Blessed James Alberione

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The purpose we have in mind here is mainly negative. It is to prevent the evil that the anti-Christian cinema produces by bringing persuasive pressure to bear on movie producers, on civil authority, and on parents, teachers and the public.

Pressure on producers and on civil authority
The pressure brought to bear on movie producers (authors, distributors, hirers, directors, and managers of movie theaters, promoters...) can be direct or indirect.
The former consists in appealing to such people's responsibility as regards themselves, their audience and
God. The latter is to get people not to frequent shows that are not in conformity with the faith and Christian morality.
As regards the competent civil authorities what is possible is an apostolate of conviction and partnership so as to set up a Commission for censure and one for discipline.
Censure which effects a control not only in respect of science and art, but also and more especially with regards to matters moral and religious.1 Discipline likewise that guides the production along the best paths both from the artistic aspect as well as from the moral and religious aspect.

Pressure on parents and teachers
There is a need to train teachers and parents to steer a middle course as regards children by avoiding two excesses: to let boys and girls see all kinds of motion pictures where they learn about the worst features of the world; to prohibit them from viewing any motion pictures at all.
It is a case of applying the principle: "In medio stat virtus".2
We have to realize that we will come
across motion pictures wherever we are. We cannot stop young people, in the name of faith and morals, from viewing shows that concern everyday life and, as such, are not to be condemned. The onus is on conscientious parents and teachers to choose, apportion, accompany and correct.
Choose good or at least wholesome motion pictures for children. They need to be informed beforehand.
Apportion. Even if the shows are wholesome children should not frequent them too often! There is a moral and a health reason for this. Moral, because frequency may instill in them a facile and harmful desire for movies. Healthy, because the motion picture's power of suggestion may often have a damaging effect on the child's nervous system. For children motion pictures are to be a reward, an exception.
Accompany children to the movie theater because even if the movie is harmless the environment may not be.
Correct any false impressions that the children may have picked up.

Pressure on viewers
The pressure that can and must be brought to bear on the viewing public is extensive and offers greater
likelihood of success; thus we are more duty-bound.
This can be achieved through verbal and written contact. The aim is to convince people not to seek the suppression of this wonderful invention but rather to employ it for the good of the individual and society as a whole.
It should lead the public everywhere:
- to shun impious and obscene motion pictures which are contrary to good behavior, Catholic doctrine and social order;
- to resolve not to attend, and to do all one can to stop others from attending, cinema shows where such motion pictures will be shown;
- within the possibilities that an individual person has, to help create public awareness of the danger that such motion pictures present.
To achieve all this it is vital to train people to have a motion picture conscience as regards public shows.
"What a sad state of affairs exists today" states Bishop Civardi. "Catholics, even admirers of religion, go to view movies without a second thought, without first ascertaining the morality of the same. They go to a movie theater with the same indifferent state of mind as when they go to a hotel for a drink or refreshment. There are two dangers here: one is the moral damage of insensitive
viewers, the other is their indirect cooperation in pornographic motion pictures.
"Thus we need to train those faithful who are obedient to the voice of their Pastors to have a motion picture conscience such that it draw the obligation of vigilance and the choice of motion picture in accordance with the judgment of an appropriate institution - not that of taste but that of religion."3
Among the most effective and practical means at present for the formation of a correct motion picture conscience is the motion picture pledge.
Pius XI endorsed this in the Vigilanti cura. These are his words: "All Pastors of souls will undertake to obtain each year from their people a pledge, like the one given by their American brothers, to stay away from motion picture plays which are offensive to truth and to Christian morality."4
"The most efficacious manner of obtaining this pledge or promise is through the parish church or school and by enlisting the earnest cooperation of all fathers and mothers of families who are conscious of their grave responsibility.
The Bishops will also be able to avail themselves of the Catholic Press for the purpose of bringing home to people the moral beauty and the effectiveness of this promise."
This pledge which the Pope5 asks of all conscientious Catholics has already had encouraging6 results in some countries and augurs well for the future.
"If the motion picture pledge is kept" says La Civiltà Cattolica "and is extended to ever-greater numbers of people, it will plainly surpass any other work of moral improvement. We were about to say that it alone would suffice in a country where there are none of those opposing forces which, on principle, aim to overthrow
the religious and moral order. Indeed we would add that every other initiative would be bound to fail were there not this individual and collective intervention of people resolved to desert immoral shows."7
But for this pledge to be successful it must be made conscientiously and be accompanied by a firm resolve.
"Experience has shown" writes Bishop Evasio Colli "that this pledge achieves remarkable success when there is good promotional preparation aimed at forming a Christian's conscience in view of motion picture plays."8
Thus what people need is a preparation to help them understand the nature of the cinema and its far-reaching moral effects, as well as the basic nature of the motion picture pledge and the obligations entailed, for these are a logical consequence of the baptismal promise to renounce Satan and all his works and pomps.9
Such preparation can be made by means of motion picture congresses, sermons, and conferences and, above all, by the celebration of the day for moral motion pictures. This has been promoted and organized in many dioceses in Italy.

