Where were forbidden films listed?

My mom, who grew up pre-Vatican II, has often remarked that a Catholic newspaper used to list the latest films and their rankings as determined by the National Legion of Decency (at least I think that’s who made the decisions…). Can anyone remember the specific newspaper that listed them? Was it, for example, Our Sunday Visitor? I had a few vintage issues of OSV a few years back but they didn’t include any films/rankings.

I remember a bulletin board in the vestibule of our church that listed movies both condemned and allowed.

Sources are outlined on the bottom of this page.
NOT OSV.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_condemned_by_the_Legion_of_Decency

I lived in Brooklyn, NY, for the first eighteen years of my life, and I remember the Brooklyn Catholic Tablet newspaper having that list.

Where did she grow up? In NYC it was The Catholic News. Yes they had film ratings. They also had good coverage of local Catholic high school sports. Everybody had that newspaper lying around somewhere.

The vast majority of “condemned” movies were European imports, which suggests a cultural divide more than anything else. I’m sure that most of them wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today.

I think that on a local basis they were listed in the diocesan paper for that area.

Around here, they were in the Pittsburgh Catholic.

I think I may have seen them in a national paper too, but I can’t pin point it.

The historical information about what films were condemned are in the wikipedia site now.

I can remember in the 1970’s our diocesan newspaper had a listing of films rated A, B, and C. C meant Condemned.

The US Catholic bishops started the Legion of Decency in the early 1930’s when the modern movie industry had taken off. They worked with movie studios to create a voluntary production code. It was actually a huge help to the movie business as it made movies acceptable to mainstream America in a way they had not been previously.

The Catholic News Service still issues movie reviews:
catholicnews.com/movies.cfm

Movie reviews before 2011:
archive.usccb.org/movies/movieall.shtml

Deacon Steven Greydanis has a movie review site:
decentfilms.com/

Yes! And when my family moved from Brooklyn, we found it was also listed in The Long Island Catholic. Followed very strictly in our home, btw. :yup:

Ratings were:

A1- general audience
A2- adolescents and adults
A3- adults
O- morally objectionable for adults, with reservations
C- condemned

The list of objectionable films apparently included The Exorcist :stuck_out_tongue:

There had been a code for movies in the 1920s and 1930s. This code was very loose to begin with, with lots of wiggle room. For instance, a wife and mother could ditch her family, enjoy all kinds of pleasures and cruelty for 60 minutes, then in the last 30 seconds say, Gosh I should not have done all that. Right.

In the early 1930s Catholic laymen joined with the bishops, and mobilized huge numbers of people to boycott movies, even picket theaters. This brought about in 1934 a new production code, with a new chief, Joe Breen who was trained by and relied on Jesuit advisers. This new code drastically changed the way Hollywood did business. They would demand advance copies of the scripts, insist on changes before the scenes were even shot.

The code dominated only American made movies, but the Legion in the early years threatened to boycott and picket any theater, permanently, that showed films they condemned - so foreign films that were objectionable had limited showings in the US at specialty theaters… The Legion was a little stricter than the Production Code administration, but mostly coincided. The Production Code was drastically watered down by the late 1960s.

The Legion faded out after Vatican II. It is important to recognize it because it was an example of lay activity, in union with the bishops,** before Vatican II. ** I have read too many articles and too many adult ed classes that start out saying how before Vatican II the laity were passive, but that since V II we are supposedly more active, empowered.

This is utter nonsense.

Anyone else think that we should bring back the League of Decency?

The Legion of Decency was mostly successful because Catholic laity were united with each other, and united with their pastors and bishops. They did not try to focus on a different Peace and Justice issue every week, as my former parish did 20 years ago. Catholic Answers has tried to focus lay response on a very few crucial issues.

The problem is that most dioceses, parishes, religious orders focus on too many issues, and take sides on issues where neither side is inherently good or evil. In order to restore something like the Legion of Decency, you have to restore the conditions that made it possible.

Back then there was not only unity and focus within the Catholic Church, there was
agreement more or less on “Decency”; what it is and why it is important, among Catholics, other Christians, and Jews. The problem is we not only have to fight indecency, we have to restore a concept of what “decency” is in the first place. Not saying it is impossible, but difficult. We have to rebuild the culture, starting with education.

Yes…you just reminded me that when I lived on Long Island it was in the Long Island Catholic!

Peace,

Dorothy

Some would say this ushered in the Golden Age of Hollywood films. I’m very fond of that era myself and I think what the production code achieved was quite amazing.

The Legion was a little stricter than the Production Code administration, but mostly coincided. The Production Code was drastically watered down by the late 1960s.

A few films started to push the boundaries. Then it became too difficult to enforce. Society had changed already by then also.

The Legion faded out after Vatican II. It is important to recognize it because it was an example of lay activity, in union with the bishops,** before Vatican II. ** I have read too many articles and too many adult ed classes that start out saying how before Vatican II the laity were passive, but that since V II we are supposedly more active, empowered.

This is utter nonsense.

Great point.

The only movies that Catholics must not watch are pornographic movies.
All others are allowed but common sense should be used taking into account the strength or weakness of a person’s faith.

“pornographic” is a word subject to definition.

Is a pornographic film a movie that “only” appeals to prurient interests?

If a film has other appeal, does a scene with sex or nudity qualify it as “porn”? Many films have some sex/nudity, but aren’t considered pornography by the general public

No proof for the statement “all others are allowed”.
Today, common sense is not that common.
The Church calls us to practice prudence. Many movies, especially today, are not porn but carry heavy anti Christian, or anti goodness themes.
The average Christian who is weak in faith won’t say, “I have pretty weak faith, so I will avoid watching this”. If they have weak faith, they probably lack prudence, so they do go watch it.

Okay then. Show me a Church document that states what movies are banned and not banned.

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