The National Legion of Decency, also known as the Catholic Legion of Decency, was founded in 1933 as an organization dedicated to identifying and combating objectionable content in motion pictures from the point of view of the American Catholic Church.:4 After receiving a stamp of approval from the secular offices behind Hollywood's Production Code, films during this time period were then submitted to the National Legion of Decency to be reviewed prior to their official duplication and distribution to the general public.:5 Condemnation by the Legion would shake a film's core for success because it meant the population of Catholics, some twenty million strong at the time, were theoretically forbidden from attending any screening of the film under pain of mortal sin. The efforts to help parishioners avoid films with objectional content backfired when it was found that it helped promote those films in heavily Catholic neighborhoods among Catholics who may have seen the listing as a suggestion. Although the Legion was often envisioned as a bureaucratic arm of the Catholic Church, it instead was little more than a loose confederation of local organizations, with each diocese appointing a local Legion director, usually a parish priest, who was responsible for Legion activities in that diocese.:27
1 History of censorship in early American cinema 2 Rating system 3 Pledge 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links
History of censorship in early American cinema
In 1915, the Supreme Court heard a case regarding censorship in motion
pictures called Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio;
the Supreme Court held that states could censor films before they were
released. In 1948, the Supreme Court reversed the Mutual decision
United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc.
A: Morally unobjectionable B: Morally objectionable in part C: Condemned by the Legion of Decency
The A rating was subsequently divided:
A-I: Suitable for all audiences A-II: Suitable for adults; later — after the introduction of A-III — suitable for adults and adolescents A-III: Suitable for adults only A-IV: For adults with reservations
In 1978, the B and C ratings were combined into a new O rating for "morally offensive" films. The Legion of Decency blacklisted many films for morally offensive content. "The condemnation came in the form of a 'C' rating." Practicing Catholics were directed to refrain from viewing such films. More explicitly, they were directed to "remain away from all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency and Christian morality." Officially, the terminology for a Legion of Decency blacklisted film was a C-rating, which stood for "condemned". The general breakdown of their rating system goes as follows: "A-I, general approval; A-II, approved for adults; B, unsatisfactory in part, neither recommended nor condemned; and C, condemned". Pledge In 1933, Archbishop John T. McNicholas, OP, composed a membership pledge for the Legion, which read in part:
I wish to join the Legion of Decency, which condemns vile and unwholesome moving pictures. I unite with all who protest against them as a grave menace to youth, to home life, to country and to religion. I condemn absolutely those salacious motion pictures which, with other degrading agencies, are corrupting public morals and promoting a sex mania in our land. … Considering these evils, I hereby promise to remain away from all motion pictures except those which do not offend decency and Christian morality.
The pledge was revised in 1934:
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.
In 1938, the league requested that the Pledge of the Legion of Decency be administered each year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). See also
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting — successor List of films condemned by the Legion of Decency Hays Code — a secular American censorship code in effect during much of the same period Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson Religious censorship
^ a b Lasalle, Mick (March 20, 2016). "Ask Mick Lasalle". San
Francisco Chronicle. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ a b c d Black, Gregory (1998). The Catholic Crusade Against the
Movies, 1940-1975. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
^ Walter, Robert H.K. (1951). "Constitutional Law: Possible Impact of
Television Rule on Motion Picture Censorship". California Law Review.
39 (3): 421.
^ a b Secrest, Thales L. (1955). "Constitutional Law - Freedom of the
Press - Does
Black, Greg. Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics and Movies:
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1994: ISBN 0-521-45299-6
Black, Greg. Catholic Crusade Against the Movies: 1940–1975:
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1998: ISBN 0-521-62905-5
Facey, Paul. The Legion of Decency: A Sociological Analysis of the
Emergence and Development of a Pressure Group: New York: Arno Press:
1974: ISBN 0-405-04871-8
Skinner, James. The Cross and the Cinema: The Legion of Decency and
the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures: 1933–1970:
Westport, Conn: Praegar 1993: ISBN 0-275-94193-0
Walsh, Frank. Sin and Censorship: The
The National Legion of Decency Collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science