My grandmother (Grandma’s mom) had a subscription to a weekly newspaper called The Beacon. It was a Catholic newspaper published by the Diocese of Paterson. As a kid, I found little of interest to read in The Beacon. There was no advice column, no comics, and no television listings. There was, however, one extremely interesting column—the ratings by the Legion of Decency, which morphed into the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures.
Each week when the new movies would premier at The State Theater, I would grab my grandma’s latest edition of The Beacon and head immediately to the page with the movie reviews.
This was prior to the ratings you all knew and loved as kids when movies were rated G, PG, P-13, R, and X. The Catholic Church had a much more imaginative system. You will love it!
- 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
What, I always asked myself, is “for adults with reservations?” Well wonder no more because I went to the current site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which explained that “this indicates films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, are not for casual viewing because they require some analysis and explanation in order to avoid false impressions and interpretations.”
I am positive that Grandma read this column in The Beacon, and that is probably why I was not allowed to watch Romeo and Juliet, which was showing in theaters when I was in eighth grade. Grandma must have learned about the topless scene. To this day, I have never seen this movie.
There is a list of movies which were condemned by the Legion of Decency and I must admit, many of the movies which were slapped by the “C” rating are quite surprising. Supposedly, any film with divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex, and abortion would all result in a film being rated as Condemned.
Among the lucky “C” films are:
1959: Some Like It Hot
1964: From Russia with Love
1967: Valley of the Dolls (That was the name of the book assigned to me in college which Grandma told me I had to read with my eyes closed.)
1968: The Odd Couple (One of Dad’s all-time favorites! Shocking!!)
1973: The Exorcist
1975: Rocky Horror Picture Show
1978: Grease (Can you believe that! I am a bad mother I guess.)
The American Catholic Bishops are still rating movies today. Here is there newly revised classifications:
- A-I— general patronage
- A-II— adults and adolescents
- A-III— adults
- A-IV— adults, with reservations (this indicates films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, are not for casual viewing because they require some analysis and explanation in order to avoid false impressions and interpretations)
- L— limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling (replaced A-IV classification Nov. 1, 2003)
- O— morally offensive
You are all adults now. I just can’t do everything for you, so before you see another film, I am trusting you to check out the ratings and let your conscience be your guide.