Movie Reviewer for Catholic Bishops' Conference Praises Homosexualist Film - Again

**Does anyone in the USCCB screen this stuff? Shame, Shame, Shame!



Movie Reviewer for Catholic Bishops’ Conference Praises Homosexualist Film - Again

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 2, 2008 ( - Harry Forbes, the head movie and television reviewer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued a review praising the movie “Milk.” (See text of the review at

he movie, which exalts the first openly homosexual man elected to public office in U.S. history, Harvey Milk, contains scenes of “male kissing and nongraphic encounters, rear male nudity, murder, suicide, and some rough language, crude expressions and profanity” by Forbes’ own admission. Despite such material, and despite the movie’s blatant glorification of the homosexual rights agenda, it is not rated “Morally Offensive” (O), but only receives a rating of “L”, for “Limited Adult Audience.” Furthermore, in his review Forbes in no way objects to or cautions viewers about the content of the film, instead offering nothing but words of praise.
Harvey Milk, a homosexual rights activist who ran a camera shop with his male lover in San Francisco’s Castro District, was elected to San Francisco’s city council as a supervisor in 1977. He was assassinated shortly thereafter, along with the city’s mayor, by another supervisor who was enraged that several supervisors were blocking his reappointment by the mayor. The murders had no apparent relationship with Milk’s homosexual proclivities.


The USCCB hired Harry Forbes for a purpose.

They clearly have an agenda, or it would’ve ended with the Brokeback Mountain review.

You can’t trust anything coming from the USCCB these days…not their film review office, not CCHD, not even their liturgy committee.

If it weren’t for Pope Benedict XVI pushing for the new ICEL translation of the Mass, it wouldn’t have been done by the USCCB. There was some resistance to the Holy See (see:

I have been feeling the same way for awhile here in the Diocese of Rochester, NY. The seed bed of something very ugly is growing. It is more deeply rooted in someplaces than others but the tendrils are spread. This movie review is just another ugly shoot from a sick branch.

So movie reviewers are required to say that movies are bad if they describe immoral behavior?


Yes, that is the job of a Catholic film review service. It is meant for the faithful to get a sense of the morality of a film before going out and seeing it.

If I wanted a regular film review, I could get better reviews elsewhere.

I do not think they should recommend an “O” rating movie.

Their job is to review the movie in a Catholic way. The idea is to warn Catholics so they clearly know what the choice they are about to make entails.

But clearly the review did this. It described the morally objectionable elements, and classified it as L. Your problem is not that the review fails to give the faithful a sense of the morality of the film, but that it doesn’t condemn the movie without qualification. And your only argument for why it should be condemned is that it’s about homosexuality.


The review says there are brief scenes of homosexual activity including male kissing and nongraphic encounters, rear male nudity, murder, suicide, some rough language, crude expressions and profanity.

I’m sorry, but I’ve seen horror films posted on the USCCB site before with an “O” rating. This certainly deserves an “O” too.

This film also supports the “gay agenda” and lifestyle which is incompatible with Church teaching. Persons with same-sex-attraction are called to chastity. Scientific evidence (supported by those in the Catholic Church) proves that SSA is not biological.

Sure, the film may have some artistic merit, but USCCB’s job isn’t to judge art; it’s job is to provide a moral compass. All this film does is promote the “gay” agenda even further. Many Catholics are already confused with the Church’s view of SSA.

Being that Milk was a hero in San Francisco’s Castro District, I really don’t think this film is worthy of praise from a Catholic governing body. Have you been to the Castro? Not exactly the most moral place to be.

Looking through the USCCB recent movie list, it looks like they aren’t afraid to give the “O” branding to other films:

Role Models
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Saw V
Sex Drive

I remember the 90’s, when the USCCB reviews were actually useful. Now, it seems like a secular critic who has a soft spot for art films has taken over.

Let’s be sure not to let a movie review tarnish our view of the body of bishops as a whole. They are doing good things as well.

Keep in mind, the “L” rating means the film contains elements “most adults would find troubling”. There is a separate classification of A-III for films that are only suitable for adults, but are not troubling. Just because it doesn’t get rated an “O” doesn’t mean the USCCB is heaping uninhibited praise upon the movie.

Yes, but it’s happened before. Glowing reviews for The Golden Compass and Brokeback Mountain.

Wouldn’t you think they would have learned their lesson already?

So while my parish priest may have had a homily condemning The Golden Compass, I check the USCCB website to find out that it wasn’t even condemned.

And here’s another example:

Compare the USCCB review of the children’s film, *Madagascar *to a review by Decent Films.

