Now what can be more monstrous than to maintain that by losing all good they have become better? If, then, they are deprived of all good, they will cease to exist. So long as they are, therefore, they are good. Therefore, whatsoever is, is good.St. Augustine, Confessions (Book 7, Chapter 12)
There is a rather cognitively dissonant reaction towards anime online. A popular saying which goes: someone who has anime as an avi (a.k.a profile picture) is automatically labeled as a degenerate and their opinion is to be automatically discarded. Some conservative Vatican II diehards, and even a few Traditionalist Catholics, fall into this trap, proudly proclaiming this as fact. Usually this incurs the wrath of said individuals who, unfortunately, respond back with scorpions to throw, furthering the divide.
First of all, I’m not going to deny it: the anime community can be home to some petty individuals who are known for their non-Christian lifestyles; I’ve personally seen some of it myself. However, the same can be said of any fandom, most infamously being professional sports (Don’t believe me? Take a look at what Canadian hockey fans do, especially in Montreal and Vancouver, when their team wins or loses in the Stanley Cup Finals). Second of all: is it me, or do I find it ironic that Vatican II diehards complain about the anime community’s degeneracy, yet their own Robber Council also exalts:
- embracing other cultural motifs into Christianity (while not heretical, it is cited in Ad Gentes, ch. 1, para. 9 and Sacrosanctum Concilium, ch. 1 sec. D)
- that God is irrelevant in the public life (Dignitatis Humanae, para. 15)
- that Catholic dogma doesn’t matter (Unitatis Redintegratio, ch. 3, para. 4 and all of Nostra Aetate + Lumen Gentium combined)
- that everyone is implicitly going to Heaven (Gaudium et Spes, para. 22)
Let me be clear: if you don’t like anime avis and are Catholic, fine by me. This will in no way hinder your salvation, provided you live based on Catholic principles and have a good spirituality in place (such as reading spiritual books at least once each week). But to say that there is something bad about using them is flat-out wrong; thus, here is an explanation of why there is nothing inherently wrong with the use of anime avis, based on Catholic principles.
DEFINING “GOOD” AND “EVIL”, FROM A CATHOLIC POINT OF VIEW
The question that needs to be answered thus is: what makes something good or evil? According to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, they both recognize that anything which exists is, by its own nature, good – since the primary cause of them is God, who Himself is entirely good, and cannot generate anything that is contrary to His nature (although he may, for whatever reason, permit evil to happen for some reason beyond our understanding). Consequently, any object that exists, whether it be of God’s creation or of human work, is to be seen as possessing that quality of good.
Objection 1. It seems that goodness differs really from being. For Boethius says (De Hebdom.): “I perceive that in nature the fact that things are good is one thing: that they are is another.” Therefore goodness and being really differ.
I answer that, Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea; which is clear from the following argument. The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable… Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual, as is clear from the foregoing (I:3:4; I:4:1). Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really.St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Part 1, Question 5, Article 1)
When it comes to the question of evil, both take the common definition of it (that which is opposed to good) a step further and state that something is evil if it has a deficiency of good within it. Evil is neither something that has been created, since God cannot be the author of such (since He is perfect), nor is it to be regarded as simply a state of being; but rather, evil comes about by means of circumstances, actions, and through the primary intention of the agent that wills it. Therefore, while it is correct to say that something can be used to conduce evil, it would be wrong to say that whatever was used to perpetrate that evil is as such too; as St. Augustine notes,
Thus the good in created things can be diminished and augmented. For good to be diminished is evil; still, however much it is diminished, something must remain of its original nature as long as it exists at all. For no matter what kind or however insignificant a thing may be, the good which is its “nature” cannot be destroyed without the thing itself being destroyed. There is good reason, therefore, to praise an uncorrupted thing, and if it were indeed an incorruptible thing which could not be destroyed, it would doubtless be all the more worthy of praise. When, however, a thing is corrupted, its corruption is an evil because it is, by just so much, a privation of the good. Where there is no privation of the good, there is no evil.St. Augustine, Enchridion (Chapter 4)
Both philosophers recognized it was one thing to castigate the immoral use of things (as all Traditionalist Catholics should do), but are careful to avoid labelling anything as evil from the get-go, so as to not contradict themselves as saying existing things can be simultaneously good and evil. Therefore, we understand that this led to them seeing evil as a corruption, rather than a state of being, of something – irrespective of the negative response others have towards it. By viewing evil as merely a diminution of whatever good it attacks, in effect comes an easily distinguishable, logical and coherent explanation of good as a property of existence, with evil as a side effect contrary to it.
