity and human sacrifice; Kill Bill is gleefully destructive – and yet both films ironically affirm the inalienable value of human life and human dignity by examining the consequences of denying that truth. In their own way they reach people and affect the culture’s own understanding on this issue more than any sermon. Does this mean that they are appropriate for all audiences of that all the artistic choices contained in their development are worthwhile? Not at all. But to advocate that all Catholics reject media products because you have decided that they are objectionable is a bridge too far.

    You cannot lead people in engaging and changing the culture if you tell them to pull their heads lest they become *gasp* cafeteria Catholics. That’s a false dichotomy. Simply because people disagree with you doesn’t make them less faithful than you, and its awfully uncharitable to hold that opinion.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Shan…some interesting points…where to start?

      But you could level the same charge at many works of art…

      The difference between art and pornography is spectacularly straightforward. Art elevates the viewer toward contemplation of the sublime. Pornography is designed to create sexual arousal. Now exactly which path do you think GOT is walking. And yes, that is a dichotomy but one that is easy to grasp. When people watch naked people having sex…that is called pornography. It’s not art. It also, as JOhn Paul II siad, raises something private to spouses into the realm of ‘social communication’ where it does not belong.

      “..the call to bulwark Catholicism that secedes from the rest of the culture.”

      That’s not what I advocated. I advocate a Catholic culture that evangelises an existing culture and does not secede from it. For most of the last 2000 years the greatest art, architecture, music and literature was informed by Catholicism. We need to do that again.

      For your erudition, every PG movie made by Hollywood (think Finding Nemo) generates over 7 times the revenue of an MA film. I’ve always found it strange that Hollywood makes vastly more violent and explicit films than they do PG films. In a capitalist model that makes no sense. It only makes sense if you’re in the game of cultural change by stripping sexuality of its inherent meaning and normalising what is dark, violent and evil.

      “Seventh Heaven rather than finery like To Kill A Mockingbird.”

      - now that is a dichotomy that clouds the discussion.

      In my experience, entertainment that is expressly and purposely Christian is not entertaining because it primarily is a form of proselytism”

      There is also incredible Christian cinematic art and theatre. JOhn Paul II wrote magnificent theatre and recent films like The Tree of Life elevates Christian themes to a true art form. Pointing to bad examples to create a sweeping category is…limited in its veracity.

      “Kill Bill is gleefully destructive – and yet both films ironically affirm the inalienable value of human life..”

      Extensive research in neurobiology and psychopharmacology show a clear relationship between what we watch and neural pruning along with excess secretion of cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline and, in males, testosterone. There is an unambiguous link between the viewing of violent content and shifts in attitudes to violence. I can quote you a truckload of stuff from The Lancet on that one.

      You cannot lead people in engaging and changing the culture if you tell them to pull their heads lest they become *gasp* cafeteria Catholics. That’s a false dichotomy. Simply because people disagree with you doesn’t make them less faithful than you, and its awfully uncharitable to hold that opinion.

      Shan, it’s not uncharitable to tell people they are doing something that causes them harm. It’s called courage.

      I appreciate your insights…thank you.

  • Peter

    Fair enough, it was a bit cryptic. I meant that there are many disturbing things about Game of Thrones. I would limit its reading only to adults and only then by people with a mature outlook and in very limited doses. BUT if you watched Game of Thrones and came out only worried about sex scenes, I think it reflects more an unhealthy focus of the veiwer concerned than an objective assessment of the series. If I made a list of concerns about Game of Thrones, sex scenes would be a fair way down a long list.

    While I am at it, It is one thing to warn other people about the negatives in a particular show, movie or book, but quite another thing to say Catholics ‘can’t’ watch or read something. By what authority is this pronouncement made? Seriously, who has the right to pontificate on such matters? I am quite prepared to accept advice and opinions from well informed Catholics in decisions regarding entertainment and the impact it has on people. But this kind of definitive statement smacks of the kind of fundamentalism that I fled to (eventually) become Catholic. Perhaps I have more a problem with your rhetoric than your assessment of the content, but how we say things impacts on the way people understand our meaning.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Peter…I guess I was giving a direct answer to a direct question I received via email. I can’t make anyone do anything, we both know that. What I do know is that Game of Thrones has a vast global reach powered by a voracious marketing machine and I think it does cause genuine cultural harm. I take your point that sex scenes would be one among many in a series of issues. I wrote about it, once again, as it was the reference point in the original email. I don’t think I am really fussed any more about the idea that we can just gently have our say and not offend anyone. There is no human right not to be offended. The inability of Catholics to engage in serious dialogue with culture is a significant issue as we think we can’t be too strong with our opinions as we will be seen as judgemental. Fact is, I am making a judgement. A great big one. Game of Thrones harms people. My prescriptive and proscriptive language were a literary device to remove ambiguity. I leave you with a cracking quote from Paul VI :

      Shortly after being made a bishop in 1969, Edouard Cardinal Gagnon was in conversation with Pope Paul VI who told his new bishop:
      “Error makes it’s way because truth is not taught, we must teach the truth whenever we see something which is against the truth. We must teach the truth, repeat it, not attacking the ones who tell errors because that would never end; they are so numerous. We have to teach the truth.”
      Cardinal Gagnon writes:
      “He told me truth has a grace attached to it. Anytime we tell the truth that is in conformity to what Christ teaches and what is being taught us by the Church, every time we say the truth there is an internal grace of God that accompanies the truth. He said error does not have grace accompanying it. It might have all the external means, but it does not have the grace of God accompanying it.”

  • Shan

    GoT is not porn. The people in GoT are simulating sex. In other words they are *acting.*

    Why is it that the sex is what grabs your attention, but the violence or the political, philosophical and metaphysical debates in GoT goes unremarked on? The show examines issues of loyalty, human dignity and physical disability, religious fidelity, military ethics, the construction and consolidation of family, the dangers of sorcery, the ideal of honour and the consequences of virtue and vice (among many other topics); yet you only comment on its portrayal of sex. Why is that?