1 As regards the religious aspect it is preferable that judgment be reserved to an expert in the field, or to a Catholic priest, as is already the case in some countries.

2 * "Virtue lies midway."

3 CIVARDI, "Questione critica dell'arte cinematografica", in Pastor Bonus, Pia Società San Paolo, November 1942.

4 In 1934 the [North] American Bishops launched a crusade, called the "Legion of Decency", against the abuses of motion pictures. "Millions of Catholics signed the pledge binding themselves not to attend any motion picture which was offensive to Catholic moral principles or proper standards of living" (Encyclical Vigilanti cura).

5 * The Italian text has "s.m. = di santa memoria" ["of blessed memory"].

6 Referring to the success achieved by the "Legion of Decency" in the United States, Pius XI writes in the Vigilanti cura: "It is exceedingly great comfort to Us to note the outstanding success of the crusade, because the motion picture... has shown an improvement from the moral standpoint. Crime and vice are portrayed less frequently; sin is no longer so openly approved and acclaimed; false ideals of life are no longer presented in so flagrant a manner to the impressionable minds of youth.
"Although in certain quarters it was predicted that the artistic values of the motion picture would be seriously impaired by the reform insisted on by the 'Legion of Decency', it appears that quite the contrary has happened and that the 'Legion' has given no little impetus to the efforts to advance the cinema on the road to noble artistic significance by directing it towards the production of classic masterpieces as well as of original creations of uncommon worth.
"Nor have the financial investments of the industry suffered, as was gratuitously foretold, for many of those who stayed away from the motion picture theater because it outraged morality are patronizing it now that they are able to enjoy clean films which are not offensive to good taste or dangerous to Christian virtue."

7 La Civiltà Cattolica (February 1943) «La "promessa cinematografica" e la coscienza morale sugli spettacoli», F. PELLEGRINO S.J., p. 151.

8 Letter of the Commission of Cardinals representing the leadership of the A.C.I., addressed to the Bishops of Italy in July 1942.

9 The formula of the pledge approved by Church authority is the following:
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Aware of my nobility and of my duties as a Christian, I disapprove of motion pictures that portray scenes or state principles that are contrary to the moral principles of the Gospel and thus constitute a danger for virtue and for the Christian life.
"I promise not to attend, and to make sure that others, especially members of my family, do not attend theaters where such motion pictures will be projected, and, in any case, not to frequent movie theaters which perform variety shows.
"Moreover, I shall contribute by way of prayer and deed to make the public aware of the moral and social danger that the above-mentioned shows represent, and do my best to see that they are not promoted or frequented, out of respect for God and the safeguarding of souls purchased by the Blood of Christ, and for the material and spiritual well-being of the Italian people.
"May God and the Holy Virgin help me to keep this promise of mine."