How can we apply this understanding and apply it to our understanding of anime avis? It’s simple: by the mere notion of existing, the concept of anime avis themselves are merely good, and its goodness remains untainted by whatever evil they may have been used for, any more than a painting or a marble bust of someone. Yet, there are some objections to their use, and in the next sections I present my responses to some of them.
Objection #1: Anime avis are rooted in evil/degeneracy
Something is inherently evil if it is always wrong to do, or steeped in evil, no matter the circumstances. Hence, the act of theft, sacrilege, domestic abuse, or fornication would fall into these categories. Can we say the same thing about avis which are rooted in anime? In a word: no. Anime can be used to make morally beneficial shows such as, but not limited to Digimon Adventure, Cardcaptor Sakura, or Neon Genesis Evangelion; and then you have things like hentai of which the inherent immorality of such is obvious, it warrants no further explanation. Where there presents an opportunity for this medium to be used in a decent and uplifting manner, it cannot be deemed as inherently evil. Therefore, the claim that anime as a whole is inherently evil/degenerate stands as wrong.
Further proof lies in the instruction of the Church when it comes to theatrical entertainments (of which can also be applied to anime), as approached by all Catholic moral theologians pre-Vatican II. Some examples include:
The question of theatre-going is settled on similar grounds. There are all sorts of theatres and all sorts of plays represented in them, and all sorts of actors and actresses. To go and listen to a bad and suggestive play arouses the passions, leads to sin, and encourages evil in many ways. It will, then, as a rule, be grievously sinful to go to the theatre to see such a play…. In other cases, unless the play or the theatre is known to be bad, there will be no strict obligation to refrain from going.Fr. Thomas Slater SJ, Moral Theology, 1925 (pg. 134)
The same principles (regarding cooperation in scandal – or incentives to sin) are applicable to a matter of scenic plays and shows of all sorts. It is a sin to take part in, encourage, or to be present at seriously improper plays… To go to any play, however innocuous in itself, for the purpose of arousing evil desires or gratifying the animal passions, is a sin.Fr. Henry Davis SJ, Moral and Pastoral Theology, 1943 (pg. 337)
If these were inherently wrong as a whole, it would mean that they would have collectively erred in teaching that the faithful have no obligation to avoid all instances of such; the only way this would be possible is if the Catholic Church had defected, by licensing people to sin, which we know, by the grace of God, is an absolute impossibility. The fact they used language that did not indicate such means that a practice of self-control is to be applied towards these entertainments says something about the strong links to the Thomistic/Augustinian metaphysical principles stated above.
Objection #2: Use of anime avis lead to degeneracy
This claim is retarded on both a religious and secular platform. Having determined that anime is neither something that is not intrinsically evil, it would be false to use anime avis as a measure of degeneracy, any more than it makes sense to assume that parking lots lead to increased car accidents, or that those working in the computer field are nerds. Just because something like anime can be associated with degeneracy, does not mean that it alone leads to such; rather the misuse of them ought to be lamented. One of my favorite quotes from a Catholic saint comes from that of St. Maximus the Confessor, a 7th-century theologian from Constantinople, who explains in his book Four Hundred Chapters On Love:
It is not food which is evil, but gluttony; not the begetting of children, but fornication; not possessions but greed; not reputation, but vainglory. Indeed, there is nothing evil in existing things, but only their misuse, which stems from the mind’s negligence in its natural cultivation.St. Maximus The Confessor, Four Hundred Chapters On Love (Chapter 3, Article 4)
Like St. Augustine before him, St. Maximus also recognizes that things in and of themselves cannot be regarded as evil based on what nefarious purposes they have been used for in the past. As long as if it is around and indifferent, he prompts ordinate use of them, whether it is for our everyday use or enjoyment; but warns against excess on them. This use must come with moderation; we cannot let it become our “meaning of life”, by which we cannot exist without (that alone should be due to God), and have an obsession with; likewise, we cannot degrade it and render it useless based on our own personal convictions, and enforce this as dogma.