    What is profitable (financially) is often unrelated to what is profitable (morally) – I don’t see your point about box office. The Ice Age cartoons have been enormously financially successful, but from a critical p.o.v. they are just bland pablum. Popularity doesn’t equate to quality. Finding Nemo is one of the most popular films of all time – you cite it yourself. The chief message of Finding Nemo is that parents are wrong and children are right; that parents should relax their parenting and trust their children. Is that a message you feel should be popularised?

    I do think you are being uncharitable Jonathan. You aren’t simply saying “don’t watch this stuff, it’ll warp your mind,” you went so far as to place those who disagreed with you as plunging headlong into hedonism, as being cafeteria Catholics, as people who were inviting demonic attention.

    What gives you the authority to make such a declaration?

    • Jonathan Doyle

      hi Shan…thanks for your reply and quasi-Freudian innuendo with regard to why I focussed upon sex. I did so only because the original email specifically asked about that.

      The show examines issues of loyalty, human dignity and physical disability, religious fidelity, military ethics, the construction and consolidation of family, the dangers of sorcery, the ideal of honour and the consequences of virtue and vice (among many other topics);

      So does Shakespeare but he did it in a way that was qualitatively different. Visual images impact the human person is specific ways. Sexual content has a specific effect upon people Shan…maybe look up some Theology of the Body?

      What gives you the authority to make such a declaration?

      Who gives GOT the authority to socialise another generation of people into a culture of desensitisation and banal sexual depravity.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Shan

    I think you missed my point, Jonathan :)

    I apologise for any innuendo – I didn’t mean to level it, but I wonder how much GoT you watched before reaching that conclusion? The reason I say this is because the sexual content decreases past the first few episodes, as the story arcs gain their momentum. If you only saw the pilot, then the sex is probably one of the starkest aspects presented. (Pun intended)

    My point basically is this: there are many aspects of modern popular fiction that are objectionable. Casual sexual activity being one of them. Advising people to withdraw and not engage with them is reasonable (I wouldn’t do it, but I can see the reasons for it.)

    However you haven’t advised people to avoid it; you’ve told them that they *cannot* watch it or they will be
    (a) bad Catholics,
    (b) hedonists,
    (c) cooperating with spiritual evil.

    I can happily debate the show’s merits, but I am offended by your assessment that since I disagree with you then I am not simply incorrect I am also a bad Catholic, a hedonist and cooperating with spiritual evil.

    That’s a big call, and it annoys me.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Shan…I am pleased to be spared an association with Dr. Freud! LOL!

      However you haven’t advised people to avoid it; you’ve told them that they *cannot* watch it or they will be
      (a) bad Catholics,
      (b) hedonists,
      (c) cooperating with spiritual evil.

      I am not sure that there are such things as bad Catholics and good ones. There are just those Catholics who study and reflect upon the Church’s teaching and make decisions about how to live and there are those that don’t. The Church does not have a plurality of teachings. It has one. We seem to expect we can be Catholic and choose the parts we like and ignore the ones we dont. A weak analogy is to imagine rugby players who decide they want to pass the ball forward because they just ‘want to’ and no one has the right to tell them otherwise. The Church’s teachings about how to live a moral life are pretty straight forward. I think we can hopefully agree that you won’t find a Catholic justification for watching GOT in any Church document on how to advance in holiness…and that is the point of the Christian life, to advance in holiness and be with God eternally. GOT is not going to bring that about, hence my argument that no serious, committed Catholic could in good conscience watch it.

      In terms of hedonism I simply drew an analogy to Daniel in Babylon. He recognised there were aspects of the culture he was immersed in that would weaken and undermine his faith and so he made a clear choice to avoid them, whatever the cost. GOT is part of much wider cultural desensitisation process. As you normalise and mainstream nudity, sex and violence you make it harder for people to recognise truth from falsehood and they become increasingly accepting of things they once would have questioned. Nietzsche’s ideology was entrenched in US universities when most of his disciples fled the Nazi’s in the 1930′s. E. Michael Jones provides a compelling narrative of how Nietzsche’s ideals morphed with Hollywood and created the reality we know confront. The idea that no one can question my ‘right’ to watch what I want is just Nietzschean ‘perspectavism.’ His task was to undermine the entire possibility of moral certainty. He was quite successful as you can see from this blog and this conversation we are having.

      In terms of cooperating with spiritual evil, any Catholic that ‘religiously’ watches GOT is ensuring the advertisers get their Nielsen ratings and that the GOT producers get their ongoing ‘proof of concept’. If the content of a program is objectively evil, which I maintain aspects of GOT are, and a Catholic knows this to be true then they are formally cooperating with evil. Moral theology 101! Culpability would be reduced with ignorance but I maintain that no serious, committed Catholic would choose to expose themselves to the content.

      Kind regards!

  • Peter

    >I take your point that sex scenes would be one among
    > many in a series of issues. I wrote about it, once again,
    > as it was the reference point in the original email.

    Fair enough. I would still say that a balanced response would have set the sexual theme in it’s place rather than treat it as the only matter that would concern a Catholic. If someone, for example, asked me if they couldn’t an horror movie because it has some nudity in it my response would acknowledge their concern but draw their attention to the much more serious problems in that genre.

    > I don’t think I am really fussed any more about the idea
    > that we can just gently have our say and not offend
    > anyone. There is no human right not to be offended.
    > The inability of Catholics to engage in serious dialogue
    > with culture is a significant issue as we think we can’t
    > be too strong with our opinions as we will be seen as
    > judgemental.

    Actually I agree with you, but I think you have missed the point I was making. Ask anyone who knows me and you will hear that I am in favour of openly calling people to carefully examine their media input. I am especially concerned about desensitization through indiscriminate and prolonged exposure to violence, the promotion of selfish and amoral worldviews and, of course, sexual exploitation.

    My point was is that you use authoritative language. You said that Catholics “can’t” watch Game of Thrones, and you declare that anyone who thinks otherwise is ‘dreaming’ (and other insults). While you are entitled to make this prudential judgement, you do not present this as a prudential judgement. You present as if it were the only possible Catholic opinion on the matter.

