NEW YORK – Leave the children at home. The film office for America's Roman Catholic bishops (search) rated "The Passion of the Christ" for adults only Wednesday "due to gory scenes of torture and crucifixion, a suicide and some frightening images."
The declaration that Mel Gibson's (search) biblical epic is "much too intense for children" could reduce the number of Catholics attending as families or parish groups.
The film office, which rates all major features, uses an "A-III" designation for such adults-only movies. Its more restrictive categories are "L" (limited adult audience due to "problematic content") and "O" ("morally offensive").
As a piece of cinematic art, the bishops gave the film a mixed review.
"Although the film's brutality poignantly conveys the depth of Christ's love by showing him freely enduring such extreme agony for the redemption of all sinners, the graphic nature of the raw visuals is played to diminishing returns," a summary review said.
On the question of whether the film is anti-Semitic, the Catholics said the film puts responsibility for the crucifixion "squarely with the Roman authorities" and avoids collective Jewish blame.
But the bishops objected to what they saw as a historically skewed portrayal of "almost monolithically malevolent" Jewish authorities and an "overly sympathetic portrayal" of Pontius Pilate (search).