On the one hand, it is highly unfortunate that Catholics can no longer rely on things like the Legion of Decency or the Index of Forbidden Books. On the other hand, these were only useful in the context of a generally Christian society. Today, pretty much every film and every book would end up being proscribed, so radically has our society departed from Christian norms.
A lively debate over at Inside Catholic, initiated by the rabble-rousing Steve Skojec, has me rather stunned at the degree to which many orthodox Catholics seem to think we can embrace the anti-Christian culture in which we now find ourselves. We’ve been without broadcast television for over 13 years now, but every now and then I get a peek at just how much more depraved television is today than it was when we quit viewing. And so goes the entire culture: music, film, literature, education, art, architecture, you name it, it is all going to ruin, and at an incredible pace. At this rate the arena will not be far behind.
There are a few bright spots here and there, and I seek them out, hoping we can at least patch together a family culture that doesn’t reject absolutely everything produced since 1959. But in general I find it morally impossible to give the prevailing art and entertainment milieu the benefit of the doubt. And I’m simply astounded that otherwise serious Catholics would disagree.
So – we no longer have the Legion of Decency or the Index to depend upon for guidance. Very well. But the principles of Christian discernment have not changed. Here is the Pledge of the Catholic Legion of Decency:
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. I condemn all indecent and immoral motion pictures, and those which glorify crime or criminals. I promise to do all that I can to strengthen public opinion against the production of indecent and immoral films, and to unite with all who protest against them. I acknowledge my obligation to form a right conscience about pictures that are dangerous to my moral life. I pledge myself to remain away from them. I promise, further, to stay away altogether from places of amusement which show them as a matter of policy.
When the Legion was at its most influential, Catholics were forbidden to see “Gone With the Wind” on pain of mortal sin. How much more sinful are 9 out of 10 contemporary films! “Gone With the Wind” looks innocent by comparison! The principles of this Pledge should be applied not only to film, but to music, radio, literature, comedy, and every kind of “entertainment” our media-saturated culture seduces us with. Let every kind of recreation, and every form of amusement, pass “The Legion of Decency Test” before indulging in it. And don’t split hairs when it comes to terms like “indecent” or “immoral”: you know exactly what they mean.