    You say it is a rhetorical device, but rhetoric is not mere word games. The (sometimes clever) use of words to make arguments from authority, must still follow the normal rules of debate and logic. The wording of your initial statement clearly claims an authority you do not have.

    I am happy to see you indicate you intend it rhetorically, but I think you can make your point in a clear and challenging way without this.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Peter…good point on horror movies. I liked it. Take your point also on literary/rhetorical devices. I shall ponder. In terms of an appeal to logic I maintain that no Catholic, ‘logically’ can watch it. The point of the Christian life is the journey to holiness leading to the beatific vision. Any Catholic aware of that truth could not ‘reasonably’ and/or logically watch it and pursue that aim. Off we go toward the land of moral theology in terms of what level of formation an individual Catholic had before watching. I accept your fraternal correction that the language was (perhaps) immoderate but I maintain the use of ‘can’t in its is broadest sense. I have no authority other than that granted by those who read my posts and grant me the currency of their time. Some have stripped me of authority today by clicking UNSUBSCRIBE….interestingly…more have joined!

  • Marie Marjanac

    Jonathan has no authority, rather a fraternal obligation to point out what will get us to heaven and what won’t, especially when directly asked on a blog. It’s not his opinion, but that of the Church that Christ started for us. We all have the same divinely given duty through our baptism. Sometimes we don’t believe in God enough to know that He wants us to choose heaven. I used to think that God was one aspect among many in my life. Just keep him in my peripheral vision and turn to him when things got tough. Which they did. When I finally realised that He is THE aspect of my life and heaven THE destination I realised that there was no part of my life, no room in my house that God was not to enter. My viewing choices included. It’s not about rules but about a relationship. The rules just help us keep a great relationship. Who with? The God who is madly in love with you. And the people He puts on the journey with you. Thank you for your strength and commitment, Jonathan, note-to-self on the literary devices on hot button topics!

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Marie…I have learned a lot about ‘literary devices’ today! Really appreciate your support.

    • Shan

      With all due respect Marie, your comment seems to contradict itself.

      You say that its just Jonathan’s opinion and then equate it with the Church’s opinion.

      If it were the Church’s teaching I wouldn’t have an issue with it – but it is Jonathan’s interpretation and I think he has confused the character of art with the character of religious art.

      (Jonathan’s description of sex scenes in GoT as pornography rather than pornographic seems to me to illustrate that Jonathan’s approach here is far too narrow and far too blunt.)

      If someone approached GoT as though it should directly prompt their prayer or direct their attention to God then they would be gravely mistaken and Jonathan’s advice would be quite sound. However that would be the case because they were seeking to find sacred art in a popular story, and the two are not equivalent.

      I think its much more prudent to say if this sort of story (regardless of being told cinematically or in a novel) is going to negatively challenge you, either through presenting an occasion of sin or near occasion, then you should avoid it. If that is not the case for you – as it isn’t for me – then enjoy it responsibly. In any case, trust your conscience.

      Which is pretty much the same counsel I would offer someone about drinking alcohol.

      • Jonathan Doyle

        Thanks Shan…interesting points. Sorry, but no Catholic can ‘responsibly enjoy’ depictions of pornographic sex and nudity. That is not my teaching but it is the Church’s. Also, conscience is not the court of last appeal. Aquinas, or rather some interpretations of Aquinas, have been critiqued on that. Conscience must be informed and that requires some understanding of the magisterium and the scriptures. Neither would support viewing nudity in this form.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment on what I think is a critcal conversation we catholics need to have. As some one who knows the spiral of porn from my early teens to my early 50′s, I would recommend people listen to Christopher West ” Winning the battle for sexual purity”. AscensionPress.com
    When your eyes are open to the truth, its amazing how you see the world differently. Now I understand why tears rolled down my face uncontrollably some 12 years ago while watching Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in a packed cinema. I returned to the faith 5 years ago after parking it in ‘long term parking ‘for 32 years
    May I say that for me ‘Catholic’ entertainment is deeply moving and spiritualy satisfying.
    Let the debate continue because so much is at stake.

  • Shan

    >Thanks Shan…interesting points. Sorry, but no Catholic
    > can ‘responsibly enjoy’ depictions of pornographic sex
    > and nudity. That is not my teaching but it is the Church’s.

    I totally agree Jonathan. No ifs ands or buts.

    Game of Thrones, however, is not pornography. Neither will it become pornography because you disapprove of it.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Shan…I have valued your comments today and I do take them on board. I guess what we are coming down to is whether the scenes constitute pornography. In essence we have a question of definitions. I am standing by the definition I have used for many years which is that pornography is material that it designed to stimulate sexual arousal in the viewer. In contrast, depiction of the naked human form in art, such as Botticelli or Michelangelo are created to draw the viewer into contemplation of the creator and the wonder of the human person created ‘imago dei’. I offer the suggestion that the producers could as easily serve their plot devices with suggestions of sexual intercourse or allusions to it without graphic depictions. It raises the question, “What is the purpose of such explicit content? What purpose does it serve?’ I can only assume that it serves to stimulate what the Church would call a ‘prurient interest.” The Church’s bedrock teaching is that sexual expression is reserved for the conjugal union. That does not make me intolerant or someone who wants to shape reality in terms of what I approve and and disapprove, it simply makes me someone who has read the Church’s teaching.

      Shan, could I humbly ask you to read the definition from the Catechism that I reference below?

      2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

  • Jay

    Thank you Jonathan for you blunt honesty! We definitely need more of that in the world! I am a 21 year old Catholic who wants to know the truth from well researched Catholics who are interested in helping us to reach heaven.
    This is a topic which Catholics yougn and old need to think about honestly and make an effort to find what is the truth instead of satisfying ourselves before we do God. Maybe we even need to take this topic to our prayer because if we cant take it from Jonathan then God will help us to find the truth if we really want to know it!
    Thanks again Jonathan, maybe you could recomend a list of good movies that will keep us entertained and on the right path.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Jay…great idea on some movie ideas. I will get to work on that tomorrow!

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Jay, I came across this link a while back. I can’t endorse it as I have not seen many of them but there must be a few good ones in there.

      http://www.catholicdatingsites.net/#datemovies

  • Penny

    Great responses Jonathan. A thoroughly well thought out and logical assessment in line with the Church’s teaching. Thank you for speaking the truth with conviction, clarity, humility and charity.

