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Secular society has a love/hate relationship with Catholicism

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

While recuperating this summer from knee replacement surgery, I watched reruns of the television series, “Blue Bloods.” It is a police drama that features the Reagan family, a New York Irish Catholic family with three generations who have served in law enforcement.

The grandfather is the retired police commissioner and his son (Frank Reagan) is the current NYC police commissioner with two of his adult sons serving in the police department, a third son who was killed while serving undercover and his only daughter serving as a district attorney.

I was drawn to the series for several reasons. It offers a sympathetic, but not a romanticized, portrayal of police that is in stark contrast to the prevalent negative cultural depiction of law enforcement. It also gives a very positive view of the importance of family.

“Blue Bloods” episodes portray the importance of Sunday for the Reagan family, by often alluding to their attendance at Sunday Mass as well as always depicting the Sunday family meal with participants spanning four generations. Notably, the Sunday meal always begins with prayer. It is obvious to the viewer that faith is important to the family. 

Frank Reagan, the family patriarch and current police commissioner, is played by Tom Selleck. He is portrayed as man of character and principle. He is conscientious in his responsibility as police commissioner not to give preferential treatment to family or friends. Frank Reagan takes seriously his responsibility to protect all of the citizens of New York City.

Having come up through the ranks, Frank appreciates the challenges, risks and sacrifices made by police officers and their families. He exhibits a genuine concern for those he is called to lead. At the same time, he expects a high level of integrity as well as accountability from police officers. 

Frank Reagan is portrayed as a man of prayer who draws strength from his Catholic faith. In one episode, the commissioner expresses nostalgia for the Latin Mass. He has a long and enduring friendship with the cardinal archbishop.

In one episode, the cardinal asks him to accept the Catholic Man of the Year award to help draw potential benefactors to a fundraiser for a financially struggling inner-city school. While agreeing personally to support the school financially, the commissioner declines the award, because he fears that to do otherwise might somehow disturb the proper separation of church and state.

Frank Reagan is a widower. From all indications, he and his late wife enjoyed a beautiful marriage. “Blue Bloods” provides a very positive picture of the beauty and importance of family.

What’s not to like about a television series that upholds justice, exemplifies many virtues, promotes the importance of family, depicts lead characters praying, portrays religious faith positively and all of the lead characters are Catholic?

Unfortunately, the script writers could not restrain themselves from imposing politically correct values on this police drama. In one episode during a press interview, the commissioner expresses his personal opinion that the church’s moral teaching regarding homosexual activity is antiquated.

Frank Reagan is portrayed in some episodes to have a romantic relationship with a single, female reporter. It is clear the relationship is not purely platonic but involves sexual intimacy.

Having the patriarch of this fictional family, who in so many ways is a paragon of virtue, portrayed as sexually intimate outside of marriage is not a very subtle way of questioning the adherence to the church’s moral teaching by even those who are considered devoutly Catholic.

It is particularly troubling that this breach of Catholic moral teaching is committed by the clear leader of the family. If moral teaching can be ignored by the family patriarch, then why is similar behavior not acceptable for his children and grandchildren? Why should they follow antiquated moral teaching?

Sadly, I fear “Blue Bloods” represents the love/hate relationship between American secular society and Catholicism. With our nation’s second Catholic president and a large number of the members of the Congress identifying as Catholic, one might assume the anti-Catholicism that was part of the culture of the United States from our country’s inception until the early 1960s has vanished. This is true, if Catholics are willing to compromise our moral teaching.

The devastating harm done to individuals and society by the sexual revolution surrounds us, but culturally we remain in denial. The entertainment industry has played an important role in fomenting dramatic moral changes in American society. One of the huge cultural lies that is foundational for American secular society is that sexual intimacy is essential for happiness.

It is remarkable that during the COVID pandemic, public health officials insisted that the elderly had to be isolated from family and friends in nursing homes, many children were unable to attend school, and social gatherings were considered reckless behavior.

However, those same public health officials, during the AIDS crisis and similarly now with monkeypox, refuse to ask people to refrain from homosexual behavior, even though it is scientifically known to be one of the primary means of transmission for these deadly diseases. We required much more socially disruptive restrictions to prevent COVID than we did to protect Americans from sexually transmitted and often lethal diseases.

Addiction to pornography is a pandemic. In contrast to the  COVID pandemic, which was rarely life-threatening for the vast majority of young people, our society appears impotent in its efforts to protect young children from early exposure.

With contraception, we attempted to strip sexual intimacy from its natural life-giving power. With pornography, we are seeking to eliminate love from sexual expression. Sexual activity is considered simply the means to pleasure and no longer the ultimate physical expression of committed, faithful love that provides the optimum environment for new life to be welcomed.

Our culture has communicated to our young people that we consider them incapable of living the virtue of chastity. Instead, we offer our young people a phony, cheap love that offers quick pleasure, rather than faithful, committed love that, when lived well, provides a sturdy foundation for a joyful family.

“Blue Bloods” is a television drama that offers viewers some very good societal values worth emulating, such as the importance of service to community, the beauty and joy of family, and the necessity of prayer and faith in God.

Sadly, it also mixes in some of the societal fallacies that have resulted in a weakening of family, the destruction of innocent human life, a false love that uses others for our pleasure and has fostered some of the current cultural chaos.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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1 Comment

  • I’ve heard a report of a diminishing Church and I am just here to say (*gasps*)… the call is coming from inside the building. It is leaders like you that are killing the Church for people who would otherwise stay a part of it, despite it’s numerous faults. You have to admit the Church is nothing close to infallible You are not above reproach either. I implore you to look in the mirror. Your political agenda quite possibly does not line up with what Jesus, a living man would walked the earth, would want to have occur. I would think about that. I think it’s pretty obvious that Jesus would let a girl attend a grade school even if he thought her parents were “sinners” for just one example.