When Are We Judged? - Do Catholic Movie Ratings Bind In Conscience?
Q. In the Nicene Creed, we recite that Christ "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." But many of us assume that we are judged individually (and hopefully off to heaven) at the moment of our death. So which is it -- are we judged by God as soon as we die or is it later, at Christ's return? (Herndon, Virginia)
A. Both are true. The Catholic Church has always believed in a twofold judgment by God: a particular judgment at the moment of death and a general judgment at the end of time.
So immediately when we die, each individual is judged as either worthy of eternal life in heaven (there may be a temporary stop in purgatory for purification from the remnants of sin) or deserving of eternal punishment in hell.
In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ" (No. 1022). That particular judgment will be private.
But then at the end of the world, when Jesus returns in glory, there will be a public "general" judgment at which each one's particular judgment will be confirmed and revealed to all. Again, in the words of the catechism: "The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life" (No. 1039).
Q. Are the movie ratings done by Catholic News Service binding in conscience? I am a young adult and am curious to know whether all movies rated as acceptable either for general patronage, for adults and adolescents or only for adults are OK for me to watch so long as they do not lead me to sin.
In other words, if a film contains occasional sinful action -- bad language, impure jokes, sexual content (no nudity), violence -- is it OK for me to attend or is my own presence scandalous since it might encourage attendance by others for whom the same scenes might be more troublesome? (Oklahoma City)
A. Since 1936, the Catholic Church in America has been rating and reviewing movies to help people determine which films might be suitable for their viewing in accord with Catholic values.
As Catholic News Service explains on its website, the material provided by its Media Review Office is intended "to provide the public with a spiritual, moral and artistic evaluation … based on the standards of faith and morals presented in Scripture and transmitted by the church's teaching authority."
The office's determination of a movie's merit and acceptability is made not so much on whether a film portrays immoral and unethical behavior but on "the extent that any film ... positively endorses such behavior as either normative or acceptable."
The office's reviews and classifications are meant simply to offer guidance; only the individual knows how a film might affect him or her, and you correctly indicate that one should avoid any movie that might create temptations to which one is likely to succumb or move the viewer away from Christian values.
To your question, I think you needn't worry that your own presence at an A-I, A-II or A-III movie night be scandalous to someone else; that person needs to make his own decision. What I would not do, though, is bring anyone else to see a problematic film if I were not sure how that other person might react.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.