Times Staff Writer

Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, who this week urged Roman Catholics to actively battle pornography, says that Catholic viewers who subscribe to cable-TV should take their fight there, too--starting with a write-in campaign.

If those companies have channels that offer sexually explicit movies, he says, Catholics should write to warn that they’ll cancel their subscriptions unless the showings of such so-called adult films are stopped.

Mahony, interviewed Thursday for a taped “Newsmakers” program to be aired Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on KCBS-TV Channel 2, said that pornography in any form “not only degrades women and children and others in its process, but it also destroys the basis of our family life.”


Mahony, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was interviewed by KCBS correspondents Bill Stout and Ruth Ashton Taylor.

The archbishop didn’t name any cable operations whose channels include ones that transmit what he called “very, very triple, quadruple-X, and worse, movies.” Nor did he note that viewers must specify to their cable service that they want a channel with sexually oriented adult fare, for which they pay extra.

In Washington, a spokesman for the National Cable Television Assn. (NCTA) said that no X-rated, or “stag films,” are shown by the more than 2,000 cable-TV operators that belong to the association, even on their special, extra-price “premium movie” channels.

Such channels may offer R-rated fare, said the spokesman, Steve Tuttle, but are an additional service that a subscriber must “invite into his home” by requesting it and paying an additional price for it.

Furthermore, he said, any adult-category programs that these “premium” services transmit are shown late at night when in theory children are asleep, and always are preceded by a warning. And, he said, the monthly printed schedules that cable systems send to subscribers always note the contents of such programs.

“I think the archbishop is getting us confused with something else,” he said, referring to closed-circuit hotel systems, over-the-air movie services in which the signal is scrambled and can be received only by subscribers, and satellite systems catering to those with backyard or apartment satellite reception dishes.


In his KCBS interview, Mahony said that while the write-in campaign he was proposing “may be looked on as activism, I think it’s a moral responsibility, too, to simply say that in a home setting there should not be a channel or two available that has material so gross that it would shock virtually anybody.”

He was urging Catholics to act, he said, because cable TV enables such films to be seen by youngsters whose parents are not always home to monitor what their children are watching.

However, Tuttle, emphasizing that his group’s members show “nothing that would be obscene,” said that a federal law on cable-TV, enacted in 1984 with the support of the NCTA, requires cable operators to provide each subscriber a cable-channel “lockbox” if the subscriber asks for one.

Such a device enables parents to deny their children access to channels that offer adult programming.

Earlier this week, Mahony urged Catholics to picket stores that sell Playboy, Penthouse and other sexually oriented magazines, to boycott products whose TV commercials “demean human sexuality,” and to work to eliminate movie theaters and bookstores specializing in sexually explicit material.

In his KCBS interview, he was asked if all this didn’t verge on what people might perceive as a form of “religious censorship,” an assertion made this week by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner.

“Well, I think there may be some people who have made that conclusion,” the archbishop said. “From my point of view, as a pastor of people and a moral voice in the community, my concern is that we do have a responsibility to set a moral tone.

“There must be at least a minimal moral standard which we find acceptable. And that’s what we’re looking for.”