There are worse films showing in the nation’s theaters. However, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is symptomatic of our times.
Here is an R-rated film about two altar boys at a Catholic school who lose their innocence and create problems for their teacher, Sister Assumpta, whom they portray in a comic strip as a fiendish motorcycle-riding villain. The film contains foul language aplenty, various instances of sexually related dialogue, hand-drawn sketches showing full frontal nudity. There is a reference to an incestuous relationship, scenes of teenage drinking and pot use.
Finally, there is the element of blasphemy where the most sacred mysteries of the Faith are treated with utter disrespect. “The action is punctuated by stale jokes that tweak the solemnity of Catholic rituals and by the offensive, semi-blasphemous images of the boys’ artwork,” The National Catholic Register reported (7/28-8/3/02).
Thus, it would seem only natural that Catholics would be offended by the contents of this film. Members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) joined other concerned Catholics in the Harrisburg, Penn. area at a protest and prayer vigil of reparation at the city’s Midtown Cinema held on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15.
The peaceful protest had hardly started when debates broke out. Some pro-film patrons were only too willing to explain away the whole film as a tale of troubled youth. We were told the strong profanity, drinking and pot smoking are harmless or even funny. Tragically, some counter-protesters did not hesitate to use profanity to make their point. We were also told that the sexual relationships and insinuations portrayed in the film were not really that sinful.
Finally, our protest against the disrespectful references to the Faith was discarded as overblown. After all, it’s only a movie.
As we prayed the rosary and sung hymns before the theater, we were struck at how persistent the counter-protesters were. If it is only a movie, these people evidently were taking it seriously. We definitely got our message across; our protest had an effect. Even the local newspaper and television station caught wind of the debate and sent reporters.
At the same time, we were struck by how this movie is symptomatic of our tragic times. Our movies today are so full of profanity, sexual content and irreverence that a movie like this is almost considered “normal.” People become upset when we point out just how abnormal it is.