By Judy Roberts
OCT. 13, 2014 — For a season and a half, my husband and I were fans of the CBS television series Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan, head of a New York City law enforcement family.
We liked, for the most part, the way the show reflected some of our Catholic practices in its portrayal of the Reagans, mixing the excitement of a cop show with a light message about the importance of family and faith.
We saw Commissioner Reagan gather each Sunday with his widowed, ex-police commissioner dad, two sons who were on the force, and his prosecutor daughter along with their kids and one spouse for a family dinner at which everyone said grace — some making the Sign of the Cross. We even saw Frank go to Confession and son, Jamie, seek solace in a church and the counsel of a priest after the death of a fellow officer.
Amid this, we noted, but were willing to overlook, story lines that suggested several adult characters, including widowed Frank, single son Jamie, and divorced daughter Erin, were engaging in occasional extra-marital sex. The married characters — detective son Danny and his wife Linda — remained faithful to each other.
Aleteia’s English edition spirituality editor, Susan E. Wills, has called the show “the most affirmingly Catholic, high-quality weekly drama in memory.” That probably says more about the dearth of good television than it does the quality of Blue Bloods, but still, for a time, the show’s good points made it worth watching and allowed us to look past its weaknesses.
Things, however, began to deteriorate last season when Erin had a little heart-to-heart with teen daughter Nikki about premarital sex. Their chat had been precipitated by Mom finding her daughter in a disheveled state of dress while supposedly studying with a male friend.
After Nikki reassures Mom that she is not having sex “yet,” Erin expresses confidence that her daughter will make a good choice. The only requirement governing that choice seems to be whether Nikki loves the guy, and she isn’t sure about that.
Although we didn’t expect Erin and Nikki to pore over the Catechism of the Catholic Church or watch a Theology of the Body DVD together, it seemed to us that Blue Bloods could have done better. Instead, Erin chooses this moment to let her daughter know she wasn’t a virgin when she married her dad, freeing the daughter to follow in Mom’s faltering footsteps.
After that episode, we decided to say, “Bye-bye, Blue Bloods,” and didn’t watch it again until a few weeks ago when one of the story lines involved Erin inviting a male colleague to spend the weekend with her while Nikki was out-of-town.
Little did we know that the show was about to take a nosedive into distortion of the Catholic faith. The Oct. 10 episode, which has unleashed a torrent of comments on the show’s Facebook page, focused on a gay cop who is “outed” when he tries to prevent a beating outside a gay bar.
In the aftermath, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is misrepresented and the clergy caricatured. Commissioner Reagan responds to a reporter’s question about the “anti-gay” Catholic Church condemning homosexuality as a sin, not with a clarification of the statement and the teaching, but with “Well, I do believe that the Church is a little behind the times on this.” In a curious non sequitur, he adds, “But then I still miss the Latin Mass.”
Later, the commissioner is shown kissing a cardinal’s ring after dining with the cleric in an opulent setting, advancing the stereotype of Church leaders as rich, pompous and out of touch. Finally, the show wraps up with a nun confessing to Frank that when she entered the convent decades ago, she had to say good-bye to her “partner.”
Fortunately, many fans have reacted strongly on Facebook by defending Catholic teaching in postings like this one: “Your episode tonight has lost you a loyal proponent because you misrepresented the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Your writers, obviously, have an agenda, and it has nothing to do with the truth.”
Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his family pray before a meal on the CBS series Blue Bloods.
I applaud those who have defended the faith so valiantly on Facebook — as I do the friends who first told us about the series and have written to Leonard Goldberg, executive producer of Blue Bloods.
But what more can we do when our faith is presented so inaccurately — and blatantly so? Should we stop watching such shows altogether or continue to monitor them so we can speak out when they depart from the truth? Can we spend our time more profitably by reading or viewing more wholesome films and programs?
Most of us who try to hold to the truths of the faith in a decaying culture and a divided Church are weary and battle-worn these days, and it is difficult to know where to best direct our energies.
We must continue to speak out when we see or hear our faith being misrepresented, even if we don’t expect our objections to bring about change. Indeed, CBS executives are likely more pleased than distressed with the furor created by this latest episode of Blue Bloods because of the attention it has drawn to the series.
That said, we may not be able to change CBS, but we can change how we use our time. For my part, that means no longer spending an hour each week on a show that has begun conveying lies instead of truth.
Lately, I have heard two priests in two different parishes — one rural and one urban — preach about turning off the TV. One reminded us of Mother Angelica’s pronouncement of the television as “the devil’s tabernacle.”
As her description is increasingly being proven right, perhaps we would do well to employ our time in quiet or by reading or viewing content that nourishes our minds and souls. We are admonished by St. Paul in Philippians to fill our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” (Phil 4:8).
For a while, Blue Bloods entertained us with programs that contained some of these qualities. Sadly, the writers of the series seem to have sacrificed those in the interest of advancing a lie.
JUDY ROBERTS is an Ohio-based freelance writer. She is a staff writer for Legatus magazine and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register.