The USCCB reads like a regular film review with a few moral sentences tacked on. The Decent Films review warns of potential propagandic material, something I noticed myself, and more in-depth details of the film’s moral content.

Perhaps the film, although has some problematic elements, isn’t completely offensive…that’s why there is a L not an O?

Monster’s Ball also had an L rating, even though there was a pretty graphic sex scene, racist language etc. But the story as a whole wasn’t offensive.

Also an L rating, doesn’t mean “Bring the kids.” It means that many people might not be able to see it, and could find it problematic.

I probably wouldn’t choose to see MILK…but at the same time I don’t have a picture of all the Bishops going to a film review together, and issuing a joint statement. The reviews are made by a single reviewer, who is not “infallible.”

Perhaps the USCCB understands that, as conservative Catholics are fond of proclaiming (when it suits their agenda), the Catholic Church is not a democracy. This gives them the freedom to employ reviewers who will write responsibly as movie critics about the aesthetic and moral content of films, rather than pandering to the right-wing prejudices of a certain segment of the American Catholic population.

What this boils down to is that the reviewer did not write the movie off as having no redeeming value. You want him to do this because the movie describes the life of a homosexual activist. Well, as Cardinal Newman pointed out, if you want a literature that doesn’t describe and express human sinfulness, you will have to have something other than a literature produced by fallen human beings. The same applies to movies.

There is a line beyond which descriptions of evil are so horrific or so depraved that the work of “art” has no redeeming value. You think that “Milk” crosses this line; the reviewer doesn’t. This is a difference in judgment between you and the reviewer, and perhaps a little Catholic humility would be in order–a recognition that your private judgment is not the same thing as the teaching of the Church. (And yes, I know that the reviewer isn’t speaking officially for the Church either.)


The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, but teaches that homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care. Nothing I said went against Catholic teaching.

A film about a gay activist promotes “gay” culture and normalizes it. I am totally in favor of helping to prevent discrimination against same-sex-attracted individuals, but a film promoting the “gay” agenda is different. There is a difference between the political term “gay” and “same-sex-attraction”.

There is nothing “right-wing” with what I said. There is no such thing as a “conservative” or “liberal” Catholic. There are good Catholics who follow orthodox teaching and bad Catholics who stray from the Magisterium. Sometimes, both conservatives and liberals tend to confuse political views with the faith.

The film reviewer hired by the USCCB does not fully represent the views of the Catholic Church and no one is obligated to follow his moral advice. Catholics have complained to the USCCB about previous reviews which have caused scandal and they reacted by altering their reviews…which suggests they were wrong. Even the secular media has noticed the inconsistencies with their reviews.

Maybe the film doesn’t deserve an “O”, but the review should still bring to attention the Church’s teaching on SSA considering that it is a subject that brings confusion to many of the faithful.

I can see your point about the USCCB reviews reading more like a regular film review with some moral statments “tacked on”. I agree with that to an extent, though I don’t think I’d phrase it quite that way.

The fact is, all the USCCB reviews read that way. They start by giving a basic run-down of the plot and they end with a litany of potentially problematic and/or offensive elements. That’s just the way they structure their reviews. I don’t see anything inherently problematic with that approach.

What irritates me when these stories surface is that many Catholic groups (such as LifeSite) start accusing the bishops of “praising” this or that movie or giving it a “glowing review” simply because they didn’t slap an “O” on it and unequivocally condemn it from the very first sentence. I think that’s an unfair generalization, and this can feed into the suspicious and negative view of our shepherds, the bishops, that many people already have.

I read the reviews for “Brokeback” and “Golden Compass” (before it was pulled). I also read this review for “Milk”. And I fail to see them lavishing praise upon the movie as some people suggest. The review for Milk pretty much reads like a matter-of-fact description of the plot. The only thing that can even remotely be considered “praise” is the line that it is a “solid biographical drama”. And it very well could be.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going the "matter-of-fact route. I don’t look to the USCCB to make my movie-going decisions for me. Just the plot and the list of problematic aspects given at the end is enough for me to know I don’t want to see the movie (and to suspect that it will probably be up for Best Picture in February :rolleyes: ).

Very good things to keep in mind. :thumbsup:

Thank you for saying this. I think this thought highlights the rub of the USCCB’s movie reviews and why some people have such problems with them.

What the USCCB movie reviewer is trying to do is simply review movies from an (ideally) Catholic viewpoint. What he is not trying to do is to teach Catholic doctrine.

