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Miranda Prorsus

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Miranda Prorsus Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on the Communications Field: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television September 8, 1957 To the Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Venerable Brethren, Greetings and Apostolic Benediction. Our generation takes great pride in the remarkable products of its technology, but even though these advances are the result of human talent and toil, they are still gifts of God, our Creator, from Whom all good works proceed, for He has not only brought forth creatures; He also sustains and fosters what He has brought forth.(1) 2. Some of these discoveries increase man's strength and capacities; still others affect his intellectual life and reach the masses of the people either directly or through the agency of sound and pictures. These very easily transmit news, ideas, or instructions to those whose minds they nourish during moments of rest or relaxation. Among advances of this last type, the most notable in our era have been in the fields of motion pictures, radio, and television. 3. The Church welcomed these technological advances as soon as they came into use, but in her maternal concern and watchfulness she was also disposed to guard her children from every danger as they entered upon this age of progress. 4. This vigilant care derives from the mission which the Church received from the Divine Redeemer, for these new means of communication clearly have a great influence on the way individuals and human society as a whole think and act. 5. But there is another reason why the Church regards this sort of matter as her particular concern: she has a far greater right than anyone else to announce the news to men. We refer to the tidings of eternal salvation; tidings of inestimable wealth and power; those tidings which men of every age and race must accept and embrace, as the Apostle to the Gentiles said: Yes, to me, the very least of all saints, there was given this grace, to announce among the Gentiles the good tidings of the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all men as to what is the dispensation of the mystery which has been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things.(2) 6. It is not strange then that those who hold the Church's highest authority have concerned themselves with this serious subject in order that they might provide for the eternal salvation of those who were redeemed not with perishable things, with silver or gold. . ., but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish.(3) They have examined carefully all the problems which motion pictures, radio, and television raise for Christians today. 7. More than twenty years ago Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, used the remarkable invention of Marconi to send the first radio broadcast to all nations and to every creature.(4) 8. A few years later Our Predecessor sent that great Encyclical Epistle which opens with the words Vigilanti cura(5) to Our Venerable Brethren, the Archbishops and Bishops of the United States of America. In that Encyclical he laid down wise regulations regarding motion-picture shows and, among other statements pertinent to present problems, said: It is urgently necessary that all progress made, by God's favor, in human learning and technology actually contribute to God's glory, the salvation of souls, and the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, in such wise that we may all, as the Church bids us pray, 'so pass through the things of time that we may not lose those things that are eternal.(6) 9. We Ourselves, throughout Our Supreme Pontificate, have often, as opportunities arose, discussed this subject and given appropriate instructions not only to the Bishops but also to various organizations within Catholic Action and to Christian educators. It has also been Our pleasure to receive in audience those professionally engaged in motion pictures, radio, and television. After expressing to them Our wonder at the marvelous progress made by specialists in these fields, We have pointed out the duties incumbent upon each of them, the high praise they already deserve, the pitfalls into which they can easily fall, and the high ideals which should enlighten their minds and direct their wills. 10. We have also, as you know, established a special commission in the Roman Curia(7) and entrusted it with the careful consideration of the various problems arising from motion pictures, radio, and television which relate to Christian faith and morals. Bishops and other interested parties may obtain suitable directives from this commission. 11. We often use these wonderful modern means by which We can unite the world-wide-flock with its Supreme Pastor. Our words fly surely and safely over land and sea, and even over the turbulent tides of human souls, to move the hearts of men and exercise a saving influence on them, as is demanded by this supreme apostolate which has been entrusted to Us, and which has today grown to immense proportions.(8) 12. We are deeply comforted by the knowledge that Our exhortations on this subject, and those of Our Predecessor, Pius XI, have had great influence in making motion pictures, radio, and television tend to summon men to pursue their spiritual perfection, and thus to promote God's glory. 13. For, with your zealous and watchful attention, Venerable Brethren, projects have been conceived and undertaken which have not only promoted this form of the apostolate in individual dioceses and countries, but have even spread it, through united effort and under a single program, to all mankind. 14. Many men, both Catholic and non-Catholic, from government, business, and the professions, have taken an interest in these forms of entertainment and demonstrated their integrity in this serious matter by the efforts they have made, with great personal labor and expense, to avert occasions of evil, make sacrosanct the commandments of God, and place the dignity of the human person in safety. 15. But, unfortunately, We must repeat the words of the Apostle to the Gentiles: All do not obey the gospel.