Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #14

Re: Decent Films

Is it a sin to watch a film with nudity/partial nudity if you’re not watching the film to see the nudity, and the nudity does not cause you to sin?

Your question reminds me of the wise priest who said, “The Catholic Church teaches authoritatively, has always taught authoritatively, and will always teach authoritatively, that the visual arts … are a grey area.”

I’ve written about nudity in film before, notably in “What Are the Decent Films?

Whether nudity in a film causes the viewer to sin is, of course, the chief issue, though not the only issue. There is also the dignity of the actors to be considered. Gratuitous or exploitative nudity is always wrong, at least for the filmmakers.

While the presence of some morally problematic content does not necessarily make a movie morally unwatchable for the viewer, it isn’t something to take lightly, and of course the more prominently problematic content is featured in a film, the more of an obstacle it becomes.

Incidentally, actual nudity isn’t the only issue here. Lascivious displays involving more or less clothed bodies are also contrary to human dignity.

That said, Catholic moral theology does not support the conclusion that all nudity in art, including cinema, must always be considered morally wrong, or that Catholics must always avoid all art that includes such nudity, even if that nudity is at times morally problematic.

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