Video games could of course be an occasion of sin, just as X-rated movies can be.
Q. My son, who is 15, keeps asking for a video game called Grand Theft Auto V. After reading some reviews (gang violence, nudity, extremely coarse language, drug and alcohol abuse), I was not inclined to purchase it for him in good conscience.
He's asked now to spend his own money on the game, but I don't want to be responsible for contributing to something that appears to be of no value spiritually or otherwise. Could playing mature-rated video games also be a cause of sin, like watching movies with mature content? (Wichita, Kansas)
Video games could of course be an occasion of sin, just as X-rated movies can be. I'll leave aside the issue of violence and simply mention that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was an avid fan of video violence, as were the Columbine High School perpetrators -- though admittedly no one can document a definitive causal connection.
I'm not a patron of video games myself, but I trust the letter-writer's depiction of this one; in fact, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), the industry's highly regarded "watchdog," notes that in Grand Theft Auto V "players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles and explosives" to kill rival gang members.
It adds that "the game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation (and) various sex acts ... that the player's character procures from a prostitute" with the option for "a topless lap dance in a strip club." Sadly, Grand Theft Auto V's publisher boasted that, in the first three of years of this game's existence, they had shipped more than 75 million copies.
Now, I ask our readers: Is this the kind of "entertainment" you would want for your 15-year-old son? Our letter-writer acted responsibly in refusing to purchase the video for her son -- and she shouldn't let him buy it with his own money, either.
Q. What is the Catholic Church's policy on having a Catholic marriage ceremony (not a Mass) at a reception venue rather than in a church? (My local pastor says that, even if it's just a ceremony, it needs to be in a church.) (Roswell, Georgia)
A. In answering your question, I am going to assume that both the bride and the groom are Catholic. (If, on the other hand, the marriage involved a Catholic and a Protestant, they would have the option to seek from the Catholic diocese a "dispensation from form," which could allow a Protestant minister to officiate at the ceremony even in a non-church setting.)
For two Catholics, the Church's Code of Canon Law notes that normally the wedding is to be held in a parish church, but it does allow the local bishop to "permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place" (Canon 1118.2).
But my experience has been that most dioceses in most situations are reluctant to give permission for a non-church wedding between two Catholics. The church tries at a wedding to maintain a sense of the sacred; it views marriage as a sacrament, a commitment made in the eyes of God, with the couple seeking the Lord's blessing on their lifelong union.
I am aware, though, that in 2018 the Archdiocese of Baltimore began allowing weddings in non-church settings (including outdoors) with a bit more frequency. (A June 2018 article in America magazine noted that, in Baltimore's new policy, the preferred location for weddings was still the home parish of the bride or groom and that locations like bars and nightclubs were still off-limits.)
- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service