ATLANTA (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic nun is hosting a film marathon featuring films condemned by the Catholic Church.
Sister Rose Pacatte, a film critic for the National Catholic Reporter, will be fronting a Turner Classic Movies (TCM) program in March highlighting films that had been condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency.
According to a press release, the marathon and corresponding introductions from Sr. Rose will "delve into the story of the organization that dedicated itself to protecting American audiences from 'objectionable' content and explore the impact the legion had on how movies were ultimately produced and edited to avoid being labeled."
"We're always looking for creative ways to explore film history through various viewpoints," says Charles Tabesh, TCM's senior vice president of programming, "and this month-long programming slate provides fans with a different perspective in order to view these films through a new lens."
The 27 films scheduled to air each Thursday next month feature a wide range of content deemed objectionable by the Church, including overt sexuality, nudity, sacrilege, profane language and salacious storylines. Some of the choices include "Baby Face" (1933), which concerns a young lady who uses sex to advance her social status; "And God Created Woman" (1956), often regarded as the catalyst for Brigitte Bardot becoming a sex symbol; "Black Narcissus" (1947), a Deborah Kerr picture about nuns living in an isolated Himalaya convent, described by the director as having "eroticism" in every frame; and "L'Amore" (1948), a heavily sexual Italian film whose main characters are generally identified as being mock representations of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to a line from Sr. Rose at the end of a TCM-produced trailer, the purpose of the program is to "see what the fuss was all about."
The sister, who holds a master's degree in media studies from the University of London, is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul and founder of the Pauline Center for Media Studies; the order has often been affiliated with media since its founding in 1915 and is part of the worldwide Pauline Family.
Despite her focus on media, Sr. Rose admits she in fact hadn't seen most of the films scheduled to air before being asked to host by TCM. "They're old. The hoopla and the outrage that they caused ... . They're not even good movies. You can see that they're most dominated by sex, and the Legion's reaction to that in the context of the times — and everybody reacted, not just them."
The Legion was formed in 1933 by Cincinnati archbishop John T. McNicholas following a talk given by apostolic delegate Amleto Cicognani to Catholic Charities in New York in whic he "warned against the 'massacre of innocence of youth' and urged a campaign for 'the purification of the cinema.'"
The organization soon developed a ratings system in order to provide "a moral estimate of current entertainment feature motion pictures"; films were then deemed to be either "morally unobjectionable" (Class A) or "morally objectionable in part" (Class B). Films considered to be "indecent and immoral and unfit for public entertainment" (Class C) were formally condemned. The Class C rating often proved to be harmful to a film's profitability and distribution.
In total the Legion, which operated for 47 years before shutting down in 1980, condemned 148 films.
The decision to broadcast the condemned films was a "no-brainer," according to TCM's director of programming Scott McGee, "given [the Legion's] influence for the studio era."
Speaking of Sr. Rose, McGee says she "brought the understanding or the emphasis of different points of view and different contexts" to the films, something he asserts "the Catholic Legion of Decency in its heyday didn't do as much. Sister Rose does take [the Legion] to task for not asking those kinds of questions."