JOHN HORGAN talks to Fr. JOHN KELLY about
'R. JOHN C. KELLY, S.J., former critic of The Furrow, who was appointed to the reconstituted Irish Film Censorship Appeals Board last weekend, told me this week that he saw his task as one of promoting "evolution, not revolution".
"It would be wrong to try and achieve revolution", he said, "but I hope that there will be an evolution. It is difficult to say, of course, how fast this will take place, and the rate of change will not he evident for some time.
"The negative duties of a film censor arc clear: he has to keep out pornography, for instance. But he can also fulfil a very constructive role. He should think of the weaker members of the community and should try to see that they are helped towards a greater understanding of the films they see."
Fr. Kelly, who takes up his duties next Monday, January 18. is also director of University Hall, the Jesuit hostel for University students in Dublin. and assistant editor of the widelyread Jesuit review Studies. He is one of two priests appointed 'to the new board, the other tieing Fr. Michael Browne, C.C., Church of the Holy Cross, Harolds' Cross, Dublin.
t The Board also includes IProtestint clergyman, the Rev. John Desmond. co-founder of the Dublin Religious Drama 'Group; a trade union leader, a (district justice, a housewife and la doctor. The new chairman is Judge Conor P. Maguire, who is a member of the progressive Irish Film Society and of the Photographic Society of Ireland.
The debate between those who favour a "blanket" system of censorship and those who prefer a system of grading was reopened last week by Fr. Kelly in his last article on films in The Furrow. "The very young", he said, "or those too young to have completed their sexual education and training should be excluded from serious and sincere films dealing with sexual matters: excluded either by parental control or by the use of a limited certificate for showing.
"It should be said that the principles stated here should be grasped substantially by everyone who has reached the age of puberty; otherwise his sexual education is gravely defective and the blame must he laid not on the film makers but on parents, educators and religious teachers.
"It is, perhaps, as well to say," he added, "that to condemn a film which deals with sex properly and is not intrinsically evil is possibly to commit an injustice which could be grave."
The principles, Fr. Kelly said, were firstly that the whole attitude of the film should be taken into account. Virtue might appear to triumph at the end (as in Les Liaisons Dangereuses) without making an immoral attitude moral. Vice might win (as ill The Servant) while leaving a healthy moral attitude intact.
Where sex was concerned, any attitude which represented a sexual relationship as a selfishness was a bad one. This did not mean, however: that a filmmaker could not make a film about immoral characters in an immoral situation, nor did it mean that it was necessarily immoral for a character in a film to use the ordinary words for sexual situations, processes and physiology.
Film-makers, Fr. Kelly also stressed, should not stop making films in which sexual matters were were treated properly just because some people in the audiences, because of their own improper dispositions, might make improper use of his film.