By John Connolly and John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 1, 2008 ( – Harry Forbes, the Director of the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting, who provoked disbelief from U.S. Catholics when he praised both “Brokeback Mountain” and the explicitly anti-Catholic “The Golden Compass,” has again endorsed movies rife with explicit sexuality and extreme violence, this time in the USCCB’s just released yearly top-10 movie listing.

The USCCB reviewer introduces his January 25 top-10 list by praising the quality and “morally grounded” nature of such films as “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “Eastern Promises”.

“Though on-screen violence, like sexuality, can often be gratuitous, 2007 saw a surfeit of major films in which it played a strong – but dramatically essential – part,” begins the article. “Each of them was artistically outstanding and has already been widely honored by many of the awards competitions and in top-10 lists.”

Forbes, who co-authored the article with colleague John Mulderig, went on to list movies such as “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Eastern Promises,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

“All of these sometimes difficult-to-watch films were well received by the [USCCB] Office for Film & Broadcasting, as they were morally grounded beyond their aesthetic excellence,” said the article.

According to the family-friendly film-screening website,, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” contains several graphically sexual scenes where the characters are portrayed nude and performing sexual acts. It also contains two prolonged depictions of a topless woman.

“Eastern Promises” focuses on life in the Russian mafia, and sex, rape, and extreme and gory violence are all huge elements of the movie. The film includes an explicit sex scene where all the characters are naked, including a man who has a crucifix tattooed on his chest. As the PluggedIn movie review puts it, “Nothing is left to the imagination.”

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” has indeed been acknowledged for its skillful execution on the technical level, but has also been widely criticized, even by some of the most hardened reviewers, for its beyond-the-extreme gore; the film includes extended scenes of Sweeney Todd slitting the throats, with extremely bloody results, of numerous victims.

After the introduction to the top-10 list, in which Forbes and Mulderig go out of their way to draw attention to what they consider to be the considerable merits of the less-palatable films previously mentioned, they admit that they can’t put such films on the USCCB’s top-10 list, since they may not reflect Catholic values “directly” enough.

“In selecting a 10-best list, we endeavored to find movies that would perhaps more directly reflect Catholic and/or strongly humane values. Thus, while we acknowledge the qualities of those aforementioned films – along with others such as “Atonement,” “Into the Wild” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” – our final list breaks down as follows…” The reviewers then go on to list films such as “Amazing Grace”, “Bella”, “Juno”, “Beyond the Gates”, and other less morally reprehensible films.

The film “Atonement,” which Forbes and Mulderig acknowledge for its “quality”, is rated by as “extreme” for sexuality, and includes several sex scenes, and various other sexually suggestive moments. “Into the Wild” is likewise rated as “extreme” for sexuality, and includes a sex scene and various shots of nude men and women. “Charlie Wilson’s War” is also rated “extreme” for sexuality, and includes a scene with fully nude female strippers, not to mention the 40 uses of the ‘f’ word.

Forbes and Muldering have increasingly come under fire over the last several years for their friendly reviews, first, of “Brokeback Mountain,” and, more recently, “The Golden Compass.” Following their endorsement of “The Golden Compass,” a widespread outcry and strong criticism raised by a number of bishops, caused the review to be pulled. The review was pulled amidst calls for Forbes to be fired due to his repeated failure to take Catholic morality into account when reviewing movies.

To contact the USCCB:

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  3211 4th Street, N.E.,
  Washington DC 20017-1194
  (202) 541-3000

To contact the U.S. Papal Nuncio:

Most Reverend Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America
  3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW,
  Washington, DC 20008
  Telephone: (202)333-7121

Read the USCCB Top-10 Article:

A quality year brings more films than a top-10 list can hold

See previous coverage:

Archbishop Burke Calls USCCB Film Office Review of ‘Golden Compass’ “Most Defective”

Denver Archbishop Chaput Criticizes USCCB Film Office Movie Review of Golden Compass

US Bishops asked to Fire Chief Film Critic over Glowing Reviews for “Brokeback” and “Compass”

Catholic League Slams US Catholic Bishops Conference Positive Review of Golden Compass

USCCB Changes Rating on Brokeback Mountain to Morally Offensive