Perhaps I am incorrect in my observation, but it seems like many want to see more “catechetical” movie reviews. I think there’s certainly merit to that approach (and other moview review places do a fair job of that), but the USCCB movie reviews, for good or ill, assume you already know Church teaching before you read them.

I know and believe what the Church teaches. With that knowledge, I can read the USCCB review of “Milk” and know that I don’t want to see the movie. I assume many of the people here on CAF could do so as well. But then some of us get concerned that such reviews could be misleading towards those who maybe don’t know the faith as well. I can respect that concern.

However, I don’t think it’s beneficial to exaggerate our problems with a given review. To start speaking hyperbolically about the USCCB “praising” this movie (as LifeSite has done) is a tad disingenuous (IMHO). Anyone reading the LifeSite article, and then the USCCB review who is not already convinced that the USCCB movie reviews are terrible will probably only walk away thinking “There goes those fanatical Catholics over-reacting again.” I don’t like to see that happen.

Apathy killed Jesus Christ.
Apathy from Catholics that obediently follow misguided care from certain shepherds in the Church will lead to further distruction of marriage between men and women - the family as supremely exemplified by Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Stronger statements against homosexual liftestyles need to be expressed particularly on websites such as This is what happens in the present day Church when words are soft and passive. Read the history of this present day break-away group of people and know that it did not come into existence over night but rather over a period of several years.

The Catholic Bishops review of Milk and Broke Back Mountain should have contained a greater stance against gay liftstyles.

I never said that it did. However, nothing in the review to which you object goes against Catholic teaching either. That’s my point–you and the reviewer have a difference of opinion on just how offensive this movie is.

A film about a gay activist promotes “gay” culture and normalizes it.

So we should not even hear the stories of people with whose lifestyles or ideologies we disagree? I’m very glad that the USCCB doesn’t agree with you.

There is nothing “right-wing” with what I said. There is no such thing as a “conservative” or “liberal” Catholic.

That’s a self-serving bit of rhetoric used by ultra-conservative Catholics to claim that they are the only real Catholics. There is no reason that I or anyone else not belonging to your particular ideological club should give this claim any respect whatsoever.


Milk is a political film about a political figure in the “gay” rights movement. A review from a Catholic site should provide some warning.

Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1992

“As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God.The church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood” (No. 7).

“There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to **these pressure groups’ concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, **its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved” (no. 9).

“She (the Church) is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love **has a direct impact on society’s understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy” **(no. 9).

“Sexual orientation” does not constitute a quality comparable to race, ethnic background, etc. in respect to non- discrimination. Unlike these, homosexual orientation is an objective disorder (cf. “Letter,” no. 3).

"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

"But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase (No. 10).

When “gay” culture becomes normalized in society, we get things like this:

Vatican priest caught in TV sex sting

Mgr Stenico admits inviting a man whom he met on a gay website to his office, across the piazza from Saint Peter’s Basilica, after expressing an attraction to sado-masochism. What he did not know was that the young man was working for a TV investigation on homosexuality among Catholic priests and went to the tryst with a concealed video camera. The footage was shown this month by La 7, the national TV channel.

It shows the young man entering the lift to Mgr Stenico’s office and then speaking with the priest in his office. The faces and voices are heavily disguised to respect privacy laws but with the help of subtitles the topics being discussed are obvious.

Mgr Stenico asks the man, “Do you like me?” and tells him that he is very good-looking. When the young man expresses fears that having sex would be “a sin in the eyes of the Church”, the priest replies: “I do not feel it would be sinful.” Drawn on the subject of sado-masochistic sex, the monsignor says that these are “inner choices, the psychological basis of a personality”. The young man continues to raise moral and religious objections to actually having sex, until the priest becomes irritated, says that he has no time left and takes him back to the lift. On parting, the Monsignor tells him that he is “really tasty” and that he can telephone him or send him a message.

Apathy, apathy apathy is what I hear in your response.
Catholics don’t NEED to hear from lukewarm employees who give standardized wordly accounts of popular movie releases. Catholics NEED to hear our Bishops condemning movies that condition the heart to evil. Sure - anyone can watch the movie and understand that it is “literature produced by fallen human beings” about fallen human beings but today - more than ever -
we need to hear directly from our Bishops reviews of such things from a spiritual point of view and not a worldly point of view. How do movies like Milk and Broke Back Mountain really influence the way people think and how should Catholics react?

That seems like saying the sky is blue, though. I mean, the title of the film is Milk, billing itself as a biography of Harvey Milk. It seems rather obvious that the movie is about…Harvey Milk. Anyone who thinks they’re walking into The Passion of the Christ probably isn’t thinking clearly enough to check the USCCB site in the first place.

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