A Movie Isn’t Worth Sinning Over

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This past weekend saw the release of two major movies, Barbie and Oppenheimer. The juxtaposition of these two very different movies launched a debate on social media: Are you Barbie or are you Oppenheimer?

Catholics should be neither.

The Barbie movie is unsurprisingly woke, anti-man trash. The unrelentingly message of the movie is that men are always dumb and/or evil, and women are always smart, independent, and right. Since its creation, the Barbie franchise has managed to combine both misogyny and feminism into one plastic package. I have six daughters, and it would be a dereliction of fatherly duty if I ever encouraged them to play with Barbies. It’s a no-brainer that Catholics should not support Barbie.

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But Oppenheimer is unacceptable for different reasons; in fact, I’d argue it’s actually sinful to watch. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan, the director of this historical piece on the development of the atomic bomb. When the movie was first announced, I planned to see it. However, I found out this weekend that the movie contains sexual scenes that contain nudity. Another no-brainer: no Catholic should watch Oppenheimer.

This take is surprisingly controversial among Catholics. Over the years I’ve been surprised to see how often Catholics, even ones who promote orthodoxy (including orthodox morality), will encourage people to see movies with nude sex scenes. This is baffling, because it’s always a sin to watch such a scene. Always, full stop.

When you take this absolutist stand, you get serious pushback among Catholics. It’s expected from liberal Catholics, who are always seeking to diminish sin and its impact. But it’s surprising coming from more conservative Catholics. They will argue that nudity has been represented in great art in the past, or that one can watch such scenes without getting aroused, or that the movie is much more than just that one scene.

All of these are excuses.

There’s a great difference between seeing Michelangelo’s David and watching two naked people engage in intimate relations. To make this clear, imagine asking a decently-formed Catholic of Michelangelo’s time, “Do you think it’s a sin to watch two people fornicate with each other?” The person would likely think you are the devil himself for just asking the question. But we’ve become so desensitized to this particular sin that we diminish, even deny, its intrinsically evil nature.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

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. (#2354)

Note that there are no exceptions for “it’s artfully done” or “it’s in an otherwise great movie” (also note that nude sex scenes in any movie would be classified as “pornography” as the Catechism defines it).

Likewise, one does not have to be aroused watching such a scene for it to still be sinful. Even if not aroused at the time, putting those images in one’s mind can lead to later temptations. Further, if I killed someone but took no pleasure in the act, I still sinned. The morality of an act does not depend upon my emotional response to it. Even a eunuch should not watch other people engage in sexual relations.

It should be remembered that the actors themselves are dehumanized when they engage in—and we watch—these scenes. As the Catechism states, “It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public).” To watch such acts is to sin against its participants, even if it does not lead one into temptation.

And to say the movie is much more than just that one scene reveals the real reason many Catholics try to defend watching movies like Oppenheimer. They are so scared of being too outside the culture that they willingly sacrifice their integrity rather than be seen as uncool or weird. Sometimes they will even defend their choice by saying we must be knowledgable of the culture in order to evangelize it. [Catholics] are so scared of being too outside the culture that they willingly sacrifice their integrity rather than be seen as uncool or weird.Tweet This

Nonsense. There is literally no movie ever created that a Catholic must see, and one can still engage with non-Catholics without knowing the latest pop culture references. In fact, by avoiding those evil influences, one is better able to evangelize.

Catholics, do not sell your morality for a Hollywood-spoiled bowl of sin. Treat a movie that has even a single nude sex scene as you would a drink with even a single drop of poison in it: avoid it. If a movie has a sexual scene with nudity, no matter how brief and no matter how good the movie otherwise might be, don’t see it. It’s not worth your soul.


  • Eric Sammons

    Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine.


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