Newsletter of the District
Hypnotic Power of Television
Dr. Cyril Daly
as a figure of Christ crucified there is likely to be found
in every priest's house in Ireland, every Bishop's house, every
convent of nuns, every monastery of monks, a television.
This is a morbid
absurdity. It cannot, on any consideration, begin to make sense.
It proves the
immense potency of television. And it justifies the presumptuous
arrogance of the medium.
has, it seems, the right to be everywhere. It recognises no boundary.
Like air and food and water it is necessary, life‑sustaining
and magnificent. It is a power. It is a dark dominion. It is a jealous
I object. I
think it outrageous that men and women who, after all, earn their
livelihood, take food, rest and shelter, on the assumed basis of
their commitment to the life of the spirit, should have within their
home a medium which is organised to indulge in what is material,
what is pleasurable, what is immediate, what is now.
I am not talking
of the gross impoverishment of the human spirit that comes with
television. I am not talking of the unbelievable inanity of so much
of its communication. In other words I am not so much concerned
with its, by and large, intellectual vacuity.
What I am concerned
with is its hypnotic power. I am thinking, for example, of a priest
in the middle of what I assume, without being quite certain, was
a valid rite of Mass, inviting comments from the congregation, if
that is not too ecclesiastical a word for a group of men and women
whom he was treating exactly as a TV presenter might treat them.
for him. I recognised how much of this inward, as it were, life
was shaped by his television hours. I was also angry on behalf of
those people who had come for a sacred action and were received
with such rubbish.
yourself a group of women, solemnly bound to conventual life, sitting
together each week to follow the enlightenments of a soap opera.
What, I wonder, do they think they are at? What values are they
absorbing? What values are they losing?
nuns not got a book to read? A garden to cultivate? A prayer to
offer? A sick or lonely person to visit? A chapel empty save for
the Divine and igored Presence?
Will they some
day get a Superior who will democratically decide for the community
that this box of tricks has no business in the seeking of salvation?
That it belongs, with wires and screen and super frame, to the rubbish
looks at everybody and at every issue from an almost exclusively
materialistic and secular standpoint.
How a priest
thinks should be in constant contradiction to it. Its good should
not be his good. Its major concerns should not be his. How can a
man maintain, still less nourish, a spiritual way of thought if
he watches super‑coloured materialism at night?
It goes without
saying that there are people working in connection with television
who themselves have that interior values that do not coincide with
those of the box.
But this god
imposes obedience. It brooks no sacrilege. It hates any genuflections,
except in its own adoration.
bishops and monks and nuns are free agents in this regard. They
choose a dedicated life so that they should be free of the expectations
and constraints of a secular world.
They have no
excuse for sitting before this dark tabernacle. They should be doing
something else. Television has nothing whatever to do with the soul's
It is possible
that some day priests and religious will wake to the dangers of
this contradiction in their lives. It is possible that they will
bring their box to the rubbish tip. Possible. But I won't be holding
my breath. (Irish Medical Times, 18 Sept. 1992)