CREATING A CATHOLIC CINEMABy Catholic cinema we mean one which draws its inspiration from the principles of Catholic doctrine in the treatment of any subject - sacred or profane, educational or recreational.
The useful and possible activities in this venture can be basically reduced to two. They are prayer and action.
Prayer of praise and gratitude to God for the benefits that accrue to humanity with this gift of his power and wisdom.
The cinema is a gift of God's munificence to humanity, a priceless medium of instruction
and apostolate: "A good movie can make a deeper impression than a sermon."
Prayer of atonement for the ruin that the cinema causes and has caused for so many people.
Many motion pictures portray scenes and events that excite the senses and provoke the passions, or tend to give a wrong impression of life, of the family and of marriage.
But it is especially on children and youngsters that immoral and tasteless movies exert such a bad influence!
Pope Pius XI, horrified at this thought, asserted: "When one thinks of the havoc wrought in the souls of youth and of childhood, of the loss of innocence so often suffered in the motion picture theaters, there comes to mind the terrible censure pronounced by Our Lord upon the corruption of little ones: 'Whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones who believe in Me, it were better for him that a mill stone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.' "1
Let us therefore implore God's mercy on those who misuse the cinema to the detriment of souls purchased by Jesus Christ at the cost of his Blood: movie producers, actors and managers, irresponsible viewers and neglectful parents.
Lastly, prayer of supplication to beseech God that such progress of the arts and science,
acknowledged as a real gift of God, be directed to his glory and to the salvation of people's souls.
[Prayer] to beseech God's light on parents, teachers and viewers, and on all those whose aim is to raise the educational standards and moral values of motion pictures.
Prayer combined with sacrifice, for as Pius XI states in his Bull Umbratilem: "Those who devote themselves to the constant activity of prayer and penance do much more for the expansion of the Church and the salvation of humanity than those who cultivate the Lord's field with back-breaking work."2
To open and organize Catholic movie theaters, to foster movie production based on Catholic principles, to help in the religious formation of motion picture production personnel and missionary cinema production... these are some of the activities that have a great probability of success.
The opening and the organization of Catholic movie theaters, especially parish ones, will succeed not only in a negative way by keeping people from the damaging effects of bad movies, but also in a positive sense by instructing and
educating them in a Christian way by means of good ones. They will prove to be a valid instrument in the hands of the clergy for carrying out their ministry; there will be some material advantages, such as the renting of films; above all, they will contribute to the production of morally acceptable movies.
Direct action, which will result in motion picture production finding its inspiration in the principles of Catholic faith and morals, will be more difficult, but not impossible.
Big-name producers need to be convinced that just as there is a technically perfect Catholic art, literature and press inspired by Christian principles, there is a need for a Catholic cinema capable of dealing with any subject - sacred or profane, educational or recreational - in a Catholic way.
More often than not you will need to commit Catholics, either individuals or groups, to bear the financial burden.
A convincing argument, one drawn from experience, is that motion pictures that are morally wholesome and artistically valid enjoy the public's favor much more than those that aim simply to stimulate morbid sensuality, because the human heart, even the most depraved, has, after all, a secret aspiration for what is good.
A great help will be to promote and to support reciprocal international
collaboration, under the management of a specific and competent body, which will result in motion pictures inspired by Catholic principles being shown throughout the world.
There is a need to give moral assistance and religious training to movie producers, directors and actors because they will not be able to conceive, interpret and uphold moral religious thinking in a genuine and effective way if they do not know about it or do not practice it in their life.
Missionary cinema work is one of the most consoling tasks but at the same time it is one of the most worrying.
True, those in the forefront of the Christian apostolate have shown and - in an ever-increasing way at present - continue to show how to use the cinema to bring the light of the Gospel to pagan nations. But, unfortunately, the incentives of passion and gain have seen the arrival even in those virgin lands of scandalous and inadvisable motion pictures.
Heart breaking are the complaints of Catholic and Protestant missionaries, as well as of people in government, about the demoralizing effect that an immoral cinema is producing among semi-civilized peoples. The conviction grows in the viewers' minds that whites are solely made up of criminals and morally corrupt women.
We need to see that Catholics and missionaries
are the first to arrive in the field and so exploit it to the best spiritual advantage of the mission countries.
Other action plans will come to mind as time, circumstances, and good will shall determine.
1 Encyclical Vigilanti cura.
2 * In the footnote the original work cited, erroneously, the encyclical Vigilanti cura. The quotation is actually to be found in the Apostolic Constitution Umbratilem, issued by Pius XI on 8 July 1924. Cf. AAS 16 (1924) 385-389.