USCCB Movie Rating of O -- morally offensive

I decided to begin a DVD collection and bought several titles at a used media store and some new discounted DVDs in big bins at regular stores. I like Sci-fi/Fantasy genre. Among the titles I bought were these 6 in question; Blade Runner (Harrison Ford), the first 2 Mad Max movies (Mel Gibson), Terminator I & II plus Total Recall (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Mind you, this is not all I picked up so don’t paint me based on that. I grabbed a lot of others plus have access to a nice semi-public library of titles.

Problem: Today I moseyed across the USCCB movie review pages here.
All 6 titles I listed are given a rating of O – morally offensive.
I assume I ought to seriously consider returning or selling them if I read the Bishop’s web site correctly. I cannot think of any legitimate reason for myself to keep a “morally offensive” film. It would be like keeping porn even though these are perhaps not that bad, just making a point.


I am curious: :shrug:Were there any movies that were not rated O? Even movies about the saints have “R” rated scenes…fighting, rape, murder, etc.

I don’t believe any of the titles you named can be described accurately as “porn”.

The O rating is often given for violence or bad language.


That rating system is advisory in nature. It is not meant to stand as a list of sins. Apply the advice to your life in an appropriate manner.

My experience is that those ratings are inconsistent. However, I gave up regularly reading them years ago on that account. They may be perfectly consistent nowadays.

Just a point. If you truly consider something to be the equivalent of porn, I would not sell it to another person. I would discard it, and carefully enough to keep it out of the hands of a curious child.

In our “smart-alecky” teenage/college years we would only go see movies that received an O rating, because they were the only ones worth seeing!:rolleyes:

I don’t agree with the notion that violence automatically makes the film offensive. In many cases it does, but not always. The question is whether the filmmakers are just using the violence to give cheap shocks to the audience, or does it serve an artistic purpose. I think that the viewing audience has to be borne in mind also. What is OK for a mature adult to watch might be inappropriate for a child or teenager.

I love Blade Runner, but there is one violent scene which in my opinion is way over the top and too gross. That is when the replicant played by Rutger Hauer kills the man who created him, by pushing his fingers into the man’s eye sockets. In the theatrical release it cuts to Hauer’s face at a certain point so you don’t see the really gross stuff, but in the video version it doesn’t cut away and it is really revolting and disturbing to watch.

More specifically, in the Catholic view, violence is not always immoral, and secondly, a portrayal of unjust violence becomes morally offensive when the character who engages in the act either fails to repent, or does not end up receiving the just punishment.

The so-called bishops’ reviews have nothing to do with any US bishop, nor do they really have anything to do with the US bishops conference. To reflect that, they don’t even carry the USCCB name anymore; they’re called the Catholic News Services reviews now. They have no authority of any kind, and they should have no more weight in your prudential judgments than you think you should give them. That’s the short of it.

If you want my opinion, then OPINION INCOMING.

I recommend giving the CNS reviews very little weight, frankly, because I think they are pretty terrible reviews.

For one thing, I don’t approve of their rating schema: “general patronage,” “adults and adolescents,” “adults,” “limited adult audiences,” and “morally offensive.” It’s bad for two reasons.

First, because parents should be making prudential judgments about what is appropriate for their kids, not some random Catholic reviews. Only a parent is in a position to judge if her adolescent is mature and grounded enough to handle an A-III movie, or if her preteen is perhaps too immature to handle an A-II movie. But the rating scheme doesn’t take varying maturity levels of children and adolescents into account; it just tells parents “A-I movies for kids, A-II movies for adolescents, A-III movies for adults.” That’s the wrong way to do these things; the reviews should be aiding the parents in making their own informed prudential judgment for their kids, not replacing the parents’ prudential judgment with a blunt hammer of a system.

Second, the rating scheme is deficient because (like the MPAA ratings) it is not specific enough. Why is a given movie A-III? Violence? Sexuality? Disturbing themes? Is the violence glorified, or is it meant to disturb and revolt the audience? Do these things matter? Of course they do. But they’re not reflected in the ratings. Sure, if you read the body of the reviews you’ll get some of this information (though not all of it; the reviews tend to be kind of general, summarizing most of the immoral content in a single paragraph, and not going into how much the sexuality is fetishized, how it is shot, whether the violence is meant to be exciting or depressing, etc.). But the whole point of having a rating schema is to give you a quick reference. The CNS’ system, like the MPAA’s, is too general.

Next, the CNS ratings are woefully inconsistent. Unlike even the MPAA (who will automatically give an R rating to something with too many f-words, etc.), the CNS reviews have no objective standards at all for their ratings. Hence how The Golden Compass and Brokeback Mountain (!) originally did not receive O ratings. When there was outrage over the Brokeback Mountain rating, they changed it to O, but they were careful to say that the original L rating was not wrong, it was just that some people didn’t understand the L rating. Seriously. Jimmy Akin wrote about it here. Are you sure you still want these people to be your moral police?

Or take the example of the Matrix trilogy. The first movie (The Matrix) had tons of serious gun violence, some very disturbing stuff, but almost no sexual content, and very hopeful themes built on Plato’s allegory of the cave. The CNS rating: O, morally offensive. Well okay, there is all that gun violence. The second movie has even more gun violence, bigger hand to hand fights, disturbing themes that call into question the hopefulness of the previous movie, and an explicit sex scene involving rear nudity which cuts back and forth with a scene of people having a giant orgy in a cave. The CNS rating: L, limited adult audiences. Seriously, CNS? Seriously? Could you possibly be more inconsistent?

