Newsletter of the District
Popes' Teaching on Television,
Videos and Cinema
ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF POPE PIUS XI ON MOTION PICTURES
CURA, JUNE 29, 1936
Importance and Power
of Motion Pictures
It admits of
no discussion that the motion picture has achieved these last years
a position of universal importance among modern means of diversion.
There is no need to point out the fact that millions of people go
to the motion pictures every day; that motion pictures theatres
are being opened in ever increasing number in civilized and semi-civilized
countries; that the motion picture has become the most popular form
of diversion which is offered for the leisure moment not only of
the rich but of all classes of society.
At the same
time, there does not exist today a means of influencing the masses
more potent than the cinema. The reason for this is to be sought
for in the very nature of the pictures projected upon the screen,
in the popularity of motion picture plays and in the circumstance
which accompany them.
The power of
the motion picture consists in this, that it speaks by means of
vivid and concrete imagery which the mind takes in with enjoyment
and without fatigue. Even the crudest and most primitive minds which
have neither the capacity nor the desire to make the efforts necessary
for abstraction or deductive reasoning are captivated by the cinema.
In place of the effort which reading or listening demands, there
is the continued pleasure of a succession of concrete and, so to
speak, living pictures.
then the cinema is in reality a sort of object lesson which, for
good or for evil, teaches the majority of men more effectively than
abstract reasoning, it must be elevated to conformity with the aims
of a Christian conscience and saved from depraving and demoralizing
what damage is done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They are
occasions of sin; they seduce young people along the ways of evil
by glorifying the passions; they show life under a false light;
they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage,
affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices
among individuals and misunderstandings among nations, among social
classes, among entire races.
picture is viewed by people who are seated in a dark theatre and
whose faculties, mental, physical and often spiritual, are relaxed.
One does not need to go far in search of these theatres: they are
close to the home, to the Church and to the school and they thus
bring the cinema into the very centre of popular life.
acting out of the plot is done by men and women selected for their
natural ability and for all those natural gifts and employment of
those expedients which can become, for youth particularly, instruments
of seduction. Further, the motion picture has enlisted in its service
luxurious appointments, pleasing music, the vigor of realism, every
form of whim and fancy. For this very reason, it attracts and fascinates
particularly the young, the adolescent and even the child. Thus
at the very age when the moral sense is being formed and when the
notions and sentiments of justice and rectitude, of duty and obligation
and of ideals of life are being developed, the motion picture with
its direct propaganda assumes a position of commanding influence.
It is unfortunate
that, in the present state of affairs, this influence is frequently
exerted for evil. So much so that 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 theatres, there comes to
mind the terrible condemnation pronounced by Our Lord upon the corruptors
of little ones: "Whosoever shall scandalize one of the 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." (Mat. 18,6)
teachings of Pope Pius XII
MESSAGE TO THE INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF PUBLISHERS OF BOOKS AND
MAGAZINES, DECEMBER 10, 1950
living in the era of the motion picture and television. Without
doubt both absorb a considerable part of the time which before used
to belong to the printed word. Yet it happens that they are the
very ones to increase the value of a good book. For, though we fully
recognize the importance of the technique and art of the motion
picture, yet the unilateral influence it exercises on man and especially
on youth, with its almost purely visual action, carries with it
such a danger of intellectual decay that it is already beginning
to be considered as a danger for the people. It is all the more
the duty of the good book, therefore, to educate the people to a
deeper understanding of things, to make them think and ponder.
APOSTOLIC LETTER January 1, 1954
we think of the incalculable worth of the family, the very cell
of society, and reflect that the physical and spiritual development
of the child - the precious hope of the Church and the nation -
must be started and carried out in the home, we cannot fail to proclaim
to all who have any position of responsibility in television that
their duties and responsibilities are most grave before God and
before our mind is the painful spectacle of the power of films for
evil and moral ruin. How, then, can we not be horrified at the thought
that this poisoned atmosphere of materialism, frivolity and pleasure-seeking
which is found too often in so many theatres can, through television,
be brought into the very sanctuary of the home? Truly one cannot
imagine anything more fatal to the spiritual health of a country
than to perform in front of so many innocent souls - even within
the family circle - those lurid scenes of forbidden pleasure, passion
and evil which can undermine a formation of purity, goodness and
healthy personal and social upbringing, and bring it to lasting
one sees the baselessness of the pretended rights to the absolute
freedom of art, or of appealing to the pretext of freedom of information
and thought, because here, higher values are at stake which must
be safeguarded. Those who offend against these values cannot escape
the penalties threatened by the Divine Saviour: "Woe to the
world because of scandals ... woe to that man by whom scandal cometh."
are abuses and evils, it is not enough for Catholics to remain content
with merely deploring them. These abuses must be brought to the
attention of the public authorities in precise and documented particulars.
Indeed, it must be admitted that one of the reasons less noticed,
perhaps, but nonetheless real - for the spread of so much immorality
is not the lack of regulations but the lack of reaction or weak
reaction of good people who have not known how to make timely denunciation
of violations against the public laws of morality.
ENCYCLICAL LETTER Miranda Prorsus, September 8, 1957 TELEVISION
- Its great possibilities
Venerable Brethren, to deal briefly with the subject of television,
an art which in some countries has made remarkable progress during
the course of Our Pontificate, and is gradually being introduced
into others. It is an achievement of tremendous importance in the
annals of the human race and We have been watching its growth with
interest and expectancy, but with grave misgivings too. From its
inception We have recognised its possibilities for good and the
new fields of opportunity that it opens out to mankind; yet, on
the other hand, We foresee and foretell the dangers that may accrue
from the folly of those who misuse it.
has many features in common with the cinema, since it gives visual
expression to the fire and flurry of life, and indeed not infrequently
makes use of the material provided by screen plays. It is also in
some respects akin to radio, since it has the same characteristic
of appealing to men, not in public theatres, but in the sanctuary
of their own homes.
besides the element it shares in common with the other two inventions
We have spoken of for the spreading of information, has a power
and efficacy of its own. Through the medium of television viewers
are enabled to see and hear far-distant events at the very moment
at which they are taking place, and in this way the illusion is
created that they are actually present and taking part in them.
This sense of intimacy is greatly enhanced by the home surroundings.
power which television has of giving pleasure within the family
circle is to be reckoned its most important feature, for it has
a great contribution to make to the religious life, the intellectual
development, and the habits of those who make up the family - of
the sons, particularly, for whom this more recent invention has
a special fascination and appeal. If there is any truth at all in
that text: "a little leaven currupteth the whole lump"
(ICor. 5,9) and if the physical development of young people can
be arrested by an infectious germ and prevented from reaching full
maturity, how much more havoc can be wrought upon the nerve-centres
of their religious life by some insidious element in their education
sapping their moral vitality! It is a matter of common experience
that children are frequently able to resist the violent onset of
diseases in the world at large, whereas they have no strength to
avoid the disease that is latent in the home. It is wrong, therefore,
to endanger in any way the sanctity of the home, and the Church,
as her right and duty demand, has always striven with all her power
to prevent these sacred portals from being violated under any pretext
by evil television shows.
counsels exert an immediate restraining influence on the use of
this art, the damage will be done; a damage which will affect not
merely individuals, but the whole of human society - and indeed
it is not an easy matter to assess the amount of damage that may
already have been caused.