Everyone knows what damage is done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They are occasions of sin; they seduce young people along the ways of evil by glorifying the passions; they show life under a false light; they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage, affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices among individuals and misunderstandings among nations, among social classes, among entire races.
On the other hand, good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least to favour understanding among nations, social classes, and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue, and to contribute positively to the genesis of a just social order in the world.
These considerations take on greater seriousness from the fact that the cinema speaks not to individuals but to multitudes, and that it does so in circumstances of time and place and surroundings which are most apt to arouse unusual enthusiasm for the good as well as for the bad and to conduce to that collective exaltation which, as experience teaches us, may assume the most morbid forms.
The motion picture is viewed by people who are seated in a dark theatre and whose faculties, mental, physical, and often spiritual, are relaxed. One does not need to go far in search of these theatres: they are close to the home, to the church, and to the school and they thus bring the cinema into the very centre of popular life.
Moreover, stories and actions are presented, through the cinema, by men and women whose natural gifts are increased by training and embellished by every known art, in a manner which may possibly become an additional source of corruption, especially to the young. Further, the motion picture has enlisted in its service luxurious appointments, pleasing music, the vigour of realism, every form of whim and fancy. For this very reason, it attracts and fascinates particularly the young, the adolescent, and even the child. Thus at the very age when the moral sense is being formed and when the notions and sentiments of justice and rectitude, of duty and obligation and of ideals of life are being developed, the motion picture with its direct propaganda assumes a position of commanding influence.
It is unfortunate that, in the present state of affairs, this influence is frequently exerted for evil. So much so that when one thinks of the havoc wrought in the souls of youth and of childhood, of the loss of innocence so often suffered in the motion picture theaters, there comes to mind the terrible condemnation pronounced by Our Lord upon the corrupters of little ones: “whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones who believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea”. – from Vigilanti Cura (1936)