Many of these criticisms of the gladiatorial games, Camosy continued, are relevant to the way football is played today. "We prefer not to look at the violence. We somehow make it compatible with the non-violence Jesus calls us to," he said.
Chad Pecknold, a professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America, had a different perspective.
While the gladiatorial games of the Roman Empire and American football today have some similarities – and can provide insight into the respective cultures that created them – there are also important differences, he said.
Most obviously, imminent death was a prominent characteristic of the gladiator games, in a way that is not characteristic of football.
"The Roman gladiatorial games were a by-product of war, and in this sense they were a potent cultural expression of Rome's 'lust for domination,'" Pecknold said.
While theologians such as St. Augustine taught that in some circumstances, the violence of war could be justified, they criticized Rome's approach to war and found that when the "horrific violence" of war was turned solely into entertainment in the gladiatorial games, that the games "were more pernicious than war itself," he continued.
American football, Pecknold suggested, does not carry the exact same significance the early Christians cautioned against.
Still, he said, there is reason for caution with football.
"I am not sure if we should worry about football in the same way that the early Church fathers worried about gladiatorial spectacle, but we should pay attention to how easily the goodness of sports can be disordered."
Both Camosy and Pecknold acknowledged positive aspects to the game of football – including the God-given athletic talent, strategy and teaching of virtue, as well as the game's ability to bring together families and communities.
"If it can serve the common good of the family, the neighborhood, the community, then it's really terrific and we should thank God for it," Pecknold said.
(Story continues below)
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But that affection can quickly become disordered and occupy a disproportionate place in people's lives, he cautioned. And the commercial aspect of football, which grows out of the economy, can also be concerning because of what it reflects about the culture.
Ultimately, he said, when approaching the Super Bowl and its content, "Christians can watch football with a clean conscience, but they might want to turn off the halftime show."
Camosy agreed that it is possible to watch the Super Bowl with a clean conscience, but suggested that Christians avoid being drawn into the negative elements, perhaps by openly "(making) fun of the commercials and what the half-time show is all about." He also warned Catholics who watch the Super Bowl to be wary of their own focuses and care for the game, and to be careful, when cheering for teams, "that we don't create another source of ultimate concern here – that this isn't another god."
And Catholics should speak up about the violence that plagues the game, Camosy said.
"What I call for is a similar kind of shift that happened almost a hundred years ago," he said, recalling Teddy Roosevelt's reforms to the game when college students were dying during matches.
"Leave the good – get rid of the bad."