Heaven or hell? TCM devotes a month to films 'condemned' by Catholic Church

"And God Created Woman," a 1956 Brigitte Bardot film was deemed immoral by the Catholic Legion of Decency.

When Lent began earlier this month, Archbishop Chaput wrote a column in which he took on the role of film critic, giving his thoughts on a handful of religiously themed films.

He loved, loved, loved Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," calling it one of "the great biblical screen adaptations." Chaput said the film was "deeply moving, but it’s also free of the sentimentality that can often ruin movies that deal with saints or faith or Scripture.  Few biblically themed films come close to it in quality.  And some, like Ridley Scott’s bloated 'Exodus,' have managed to be lavish, offensive to believers and ridiculous all at the same time."

Chaput also had kind words for "Risen," presently in theaters, which he called "unusual, believable and gripping" and "an outstanding piece of work."

The Catholic Church doesn't always give such positive reviews. Founded in 1933,  the Catholic Legion of Decency, later renamed the National Legion of Decency,  evaluated films' values, or lack thereof, in terms of its code of moral decency.

Turner Classic Movies next month will air 27 films that the Legion found morally objectionable or even "Condemned."  The series will look at the Legion's dedication to protecting American movie morals and explore how film studios got around some of the Legion's objections. 

The series will air every Thursday in March, beginning March 3 at 8 .pm.  Screenings will be hosted by film critic Sister Rose Pacatte, a member of The Daughters of St. Paul and founding director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies.

Highlights include:

Baby Face (1933) – Sexy Barbara Stanwyck stars as a woman who uses more than her wiles to to get ahead.

L’Amore (1948) -- The Legion protested this film all the way to the Supreme Court, in a 1952 case dubbed the “Miracle Decision." The ruling declared that motion pictures were a form of artistic expression protected by freedom of speech and guaranteed under the 1st Amendment.

The Moon Is Blue (1953) -- William Holden and David Niven are playboys seeking to deflower a virgin. (Just saw an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" about that same topic. Not condemned.)

And God Created Woman (1956) – Brigitte Bardot at her most Bardot.

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) – The great Billy Wilder directed this comedy about a singer who has to have sex regularly to avoid headaches.

The Carey Treatment (1972) -- a Blake Edwards thriller revolving around illegal abortion.