  • Jay

    Great! I will have a look at them! And thanks for being so availiable for feedback :)

  • Peter

    OK, I will take one last shot at this before giving up.

    That pornography is a perverse distortion of human sexuality is profoundly detrimental to human good = Church teaching.

    If someone insists that Michelangelo’s “David” is pornography and therefore it is sinful = that persons opinion.

    A person who is unable or unwilling to distinguish clearly between the two in a public forum while claiming to represent Catholicism (beingcatholic.com) = either a dangerously imprecise enthusiast or an arrogant fundamentalist.

    Having seen a fair bit of Jonathon’s material I believe we can safely assume the former, which is why I hoped that gentle nudges from friendly sources might assist in refining the message.

    Yes I did say *dangerously* imprecise. History is full of enthusiasts who overreacted to a genuine problem in society or theology and ended up becoming somewhat more of a problem due to lack of moderation and precision in their response.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Hi Peter, I might be a a bit slow but I am not sure I’m getting you. Are you saying that I think Michaelangelo= pornography? I thought I said the exact opposite?

    • Peter

      No Jonathon, My first and main point is that , if someone expressed the opinion that Michelangelo’s David is pornography we would need to clearly identify that proposition as their opinion. Only a fundamentalist, or someone claiming the authority of the magisterium in that particular matter could declare that it was impossible for a Catholic to disagree in good conscience.

      My point is that we can agree that it is clear Catholic teaching that portraying human nudity and sexual acts purely for entertainment and/or titillation is a morally unacceptable thing. But the judgement call on which movies, which piece of art, which billboard etc crosses the line is a matter of prudential judgement. I would argue that some so called art clearly crosses the line. (e.g. the ‘artist’ who took classic art works of Mary and imposed images of women involved in pornographic acts.) I might even suggest that I cannot see any way a Catholic in good conscience could think otherwise. But, in doing so, I am still acknowledging MY authority is limited to ME. It seems strikingly obvious to me, but I do not claim to speak authoritatively on behalf of the Catholic Church except where her teachings are clearly and authoritatively applied to this particular instance.

      The opinion that GoT is pornography is your opinion. Other Catholics may, in good conscience and with good arguments, disagree. Until the magisterium rules that every instance of nudity or sexual act portrayed is always pornography then it remains a matter of personal judgement. I think you could argue that the HBO’s TV version of the story gives an unnecessarily prominence the sexual scenes (in the first couple of episodes) to ‘sell’ the story. I think you could argue that it is unnecessary to the plot and therefore morally wrong. I think you could mount some good arguments with the conclusion that you find it hard to believe any Catholic could watch these shows without the occasion for sin. But what you cannot and should not do is claim to speak with the authority of Christ in applying a universal principle to a particular instance where it is a matter of opinion.

      Otherwise you are effectively saying that it is impossible for a Catholic to disagree with you in good conscience. There is only ONE human being who can claim that level of authority and only in very specific circumstances and only then trusting in a very specific promise of Christ’s help. Some fundamentalists make the mistake of claiming this authority by using absolute statements in their enthusiasm. We Catholics are often tempted to do so in serious matters. It is, after all, much neater and more appealing (and intellectually easier) to deal with absolutes than all those messy distinctions. Nevertheless, humility and Catholic obedience require us to acknowledge our own contribution as being from us, not a direct line of authority from God, especially when we claim to be representing Catholic teaching.

      I admit to being particularly sensitive to this matter (of authority). I have seen many negative consequences of well meaning enthusiasts making the mistake of presenting prudential judgement as if they were divine commands. As Catholics we have a clear understanding of authority. I put to you, Jonathon, that that beautiful clarity we have is more important than some incidental rhetorical points.

      My second point has to do with the portrayal of evil in art. I deliberately used the example of ‘David’ because it is clearly art, but has been denounced by some fundamentalists as evil because it involves nudity. I hope we agree that some portrayal of nudity and/or sexuality can be praise to the creator for such beautiful gifts. (e.g. the explicit poems in the Song of Songs.)

      Take, for example the portrayal of good and evil in the classic movie “The Godfather”. The baptism scene is generally acclaimed as one of the most chilling yet brilliant pieces of cinematic art. Could a Catholic watch such a chilling scene in good conscience? In my opinion, she/he could, with certain reservations, and possibly benefit from it. Other movies are almost horrific in their portrayal of evil (e.g. the truly horrid ‘Requiem for a Dream’) and are NOT recommended for most adults, but I have seen good Catholics use them as an artistic and didactic resource to demonstrate some of the more tragic consequences of certain kinds of evil (in very specific circumstances). I think many modern movies push graphic violence too far and there are a number of studies demonstrating that we are desensitized to real life violence and tragedy as a result. Some, however, serve to sharpen our understanding of the genuine tragedy.

      Some scenes in the Bible, for example, are truly horrific, both in violence and sex but are simply told as stories without clear guidance within the text concerning their morality, save for the consequences. Though they are gripping stories they are not presented for entertainment or graphic content but so that (among other things) we appreciate the grave moral issues involved and the immediate and long term consequences of certain kinds of evil acts and attitudes.

      So, my second point is this. You seem to be operating on the principle that all portrayal of nudity in film is purely pornographic. That is, that there is never a good reason to portray a nude or a sexual act in a movie. I disagree. I think a good number of Catholics could, in good conscience, disagree. I think it is possible to mount an argument that certain portrayals of casual sex in movies have been used to clearly portray the devastating consequences of such horrid misuse of another human being and thus may be useful and beneficial in some specific situations.

      I think it is quite possible to demonstrate as Catholic teaching that the glorification of sex (and violence) for entertainment without a proportionate portrayal of the tragedy of these acts and their consequences is a seriously immoral use of any art form. But the jury is still out on many specific instances of artistic use of these things.

