The Church and the cinema; for those who remember a time before the triumphal march of television, that pairing calls to mind not so much films in movie theaters but rather demonstrations in front of
theaters, against films such as Die Sünderin (The Sinner), La Dolce Vita, or Das Schweigen (The Silence, Swedish: Tystnaden). Spontaneous judgments on the relationship of
the Catholic Church to the cinema are therefore nearly unanimous: paired together, these two concepts almost always evoke associations of controversy and have been invested with a negative semantic. Yet
this first impression is misleading. Catholic efforts in the realm of film from 1945 to 1965 cannot be reduced to a protest movement. Contact between the two sides was never limited to demands for
censorship or withdrawal from movie theaters. Probably no area of Church activity changed as radically as film work.
In the years immediately after World War II, the Church still supported traveling cinemas and »good« films; the medium of film was supposed to contribute to the re-Christianization of society.
Later, in the 1960s, when movie theaters increasingly dropped their veils and artistic and avant-garde films came to dominate their programs, Catholic support for filmmaking also changed. Initiated by
Pope Pius XII, the Church showed a more open attitude toward »problem films« that no longer accorded with notions of sexual morality from the early 1950s. The Church recognized the cinema as an art
form in its own right and abandoned the struggle against »bad films« as a central theme.
The present study documents the gripping history of this transformative learning process in convincing detail.