So there you have it: they have nothing to do with the bishops, and they are terrible moral police. I recommend summarily ignoring them and basing your prudential judgments on other factors.

If you want my favorite movie review website for individuals looking to filter out immoral content (and parents deciding what to take their children to), it’s Kids-in-mind gives movies a rating (from 1-10) in sex and nudity, violence and gore, and profanity. It then describes in excruciating detail everything that happens in the movie that you might consider objectionable. In other words, it gives an objective descriptions (and an objective, quick-reference numeric summary) that is actually informative and doesn’t tell parents what to do with their kids. It aids in prudential judgments rather than trying to replace them.

thanks for the suggestion on transformer :thumbsup:

Thank you for bringing out the moral aspect, which I failed to address. However I think I would disagree with your requirements a little. I think the important thing is whether the film encourages the viewer to sympathize with evil; if the villains are portrayed as ambivalent, does the film promote sympathy for them **in spite of **their evil actions, or **because of **them? Just because the villain fails to receive a punishment - or to repent - I think, doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is immoral. The important thing is that the viewer should have no doubt in his mind, at the end, that good actions are good and evil actions are evil.

Blade Runner is in the top 100 best films of all time as listed by the American Film Institute. The CNS had me going on that one, so I had to ask here and glad I did.

Seriously great information up there Transformer about the web site ratings for the CNS(not USCCB).

And I appreciate the other commenters above as well.Please continue with other thoughts such as what louisak & Brenden are discussing.

thank you

Thank you, Transformer. You stated many of my thoughts far more eloquently than I could have.

It is worth noting that Catholic film reviewer Steven D. Greydanus of Decent Films has given positive reviews to at least a few movies rated “O” by the USCCB/CNS, among them the first “Matrix” film, and “Terminator 3”.

But he also does not hesitate, when he thinks it is warranted, to give a moral/spiritual rating of -4 to an offensive film. Such a rating, the worst on that scale, results in an automatic overall grade of F and a recommended audience of “No One”.

Why is Terminator I and II morally offensive?

All of the movies listed were probably given a rating of “O” due to violence. As others have pointed out on this thread, those ratings represent some person’s opinion, which you don’t necessarily have to accept. They are not any kind of official Church pronouncement.

Transformer pretty much said it all. The USCCB movie reviews are the work of a couple of lay staff who now work under the auspices of CNS. They are not the same sort of thing as the “Index of Forbidden Books”. The reviews are advisory, not morally compulsory. The bishops do not “approve” the reviews. They are not infallible.

That said, I don’t find their reviews that bad. I think they take a lot of flak for the few notable blunders they have made. But they are on target more often than off target, I think. It is good to look at popular media through the lens of our faith. Their reviews can help in that process. And even though the ratings themselves aren’t always that helpful, they do give a pretty nice summation of potentially problematic elements in the last paragraph of each review.

I think Steve Greydanus does a better job, though.

Excellent movie review website suggestion, I had never been there, thank you. It had a great review on A.I.Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg/Kubrickian film) which I saw this morning and had left me somewhere I couldn’t pinpoint. Steve nailed it for me.

Even Paranormal activity only got a rating of L.

He is by far my favorite movie reviewer.

Don’t worry about those ratings. They were never done in a way that made much sense, they were never issued in an authoritative manner, and they’re not even “bishops’ ratings” anymore - there’s a reason you had to access them through the “old” USCCB site, and that’s because these ratings are no longer affiliated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They’re now under the purview of the Catholic News Service. What hasn’t changed, though, is that they’re simply the opinions of a bunch of laypeople.

Also, they make no sense. They never quite define what constitutes “morally offensive,” they apply their standards inconsistently, and - like most ratings systems - they ignore the fact that what’s appropriate for one child is not for another. So, it makes no sense to say, “Oh, people of this age group can see this movie, but not that one.” Every child is different, and this decision should belong solely to parents, whose responsibility it is to make such calls.

I will cite one example of these ratings’ ridiculousness:

The Matrix is O. The Matrix Reloaded is L.

Now, why is that? Both films are equally violent. The latter also has rather explicit sex, and themes that rather tear down faith, unlike the former. Yet apparently the first one is “morally offensive” while the second one is not. How can this be?

Well, it’s that way because no objective criteria govern these ratings.

Do yourself a favor: ignore them and decide for yourself. I recommend this website for use in deciding whether a given movie is appropriate for yourself and others:

Well said! I see you beat me to it in citing Kids-In-Mind. :stuck_out_tongue: I left the link in my reply above, though, so that hopefully no one misses it.

They’re not. In my opinion, those CNS reviewers don’t really know what they’re doing all that well. I’m with Transformer: take these reviews with a grain of salt, if at all. Concerned about content? Consult

And if you want to assess a film’s artistic merit? Well, the CNS reviews really don’t impress me there, either. For that I recommend which quantifies and averages a movie’s status according to both “critical” reviews and “popular” reviews, and it also links to each review separately, so you can easily get a wide variety of critical assessments.

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