      I have read all of the Game of Thrones books released to date but have, for a number of reasons, decided not to watch the series. The books and the HBO version are not ones I would recommend to anyone and I normally warn Catholic friends about their graphic nature. I do not presume, however, that my personal judgement is binding on others. I am happy to express my reservations about the series, but I think to claim that no Catholic could think differently is dangerously close to claiming an authority beyond my own.

      I don’t pretend that George R R Martin is a great moralist. He portrays a sick and sad world in which evil seems to ‘win’ the game of thrones. But he also portrays the huge personal cost of sin. His portrayal of the sexual emptiness of characters who begin the series casually using others is profound. His portrayal of the personal and national consequences of evil are chilling and proportionate. In fact I think he does a much better job of this than most authors of modern fiction. I am not yet convinced that the value of reading his clever story outweighs the risks of exposure to graphic themes. I find myself in agreement with many of your points, but concerned about the manner of delivery, and the casual pretense at an authority beyond your own.

      Your website and your arguments deliberately claim to represent Catholicism, apparently not through a particular local Catholic authority but in direct reference to authoritative Catholic teaching. I think, for the sake of you readers and in keeping with your own goal to teach clearly, you should take great care not to be seen to be presenting your prudential judgement as if it were on the same level as magisterial teaching.

      • Jonathan Doyle

        My sense is that in most cinematic art, allusion to sexual acts would almost always suffice to advance the plot. It is the step into depiction that presents the problem. As I posted for Shan last night, this definition:

        2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

        …would seem to position GOT (in its visual form) as clearly creating the occasion of sin for a committed Catholic. I don’t see a way around that. Given the depth and scope of JP2′s TOB work and the even more impressive Love and Responsibility I don’t see how any committed Catholic could in good conscience watch it. I was lucky to work closely with Prof Maryanne Layden from the University of Massachusetts who is a world authority on pornography and the sex trade and one of her mantras is the fundamental difference between word and image. IMages impact us in qualitatively different ways. I think for example of Psalm 101. v3 I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.

      • Jonathan Doyle

        In hindsight, I am not sure I agree with your comment here

        The opinion that GoT is pornography is your opinion.

        The depictions in GOT objectively meet this criteria, “2354 “…removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.”

  • Clara

    Certainly the best commentator on Hollywood – from a Catholic perspective – is Barb Nicolosi. Her blog is at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/churchofthemasses/

    She takes a similar approach to movies as Shan and Peter. You might be interested in scanning her list of “It aint all garbage” on the right hand column of her blog.

    To digress from the discussion on GoT is is interesting to note Barb believes that the way forward is to promote beauty, but sometimes the real and lasting beauty and truth can only be identified in its absence. Like many thinking Americans she is a great fan of Flannery O’Connor – a writer from the American south – whose method was to depict truth through utilising the grotesque. O’Connor’s work has been described as gothic in genre and therefore not immediately linked with truth and beauty, but her truths are most profound. One of her short-stories which remains vivid in my immagination shows the most depraved character as being the one most conscious of the abillity to choose between good and evil. Similar themes are found in the novels of Graham Greene.

    Catholicism is not pretty – it deals with all the nitty gritty aspects of life and requires that we confront these realities with the undersatnding that we are all sinners BUT that we are redeemed.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Brilliant post Clara…thanks! I really like the distinction about the absence of beauty and its role in pointing to what is lacking!

  • K C Thomas

    Beautiful presentation. Thank you

  • Trish

    Well, I must say that what I actually like about this site, and particularly this article, is that it is up front and clear about why a thing may or may not be healthy for serious Catholics. For many people (I’d say most), lack of clarity is a real turn-off. When it comes to faith they want guidelines, boundaries, reasons, something they can think about, even if they end up disagreeing in the end. This is better than something vague, or nothing at all. And it’s very difficult to live one’s faith by meandering through life with just the basic rules. So please keep this stuff going!

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks heaps Trish…I really appreciate the feedback.

  • Chris

    You should have added nor read it, at least for children. I think you will find that the books are readily available in school libraries, certainly they are in our school library. I haven’t read them and I don’t intend to because I don’t like fantasy fiction, including Lord of the Rings and the Hobbitt, but it is all the rage amongst teen readers. Unfortunately, librarians have a view reading anything is good so they tend not to be choosey.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      I remember as a kid my parents got involved because the school library had a book that described how to practice satanism. It was a Catholic school!

  • Hugh Beaumont

    Just think – St. Augustine was thoroughly ashamed of himself because he watched Greek tragedy.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Perhaps.

  • Trish

    You know what I especially love about this article? Its the fact that we can psycho analyze everything and relate it back to religion. Just a perfect example of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Thank you, Jonathan Doyle!

  • cj

    Thank you for this article. I admit that the TV show is too graphic in its sexual portrayals and must therefore be avoided.

    My question concerns the books and if you believe it is unhealthy for a Catholic to read them. Do you not think that while there is a strong sexual content, there is in no way a sense of approval of it in the books. In fact, it would appear to me that there is much criticism of the perverted nature of much of what goes on, such as the incest. Is this not a true reflection of reality? I think I would be much more critical of a novel that is less specific in its details, but presents a story were a boyfriend-girlfriend sleeping together is normal and acceptable.

    Is it unacceptable to read historical works about Egyptian royalty? Or how about the Catholic nobility of Europe who married close relatives and where teenage brides was common place? What I’m asking is, surely the presentation is important? Talking about teenage brides does not necessarily commend such actions.

    In fact, surely there is a certain didactic element in the debased society that is presented in the novels. Maybe it is being intimated that in a world devoid of true religious practice to ground moral codes, this is exactly the sort of pernicious behaviour that arises? (There are some polytheistic religions mentioned but they do not seem to hold much sway over people’s thought or actions)

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Great post CJ and thanks. You make a really good point. My reply is simply that visual content does impact the human person in a different manner to what we read. We know this from vast studies via neuroscience. Our arousal states can be impacted by visual content in ways not matched by what we read where we are, in essence, capable of constructing our own images. I think you also make a good point about the didactic potential of reading about what hedonism and social disintegration do to culture and the person.

