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Anonymous Maria wrote:

Hi, guys —

I intend to become a fiction writer, but ultimately I have been worried about how this can affect my faith, mainly through three doubts:

  1. To write well, you have to read well, but what the world takes for good, the Church doesn't always agree, as proved by the Index - Canon I. Read classic authors, like Homer, Virgil and Ovid (No, I am not interested in his love tips.) , . . Despite:
    • them being of a pagan culture?, and
    • mythological works from other cultures?, and
    • romantic romances without explicit scenes, like Jane Austen?, and
    • authors, in general, that are not Catholic, but are not dangerous for my faith?

  2. To write well, one must imagine what is going to be. My imagination always helped me there, and I created an habit of daydreaming with my characters and their plots, even if I did not intend to go write what I saw soon after. But love stories, war, violence and even hatred of God (caused by trauma) are in my plans for my work, that ultimately revolves, mainly, around the redemption of souls.

    I don't intend to glorify sins and give false views of good and bad, and the romantic elements of my story never surpass what one would see in an animated Disney movie but I have been wondering: My character appearance is based on a real person somewhere, as is his romantic partner.
    • Wouldn't I be committing an sin against the ninth commandment if I use my imagination for bringing these figures together, even if I do so in what, I think, is a pure way?
    • What are the limits?
    • Does this ever make sense?
    • If it did, wouldn't the Church forbid all kind of fictional depiction/portrayal of romance, even in good movies like It's A Wonderful Life, given the real life partners of the actors?

      The other negative things I referred are okay if not portrayed in a falsely positive light.

  3. Finally, to write well, one must simply write and I fear sinning by bad thoughts during writing as I already related to you I feared in the previous topic.
    • Do these fears, as I stated them, have a rational basis, or am I being scrupulous?

Please, I ask for an objective answer, for I don't trust my own subjectivity to reach the truth after receiving an subjective one.

  • If there is sin in what I do, and in what I want, I will abandon it but I would like to do it with a clear conscience, without room for doubts.
  • If there is no sin, I would like some advice for proceeding carefully without also being paranoid.

Thank you, and sorry for such a long question.


  { Should I be concerned about how my vocation to be a fiction writer could affect my Catholic faith? }

Bob replied:


Thanks for the question.

I would not say you are not being scrupulous, but rather conscientious in approaching your craft.

While you were looking for an objective answer, there is nothing in Church teaching that directly applies to your situation, so you'll have to apply good judgment and your conscience. For me, writing about characters that are real, and flawed, even exposing their sin from the inside out is sometimes necessary to serve the purpose of the story line. Think of how the Bible is full of sinful characters, and yet their story always serves to illumine the human experience in light of God's grace and man's acceptance or rejection of it. We connect with characters that are flawed because they mirror our own human frailty, helping us to take inventory. Even Judas can be a cautionary tale to the outcome of our own selfishness; and greed, or lust for power, when left unchecked.

There are some Papal letters to artists, and Pope St. John Paul II I had some inspirational thoughts to share; I excerpted a bit below for your perusal, but you can find the whole letter here:

An appeal to artists

14. With this Letter, I turn to you, the artists of the world, to assure you of my esteem and to help consolidate a more constructive partnership between art and the Church. Mine is an invitation to rediscover the depth of the spiritual and religious dimension which has been typical of art in its noblest forms in every age. It is with this in mind that I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music, of the plastic arts and the most recent technologies in the field of communication.

I appeal especially to you, Christian artists: I wish to remind each of you that, beyond functional considerations, the close alliance that has always existed between the Gospel and art means that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man.

Also, a Bishop presented, at the United Nations in 2017, with some good stuff on artists, the full text of this letter, but an excerpt is below (still, this is primarily focused on art as religious expression, but the sentiments can be applied to your work):

Quoting his predecessor, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis said that the experience of authentic beauty is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness. The experience of beauty does not remove us from reality. On the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.

Popes, poets and ordinary mortals have been truly inspired by the healing and transforming power of beauty that illumines even the darkest evil. That's why for the Catholic Church, the via pulchritudinis is not only an artistic and aesthetic journey, but is also a journey of faith, of spiritual nourishment, of theological inquiry, of arriving at the very source of beauty.

Hans von Balthasar wrote so beautifully and copiously on this, and Simone Weil wrote in this regard: In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. This is the spirit behind the Catholic Church's championing of the art across the centuries.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his novel The Idiot, asserted, Beauty will save the world. Beauty may not have cured Prince Myskin's epilepsy, but even the contemplation of his own illness transported him to an instant of deepest sensation, overflowing with unbounded joy and rapture, ecstatic devotion, and completest life.

Dostoyevsky and the Popes have similar ideas to the healing and transformative power of beauty. Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Artists, spoke of The Saving Power of Beauty, saying that people of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm [of wonder] if they are to meet and master the crucial challenges that stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, humanity, every time it loses its way, will be able to lift itself up and set out again on the right path. In this sense, it has been said with profound insight that 'beauty will save the world' (16).

Pope Francis used the same idea of Dostoyevsky to affirm in Lumen Fidei that it is precisely in contemplating Jesus' gruesome death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in the extraordinary beauty of God's steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death in bringing us to salvation (16).

Anyhow, I would encourage you to write, be real, and be adventurous knowing that beauty can save the world.


Bob Kirby

Maria replied:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your answer, but now new things have come to my mind that endanger my plans.

I used to write pornographic scenes in romantic and dramatic stories, and tales made specifically for said purpose.

  • I no longer have the intention of doing so, nor foresee the temptation, but could write stories with romance and drama, or even writing in general, be an near occasion of sin for me, given my past?

I even intended on using the characters I perverted in these old stories now, putting my writing skills to better use, with the saga of redemption I already mentioned, but I really fear being presumptuous.


Bob replied:


I think your past may make it more difficult to sort through, but in order to really know if you are crossing the line, take some of your new work to a trusted faithful Catholic for review and possible editing.

If the reaction is that the work is good, then you are probably on the right track. In any case, if you can't trust your own judgment, leave it to someone else.


Bob Kirby

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