WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2015 ( — Catholic bishops in the U.S. are speaking out on the forthcoming movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”, encouraging people to look past the inappropriate film and keep their sights on God’s plan for romance and marriage.

The controversial movie based on the novel of the same name is set to open this weekend, and many have either called for a boycott or criticized it for its pornographic themes of sadomasochism and abuse of women.


Bishop Richard Malone, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, responded to the film’s impending release with a message geared at educating on God’s design for man and woman.

“This is an opportunity for us to remind the faithful of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on the gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, the great dignity of women, and the moral reprehensibility of all domestic violence and sexual exploitation,” Bishop Malone wrote in a February 4 letter to his fellow bishops.

“The books and film, marketed as a romantic story, are a graphic portrayal of a young woman agreeing to be abused and degraded in a sexual relationship,” he told his brother bishops.

Along with making reference to USCCB resources on violence against women, exploitation of sex and violence in communications, and pornography, Bishop Malone informed the US Bishops about the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s effort to combat the film’s damage and quoted the statement on the movie from the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP).

“The contrast between the message of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and God’s design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy could not be greater,” he said.

The RAAP announcement was signed by San Francisco Archbishop Emeritus George Niederauer, Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde, and Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann, along with numerous other interfaith leaders. It said the books and movie undermine everything that the group believes as a faith community.

RAAP called on religious leaders to spread the word on the movie’s destructive message, and said it was critical to not just condemn the message of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but also affirm God’s plan for marital relations between men and women.

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“It is equally important to celebrate our message about love and the blessing of sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage,” RAAP stated. “We have a better story – let’s proclaim it.”

Individual bishops are taking steps to educate their flocks as well.

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr wrote to his priests on February 4 about the film.

“The movie is a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God’s people,” Archbishop Schnurr told pastors. “We need to inform our people about the destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God’s design for loving relationships between a husband and a wife in the bond of marriage.”

San Angelo Bishop Michael Sis contributed a February 10 opinion piece on the movie for San Angelo LIVE, taking part in the RAAP campaign and encouraging readers to eschew “Fifty Shades of Grey” for the romance film “Old Fashioned”.

“Some people claim that pornography is a victimless vice. It is not,” the bishop said. “It undermines marriages, stunts the capacity for healthy relationships, diminishes productivity at work, and preys on human frailty and wounds.”  

The USCCB is also offering a positive alternative through its Marriage: Unique for a Reason initiative. A February 9 post on the program’s Facebook page highlights the Bishops’ 50 Hues of Holiness campaign, with 50 quotes from Scripture and USCCB material about light, marriage and love.