The restoration of the ecclesial catechumenate is one of the significant pastoral gains stemming from Vatican II. It has helped renew Christian communities both in parishes and on college campuses.

Some years ago, however, I began to employ the term "cultural catechumenate" to highlight the formative (and deformative) influence of the surrounding culture on the minds and hearts of our children ... and ourselves.

What particularly strikes me is how potent and elusive such influence is. Like the serpent in Eden it insinuates itself into our consciousness and subconsciousness -- often with coarsening effect. And it is so much more pervasive and powerful than our often puny efforts at and resources for "religious education."

These musings were once again evoked by an uncommonly common sense and honest op ed piece in today's New York Times. The author, a screen writer, cuts through the perennial and never-ending argument whether violence depicted in the movies and media can be directly correlated with tragedies like Virginia Tech.

Here, in part, is what he says:

Can we really in good conscience conclude that the violencesaturating our popular culture has no impact on our neighborhoods andschools?

The calamity at Virginia Tech is unfortunately not asunique an event as wed like to think, but the sheer number of victimshas grabbed our attention and inspired some collective soul-searching.As responsible Americans put their heads down on their desks andreflect, should the scribes of popular entertainment be excused to theplayground? We screenwriters may be overgrown teenagers who still wantto be cool, but we arent 12 years old anymore. Maybe were notresponsible for Mr. Chos awful actions, but does that abrogate ourresponsibility to the world around us?

Most of us who chosecareers in this field were seduced by cinemas spell at an early age.We know better than anyone the power films have to capture ourimaginations, shape our thinking and inform our choices, for better andfor worse. At the risk of being labeled a scold the ultimate inuncool I have to ask: before cashing those big checks, shouldnt weat least pause to consider what we are saying with our movies about thevalue of life and the pleasures of mayhem?

Count me too among the "uncool." Do I hear any "seconds"?

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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