  • Graham

    Jonathan, A very interesting article. I have not read or watched GOT but a number of my friends (including trad Catholics) have. I do not know what all the fuss is about but found your article a very helpful guide. I am generally against puritanical finger-wagging but you made a good case for avoiding GOT on moral grounds. Well done.

    While I have you, what do you make of this Jesuit review:
    http://thejesuitpost.org/site/2013/04/worth-watching-game-of-thrones/

  • Gar

    I am an educated and faithful Catholic and I watch Game of Thrones. It’s a rich and complex show and that appeals to me in much the same way the richness and complexity of our faith appeals to me. That said, I won’t be recommending it to many of my friends for many of the same reasons you believe no Catholic should watch. I’ve weathered enough moral assaults in my own life that a tv show really has little chance of unraveling my faith. And I’m familiar enough with “show business” that I’m jaded to what a typical viewer might call “realistic”. But it’s certainly not an easy show to watch. The value of the human person is consistently cheapened. The value of women is only measured by their strength in realpolitik or the price they command in a brothel. There’s lots of anger and violence but there’s no suffering. There’s lots of brooding and scheming, while forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Religion is disappointingly western and modern. The half-dozen or so religions are just mixtures of Christianity and Western polytheism with the typically modern conception of them.

    But the show is just too well made to ignore. The creators, rightfully, should be proud of their craft. Seeing a show likes this makes me jealous. I watched Mark Burnett’s “The Bible”, that was supposedly a show with big-budget Hollywood production values and I couldn’t help but think it didn’t come close to having the writing, the acting talent, nor the visual depth that Game of Thrones has (or for that matter, any other major pre-modern depiction since Lord of the Rings). Yet “The Bible” commanded twice the ratings, so I see no reason why it couldn’t have been better made.

    Laudable values do manage to shine through the grit and lewdness of Game of Thrones. Some characters fight for the freedom and dignity of the innocent, often at the expense of political or strategic gain. The latest episode finally has a character respecting and protecting a girl’s body (especially powerful since this character has a reputation in the show for his licentiousness). And even though the dialogue is peppered with every lewd and vulgar utterance that would make a sailor proud, the language has a richness and poetry that modern English has been slowly losing. Rather than being the linguistic crutch it’s usually used as, cursing fits in the precise expressiveness of the show’s dialogue.

    I speak as a man who went on a risky adventure. I’ve said what I liked and didn’t like and I admit it’s not for everyone. This is a tv show in a pre-modern, mythical setting with a postmodern world view and its a sign that cable TV thinks its own fantasies are realistic.

    • Jonathan Doyle

      Hi Gar. Thanks for an intelligent and insightful post. I think you make a range of interesting points. I especially liked your awareness of the sheer quality of the creators technical craft. For over a millennia all the best art and music on the planet was Catholic. It would be great to see religious people once again creating great visual art that speaks to what’s best in all of us. It would be good for us to hear and see more about our ‘lightness’ rather than our’darkness.”

    • Gar

      I think the mistake Christian film studios often make is too much ‘lightness’. Without ‘darkness’ for contrast, then you end up with white-wash. History bears this out in the whitewashing of the former Catholic churches. The stained glass, that whitewashing replaced, showed a very deep understanding of how from light and darkness emerges beauty. Game of Thrones certainly makes the opposite mistake, whereby darkness blights what beauty there is.

      Catholics can make great art again, but it will be through a proper understanding of darkness. It was Mel Gibson’s movie (and I know some disagree) that showed violence in its proper context, redemptive, rather than gratuitous.

      • Jonathan Doyle

        Another great insight Gar. You make a good point about contrast. I had not thought of that. I guess that’s what we see all the way from Dante through Shakespeare and on into the fantasy and allegory of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Aslan makes no sense without The White Witch and Gandalf without Sauruman.

      • Marie

        I can attest to the redemptive value of the violence in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion’ – it was one of a number of significant events in my life (nudges by the Holy Spirit) that brought me back to the faith. The Caravaggio-style lighting is really dramatic.The reality of what Christ did is not prettied up. You cannot avoid nor run and hide from it and the enormity is hard to brush off. I watch it every Good Friday so I don’t get complacent about what he did for us – it is always a very personal experience. Makes you pause on Holy Saturday and yearn for the Resurrection. Makes the light of Easter a great joy.

        • Jonathan Doyle

          Brilliant Marie…I also try and watch it each Easter.

  • Matt

    This is possibly the most asinine piece of writing I have every seen. Religion is one of the most damaging theories in the world today. It you keep believing in a book that was written, when GoT takes place mind you, then you will be damned to a knowledge level of that time.

    • Marie

      “A knowledge level of that time”. The fallacy of this comment is that it assumes that modern thinking has come out of a primitive classical / medieval past, always building up a better system of thought and expression. Sure, in science and politics we can see many good things come out of modernity. However in art, morality and philosophy, I cannot agree that modern thinkers have always surpassed their ancient thinkers. Otherwise we should now throw out great artists and thinkers as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Shakespeare, Dante, Keats, Austen, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, …, as being so primitive and so inferior to the moderns. There is even a valid argument that many moderns have indeed regressed!

      Religion is not a theory. It is a way of living based on a person, Jesus Christ. The damage is due to human frailty, the inability to hold to the Christian commands to love God and one another unselfishly.

      • jonathandoyle

        Good response Marie!

    • Acksking

      What is asinine Matt is that you come onto this website that says ‘being Catholic’ and spew your hatred against the church without giving any logical reasons for it. Besides the fact that the book you believe in was written by another asinine man called darwin. Why don’t you stick with your book and we’ll stick with ours.

  • Eric Xin

    Did you also know GRRM is a lapsed Catholic and there are many characters in the series who are Catholic. The entire religion of the Southern side of Westeros Worship the seven, which is a reverse of the holy trinity (Crone/Maid/mother).

    In fact, in book 4 or later, you will see as people are tired of War, a Christan revival begins. The corrupt high Septon (aka Pope) is removed from power, and a new High Septon, begin to cesspool known as King’s Landing.

    Furthermore, Septon Meribald, a traveling Septon (AKA Catholic Father) serving the poor, gave one of the best Christian-based speech in a fantasy setting.
    ================================================
    “Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”

    “More or less,” Brienne answered.