Objection #3: Having an anime avi makes you a degenerate by association
False. The anime community is not solely rooted in degeneracy, as is the case with furries, criminal groups or pedophiles; it’s rooted simply in people enjoying a form of a non-intrinsically evil form of entertainment. Thus, whatever negative thing comes out of it should be seen as separate from such. To say that implementing an anime avi will pool you into the same batch as other degenerates cannot be held up as true. As a matter of fact, by extension, since you are human: considering the fact that humanity has been responsible for various genocides and a myriad of wicked endeavors, do you still wish to consider yourself human? If your answer is yes, then the same logic ought to be applied to members of the anime community – to separate the bad from the good.
I refer you, once again, to St. Thomas Aquinas, who writes regarding this topic:
Objection 1. It would seem that evil corrupts the whole good. For one contrary is wholly corrupted by another. But good and evil are contraries. Therefore, evil corrupts the whole good.
I answer that, Evil cannot wholly consume good. To prove this we must consider that good is threefold. One kind of good is wholly destroyed by evil, and this is the good opposed to evil, as light is wholly destroyed by darkness, and sight by blindness. Another kind of good is neither wholly destroyed nor diminished by evil, and that is the good which is the subject of evil; for by darkness the substance of the air is not injured. And there is also a kind of good which is diminished by evil, but is not wholly taken away; and this good is the aptitude of a subject to some actuality.St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Part 1, Question 48, Article 4)
Objection #4: Your opinion doesn’t matter if you use an anime avi
In a court of law or debate, one does not seek to tear down an opponent based on their appearance, but rather by the measure of their arguments; so pointing out one’s perceived online anonymity is irrelevant to the argument; also, one may have some valid grounds for choosing to remain anonymous, such as to protect their livelihood, family, or friends from attack by those who do not agree with their positions, and wish to bring evil on them. With the advent of things like “cancel culture” or doxxing, this is an all-too real predicament. Last but not least, who the person is does not matter in the sight of God; be they rich or poor, student or professor, labourer or CEO, all that will not matter, but the way they conducted themselves is of prime importance.
Therefore this argument cannot be used, and I would question the mental capability of someone who seriously throws this claim. At worst, this argument displays a lack of reasonable mental ability to approach an argument, thus ironically invalidating the person’s argument who uses this tactic, and is a likely sign of a desperate attempt to form an ill-configured rebuttal on their part; at best, it’s a poor and desperate attempt at an ad hominem.
To summarize: Based on Catholic metaphysical principles, we know that something is good just merely by its existence, while evil, on the other hand, cannot be applied to a state of being but stems from the action or circumstances which lead to the privation of the good in something. In light of this, to say that anime, or any use associated to it, or its existence is inherently degenerate, is simply incompatible with the Catholic understanding of good/evil existing in things. Conclusively, anime avis are fine to use, provided there isn’t anything inappropriate within them.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that if you’re going to use them, be sure to disassociate your behavior from others who may behave in a lesser manner than you; regulate yourself to act in a manner that’s expected of a true Christian, as St. Paul teaches: “These things proposing to the brethren, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished up in the words of faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast attained unto. But avoid foolish and old wives’ fables: and exercise thyself unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:6-7).
For those well-meaning Traditionalist Catholics who still find the need to complain about anime avis, let me redirect you to even bigger, impactful issues you should be going up against: abortion, societal secularization, heretical takes on Catholic teaching (“Fr.” James Martin SJ comes to mind), and the mass retardation of Catholic Faith and morals since Vatican II.