To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
Your editorial of May 7, 1957, "Baby Doll," raises important problems for the Catholic and American Society. The analysis of the church-state situation therein does involve, however, some important assumptions which are misleading to the observer.
The most important problem centers around the status of the Church as a teacher and shepherd of the faithful in a society which admits various, indeed conflicting, moral standards. It is expected that in this situation the Church would furnish guiding principles of moral decency for her members. These principals may vary from culture to culture, for each culture will inevitably present unique confrontations to a moral standard: America's problems being different from those of Continental Europe.
But the editorial confused the role of the Church as a teacher of the faithful with actions of certain individuals and pressure groups manipulating political power. This subtle distinction is valid and important in this context. If the economic functioning of the United States movie industry has been impeded more than what the lack of Catholic patronage (20 per cent of the population) would admit, this has been the work of individuals wielding political and economic sanctions independently of the authority of the Church as a body of the faithful. The representation of these people and groups as the concensus of the Church is entirely unwarranted. The criticism of "super-legal" action rests upon them as individuals and groups. The Church leaders approve no other action than each individual's voluntary abstaining from frequenting movie houses which show disapproved films.
The editorial is misleading on the exact position of the Church as a moral guide. The Church is first criticized for being arbitrary in moral standards, then is chided for passively conforming to a behavior pattern not any different from what a "general moral concensus of the U.S." would imply. Undeniably the Church's position today is ambiguous. Both she and the society are changing. But they are not bipolar forces which are basically incompatible. A definition of Catholicism does not exclude nor restrict membership in a democratic society. (In fact, in the view of Jacques Maritain, Catholicism implies democracy.) Neither American Catholicism nor American Democracy is perfect. As in any social process, conflicts will arise. They will not be settled without the conscientious effort of both members to arrive at a solution. The Legion of Decency, and similar organizations, insofar as they represent the Church (and not her individual constituents) must realize that she cannot interfere with the lawful functioning of American Society. American Society must remember that the moral standards of one-fifth of the democratic population cannot be jeopardized. C. Michael Lanphier '58
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