    Septon Meribald disagreed. “More less than more. There are many sorts
    of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sandpiper and a
    sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love
    to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked
    lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are
    the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, soured by
    malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men
    are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous.
    Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a
    mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came
    round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march
    away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a
    sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a
    stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with
    fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so
    they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of
    the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the
    greatest most of them will ever know.

    “Then they get a taste of battle.

    “For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for
    years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but
    even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his
    hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their
    sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after
    they’ve been gutted by an axe.

    “They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord
    shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when that’s still
    half-healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes
    fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting,
    and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water.

    “If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron
    halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are
    stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they’re
    fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their
    sheep and steal their chickens, and from there it’s just a short step
    to carrying off their daughters too. And one day they look around and
    realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting
    beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don’t
    know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they’re
    fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for
    them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and
    sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on
    them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their
    charge seems to fill the world…

    “And the man breaks.

    “He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the
    slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to
    hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods
    mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live
    another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few
    hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more
    beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the
    traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them…but he should pity
    them as well.”

    When Meribald was finished a profound silence fell upon their little
    band. Brienne could hear the wind rustling through a clump of
    pussywillows, and farther off the faint cry of a loon. She could hear
    Dog panting softly as he loped along beside the septon and his donkey,
    tongue lolling from his mouth. The quiet stretched and stretched, until
    finally she said, “How old were you when they marched you off to war?”

    “Why, no older than your boy,” Meribald replied. “Too young for such,
    in truth, but my brothers were all going, and I would not be left
    behind. Willam said I could be his squire, though Will was no knight,
    only a potboy armed with a kitchen knife he’d stolen from the inn. He
    died upon the Stepstones, and never struck a blow. It was fever did for
    him, and for my brother Robin. Owen died from a mace that split his head
    apart, and his friend Jon Pox was hanged for rape.”

    “The War of the Ninepenny Kings?” asked Hyle Hunt.

    “So they called it, though I never saw a king, nor earned a penny. It was a war, though. That it was.”

  • 22yo history student

    I myself am still debating with myself about my religious and political views. On the political side, I tend to lean to libertarianism, anarchocommunism, socialism, Marxism and BOTH utopian and revolutionary communism. As you can see, my zodiac Gemini is well represented here.

    On a religious note, I consider myself as someone leaning toward, but not being, a Buddhist, animism and I even belief that quantumphysics has a spiritual influence which I believe in.

    I also believe that Abrahamic religions have grown way out of context and proportion. Although I do not believe in God/Allah, I do believe in the words of their ‘prophets’. By this I mean that I believe that Jesus for example, was a righteous man who wished to deliver as many people as possible from their suffering.

    However, I think that the idea of Jesus being the son of God, or even God himself, is fairy-tale material at best. IMO he was a Jewish man, influenced by the teachings of Gautama Buddha, who wished to relief the suffering of his fellow Roman citizens in Judea. For this, I believe, he turned to eastern religions, as he would’ve observed that by mixing Jewish notions of brotherly love, with the eastern teachings, which had the same notions, he could give the people relief through a familiar medium (Judaism) while bringing in, in his eyes, crucial influences from Buddhism for example. This would give the people a new perspective while not estranging them from what they know. But I’m rambling.

    I love Game of Thrones. I love it because I love fiction, but I also love it because I am a history student. GRRM has beautifully projected medieval EEurope onto Westeros and Essos. We can see the feudal system represented by the Noble Houses such as Lannister, Stark and Baratheon, and their bannermen, for example House Reyne, Bolton and Dondarrion respectively. Also worth noting is that the ASOIAF books are inspired by real life historical events. Think of the War of Roses, Hadrian’s Wall, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Norman conquest of England, the French Religious Wars, the colonisation of the New World, etc, etc….

    Also it is a perfect display of medieval politics. Sure, the Habsburgers, the Savoys, the Bourbons were all very religious, and many supported popes such as Gregory VII, but the all made themselves guilty of incest. If not with brothers and sisters, than with cousins, twice or thrice removed, but often also fist generation cousins. Emperor Charles V is a classic example, as weel as the monarch HOuses of England and France. Also, we all know that the ruling class of those days, and even in modern times (especially certain Italian politicians, no name calling), all partake in gluttony and sinful sex with handmaidens and the rape of poor civilians and other debauchery. Therefore, believe me when I say that in representation of the historical time period, the books and TV show are downplaying the whole affair dramatically.

    Also, your definition of pornography and the sex in the series do not compute. You say that pornography, per definition, is the showing of coitus for the enjoyment of a third party. This insinuattes that the third party is viewing the material with the objective to get sexually aroused.

    In response to this, I must say that he who turns to Game of Thrones just to jack off, does not have his sinful priorities straight, and I would like to redirect them to sites like xhamster or eporner. What I want to say with this, in the form of a sarcastic joke, is that your definition of pornography does not match with the scenes from the show. In there, these moments of intimacy are either the consumation of marriage, the showing of love and affection, and sometimes rape. All of these are realistic and actually occuring in real life. They show a real side to humanity, and the reason they show this on TV, is because we should all be made aware that sexuality is a part of life, in a positive way, but also in a negative way.

    I would love to continue on this subject, but I see that I have been rather generous in my word count. Thus I have arrived at my conclusion and the whole reason I started writing this bit in the first place:

    WHO CARES? It is FICTION! It is made up, it is not real, I mean this is a series which has dragons in it! You are taking this show, yourself, and your religion way too serious. If people enjoy it, let them. All these centuries of history, people have fought, bled and died to have the personal freedom we have today; to be able to watch and not watch or do whatever we want, without people telling us it is good or bad. We have our own eyes, ears and hands, people can learn for themselves what they like or don’t.

    If God really is my father, then he should be able to do what every father must learn to do: let go of your children. Let them live their own life, make their own choices, make their own mistakes. If there is a God, and if he did create me, and if he does love me for who I am, than he should accept that I make choices that he doesn’t like, without sending me to hell for it. I mean, come on; ‘You do not HAVE to believe in me, but if you don’t, you will burn forever in Hell… But hey, no pressure, do what you want’? My father was an inconsiderate asshole, and not even he would make up something benign as that.

