Diana Ronald-Szabo's Letters to the Editor

Note from LoveMatters.com: The Motion Picture Code that Hollywood agreed to live by from the 1930’s to the early 1960’s wasn’t like today’s worthless system. It didn’t let movies with evil content be made and then be given a rating; it prohibited the evil content from being made in the first place – and classic movies resulted.


By Diana Ronald-Szabo

Reprinted from Catholic News Herald, March 6, 1992

Back in the early 1930s the American public was faced with the dilemma of offensive motion pictures, although not as bad as the trash of today. There was such a rising cry of protest across the nation that Hollywood decided that it had to regulate itself before censorship set in. It was thus that the Motion Picture Code came into existence.

Martin Quigley, who published the Motion Picture Herald, Father Dineen of Chicago, and Father Daniel A. Lord, S.J., felt that the time was ripe for a motion picture code. Father Lord was prevailed upon to write it. He based this Code on the Ten Commandments, and it was used by the Hays Office to regulate motion pictures. The American public then enjoyed an era of wonderful, successful films.

As time went on the Hollywood moguls declared the Code "outmoded" and claimed that we needed so-called "adult" (euphemism for trash) films. They said that films should not cater to the "12-year-old mentality." They felt "restricted" within the framework of the Code, obviously because they wanted to step outside the boundaries of morality and good taste and proceed in an immoral direction.

The idea that the Code was "outmoded" was utterly ridiculous because it was based on the Ten Commandments and applied to the "nature" of man and not to the "times," as Hollywood would have us believe. So diligently did they promote these ideas that adherence to the Code became practically non-existent and around 1956 the stage was set for its revision to make it more "flexible."

At the time I became concerned about this revision. I envisioned this great art form, with its potential for good, gradually going downhill and falling to the depths of degeneracy and lunacy. Drawing up a petition in protest of this revision to the Motion Pictures Association, I went to churches of all denominations and also to some synagogues. There was absolutely no interest in helping to raise a public outcry.

I also went to see Msgr. Little, who headed the Legion of Decency, and asked for help in circulating the petition. I told him that if we allowed this revision to take place that things would get worse. He didn't agree. And so, it has come to pass.

Since then the stench of Hollywood's rotting morality has become so unbearable that decent people are forced to stay away from films. Their rights to enjoy clean and wholesome films without being offended are being seriously violated.

What is needed is a strong public outcry as occurred in the early ’30s, when people were more sensitive to the attacks on the traditional moral values which prevailed then. With today's breakdown of those values coming from all different directions, however, I wonder if the American public has become so desensitized, so conditioned, that its conscience -- its very soul -- is dead.

I would rather believe that there are enough of us out here to take on this uphill battle by staying away from the theaters altogether, and by calling for a return to the old Lord/Quigley Code based on the Ten Commandments. Ted Baehr and the Christian Film and Television Commission may very well have started the ball rolling in that direction.


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