Riding the crest of humanist exuberance following Loyola’s canonization, Jesuit Priest Athenasius Kircher (1602 – 1680) contributed powerfully to Jesuit theatre as sensory experience. With his megaphone, which enabled the voice of one to reach thousands, Kircher invented broadcasting. He also fathered modern camera theory with his perfection of the lanterna magica. The magic lantern projected sharp images through a lens upon a screen, giving audiences the illusion of burning cities and conflagerations. Kircher’s work influenced the creation of the phenakistroscope (1832), the zoetrope (1860), the kinematoscope (1861), the kinograph (1868), the praxinoscope (1877), and finally, Thomas Alva Edison’s kinetograph for filming action to be projected onto a screen through the kinetoscope (1894). Edison had a pet name for the tar papered studio in
, where all his prototypical films were made. He called it “Black Maria”, a term that aptly described the image to whom Inigo de Loyola dedicated his life in 1522 – the Black Madonna of Montserrat. ... West Orange, New Jersey
Using cinema and radio to unite Catholic laypersons with the Roman hierarchy was the main purpose of “Catholic Action.” Catholic Action was inaugurated in 1922 by Pius XI, those two confessors, Fathers Alissiardi and Celebrano, were Jesuits. The first pope to install a radio station in the
(1931 and to establish national film review offices (1922), Pius XI Pius XI ordered Catholics into politics. In the letter Peculari quadam (“Containing the flock”) he warned that “the men of Catholic Action would fail in their duty if, as opportunities allow it, they did not try to direct the politics of their province and of their country.” Vatican
The men of Catholic Action did try. Their first main effort was to employ Black Pope Vladimir (Wlodimir) Ledochowski’s strategy of bringing the Catholic nations of central and eastern Europe together into a pan-German federation. To head the federation, Ledochowski required a charismatic leader charged with subduing the communistic Soviet Union on the east, Protestant Prussia, Protestant Great Britain, and republican
on the west, Ledochowski chose the Catholic militarist Adolph Hitler, who told Bishop Bernind of Osnabruch in 1936 that there was fundamental difference between National Socialism and the Catholic Church. Had not the church, he argued, looked upon Jews as parasites and shut them into ghettos? France
“I am only doing,” he boasted, “what the church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively.”
Being a Catholic himself, he told Berning, he admired and wanted to promote Christianity.
To promote Christianity as taught him by Roman Catholicism, Hitler appointed Leni Riefenstahl to create the greatest fascist films ever produced. Her deification of Hitler and romanticization of autocracy in spectacles like Triumph of the Will are, in themselves, the history of German cinema in the thirties and early forties. In print, Ledochowski’s pan-German manifesto took the form of Hitler’s autobiographical Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), ghostwritten by the Jesuit Father Staempfle and placed beside the Bible on the altars of German churches.
After WW II, during September 1957, Pope John XXIII gave Jesuit theatre even broader horizons with his encyclinial Miranda prorsus (“Looking Ahead”), saying,
They must become socially minded. These technical arts (cinema, sound broadcasting, and television) can achieve this aim far more easily then the printed word (Italics mine]. The Catholic Church is keenly desirous that these means be converted to the spreading and advancement of everything that can be truly called good. Embracing, as she does, the whole of the human society within the orbit of her divinely appointed mission, she is directly concerned with the fostering of civilization among all peoples.
To Catholic film producers and directors, Miranda prorsus delivered
A paternal injunction not to allow films to be made which are at variance with the faith and Christian moral standards. Should this happen – which God forbid – then it is for the Bishops to rebuke them and, if necessary, to impose upon them appropriate sanctions.
John XXIII urged that Pius XI’s national film reviewing offices
Be entrusted to men who are experienced in cinema, sound broadcasting, and television, under the guidance of a priest specially chosen by the Bishops… at the same time We urge that the faithful, and particularly those who are militant in the cause of Catholic Action [Jesuit and their protégés], be suitably instructed, so that they may appreciate the need for giving to these offices their willing, united, and effective support.
In 1964, Pope Pius VI amplified Miranda prorsus with the decree Inter mirifica (“Among the Wonders”), saying
”it is the Church’s birthright to use and own the press, the cinema, radio, television and others of a like nature.”