(9) For in this matter many neither understand nor acknowledge the teaching authority of the Church; they may even oppose it with all their resources. Others, as you know, are so gripped by an unrestrained craving for profit, or so blinded by errors, that they do not put the dignity and the liberty of human nature on the same plane. And, finally, there are those who adhere to incorrect philosophies of art. 16. However much their conduct fills Our heart with sorrow, yet how can We fail in Our duty and turn from the straight road and still be sure that those words will be applied to us that His enemies addressed to the Divine Redeemer: We know that thou art truthful and that thou teachest the way of God in truth, and that thou carest naught for any man.(10) 17. The remarkable progress made by modern technology in the fields of motion pictures, radio, and television have given rise to great benefits, and to just as great dangers. For these new means of communication are within the reach of almost everyone, and thus exercise a powerful influence over men's minds. They can enlighten, ennoble, and adorn men's minds, but they can also disfigure them with dark shadows, disgrace them with perversity, and expose them to unrestrained passions, according as the shows they offer present our senses with objects that are proper or improper.(11) 18. During the past century the technological progress made by industry has often had this result, that the machines which were intended to serve man have actually reduced him to serfdom, to his great loss. And so today the mounting technological advances in communicating pictures, sounds, and ideas must be subjected to the sweet yoke of the law of Christ(12) if they are not to become a source of countless evils which will be all the more serious in that they will enslave not only the powers of nature but also those of the soul. In this event, man's inventions would be stripped of that beneficent usefulness which, in God's provident design, is their primary purpose.(13) 19. And so, as We ponder this serious matter with a fatherly concern that grows deeper from day to day, and reflect upon the good results that the Encyclical Vigilanti cura has produced in the field of motion pictures during the past twenty years, We have resolved, in response to the entreaties of bishops and laymen engaged in these fields, to set down norms and instructions pertaining also to radio and television. 20. We have, therefore, addressed Our earnest prayers to God, and sought the assistance of His Virgin Mother, and now address you, Venerable Brethren, whose wise pastoral concern is well known to Us, in order that Christian teachings on this subject might be clarified, and appropriate measures proposed and undertaken. With all the means at Our command, then, We wish to exhort you to guard the flock entrusted to you from every error and danger which the use of these media can raise against the conduct of Christian life to its serious detriment. 21. Before treating specific problems concerning motion pictures, radio and television (for We realize that in artistic, technical, and economic matters each has its own peculiar problems which require solution if it is to improve intellectual and spiritual life), We think it best to outline briefly principles pertaining to the widest possible enjoyment of these benefits meant for the whole human community and for individual citizens. 22. Since God is the Supreme Good, He continually bestows His gifts upon men, the objects of His special love and care. Some of these gifts look to the spirit; others to the conduct of earthly life. These latter gifts are clearly subject to the former, in much the same way that the body should be subject to the soul with which, before He communicates Himself by the beatific vision, God is joined by that faith and love which is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.(14) 23. Furthermore, since God desires to see the image of His own perfection reflected in man,(15) He has chosen him to partake in His divine generosity, and associated him in His works as a bearer of the good tidings, that he might be a liberal dispenser of them to the rest of his brethren and to the entire human community. For from earliest times man has been wont, by his very nature, to communicate his spiritual goods by symbols which he wrests from bodily things and which he attempts constantly to reduce to a more perfect form. From the art and letters of antiquity down to the technology of our day all the means by which men are united with one another have tended to this high end, that in this task men might in some way be ministers of God. 24. That this purpose of Divine Providence might be more surely and efficaciously realized among men, by Our Apostolic Authority(16) We constituted Saint Gabriel, the Archangel who brought the longed for news of the Redemption to the human race, . . . heavenly patron before God of those means whereby men are able by means of electricity to transmit words to others who are at a distance: to converse with them from afar, to send information over the air waves, or to view objects and events through images brought directly before their eyes.(17) In choosing this heavenly patron it was Our intention that all who use these beneficial instruments, by which the inestimable treasures of God may be spread among men like the good seed which bears fruit of truth and goodness, might have their attention focused on the nobility of the work entrusted to them. 25. As we consider the high purposes for which these noble means of communication are meant, this question presents itself: Why is it that they occasionally become the instruments of evil, or the paths which lead to it? How then does it have weeds?l(8) 26. Of course, nothing evil, since it is opposed to sound moral principles, can come from God, Who is perfect and absolute Good, or from those means of communication which are His precious gifts, but only from the fact that men, endowed with free will, can abuse these gifts by committing and spreading evil and by allying themselves with the prince of darkness, the enemy of God: An enemy has done this.(19) 27. True human liberty, then, requires that we utilize and share with others all those resources which can contribute to virtue and to the perfection of our nature. 28. But the Church, since she teaches the doctrine of salvation and has all that is needed for the attainment of holiness, has an inviolable right to communicate that which has been entrusted to he

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