QUOTE(Denny Wayman @ Aug 11 2006, 01:37 AM)
If you are right in interpretting his words this way - then I have far less interest in his statement. I am not an expert in Catholic thought as you are, but I have never read any assertion that art, by itself, automatically flattens the message of God and so the Pope has to counter that idea.
Really, Denny? You've never heard of anyone claiming that since no visual representation can capture the mystery of God it is better not to try to represent him at all? You've never heard of anyone arguing that we don't know what Jesus looked like anyway, and even if we did no painting or statue could represent his divinity as well as his humanity, so any such representation necessarily falsifies its subject? You've never heard of anyone viewing art solely or primarily in terms of what it tells us about the artist, or about the culture in which he lives and his relationship to it, rather than anything it could communicate to us about eternal mysteries or divine reality?
QUOTE(Denny Wayman @ Aug 11 2006, 01:37 AM)
I think it is far better to interpret his words as a caution about using art to harm us rather than help us.
Well, that's certainly a valid subject, just not what he happens to be talking about here.
The Letter has a few words of caution -- the Pope notes that artists must "labour without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves," and warns, "What an impoverishment it would be for art to abandon the inexhaustible mine of the Gospel!"
But for the most part the Pope accentuates the positive in this letter. Whether or not that makes it less interesting to you, that's his approach, though I'd recommend reading the whole letter before concluding that it lacks interest.
Perhaps you would be more interested in a more systematic treatment like Inter Mirifica, aka Decree on the Media of Social Communications
, which focuses on the media, including movies as well as the press, television and radio, and touches on questions of art, culture and morality.
The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men's entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss. Indeed, the Church experiences maternal grief at the harm all too often done to society by their evil use.
Regarding "the relationship between the rights, as they are called, of art and the norms of morality":
Since the mounting controversies in this area frequently take their rise from false teachings about ethics and esthetics, the Council proclaims that all must hold to the absolute primacy of the objective moral order, that is, this order by itself surpasses and fittingly coordinates all other spheres of human affairs -- the arts not excepted -- even though they be endowed with notable dignity.
Those who make use of the media of communications, especially the young, should take steps to accustom themselves to moderation and self-control in their regard. They should, moreover, endeavor to deepen their understanding of what they see, hear or read. They should discuss these matters with their teachers and experts, and learn to pass sound judgements on them. Parents should remember that they have a most serious duty to guard carefully lest shows, publications and other things of this sort, which may be morally harmful, enter their homes or affect their children under other circumstances.
The principal moral responsibility for the proper use of the media of social communication falls on newsmen, writers, actors, designers, producers, displayers, distributors, operators and sellers, as well as critic and all others who play any part in the production and transmission of mass presentations. It is quite evident what gravely important responsibilities they have in the present day when they are in a position to lead the human race to good or to evil by informing or arousing mankind.
The production and showing of films that have value as decent entertainment, humane culture or art, especially when they are designed for young people, ought to be encouraged and assured by every effective means. This can be done particularly by supporting and joining in projects and enterprises for the production and distribution of decent films, by encouraging worthwhile films through critical approval and awards, by patronizing or jointly sponsoring theaters operated by Catholic and responsible managers.
Finally, care must be taken to prepare literary, film, radio, television and other critics, who will be equipped with the best skills in their own crafts and trained and encouraged to render judgments which always put moral issues in their proper light.
FWIW, I've discussed some of these issues at length in this essay
; and you will remember, Denny, that we tried to pursue some of these lines of thought in this ill-fated thread
, in which, amid much chaff of my own and others' making, I still think is a good deal of wheat to be found (and FWIW, Denny, I really appreciated your participation on that thread).
Edited by SDG, 11 August 2006 - 07:19 AM.