At a recent film event in Denver that explored the topic of violence in movies, Archbishop Charles Chaput weighed in on the issue, telling CNA that he believes violence to be appropriate in film only if it's the kind “that teaches us not to be violent.”
Along with a local film critic and actor, the Denver archbishop discussed the theme of violence in motion pictures at an event on August 12 titled, “Blood on Our Hands: Morality and Violence in Movies.” The discussion, held on the campus of the University of Colorado at Denver, was part of the Colorado Cinema Salon, a new program presented by the Denver Film Society and hosted by renowned film critic Robert Denerstein.
The event opened with a 10 minute reel of graphically violent scenes from movies such as "Psycho," "Scarface," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Hostel," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Godfather."
After the gruesome montage, Denerstein initiated a panel discussion between himself, Archbishop Chaput and local actor Donnie L. Betts. The three addressed topics such as whether or not violence in films affects behavior in American society, whether or not there are different types of violence in film and what, if any, is justifiable. The panelists also fielded numerous questions and comments from a well-attended and diverse audience, which included young and old alike of various backgrounds.
CNA caught up with Archbishop Chaput following the event, who explained the significance behind his decision in taking time from his schedule and attending a relatively small, independent film seminar.
“I chose to participate because I think that it's important for the Church to be involved in the culture and in the broader society and I think movies are hugely influential,” the Denver prelate said.
“So I jumped at the opportunity to speak, just so the Church would have a face here,” he added, “but also to meet the community that gathers for this kind of discussion because I think it has a huge impact on our culture and I think it's important for them to know that the Church is both interested and aware of what's going on.”
CNA then asked Archbishop Chaput if violence is ever contextually appropriate in film or if it is gratuitous in all instances.
“I think the only kind of violence that's good in movies is the violence that teaches us not to be violent,” he underscored. “I think sometimes that graphic violence can demonstrate how damaging violence is.”
War movies, for instance, “really teach us that war is always horrible and always to be avoided,” he noted.
Archbishop Chaput then cited the example of an earlier clip shown from the movie "The Godfather," where scenes that show a mob boss attending a baptism and repeating the vows are juxtaposed with images of the mob boss' enemies being ruthlessly killed at his behest.
“'The Godfather' violence demonstrates hypocrisy and how people can say one thing and lead entirely different lives,” the archbishop said. “When you're confronted with that in such a graphic way, it makes you look at the hypocrisy in your own life.”
The prelate added a caveat, however, saying that violence in film “always has to be the kind of violence that educates us on the ugliness and damage” of violence in real life.
Archbishop Chaput also spoke on his own love of film and earlier aspirations as a young boy to be a stunt man when he grew up. He then commented on the gifting and potential influence for the good those in the movie industry have.
To “those who are involved,” in the industry, he noted, “I congratulate them and bless them and I hope that they really will use their talents to make sure that film is transformative of society in a good way.”