    Sure, if you don’t like it, that is your choice. But don’t go around saying that a good Christian should or should not watch something. If a Christian is really so easily strayed from his path by a mere TV show, he wasn’t a very good Christian to begin with. In fact, maybe you should use shows like this to weed out the true Catholic from what you call cafetaria Catholics. But please, when you find ‘fake’ Cath’s, don’t go killing them like the Spanish did. Or the French. Or the English. Or the Germans. Or the Italians.

    Please?

    Thank you.

    • jonathandoyle

      hey there and thanks for the comment. to be fair the article was addressing the question of whether Catholics should watch the show whereas you mention you are into….

      ” libertarianism, anarchocommunism, socialism, Marxism and BOTH utopian and revolutionary communism. As you can see, my zodiac Gemini is well represented here.

      On a religious note, I consider myself as someone leaning toward, but not being, a Buddhist, animism and I even belief that quantumphysics has a spiritual influence which I believe in.

      As such…i probably can;t address all your points.

      Your point about, “…if God is a father then he cuts us loose to work it all out is a bit flawed. As a father that’s not what I do. I seek to develop a deep moral compass in my kids and a sense that some things are better than others. I don’t really want them to go out there getting hammered by life because I never shaped their sense of right and wrong.

      Also. in terms of the Spanish Inquisition, 5000 people died over 400 years,. The Catholic Church was not innocent but a large percentage of those deaths were politically motivated and involved local families settling scores. Marxist atheism and Nazi occultism killed 120 million people in the 20th century.

      The idea that somehow the Catholic Church is the agent of global suffering and repression is hilarious. Marx and Adolf and Mao and Stalin gives us the perfect demonstration of the logical conclusion of man’s ultimate rejection of God.

      And finally, my main point is simply that what we watch is just not neutral. We are shaped and impacted by the content and ideas we allow to have access to us.

      thanks again for your post and sorry i am bit rushed here.

  • Dan

    Jonathan, I was so happy to come by this article. The success of shows like GoT seems to be a sad statement on our society as a whole. It makes me wonder how bad it had to get before God told Noah to build an arc.
    What I especially like about your message though was that you are telling Catholics to shut up and be Catholics. It seems many Catholics today do not separate themselves from just being Christian. If we are to truly be Catholic we need to stop to recognize and reflect on the areas of our life where God is leading us, and also recognize where the devil is trying to lead us. It has been said over and over, “The greatest trick the devil every pulled was convincing people he doesn’t exist.” Many posting here, seem to look upon religion as at worst a weakness and as best a comforting metaphor by which to live their life.
    I would say that the greatest trick the devil every performed was telling humans how great they are, it was true with Adam and Eve, and it is true today, our pride, and our belief that our own mind is superior for God’s leads us down false roads. For me as a Catholic, I would love to say, my faith in God is strong, I believe it is. But if my faith is truly strong and I have used my intellect to further my understanding of Him, then I need to understand that despite my own love of a good story, does not justify my viewing content that is contrary to the will of God.
    I love sugar, if I put strychnine in the sugar bowl, the sugar will still be just as sweet, however the sweetness of the sugar will not overpower the poison of the strychnine. The same is true of Game of Thones, it may be a good story, but the poison does not justify watching it.
    Catholics seems to have forgot what it means to sacrifice for God, we go to Church on Sunday and say, well I took time away from the lake, or a movie, that was a sacrifice, yet most do not even bother to dress up out of respect for the Lord anymore. Now it seems we cannot even sacrifice not being told a bed time story, to keep our eyes and hearts pure. Even if you think you can avoid the temptation, if you can resist it and it will have no affect on you, it puts you in the Near occurrence of sin. Why would we put ourselves in danger for the lure of a good story when there are so many other stories to hear that do not put us in danger? After all don’t we in the Lords Prayer that we as Catholics hold so dear, as “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil?” Why would we repeatably ask God for something that we are so willing to turn our back on?
    Also, it has to be asked, why is all that Graphic sex in the story to begin with? It provides no valuable addition to the plot, and adds nothing to the story. Perhaps it is because the devil knows that if you wrap sin in a good story he can lure those that wouldn’t otherwise be lured. Straight up Porn lures many people, but in the end, there is no story to it. It is watched purely for sexual (I won’t say gratification because it doesn’t gratify) means, but perhaps the devil knows that he can get thousands of people to start watching light porn by wrapping it in a good story.
    Our pride and our intellect tell us, we can’t be fooled, we can’t be tempted, I will recognize someone trying to lead me away from God, but our pride and our intellect also prevent us from seeing it. It is the reason young girls accept a ride home from a party, why sometimes we click on the scam in our email. It is the reason why some of us stray from that path of God and can only hope and pray that someday we will find our way back.

    • http://www.jonathandoyle.co/ Jonathan Doyle

      Thanks Dan for this comment. I think it will be useful and further the debate,

  • QDefenestration

    Catholics think they can watch Game of Thrones because the devil has been insidiously inserting himself into our culture for centuries. Look at the disgusting violence you can find in “Catholic” author Flannery O’Connor’s bloodbath works, or the vile sex scenes and homoeroticism of “Catholic” author Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Or the disgusting promiscuity in “Catholic” author Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins. Or going back way further, “Catholic” poet Dante trying to entertain us with the horrors of hell! When Augustine put together a narrative, he didn’t need to throw in a lusty sex scene to convey the horrors of sin, and really, Catholic culture should be founded on Augustinian thought above all else.

  • QDefenestration

    Gar, none of that changes the fact that there are not only bared breasts on this show, but breasts that are bared during incesty adulterous acts. In our postlapsarian world, any men who ever witness a boob in its unsheathed state are immediately confronted with sinful lust, and any people in general who watch entertainment that involves any kind of depiction of sin will themselves be moved to sin. I’ll pray for you and your incest-filled hobby.

  • QDefenestration

    …there’s no perhaps, he explicitly states this in the Confessions. Augustine thought all theater, even if admirable for the skill employed, was evil.

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