Every day we see people who are busy distorting their talents in order to enhance their popularity or to make money that they could do without. We can safely say that this, if done consciously, is reprehensible. But even oftener, I think, we see people distorting their talents in the name of God for reasons that they think are good—to reform or to teach or to lead people to the Church. And it is much less easy to say that this is reprehensible. None of us is able to judge such people themselves, but we must, for the sake of truth, judge the products they make. We must say whether this or that novel truthfully portrays the aspect of reality that it sets out to portray. The novelist who deliberately misuses his talent for some good purpose may be committing no sin, but he is certainly committing a grave inconsistency, for he is trying to reflect God with what amounts to a practical untruth.
Poorly written novels—no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters—are not good in themselves and are therefore not really edifying. Now a statement like this creates problems. An individual may be highly edified by a sorry novel because he doesn’t know any better. We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes. God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.”